By Yankuba Jallow

Members of The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) on Saturday, 30 December 2017 converged at the GFF Hotel at Old Yundum for the 2017 Annual General Meeting which was described as the most successful AGM of the Federation in the past three years.

The delegates after brief debates approved the 2017 Activity Report of the President, the Audited Financial Statements of the previous year and the Draft Budget for 2018. The Meeting also approved the appointment of Foresight Accounting Firm as the new External Auditors of the Federation for the next three (3) years, as decided by last year’s AGM.

In addition to the above, the Meeting approved the following amendments of the GFF Statute, including an Eligibility Check and Term Limits for Elective Positions in the GFF Executive: 1. Article 34 of the Constitution was amended by inserting a new article, 34A: “the Executive Committee may co-opt up to two members into the Executive based on their technical competence and subject to them passing Eligibility Check to be conducted with the assistance of FIFA or CAF”. 2. Article 34.4 of the Constitution was also amended by inserting the following new paragraph; (e): “pass Eligibility Check to be conducted with the assistance of FIFA or CAF”. This means that for one to be qualified to be elected into the GFF Executive, he/she shall Pass an Eligibility Check. 3. Article 41.1 of the Constitution was also amended to ensure that the President and Executive Committee shall be re-elected only once for a four year term. However, the current term of the current President and the current Executive shall not be counted. 4. Article 23 was amended to increase the number of delegates/votes of Regional Football Associations and Allied Associations to 4 and 3 respectively. This was sequel to the decision of last year’s AGM to increase the number of teams in the First and Second Divisions to 14 and 16 teams respectively effective in 2018/19 League Season. In order to create a balance in voting power of members, the 2016 AGM tasked a three man Task Force to work out a formula for the increment based on principle of proportionality. As a result, the first and second division clubs shall henceforth have a total of 30 votes, representing 41.10 percent of the total votes while the allied associations shall now have 15 votes, representing 20.55 percent and the regional football associations shall now have 28 votes, representing 38.36 percent of the total votes; increasing the Total Number of votes to 73. In the area of competition, the Meeting also approved the proposal of the Executive that effective 2018/19 Season, the champions of Lower River, Central River, North Bank and Upper River Regions will directly qualify to the Second Division of the National League, whilst those of Banjul, Kanifing Municipality and West Coast Region will compete in a triangular qualifier to fill the remaining One Spot for the Second Division. 5. The Meeting unanimously confirmed the decision of the Executive Committee to suspend Mr. Bakary Paco Dampha for blocking a GFF FF Cup match between Gamtel and Samger on April 8, 2017 at the Serekunda East Mini Stadium, and Mr. Lamin Jarju the defeated candidate for the presidency of the West Coast Region Football Association earlier this year, for taking a football matter before a civil court by suing the President and Secretary General of the said Regional Football Association. Both cases are considered to be very serious violations of the GFF Constitution. The duo was earlier suspended by the Executive Committee and it was the mandate of the General Assembly to validate or otherwise such decision. As required by Article 16.1 of the GFF Statute, the two cases were separately voted on and each passed with attaining the required two-thirds majority of the total votes cast. Thus upholding the suspension of the two gentlemen indefinitely, with Mr. Jarju having the option to withdraw the case from the court and his suspension lifted.

The members also renewed their support to the current leadership for the unprecedented strides that the national game has attained in recent years. They also unanimously condemned the actions of the National Sports Council/Ministry of Youth and Sports for meddling into the internal matters of the Federation. They also decried the latest attempt by some individuals to hide behind the National Assembly Select Committee on Sports to force the GFF to comply with an illegal process, even after an Executive intervention seemed to have broken the impasse. Describing the actions of these interest groups as selfish and becoming unbearable, members called for a stop to what they referred to as a witch-hunt and instead urged them to join hands with the GFF to develop the game in the country. Members also urged the Government, cum Ministry of Youth and Sports, to fulfil their commitments of sponsoring the national teams. The GFF President reassured the delegates that the position of the Executive, not to associate themselves with an illegitimate process, will never change irrespective of the circumstances. The event had earlier began with the President, Lamin Kaba Bajo’s, introductory remark and the approval of the agenda followed by the adoption of last year’s minutes. Mr. Bajo said the GFF under his leadership places a very high priority on articulating its core competency in good governance, sound financial management and genuine partnership with its stakeholders including, but not limited to, Government, Clubs, Affiliated Associations, WAFU, CAF and FIFA. He further remarked that the GFF have made concrete plans to move the game forward in terms of national football development, capacity building, grassroots and women football, regional leagues, national teams, infrastructure development, fund raising and marketing for a healthy financial standing.

“The Plan also includes targets and milestones for implementing improved management information systems in the areas of finance, human resources and project management for the Regional Football Associations, which culminated with the hiring of Coaches and Administrative/Financial Secretaries at the Regional Football Associations,” he said.

“It’s heartening to report that the furnishing of the GFF Hotel has been completed, the Senior Management Team is recruited, and a Board of Directors appointed to oversee the operations of the Hotel. I am pleased to inform you that the Hotel has since started operations, though at a small scale. If all goes well with the project, it will serve as a new source of income for the Federation which will greatly reduce our financial dependence on FIFA/CAF and the government, and also significantly reduce our expenditure in the camping of national teams and conducting of technical training programmes. This is a landmark achievement in the history of football administration in this country.”

Despite the above achievements, the President noted that the past year has been a very challenging one for the Federation notwithstanding due to the avoidable crisis that arose between the GFF and the National Sports Council. “It was unfortunate we were not giving the opportunity to familiarise ourselves and work with the new leadership of both the Ministry and NSC, instead we found ourselves in an unnecessary impasse, which has created tension and acrimony between us. As we have been saying throughout the impasse, we are not afraid of an investigation as our hands are clean and our conscience is clear as far as the handling of the funds of the funds and management of the Federation are concerned. All we were insisting on was the following of due process and that the actions of all should be dictated and guided by laws and existing rules and regulations, as we operate within the dictates of the GFF Constitution, the FIFA and CAF Statutes, and the national laws of the country,” he emphasised.

Mr. Bajo added that despite the challenges, which ran over several weeks, peace has finally showed up her face when the Minister made a public statement calling for peace and reconciliation to enable bygones be bygones and that the purported investigations was being discontinued. He said he later held a successful meeting with Minister Gomez, where they both agreed to give peace a chance.

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