The simmering feud between the President (or is it former President?) and the Management Committee (or is it former Management Committee?) of the Belize Amateur Athletic Association (BAAA) burst into open flames this past week, as, first on Thursday last on Channel 5 evening news, President Ian Gray announced he had suspended all six dissenting Committee members; only to be followed a couple days later by a “counter fire” resolution from the Committee expelling the President himself from the Association. A scheduled general membership meeting this Saturday, October 15, should help to finally decide who is really fired from the BAAA.

As we reported in Amandala a couple weeks ago in an article titled, “BAAA Executive in turmoil, Management Committee unhappy with President,” six members of the BAAA Management Committee had signed a letter accusing the President of serious misconduct and calling for a “Special Meeting to be held not later than October 15” to “censure” the President. When we contacted him by phone, President Ian Gray’s response was dismissive, declaring that he would continue with the business of the association and, after completing a revision of the BAAA Constitution, he would call a membership meeting to have all the concerns addressed.

Last week Wednesday, October 5, the Management Committee repeated its call for a Special Meeting, and Amandala once again published its press release titled, “BAAA Secretary calls special meeting to censure the President.” According to the release, the meeting would be held “on October 15 at the Bishop Sylvestre Memorial Center, Regent Street, Belize City at 10:00 a.m.”

But as we were about to go to press on Thursday night, October 6, we saw President Ian Gray on Channel 5 News declaring that he was, with immediate effect, suspending for six months all six Management Committee members who he claimed were in violation of the BAAA Constitution and not authorized to call that meeting. We reported in that same issue on this new development in our article titled “BAAA President responds, suspends six.” Those six Management Committee members are: 1st Vice President, Deon Sutherland; 2nd Vice President, Jameel Smith; Hon. Secretary, Ellison Flowers; Treasurer, Harrison Pilgrim; and Committee Members, Andrew Pilgrim and Phillip Murray.

There have been a number of charges made by the Management Committee members against the President, not the least of which is that he “has latterly established himself as a one man Executive.” President Ian Gray is also accused of “… flagrant instances of misrepresentation, dishonesty and gross misconduct,” according to the minutes of a Management Committee meeting held on October 8.

Just this past Sunday, October 9, we attended the BAAA/Belize City Council sponsored 5k race in downtown Belize City, and President Ian Gray was his usual self, energetically involving himself in the pre-race preparations and recording of participants. We noted that, although the press release on the race last week had said, “We would like to stress again that there will be no registration on race day, so register now,” yet on Sunday morning there were late registrations allowed. He offered no explanation for his Channel 5 pronouncements, after he had advised us of a different course of action; and we didn’t press him for any. In fact, he even invited us, “the media”, to participate in the 5k run; but he made no mention of anything regarding the current impasse with his committee.

Yesterday, Wednesday, October 12, the BAAA secretariat again repeated its press release announcing its Special Meeting for this Saturday, October 15, to censure the President. But then it also unleashed a bombshell of its own, in the form of an October 8 BAAA Resolution expelling President Ian Gray from the BAAA; and a direct letter addressed to “Mr. Ian Gray, c/o The Office of the Ombudsman” and signed by “Deon Sutherland, Interim President”, informing him of the Committee’s decision to expel him, and requesting him to “… surrender… all stationery, stamps, equipment and intellectual property … of the Association.”

Our call and text message this morning to Mr. Ian Gray were futile, but this afternoon we managed to get a call through, and he apologized, stating that he had just returned from attending the funeral in Sandhill for the father of a star student athlete. He said he is presently consulting with the regional head of the I.A.A.F., Mr. Neville McCook, in Jamaica; and he is as yet undecided as to whether he will attend the Saturday meeting called by the Management Committee, which meeting he maintains is unconstitutional.

Whatever, as BAAA President, Mr. Ian Gray may have done or not done to turn his whole Management Committee against him, he has nevertheless remained in close contact with the athletes, whom the Association serves; and he says he is confident that the athletes will support him whenever called upon. Meanwhile, Management Committee members, all six of them, are also confident that their charges are serious and well grounded, and their actions are in the best interest of the Association.

Saturday’s Special Meeting at the Bishop Sylvestre Memorial Center will hopefully serve to settle the so far irreconcilable differences among individuals who all have expressed their good intentions for the welfare of the sport and athletes. If Mr. Gray refuses to attend the meeting, then it will be left to Management Committee members to show the “goods” they have on Gray, and see if the general membership, the athletes are convinced.

Generally, international sporting bodies like to leave it up to local membership to iron out their internal differences, intervening only in exceptional circumstances, as in the long standing controversy with the Football Federation of Belize. The Ministry of Sports, through the National Sports Council has been playing a major role in ironing out the problems in football. If Saturday’s meeting does not bring closure, then hopefully the Sports Council can be convinced to step in and help put out the raging fires in the BAAA.