“The Ministry of Education, TTFA and SSFL, embarrassed into action, may formulate rules and procedures that will affect all schools in Trinidad and Tobago…
“The result may be a longer wait for approvals and possible later start for sixth form and repeaters.”
The following blog, provided anonymously by a Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) insider, offers suggestions for the schoolboys football league to respond to the controversies of the 2017 Premier Division season:
Legendary football manager Bill Shankly stated that “Football is a simple game complicated by idiots.” As a stakeholder, I can safely say that the 2017 Secondary School Football League (SSFL) season has been complicated!
The recent issue involving the suspension of Fyzabad Secondary School has caused much embarrassment and finger-pointing. The SSFL’s use of online registration for the 2017 season was supposed to eliminate issues that may cause players to be ineligible. However, it was not designed to detect fraudulent documentation or Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA)/SSFL transfers.
In every crisis, there is opportunity and this occurrence has resulted in public discussion and introspection on the way forward.
If 2017 will be remembered for the complications of administrative failings at our Premier Division schools, then 2018 will be the year national administrations strike back—with far-reaching implications.
The Ministry of Education, TTFA and SSFL, embarrassed into action, may formulate rules and procedures that will affect all schools in Trinidad and Tobago.
Permit me to highlight the following steps the Ministry of Education may take:
1. Stringent review of documents: Policies may be enacted to ensure that documents received by the Ministry are genuine. The current procedure in verifying the validity of a student’s certificate may be reviewed. They may also indicate clear lines of accountability and the procedures to follow should there be an infringement.
The result may be a longer wait for approvals and possible later start for sixth form and repeaters. Also, new procedures to verify students’ documentation may be costly, time-consuming, and/or bureaucratic.
2. Workshops: As a result of the aforementioned, teachers and administrators will be subject to workshops on registration, documentation and detection issues and the procedures should a matter arise.
3. Principals may be held to an even higher standard: Because of the actions of a few, schools are being embarrassed and it has created an unwanted perception in the mind of the public. Many students are now being denied the opportunity to showcase their talents and school morale may be affected as a result. Principals may be sternly charged with ensuring such events do not occur under their watch with consequences clearly outlined.
4. Secondment for SSFL Executive: Although this has been discussed in the past, serious consideration to this item must be given. The people who serve on the Executive are volunteers, comprising teachers with paid duties to perform at their schools. To ensure a more efficient league, these teachers should be considered for secondment, as this is truly a national duty they are performing.The SSFL may take the following steps:
1. The formulation of an independent body to scrutinise documents: The SSFL may consider sourcing past administrators and members to conduct a thorough investigation of eligibility. Coupled with the Ministry’s new procedures, this will improve detection of issues in a timely manner and may deter anyone from attempting to deceive.
2. Proposal of harsher penalties for infringement of rules: The unwanted media frenzy and fallout from the 2017 season must not happen again. Harsher penalties will force schools to be more thorough to avoid drastic consequences.
3. Improvement of the online registration process: The system will have to be updated to include identifying suspicious documents. This will require the input of the Ministry of Education and discussions should begin at the earliest possible time.
The TTFA, as the governing body, should take the following steps:
1. Provide Student Info to the League: Even though FIFA does not recognise schools but clubs, the TTFA has leeway in how it handles matters under its remit. Many students play in TTFA-sanctioned leagues and they should be recognised as such. A list should be provided to the SSFL to place on their website, so schools can be cognisant of the students requiring eligibility.
2. Provide administrative courses: The TTFA has done a fantastic job in training coaches for the SSFL and should be congratulated. Perhaps the local football body should consider sending SSFL administrators on FIFA courses to improve their ability to run the league.
Does it sound more complicated, time-consuming and costly in 2018? Football is still a simple game but when we find ways to complicate the league, the fall-out will always be what we have seen!
It takes effort to recalculate the table every time an infringement is punished. It takes effort to conduct disciplinary meetings, appeals, check documents and meet to decide on sanctions. The simplest thing to do is the right thing.
As San Juan North Secondary showed last year, the right thing may not guarantee you natural justice but it will preserve your reputation and people will be willing to fight for you.
For 2018, don’t be an idiot!