‘Sport in this country is more than just cricket’- Ramson

…addresses claims of damage to Providence pitch

By Jemima Holmes

As the Guyanese saying goes, “There are three sides to every story; Side A, Side B and the spectator”.
When it comes to the controversy surrounding the state of the 22 yards at the National Stadium, Providence, this is the Minister’s side.
A little over a week ago, football fans rejoiced at the successful hosting of the ‘Bounce back Football Classic’, only to be met on Sunday last with claims that the pitch at Providence was left in disrepair following the activity.

The alleged state of the pitch over a week ago

In a twist, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Charles Ramson Jr, on Tuesday afternoon, requested the exclusive presence of this publication at the East Bank Demerara venue, to show that no such damage was done to the pitch.
In refuting the Guyana Cricket Board’s (GCB’s) claims, Ramson conducted a thorough walk around the pitch and its environs with <<Guyana Times Sport>> to prove that it has not been damaged, and is ready for preparation for any upcoming cricket activities.
“You can see there is no such damage to the pitch currently, and it will (need) just a couple of weeks for us to get the wicket ready for playing cricket,” Ramson Jr shared.
The Minister emphasised that, in any case, the wicket would need three weeks to be fully prepared for any cricket action.
“And ordinarily, the wicket takes about three weeks to prepare in any event, because the National Stadium wicket is not kept at a stage where you can just walk on and play. The wicket preparation takes about 3 weeks generally. So, in any event, there is a period for preparation before any international cricket,” he noted, based on direction from the groundsmen at the facility.

Sport Minister Charles Ramson inspecting the pitch at Providence on Tuesday, accompanied by the Grounds staff

The Minister went on to share that the request to use the facility for cricket was received on January 6, and as such, he is claiming that the time was not enough to complete preparations. He maintained that other parts of the venue could be used for the GCB’s desired purpose.
“The outfield can be used currently by whoever wants to use it, if they determine its appropriate usage. The wicket would still need time to prepare, in any event,” Ramson shared.

A glimpse at the state of the pitch as of January 12, 2021

He continued by saying, “The timeframe from when the request came in from the body that calls themselves the GCB, it would not have been sufficient for them to be able to prepare for the days requested.”
Then came the issue of ownership and entitlement. To this the subject Minister asserted that no organisation has an exclusive entitlement to the use of the venue, all sports have an equal entitlement to the use of the venue for their activities.
“The stadium is not the property of any one Association in Guyana, but rather is open to use by any Sport Association that may see it fit,” the Minister explained. “This is not a white elephant. Nobody owns the Stadium, this Stadium is the people’s facility,” the Minister of Sport said.
A very concerned Ramson further expressed his disappointment at the orchestrators of the narrative that the pitch was damaged. He has labelled that assertion as malicious.
“So, for the persons who were claiming that it was in disrepair, it is very malicious. It’s also disturbing, and it shows that there is an orchestrated attempt to disparage the Ministry or to disparage football and to discourage the use of the National Stadium for the use of anything other than cricket, Ramson argued.
He revealed that the intention is to make the Stadium more accommodating to other sport disciplines, stating, “We opened this facility a few months ago so that people can come and use this facility any time of the day to exercise. Sport in this country is more than just cricket. Cricket is loved by everyone, but so are all the other sports too, so we have to be able to accommodate all the other sports too.”
The ‘Bounce back Football Classic’ tournament was hosted at the National Stadium on December 29 and January 1. It was a collaborative effort between the Guyana Football Federation (GFF), Kashif and Shanghai Organization, and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport. However, on January 10, a missive from the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) shared a photo of the alleged damage to the pitch.