Mason Hall Secondary are contesting the legitimacy of Speyside High School’s current Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Shell/FCB Big 5 campaign, as they claim the Tobago Championship winners were wrongfully awarded three points for an abandoned match with Pentecostal Light and Life Foundation High School (PLL).
Both Mason Hall and Speyside finished the Tobago Championship Division level on 29 points, with the “Country Boys” of Speyside getting the nod via goal difference. However, Mason Hall and their manager Anthony Williams have protested Speyside’s boardroom victory over PLL, as they claim that neither team showed up for the 9 October away clash in Signal Hill.
Williams feels his team was robbed of a spot in the Big 5 tournament and a chance of promotion to the Premier Division.
The Tobago Championship Division match between Speyside and Pentecostal Light and Life was not played because the host team, PLL, could not provide adequate security personnel for the encounter—according to new demands made by the Tobago Zone.
On 5 October, a student was assaulted in an off-the-field incident during a spiky contest between Mason Hall and PLL in which two players were sent off. And, three days later, SSFL general secretary Azaad Khan requested an increase in the number of uniformed security personnel for all school matches from three to four.
The SSFL’s Tobago Zone took the matter even further though. And around noon on 9 October—the match day between PLL and Speyside—all host schools were asked to also provide two uniformed police officers for games on the island.
Speyside’s technical director, Kerry Lynch, is married to the PPL football team’s manager Micheline Lynch and Williams alleged that the pair may have colluded to see to it that the game did not play.
However, Lynch (K) rubbished Williams’ allegations as attempted character assassination and explained that the confusion caused by the sudden implementation of the new rules was to blame.
In fact, the Speyside technical director claimed that, as a former police officer, he tapped into his network to make the necessary security arrangements for PLL, inclusive of a police patrol courtesy of officers from the Old Grange Police Station.
PLL were bottom of the Tobago Zone and managed just one win for the entire season. Speyside, according to Lynch (K), were anxious for the chance to boost their goal differential against the struggling outfit.
However, by the time Lynch (K) secured the policemen, his wife told him the school had already decided not to host the game. So, the Speyside football management decided to save themselves the hassle and maxi fare for a trip to the Scarborough match venue.
“We really wanted to play the game to up our goal difference,” said Lynch (K). “A default victory would only be three goals and we were looking to get more than that.
“Our transportation was waiting in the school yard and we would have had to pay TT$800 to TT$900 to get to the Montgomery Recreation Ground and back. That wasn’t making any sense.”
The Mason Hall technical staff refused to accept the explanation.
“How could you award three points to a team [for abandoning a match] when both of them failed to turn up for the game?!” asked Williams.
Notably, the relevant SSFL by-law states that: “If it is ascertained that the home team cannot provide incontrovertible proof that they made attempt(s) to provide security for the game, then the game and three (3) points shall be awarded to the opposing team. A score of 3-0 shall also be recorded in favour of the visiting team.”
The real issue, arguably, was that PLL did not make a case to the SSFL within the relevant time frame.
“The principal of Pentecostal Light and Life had no idea what was going on,” said Williams. “She thought the game would have been played at a later date. She had no idea Speyside were going to be given the three points.”
The three points proved crucial as Speyside lost 1-0 to Scarborough Secondary on the final Championship match day, while Mason Hall edged Goodwood Secondary 2-1, which meant the two top schools finished on 29 points each.
On 22 October, Williams officially protested the affair with the SSFL. But it was another eight days before Mason Hall’s concerns were heard at a meeting in Trinidad. And on that very day, Speyside started their Big 5 competition with a 2-0 loss against Malick Secondary at Serpentine Road in St Clair.
Williams urged the SSFL to postpone Speyside’s opening Big 5 match, without success.
“This is a clear case of playing with people,” said Williams. “The ideal thing for us would have been to file an injunction and stop the [Big 5] competition but the SSFL probably gambled on the premise that we wouldn’t go through with it.
“They intend to keep things as quiet as possible because now three rounds of the Big 5 have already gone and Speyside have played twice.”
Up to the time of publication, Williams claimed Mason Hall had not received an official response to their protest from the relevant SSFL committee.
Wired868 was unable to reach Khan for further clarification while assistant secretary admin Gerald Elliot declined comment.
Incidentally, three of the five teams in the Premier Division promotion race—Pleasantville Secondary, Holy Cross College and Speyside—had their spots in the Big 5 competition challenged in the SSFL’s boardroom. Holy Cross won a protest against Arima North Secondary while Pleasantville staved off a challenge by Moruga Secondary.
Bishop’s High School (Tobago) coach Richard Goddard, who sits on the Tobago Zone’s Disciplinary Committee, said it would be “earth-shattering” if Mason Hall succeed with their protest.
“As of right now, Speyside is playing in the Big 5 to go up [and] it would take something really extraordinary for those results to be overturned,” said Goddard. “The likelihood of that happening is incredibly slim… It has gone past [the Tobago Zone’s Disciplinary Committee] and is essentially now with the head body.
“The gist of it all is that [for Mason Hall to win the protest] it would have to be something that has the potential to bring the entire League into disrepute. It would be history making and earth-shattering if it were to happen that way.”
Speyside, who are at the foot of the Big 5 table but still have a shot at promotion, are focusing only a return to the Premier Division, though. If successful, the Country Boys will replace the demoted Bishop’s team.
“This is a simple, frivolous complaint,” Lynch said. “We plan to get back into the Premier Division and turn some heads next season.”