By Paul Nicholson
June 12 – The Caribbean Football Union (CFU) has confirmed Barbados FA president Randy Harris as its new leader to finish off the two years remaining on the presidential term after former president Gordon Derrick was banned from football by FIFA at the end of last year.
Harris, who had been acting as interim president, beat US Virgin Islands president Hillaren Frederick by 27 votes to 3 in the election.
Speaking to Insideworldfootball from Russia where the CFU held its meeting in advance of the FIFA Congress tomorrow and the opening game of the World Cup on Thursday, Harris said: “We have a strategic plan that we have worked on and it is now our task to work to that plan. We have to work with our administration and our associations to achieve our goals.”
Harris (pictured left with CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani) says that the first and biggest step for the CFU is for it to repair its global reputation and put Caribbean football back on an equal footing in terms of respect and confidence.
“We need integrity in the union and this has been a real battle. The global perception of the CFU worldwide needs to change and we can only do that through good governance…Some people who are not versed in the CFU believe that we are a corrupt bunch of people. This just isn’t the case. We are football people. The Caribbean is a football region.
“What we need to do is to help our members be more efficient on the administrative side, and manage their federations well, and that also means financially. You have to remember that a lot of us are coming out of the amateur side of the sport. Many are elected to lead and manage the association but that does not necessarily mean they have all the required skills. We have to help create this platform for good governance.”
Harris sees getting more competitive football played in the Caribbean at grassroots level as a key priority. The CFU recently invested in tournaments for its senior women’s football teams prior to the CONCACAF senior women’s competition, and will be doing the same with the under 14 age group in the region.
“We have an Under 14 boys tournament in August. What we are really doing is giving players the opportunity to play before the CONCACAF under 15 tournament in 2019. There is no point in us just duplicating what CONCACAF is doing, we must do things our way and prepare our teams,” said Harris.
Part of this is the training of coaches which Harris says is vital in terms of increasing the quality of play across the region. He points to a large number of coaches in the region who have worked with CONCACAF and FIFA and the need to activate them to come up with plans and raise standards.
All of this requires money and Harris is mindful of the economic realities of the region but also says that there is funding coming through from CONCACAF and FIFA. Rather than receiving the money into the sub-confederation directly, the CFU makes its proposals to CONCACAF for funding. That money is now starting to feed through to the CFU.
The danger is that the CFU just becomes a regional sub-office controlling the game and the money for CONCACAF. While to an extent that has already happened and the CFU has become somewhat toothless on the global stage, it was probably an inevitability. But Harris is certainly mindful that the CFU must have some independence and its own identity.
“The Nations League is not the Caribbean Cup for the men or the women,” said Harris. “We need to meet as an executive committee to discuss what we do in this regard.”
He also acknowledges that although conversations for a professional Caribbean league have become “somewhat stalled”, part of the plan is to look at a league. “A pro league requires quite a bit of money and proper sponsorships,” said Harris. “In the Caribbean we don’t have the kinds of companies currently that culturally will put this kind of sponsorship money into the league. But I would really like to believe that football can be an industry in our region.”
The short term – at least for the next two years under Harris – looks to be a process of rebuilding bridges with CONCACAF and re-constituting programmes with the funding channels via the confederation and FIFA re-opened.
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