By Robertson S. Henry
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent — Addressing the local media for the first time since his election to the presidency of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation (SVGFF) on August 16, 2018, Marvin Fraser spoke on a number of developmental and governance issues and wants people to hold him to his word.
At a press conference On August 28, 2018, Fraser told the media, “The executive of the Football Federation has a number of things planned. We have begun to move towards ensuring that football is developed in our country. One of the things planned is an executive retreat, where we can sit down as a board of directors for football, and have our ideas tabled, and we work out what we can do to ensure that we all put the priority where it is necessary.”
He said that in going forward with the developmental programmes, there must be a lot more discussions with the affiliates, either monthly or bi-monthly. These discussions are expected include a number of plans “so that we can tick off, check the boxes, so as to see what our progress is together. When we meet with the affiliates there are a number of things we are going to discuss.”
A number of matters require the immediate attention of Fraser and his executive committee. Immediately on the horizon is “getting our constitution sorted out. We stated that in our meetings. FIFA have said that to us. CONCACAF have said that to us. Our constitution needs immediate attention.
“We are going to ensure that before the end of the year, by the end of this year 2018, that we are able to bring before our affiliates a reviewed, a revised amendment so we can sign off on together.”
Addressing the development of clubs, Fraser began by saying, “The club licence drive continues to make sure that people are not just registered locally, but that they are also registered regionally, because we have to move from one step to the other. So it is not just having a club license locally, but also regionally.
“There has been canvassing across the country dealing with clubs on that issue so they are brought up to speed. We are now waiting on clubs to submit that information.”
Fraser indicated that not having clubs licensed would adversely affect the participation by clubs in CONCACAF competitions: “We are not going to be allowed to participate any further than 2020 in the amateur division because the amateur division would be stopped. It is going to be a total professional division for CONCACAF.”
Clubs are to be professionalised by 2020 if they are to participate in any of the CONCACAF club championships. By 2022, member nations must have at least a semi-professional league.
Therefore, as Fraser admitted, “The onus is on us. Part of the developmental thrust is going to be to concentrate fully on clubs. We are going to ensure that clubs have what is necessary going forward – funds, access to funding, ability to have their coaches attached to them paid.”
The new president also told the media that “We are going to tap into the funds that are available so that the clubs get aid. My full concentration and that of the executive is to deal with clubs and club competition. Clubs are going to play more, so that more people will be willing to play. The motto driving this organisation is ‘play more so that more people will play.’
“Clubs having to play not eleven games anymore but twenty-two games,” and these would be on a home and away basis. Clubs would be assisted to the extent that the clubs can develop making it possible afterwards to finance themselves.
According to Fraser, “We have to move away from giving people a fish, but to start teaching our clubs how to fish.”
A review is carried out on the Inter-League, towards making it a bi-annual, and not an annual event. Meetings will be held with the various leagues towards assisting in streamlining their operations, which would result in an improvement in the quality of the game in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Fraser pointed out that if leagues are going to be supported and funded by the Football Federation, then they would have to get on board with the plan to develop the clubs.
“They cannot have clubs having players playing all over in their leagues. We know it will take a little talking to for people do not like to see change, but change has to come,” Fraser went on to state. “It happened before and it was shelved. But it is now a problem and so we are going to correct that.”
The Fraser-led executive is also moving ahead with plans to establish associations in the Grenadines. Meetings have been held with persons in Canouan, who have shown an interest in having a Canouan Football Association established.
Along with Canouan, there are plans to assist Mustique and other islands in the Grenadines, but “we are doing it one island, one place at a time.”
Fraser added that his office and the executive are going to ensure that the technical director conducts courses are not just brought in from “a CONCACAF and FIFA perspective” but courses are planned locally.
Additionally “The technical director is going to ensure that he has regular meetings with all the coaches that are going to be attached to these clubs, meet with them, work with them, to ensure that they are up to speed.”
The new St Vincent and the Grenadines president also spoke on plans to improve relationships with all stakeholders, such as the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, the National Sports Council, and the private sector.
“We are going to have meetings with the (National) Sports Council to let them know what our plans are, so they can give us what is necessary to play more football.”
All of the plans of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation under Fraser’s leadership “means that we have to partner up with our government. We are happy to partner up with the government and work with the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines so that we can get this drive into schools.”
In developing the game in the school system, Fraser said “The coaches who are attached to clubs from different regions of the country, different areas of the country, we are going to make sure that these coaches are also attached to schools so they can go into primary and secondary schools.
“Those coaches would pass on that knowledge to the primary schools, that knowledge to the secondary schools, but they are going to be working with schools that are in their area where they are from. It makes it easier for transportation, it makes it less costly.
“These are the things we are looking at. We are going to compartmentalise everything to make those areas are covered.”
Fraser has also met with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves: “I have met with the prime minister already since being elected about a week ago.”
They spoke on a number of issues, leading Fraser to state, “I know that my prime minister is willing to work with football, so we can develop it and develop our country.”
Fraser added that they did exchange ideas, and “we are willing to collaborate and work together on those issues.”
On Tuesday August 21, 2018, the SVGFF president met with Veron Mosengo-Omba, FIFA member association regional director for Africa and Caribbean. The pair had day-long discussions on numerous issues relating to the development of football in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Speaking of the meeting, Fraser said, “He is on board with a lot of things that I proposed and a lot of things that we spoke about. He has assured me that CONCACAF is willing to work with the ideas, and to get them implemented.”
Plans are still on the front burner to construct a home for football. Speaking in the issue Fraser stated, “We know that that is necessary to develop the football in our country. We know that there were conversations going forward about the landfill area in Sion Hill.
“From conversations with different stakeholders those ideas most likely will have to be shelved. I have sat down and spoken with the prime minister and with the FIFA development officer on this issue and there are different things that are coming into play that we could look at, that might be more beneficial than using that area.”
Fraser has also met with the executive of the Referees Association. At this meeting a number of matters were tabled, and “we thrashed it out and so I understand what they want and where they want to go. They understand what we need to do so that we can develop the sport from the refereeing and officiating aspect of the game, and so there are plans in motion right now to uplift the standard of refereeing across our nation.”
Fraser held discussions with the coaches of the senior team and the under-20 teams respectively, prior to the Friday and Sunday matches against the Jamaica Olympic squad: “I got an opportunity to listen to them on their deficiencies and what they needed, and what we can do to make it better for them.”
Fraser, following the two matches on Friday 24 and Sunday 26 August, respectively, spoke with the coaches of the senior men and under-20 teams on a number of matters.
Speaking of the initiative behind the Under-14, Under-15, and youth categories, Fraser pointed out that it is to ensure that the SVGFF partner with parents: “We no longer want a stadium to be filled with kids only when it comes to watching these under-14 and under-15 divisions. We want the parents to be there also. We want to reach out to the parents to come watch their children play.”
As part of the initiative, parents of players in the Under-14, Under-15, and other youth divisions, would have to be present at meetings, “So they too can understand where we want to go with their kids and they would be a part of that.”
Fraser spoke of plans to implement systems through which parents would be reimbursed for transportation expenses, and of helping not only the young players who get selected unto the national team, but others as well.
In Fraser’s opinion, such is important, “For people do not care how much you know, but how much you take care of them.”
To be given attention is the “Mentality of our players. Going forward for the developmental purpose of the game we are going to ensure that we have sessions to deal with the mental aspect of our youth players, helping them to see football from a professional aspect all the way up to the senior team.”
In this respect, discussions were held with Joselle Miller, a psychologist who is willing to work with the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation.
Upon being elected to the office of president of the SVGFF, Fraser received a personal letter from Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, “congratulating me on the position but also indicating that I come out there and meet with him and have a sit down on a one on one.”
Also congratulating him were the presidents of the Windward Islands Football Association, the Caribbean Football Union, and CONCACAF.
The SVGFF president emphasised, “I am more about action than speech.”