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Belize's Belmopan Bandits pitched out the CONCACAF Champions League

The debut of a team from Belize in the CONCACAF Champions League will have to wait for at least another season after confederation inspectors ruled that their pitch was unplayable. Belize Premier League champions Belmopan Bandits will be replaced in the competition by Costa Rica's Club Sport Herediano.

CONCACAF inspected the playing surface at the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) Stadium on August 10 for a second time, finding that the conditions did not meet the regulations for Champions League standards. Belmopan were scheduled to play their first game in the competition, at home, on Friday August 22 against El Salvador's Isidro Metapan.

It is a sad story for the Belize national federation who had been hoping to make a return to international club competition in the region. The FFB Stadium had received $1.8 million from FIFA for an upgrade. This included improved lighting, seating for 5,000, separate shower stalls and changing rooms for participating teams and referees.

The pitch itself was to have Bermuda grass (that meets FIFA standards). CONCACAF officials inspected the stadium in June and although the pitch was not complete, the FFB Stadium was found to meet required standards. The failure to bring the pitch itself up to standard will be a huge disappointment in the Central American country which has no alternative venue that could be used.

The Belmopan Bandits were only founded in 1991 but have won the Belize Premier League three times and have six players in the Belize national squad. The club plays its home league games at the 2,500 capacity Isodoro Beaton Stadium but was switching to the FFB Stadium to meet competition requirements.

Belmopan Bandits disappointment will be Club Sport Herediano's joy, who take their place by virtue of being the next best team from the Central American region's top-performing country in the previous edition of the Champions League.

CD Alajuelense and fellow Costa Rican club Deportivo Saprissa had already qualified. Club Sport Herediano earns the third Costa Rican slot as the top cumulative point winner during the Costa Rican Winter 2013 and Summer 2014 Tournaments.

This will be Herediano's fourth consecutive CONCACAF Champions League competition.

Replacing Belmopan Bandits in Group 7, Herediano face Liga MX champion Leon and Isidro Metapan. The winners of the eight three-team groups go through to the quarter finals to be played in early 2015.


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Will Football Federation of Belize stadium meet FIFA requirements

Plusnews understands that FIFA officials were in Belize over the weekend doing inspections of the FFB stadium, to see if it is up to standards for the upcoming game in the CONCACAF Champions league tournament which began on August 5th

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Feast of Finger Pointing For Champion's League Foul Up

The CONCACAF Champions League is the most prestigious event for top football clubs in North, Central American and the Caribbean. But every year, the Belize Premier League’s top football Club has to sit it out because there’s no FIFA certified field in Belize. But, this year was supposed to be different – because of the two million dollars spent to renovate the FFB Stadium in Belmopan. But, the project failed to meet the standards set by FIFA inspectors, and so Belize now faces the embarrassment of being replaced by a Costa Rican Team in the Champion’s League.

The decision came down yesterday, and the team to take the place of the Belmopan Bandits will be Herediano, which participated in the tournament for the last 4 years. They’re making their fifth appearance, while the Bandits must brood over another missed opportunity.

So what went wrong? And who is to blame? That’s what we tried to find out today at a press conference held by the Football Federation of Belize. Daniel Ortiz reports:

Daniel Ortiz

"The FFB stadium it's been under major renovation since the end of March principally to be ready in time for Belize to finally participate in the CONCACAF Champion's League. At 1.5 million dollars and over 5 months of major works, it should be a sport and facility that the country is proud to own. But right now it's not, it currently serves as a reminder that for the 2nd year in a row, they dually chosen Belmopan Bandits, the 2014 winners of the PLB, will once again not be allowed to play in the Champion's League. All that work and all that money spent on the stadium, and Belize got pull out of the tournament last minute. Why? Well if you ask the FFB president, he sums up the disqualification as an astetic issue, simply the grass isn't green enough."

Ruperto Vicente - President, FFB

"That's it, simple because the brown spot. the field cannot be played on because as you all know, it is the television companies that runs the Champions League. They will not televise on a field that has brown spots on it."

Daniel Ortiz

"So for just beautification purposes, we won't participate?"

Ruperto Vicente

"That's what Champion's League is about.”

Daniel Ortiz

"We're not so sure the quality of the grass is the only, because a trod across to field reviles some unevenness, but that's for the experts. What we do know is that CONCACAF gave Belize over 2 months pass the deadline to meets standards required for Champion's League."

Ruperto Vicente

"CONCACAF came on the 10th of August and did inspections and certainly they were not happy with what they say because there is a lof of brown spots on the pitch. Too many brown spots and the brown spots are not good for television because the Champion's League is all about television and they want the grass to be green."

Daniel Ortiz

"And shortly after that, CONCACAF executives delivered the bad news, Belize was out."

Ruperto Vicente

"Tuesday at 4 PM that was yesterday, CONCACAF sent us the official decision. That the bandits football team has been withdrawn from the Champion's League because we don't have an adequate football field to play on."

Daniel Ortiz

"For the landscaping aspect of the stadium's renovation, Marvin Ottley was the contractor, with a budget of 152,000 U.S dollars to bring the pitch up to international standards.
Today the FFB president reiterated once again that his federation had no influence on for the contract between Ottley and FIFA for the pitch's upgrade.”

Ruperto Vicente

“Let me inform you that the Football Federation of Belize never signed a contract. The contractor and FIFA signed the contract where the recipient of a product that should have been delivered by the contractor and the federation is the recipient. So the contractor and FIFA signed the contract and so the contract is between those two entities.“

Daniel Ortiz

“He did admit that the works fell behind schedule because on the contractor’s delays”

Ruperto Vicente

"The contractor started on time. There were some delays with the moneys coming front to the contractor because the money doesn't come to the federation and that needs to be understood. Because people have the perception that the monies is given tot he federation and the federation give the monies to the contractor, no. The monies goes directly from FIFA to the contractor's account, so we don't have any thing to do with the monies. There was a delay, about 4 weeks delay but even with that to continue the work, we work with the contractor. Myself along with the Honourable John Saldivar spoke to his bank and the bank gave him an overdraft facility to continue the work.”

Daniel Ortiz

That crisis was eventually averted but once again the observers from FFB noted things about the contractor that concerned then.”

Ruperto Vicente

“We have always, almost every week make complains to the contractor, we have made complains to the contractor and the consultant. Telling him that we are not satisfied with the work being done and that this work needs to be fast forwarded, it needs to be done as quickly as possible because Belmopan Bandits participating in Champion's League depends on it and maybe at stake.”

Daniel Ortiz

"If you listened carefully, you might have caught that the federation was concerned that the deadline was in jeopardy. The Belmopan Bandit's ability to participate in the Champion's League was riding on a timely completion of the entire stadium. Today the president took all questions on the criticism that the landscape contractor failed to deliver on time"


“Would you categorise this as a form of an act of nepotism since we understand that the contractor who received this contract to do the field is relative of one of the executives of FFB?”

Ruperto Vicente

"Not really, due process was taken, all the contractors were called in with their envelopes and estimates were open right in front of them because they had to submit the envelopes sealed with their stamps on it. So when the FIFA official came in, those envelopes were opened in front of the contractors, and so due process was given to those bids.”


"So if we look at the track record for this contractor would he have other projects that he had fulfilled, did he had to submit his track record also?”

Ruperto Vicente

“That was no required by FIFA, but one of the things I can say though is that the contractor had been sent to Panama for training by FIFA on how to prepare a pitch and how to maintain a pitch.“


“So he was well qualified?”

Ruperto Vicente

“He is in our estimation, yes he had some training.”

Daniel Ortiz

We've also receive information that executive member of yours table a motion that you should consider rescinding the contract to Mr. Ottley. Why was that decision not made earlier on?”

Ruperto Vicente

“That's because the contract was going to take time and for FIFA to look at that and the rescind that contract, it would have taken a long long time. The contract is not with us, the contract is between the contractor and FIFA. It is important for political reasons to give an opportunity to Belizean companies as well. It would have not have been good for the federation to have only foreigners working in this country, so that was one of the things. Secondly, he's presentation was one of the best presentation. I also want to dispel because I heard that on the media that the contractor is giving me monies out of his contract, let me dispel that. I have taken monies from the federation, right now I have spent, which I should have not done because there is a contract. And now I'm taking federation's money to the sum of 40,000 dollars and I'd ask the general secretary and the accountant to give me that figure this morning. The tune of 40,000 dollars to assist the contractor, so we could have gotten this field ready, but it is still not ready, I have done my part, I have done it and I will not take blame for this pitch.”

Daniel Ortiz

“And while there will be finger pointing and bitter recrimination for football fans, there is only one grim reality. Another year without the Champion's League Cup in Belize, reporting for 7 news, I am Daniel Ortiz.”

Vicente has since written a letter to Jeffery Webb, the President of CONCACAF, requesting that his executive team reconsider the position to remove Belize.

He’s letter reads, quote, “This decision (to withdraw the Belmopan Bandits)… should not have been at this late stage.” End Quote.

Later on in the letter, he adds, “The spirit of fair play demands that such a decision be revisited”.

But, realistically it doesn’t appear likely that CONCACAF will revisit it’s decision, since it was not a decision lightly taken. But, if there is a reversal, Vicente claims that the final preparations for the field could be made by as early as Friday. The tournament was to have started Next Week Thursday, August 21.

Sports Minister Blames FFB

Vicente said he would implore every high office to intercede on the FFB’s behalf – including the Prime Minister. But, he won’t have much luck going to the Minister of State with responsibility for Sports, Herman Longsworth. Today, Longsworth told us squarely that the FFB is to blame:..

Hon. Herman Longsworth

"I am extremely concerned, I am very very disappointed. We were all told that the field would be ready. FFB told us that they would have had this field ready. We were expecting that it would be ready and i'm disappointed that it is not, i'm very disappointed."


"Does the blame fall on the FFB?"

Hon. Herman Longsworth

"It has to, it's their field, the ownus was on them to complete it. It was their monies, monies they got from FIFA that they were to use to complete the field. I have no idea why it was not completed, they kept saying it would be complete. I saw a letter saying it would be complete, I don't know what happened."

He did say, however, that while the stadium won’t be ready for 2014, it will most definitely be ready by next season. We’ll wait and see.

FFB President Vicente On Defensive

And while Sports Minister Herman Longsworth is putting the blame on the FFB - President Ruperto Vicente is not having it.

We put this question directly to him today, but he deflected, saying that it’s his efforts, which have brought Belize closer to the Champions League than ever before:

Ruperto Vicente

“I've never shied away from responsibily, I take responsibility in this case is to ensure that we have a facility that is adequate enough and ready for our teams to participate in Champion's League. I have done my best. I have taken the monies that FIFA give to Belize, and I have said to FIFA we need a good stadium, we need good lighting, we have lights right now. We need good locker rooms, we have air conditioned locker rooms, we have twelve showers, five bathrooms. We need good bleachers, well numbered, properly numbered, we have that. We need a good pitch and we presented all of that to FIFA. I have done my part, I have done what I believe would have gotten us into Champion's League and i've fought with CONCACAF. When CONCACAF said in May Belize would not participate, I stood up and I said to CONCACAF, if you don't give us the opportunity, I will not participate in any other tournaments this year. And that is how Bandits were given the opportunity and invited to the draw in Miami. I have done my part. The field, if I was an expert in grass, i'd done it myself, but I am not an expect in that field. And so we contracted a person that have the ability to do the job, was given the contract and the contractor did not come through for us. It is not my fault, I have done my part and I believed I have done it well.”

Today, we tried to contact Minister John Saldivar, the owner of the Belmopan Bandits Football Club for comment, but he didn’t respond.

Via Facebook he posted comment saying, quote,

“It is with a heavy heart and deep sadness as the owner of the Belmopan Bandits FC that I must accept the decision of CONCACAF to remove my Club from the Champions League Tournament due to an inadequate FFB Stadium. I believe that my Club, its players, and I would be justified in our indignation towards the FFB and its officials who are responsible for this sad state of affairs. However, the blame game will only cause more disappointments as we prepare to defend our national pride in the Nations' Cup in three weeks. I will therefore hold my fury and instead offer to assist in whatever way I can in our preparations for the Nations' Cup.” End Quote.

As we’ve told you, this will make it the second time that the Bandits have qualified for the Champions League and then been prevented from participating.

Today, FFB President Vicente suggested that his administration will try to get the Bandits into the tournament next year, but owners of other semi-pro challenged that pronouncement, because the statutes require that the winner of the Premier League in any given year is the team that gets to represent the country in the tournament.

Channel 7

President of FFB says Bandits will play in Champions League next year

Earlier we told you about the disappointing rejection of the FFB field in Belmopan by FIFA officials. And while the entire country is perhaps disappointed, even more so are the Belmopan Bandits who have lost an opportunity of a lifetime. But whether it was a slip of the tongue or he intentionally said it, President Ruperto Vicente made a bold statement when he promised that Belmopan Bandits will play in the Champions League next year.

Ruperto Vicente - President FFB

"If we do not play, if Bandits don't get to play in Champions League this year, then we must assure the Belmopan Bandits Football Team that they will participate in the Champions League next year."

It is customary that the local champions of each country represent their country at the Champions league, however, Vicente maintained that he will at the least recommend Bandits' participation at next year's Champions League.

Ruperto Vicente

"I'm going to recommend to the executive of the Federation, as well as the owners of the League, to have Belmopan Bandits participate next year. We will find something else for the team for this year's tournament."


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The CONCACAF Champions League pitch in Guyana is laughable

The CONCACAF Champions League is back! And, as is the case with seemingly every CONCACAF competition, that means hilariously awful pitches.

The latest is in Guyana, where the Portland Timbers will play Alpha United.

To call that grass would be charitable, but then again, that is a cricket stadium. Soccer isn't a priority there, just an event to full up a few empty dates and maybe make a few bucks. And the players are just going to have to suffer because of it.

Did you want to see passes completed on the ground? Good luck.

Did you think the match might be beautiful? Welp.

Did you hope that teams would be able to play something resembling soccer? No chance.

Of course, this is the same competition that saw a team from Belize kicked out because the pitch at their stadium was sub-standard. So if CONCACAF deemed the Guyana pitch okay, what did the Belize pitch have to be like to be deemed unacceptable? Clearly, grass isn't a requirement, so was there shards of glass on the pitch? Was there a sinkhole at midfield? Did tigers roam the penalty boxes?

At least it's not turf, amirite.


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FFB Pitch Worse Than Guyana?

The CONCACAF 2014 Champion’s League Tournament began 2 weeks ago, and if Belize’s Belmopan Bandits were still in it, they would be getting ready for their first game tomorrow at the FFB Stadium in Belmopan. But as we all know, CONCACAF yanked the Bandits from the competition because the football pitch supposedly didn’t meet the organization’s standards.

We say “supposedly” because SB Nation – which is a US based sports website has posted this picture of the Providence Stadium in Guyana. That’s the home field for Guyana’s Alpha United, which is making its first appearance in the Champion’s League, facing the Portland Timbers.

Seen here, Providence was built primarily as a cricket stadium. The article on SB Nation asks, quote, “if CONCACAF deemed the Guyana pitch okay, what did the Belize pitch have to be like to be deemed unacceptable? Clearly, grass isn't a requirement, so was there shards of glass on the pitch? Was there a sinkhole at midfield? Did tigers roam the penalty boxes?”

Of course, those are rhetorical questions – the FFB Field has its issues, but, visually at least, it wasn’t as bad as all that!

But, the issues it did have could have been remedied. 7News has learned that the FFB had local consultants who were giving free advice on how to fix the field. Our news room has received copies of emails sent to the FFB executive by Tony Chanona, the local expert who they would have turned to, in order to get the field ready, if CONCACAF reconsidered their decision to boot Belize out of the tournament.

In an email dating back to July, Chanona wrote to the FFB explaining to them what would be the best equipment, the best soil, the best chemicals, and the most reasonable prices they could get it done for. Chanona also advised them that the pitch needed to be raised by 1 each, and that special top soil was needed to treat it properly, so that the grass can grow properly. Chanona offered his professional advice free of charge, and even offered to put his services at their disposal, simply for national pride and the love of the sport. All indications are that his recommendations were entertained, but ultimately went un-heeded.

When FFB President Ruperto Vicente had his press conference a week ago, he told the press that with Chanona’s help, the Federation could have gotten the field ready in 5 days for a follow up inspection.

We’ve received a copy of Chanona’s email, which suggest that this was an over-simplification of the task. He said that it would have taken, quote “a miracle” to get the field ready in time because it was far behind schedule.

In his email, he outlines how the FFB tried to get him to bail out everyone involved to put off a “Herculean” effort. In that press conference, President Vicente confidently stated to the nation that with Chanona’s help, the field could be ready. Chanona himself was very skeptical in his email, saying that he wasn’t sure that could pull it off in time. He also refused to give any guarantees for fear of destroying his reputation if the field was rushed and some international player got hurt while playing football at the FFB Stadium.

Chanona sums up the entire disqualification as “gross incompetence”, and he notes that the Country and the football fans are the ones who are going to pay for it.

As we’ve told you, Belmopan Bandits are also losing out on an opportunity, and they’ve also wasted resources preparing for the Champion’s League Tournament. Tomorrow, Costa Rica’s Herediano FC takes their place as the wildcard holder plays against El Salvador’s Isidro Metapán. Herediano will make its fourth appearance in the tournament because of Belize’s disqualification.

Channel 7

The decision to remove the Belmopan Bandits from the 2014 -15 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League may have been the right one, but it could've been handled better.

Written by By Jon Arnold

Editor's Note: CONCACAF hipster Jon Arnold brings Goal readers stories and opinions from around the region in a weekly column.

CONCACAF's relatively new administration missed an opportunity to show it's different from the past regime with its handling of the removal of Belize's representative in the CONCACAF Champions League. The name 'Champions League' explains the concept. Pit various champions against each a league. But in the past five competitions, Belize hasn't been able to put forth a representative, a streak that will continue this year after the Belmopan Bandits were removed from the competition.

The confederation announced the decision in a news release sent at 6:10 p.m. ET on Aug. 12 - a week after the tournament started and nine days before the Bandits were set to host their first game of the competition. It would've been the first time in history that Belize - a tiny but growing English-speaking country in Central America just south of Mexico on the Caribbean Sea - hosted a Champions League match. In the first tournament under the current format, the Hankook Verdes played their home match in Guatemala, losing both legs by a 6-0 margin.

Each year since, Belize's Champions League spot has been awarded to the Central American federation with the team that advanced the furthest in the previous edition, as there are no stadiums in the country that meet CONCACAF standards.

This year was supposed to be different. After the national team qualified for and played in its first Gold Cup, the Football Federation of Belize requested funds from FIFA to improve FFB Stadium in hopes of hosting matches. A FIFA spokesperson confirmed to Goal USA that the governing body has contributed more than $2.3 million to various programs over the course of four FIFA Goal programs and also through a benefit from FIFA's Programme for Less Privileged Member Associations, though not all of that money went to the stadium updates. FIFA funding was used to update lighting, stands and locker rooms among other improvements.

What was not improved, or at least not quickly enough, was the actual pitch at FFB Stadium. Everyone, including FFB President Ruperto Vicente in a letter to CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb, agrees that the pitch wasn't ready in time. That in itself is puzzling, as one would expect nearly a year should be enough time to prepare a stadium. FIFA's General Regulations for FIFA Development Programmes require associations to seek at least three proofs of offer from different contractors and also require a final report when projects are finianced at the level they were in Belize, but that paperwork shouldn't have taken months.

The issue is not whether or not the decision was the right one. The pitch appeared to be unplayable the last time it was seen in local media reports. In fact, CONCACAF may have been too lenient with the Belizean federation. The stadium inspection was delayed on a number of occasions, and the deadline for the pitch to be compliant was also extended. In previous editions, Belize's entry was ceded to a Central American cohort before the draw. This time it looked like there would finally be resolution.

CONCACAF could totally be in the right, but who would know? Aside from the release, it's been silence from Webb and Vice President Enrique Sanz, while Herediano prepares to host Metapan on Thursday. No explanation as to why the Bandits can't utilize an alternate venue as the Verdes did. No word regarding concerns about timing. No word about how inspections are conducted. No matter what the logic, booting a team from a competition that is in progress is not a good look and only perpetuates the sloppy image of the confederation many harbor.

When transparency is lacking, conspiracy abounds. Surely Herediano can put a better side out in the competition and can also draw bigger crowds to stadia home and away. Is that motivation for the confederation to make this decision? It's unlikely, but it's the kind of theory that gets legs when it's not chopped down.

Of course, the Bandits themselves are the ones who suffer from the decision. Short of getting horticulture training, there's little more the players could do. They won the league, played friendlies against clubs in Mexico to stay fresh and had no reason to believe they wouldn't get a chance to showcase their skills in front of thousands who otherwise would have no way to see them.

When asked for comment, the Bandits referred Goal USA to the FFB, which referred to news releases. CONCACAF officials told Goal that attempts are being made to have Webb and Sanz available for comment. CONCACAF Watch will be updated if new information is presented.

Webb and Sanz are busy men with many responsibilities both professional and personal. They have come in and inspired confidence from fans in the region hoping the pair doesn't run CONCACAF in the corrupt, shadowy fashion predecessors Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer did. The decision to remove the Bandits from the CCL may have been totally necessary, but the manner in which it took place will remind fans of that dark era. CONCACAF must continue to build on the foundation it has laid since last year's Integrity Committee report release.

The Guardian

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FFB Discusses Football Pitch with CONCACAF

As we told you, one of the straws which broke the proverbial camel's back was the disqualification of Belize from the champions League. CONCACAF refused to certify the football pitch for international play because it simply was not adequate. But while nobody argued the lack of readiness of the field, there was some agitation when it was revealed that CONCACAF had certified Guyana's field which, believe it or not, was in even worse condition than ours. With CONCACAF at the table, so to speak, we figured that the matter would come up, and F.F.B. President Ruperto Vicente said it did.

Ruperto Vicente, President, Football Federation of Belize

Ruperto Vicente

"It has been brought up. In fact I brought it up with the competition manager for CONCACAF and certainly CONCACAF does…whichever way it does make its decision, it is their decision. But understand as well that in this part of the world we are playing against teams from Mexico and those teams from Mexico will not put players on pitches that are not ready to play on. You know, because they invest a lot in their players. As far as they are concerned their players, or a player for them is a million dollar player. So I believe that the Mexicans came here, looked at our pitch, walked on it…remember we had a Mexican coach here that walked on it….and so they got that information that our pitch would not have been ready and was not safe to play on, so they probably got to the television company and said look, we will not play on the Belize field because it will endanger our players, and so we believe that's the reason the decision was made because as we know, the Champions League is all about television and it is television that controls Champion's League."

Previously Vicente had claimed disqualification because of brown spots on the field which would look bad on television. But he now confirms that it was much more than just brown spots.

Channel 5

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