Statement by GFF President on Futsal final overcrowding

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President of the Guyana Football Federation, Wayne Forde, said the local governing body for the sport and its partner, the Kashif and Shanghai Organisation, take full responsibility for overcrowding at the final of the year-end Futsal on January 8 at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall.

A massive crowd witnessed the final between Bent Street and eventual champions Sparta Boss in a clear breach of the COVID-19 protocols.

At a press conference on Tuesday, President Forde issued the statement below.

Colleagues, members of the media – Happy New Year…!

Thank you for joining us today. I would like to begin my remarks by extending our deepest gratitude to the media fraternity for the remarkable work done in covering the End of Year Tournaments over the past six weeks.

I would also like to say a heartfelt thank you to our Government of Guyana, Corporate Sponsors, the National Health Authorities, The National Security Services and the many private individuals and companies that came on board to support the successful return of football over the year-end period.

This was an unprecedented undertaking, with two senior male and one female tournament running concurrently, and it would not have been possible without the support, commitment and generosity of our partners in corporate Guyana as well as the Government of Guyana.

In particular, I would like to personally say thank you to the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Mr. Charles Ramson Jr. and to KFC for their continued support for the development of football.

Guyana has never witnessed three senior tournaments over the year-end holiday season.

During this period, the GFF has remained committed 100% to ensuring a safe and secure environment for all participants and fans. We have worked closely with the authorities and task force to enforce rigid health and safety protocols.

A scene from the recent futsal event that was in breach of the COVID-19 protocols

This started with an unprecedented vaccination drive across our member associations, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, and continued with strict health protocols designed with the authorities, including the rule that only people who could show proof of vaccination would be able to participate in or attend matches.

I want to be very clear that the GFF has always put the wellbeing of its community first. We continue to place the highest value of consideration on the safety of our players, officials, coaches, fans and community of stakeholders.

It is, therefore, with great regret and sadness that we witnessed what took place at the final of the futsal tournament last weekend.

Despite the obvious difficulty of controlling such a large, unexpected number of people in a small space, it was clearly wrong and unacceptable that an over-capacity crowd was allowed entry into the building. This created an unnecessary hazard to public health and runs against everything we stand for at the GFF.

Let me be clear that the GFF and its partner Kashif & Shanghai take full responsibility for this outcome. We have launched a thorough internal investigation to understand what went wrong and why, and how this can be addressed in the appropriate way.

It is of vital importance that we set an example to others and I would like to emphasise strongly that, barring this single event, the three year-end tournaments took place in full accordance with the regulations and in safe and secure environment. We would like to thank the vast majority of fans who cooperated with us by adhering to the rules, guidelines and COVID-19 protocols.

As we have seen all over the world, sports organisations are facing ongoing challenges due to the pandemic. We even saw supporters breaking into the Euro 2020 final at Wembley in the UK, during one of the most well-resourced events the world of sport has ever seen.

Despite these challenges, we have also seen that, in most countries, sport has returned and that lessons have been learned from mistakes to ensure competitions can continue in the right conditions.

Sport must be allowed to continue as long as the conditions allow it. In football in particular, Guyana must not be left behind if we are to continue to catch up with our regional rivals after so many decades of poor investment and slow development.

However, this cannot come at the expense of public health. The GFF will continue to work with the authorities and task force to host football tournaments in the safest and securest environments possible.

We will now draw a line under the regrettable events of last week, learn the lessons from what has been an incredible month of football, and look to the coming year.

One of the most impressive outcomes from the year-end season has been the success of the inaugural GFF-GNWFA Women’s Super 16 Festival. This ground-breaking tournament proved to be a massive hit with fans and significantly raised the profile and popularity of the sport.

This strong foundation and the GFF’s worthwhile investment in the promotion of the tournament will serve us well as we launch senior and youth female leagues this year.

As we look to the future, we will be conducting a full review and debrief of each tournament, as will all of our participating clubs and members. This will provide vital feedback to help us improve our work in the years ahead.

I would like to end with a huge thank you to all the players, fans, match officials, organisers and clubs who contributed to the delivery of these year-end tournaments.

We look forward to a successful and busy 2022 as we strive to bring football back at all levels of the game in a safe and secure way.

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