As per our previous press release, we confirm that we have now received the official reports from the management team and met with both the management and the players of the Senior National Men's Team (“SNMT”) and we feel it was a productive meeting. The players spoke, CIFA listened, and we can assure them that going forward there will be more frequent dialog between them and CIFA. We have to say that having this meeting was very informative as CIFA was given the opportunity to clear up a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions with the players and now they are more informed as to how CIFA funding works in relation to the funds allotted to CIFA by FIFA.
Just to highlight a few areas mentioned in the Article and give some insights on the facts:
1. Funding not properly allocated and lack of financial support from CIFA: CIFA provided everything needed for the two World Cup Qualifier trips, and this included and not limited to an increase of daily and quarantine allowances, charter flights, best available hotels, stadium rentals, meals, medical assistance, etc. Here is just a very quick and rough estimate breakdown of expenses paid to the SMNT players from January to June 2021. CIFA paid players travel stipends of CI$100.00 per day (per player), quarantine allowances of CI$100.00 per day (per player), training allowances of CI$30 per training session (for each player that attended training), and a bonus of CI$7,500 that was split equally amongst the 23 players for the draw against Bermuda. To be very explicit, each player received about CI$5,500 (at CI$100 per day) just for the two trips to represent the country (and meals and accommodation paid for separately). The total figure that CIFA spent was more than CI$127,000 on per diem alone just to players (as staff allowances for the trips were different). These exceptional payments were basically related to Covid-19 protocols and assistance. There is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes and the figures are even bigger as we have not even mentioned uniforms, chartered flights, paying full time coaches, staff, medics, etc. CIFA, just like any other Member Association around the world receives funding from FIFA for national programs at all levels, not only for the SNMT, and CIFA has the duty and responsibility to allocate these funds accordingly for all the other national teams (women’s, under 20s, under 17s, under 15s, for both male and female, etc.).
2. In relation to lack of support from management - dysfunction, officials interfering with selection, arguments with coaches, etc. - not mentioned at the meeting but CIFA believes that after the players were better informed as to how CIFA works, this was no more an issue.
3. President's interference in Executive Committee, managers, coaches not allowing them to do their jobs - players did not say anything about this at the meeting, again CIFA believes that the information given was very informative to the players and there was no need to further discuss this point.
4. Biased approach to players’ selection – the Head Coach was present at the meeting via telephone, but he did not mention anything at the meeting in relation to this point. However, to be very clear, player selection is the responsibility of the Head Coach and his/her supporting technical staff and it is the policy of CIFA not to allow anyone to interfere with this process.
5. There was mention from a player about CIFA’s intention to facilitate the players becoming professional players - This obviously is not feasible at this time in CIFA’s budget. For illustrative purposes, a semi-pro league by way of a very brief calculation just to pay players involves a lot more than just salaries to pay players. We have to secure the future of up-and-coming youth and we have learned the hard way as this will stop the possibilities of overseas scholarships for our youth to get into universities. This approach would deem them to be professionals and universities/collages worldwide will not accept professionals as students into their programs. This is an unreasonable request of any player to demand this of CIFA. Additionally, a semi pro league that would pay only CI$1,000.00 per month per player for 8 Premier League teams with a 25-player roster would cost CI$2.4 million per year ($1,000 X 25 players X 8 teams X 12 months). Paying less than that would just not make it worthwhile. These numbers do not consider pension, health insurance and other benefits and/or costs, just net salaries. Finally, on this point, it is a known fact around the world that footballers are professionals at a club level, not the national team level.
On the point of making demands on CIFA, until this point, CIFA has not taken any action in relation to the players that breached the CIFA Code of Conduct as it pertains to disciplinary breaches of certain protocols, etc. This does not only reflect badly on football, but also on the entire Cayman Islands. Whenever any national team represents the country, they are ambassadors and we expect them to do so with honour and pride. Therefore, CIFA will be taking appropriate action but we are also cognizant that it could be harmful to the players as opposed to being more helpful. CIFA did not receive any considerations or appreciation for always thinking about the well-being of the players, and how it could affect their future in society.
In relation to the CIFA President’s suspension and him being in the USA at the time of the last World Cup Qualifier, the President had travelled ahead of the team on the Wednesday, but CIFA was not informed of the suspension until the Friday of that same week. CIFA Executive took immediate action and appointed Michael Johnson as head of the delegation and the President was instructed to stand down, which he did without hesitation. In addition, in relation to the suspension, the President and CIFA appealed the decision and we are awaiting the outcome from FIFA.
As it relates to the press release of the former Head Coach, Ben Pugh, he sent his resignation by email a few days prior. The President informed the CIFA Executive that Coach Ben told him that his resignation was due to personal issues and nothing related to his employment at CIFA. The President and the entire Executive Committee took this as a surprise as we had bigger plans for him in the future.
In conclusion, players everywhere will always demand as much as they can from their associations, and it is no different here in Cayman. However, we can only do so much and no more. There is the misconception out there in the public that CIFA gets millions of dollars from FIFA to spend at CIFA’s discretion and that is not the case. In this current football climate, FIFA STIPULATES AND DICTATES the criteria and provides strict guidelines on how the funds are to be spent that they allocate to us. The fact is, if CIFA does not abide by the rules when it comes on to spending, FIFA will impose sanctions and will even go as far as to suspend funding. Gone are the days where CIFA just gets funds and can spend it as it feels like, there will be consequences. In closing, CIFA will be considering putting in place certain measures to clear all doubts going forward and to minimise such kind of behaviour. While CIFA realises that the vast responsibilities and accountabilities necessary in carrying out its role as the national association responsible for football administration can be at times a thankless job, we still do it for the love of the game and believe that this sport benefits the Cayman community as a whole.