Editorial | Thanks for the support, Dr Roper
We are indebted to the Reverend Dr Garnett Roper for his unintended, but unambiguous and robust, corroboration of this newspaper's argument about the tendency of politicians, at the merest opportunity, to expropriate institutions that will advance their expansion and exertion of power. In this case it is the Arnett Gardens Football Club (AGFC) and its seeming appropriation by Mark Golding, the People's National Party's (PNP) new standard-bearer in the South St Andrew constituency, without the obvious comport with constitutional order.
Who controls the football club and how any transition can take place has been a contentious public issue in recent weeks between Mr Golding, ostensibly the AGFC's new chairman, and Patrick Roberts, the man who, for 17 years, has been known as its president.
The matter has come to a head at this time because of the recent retirement of Omar Davies, after more than two decades as the member of parliament (MP) for South Andrew, where Arnett Gardens is located. He was also chairman of the football club.
Mr Golding, a senator, having won his party's constituency run-off, is Dr Davies' presumptive successor in Parliament for what is a safe PNP seat. He, with seeming automaticity, also acquired the title of chairman of the club, whose structure and management he proposes to overhaul. Except that Mr Roberts, a PNP local government councillor, has insisted that "the chairman(ship) is not transferrable" and could not be willed by Dr Davies.
It is not clear whether Garnett Roper, a regular public commentator, acted on behalf of Mr Golding or his proxies, but in an article in this newspaper on Sunday, he outlined Mr Golding's plan to make the football club into a limited liability company, with the laudable intention of stabilising its finances and bringing transparency and accountability to its operations.
Rev Roper makes this point: "AGFC belongs to the community of Arnett Gardens."
The club, he explained, was founded by the late PNP parliamentarian, Tony Spaulding, who chaired the first council that oversaw its management. Mr Spaulding, according to Rev Roper, was succeeded in that post by his successor MP, Hartley 'Bobby' Jones, and then Dr Davies. What is not clear is by what constitutional means were these transitions of chairmanship done and whether there are records of their provenance. Mr Roberts claimed, though, that Dr Davies was "awarded" the title because of his position as MP and as a "sort of senior statesman".
Mr Roberts' assertions notwithstanding, Rev Roper said that Dr Davies mobilised substantial resources for the club, adding, "During this period, he appointed Patrick Roberts as president, Richard Bennett as general manager, and George Phang as team manager."
This statement is significant when Dr Davies' purported power to appoint is juxtaposed against the declaration of the football club's ownership by the community and its founding ethos that included a "governing council".
Further, in noting the "transition to the handover to Senator Golding", Rev Roper doesn't report any input from the community owners of the club or its governing council, or any process to revive its constitutional arrangements, if they were dormant. Mr Golding's elevation was apparently a seamless result of Dr Davies' retirement.
With his new authority, "Senator Golding," according to Rev Roper, "has invited Patrick Roberts to be part of the new board of directors and George Phang has been asked to stay on as team manager." Whether the owners of the club, ostensibly the community, were consulted and would have approved of any, or all, of these appointments, including Mr Golding's, we don't know.
The issue is not whether what Mr Golding intends is good for Arnett Gardens or not, but whether he adhered to due process. But football is a popular sport to which politicians like to align themselves. Control of a successful club can help to enhance political authority and potentially entrenches garrison-style politics.