Gambia: The 4G's in Gambian Football - 'For the Good of the Gambia' and 'For the Good of the Game'.

opinion

The Gambian football fraternity presently may be divided into three distinct groups. Group one can be further divided into two sections. Section one of Group One can be described as the 'Old Guard' and most of the people belonging to this section are old to middle age persons. They are very important figures in Gambian football history and most of them own or control football clubs in the existing GFA League. They are presently in control of Gambian football in the form of being members of the Normalizing Committee of the GFA.

It will be a big mistake to underrate or underestimate the contribution the old guards have made in community, national or international Gambian football. We must respect them and honour them but we must also acknowledge the fact that they are human beings and so are prone to self interest and mistakes. The biggest problem being, how, for many years, they used the Regional representatives and their clubs to control the executive of the GFA and prevent the decentralization of Gambian football in the process.

To justify and retain control of the GFA and Gambian football the old guard developed some concepts for football development in the country for FIFA, CAF, The Gambia Government, the Gambian people and the media. It was common to hear:

1.The provincial clubs are not yet ready to join the GFA League because in the past clubs from the provinces were beaten 18 to 0 by Banjul based football clubs.

2. Proper football field infrastructure does not exist inthe provinces

3. The provincial road network and transport system is not good

4. And so on

It was also an open secret that some people of the old guard believed that "they eat breath and live football so football in The Gambia belongs to them. This concept originally started in Banjul with the people of Banjul but has spread to KM and today in some areas of the WCR mainly due to migration and influences by the people of Banjul. It was also not strange to see people who originally came from the provinces (e.g. as far as Basse) but used sports as a spring board for political or social advancement joining or being part of this group.

Political and social advancement is still a factor in Gambian sports but recently those factors have been overshadowed with the increased wealth in the game of football. There is a lot of money in football today and a good player is worth millions of Dallasis in the international football market, hence, the drive to reduce the potential competition from provincial clubs. This is one of the reasons the old guard have resisted the decentralization of our football and the professionalism of our football leagues.

The other reason is simply because they did not know how; because no serious pressure or study have been put on them or made to decentralize or professionalize league football until now. Instead of putting forward the FIFA influenced proposed constitution for consideration by the clubs and Gambian people they decided to doctor a constitution that further isolate the Regions (That constitution was rejected by FIFA and all sectors of the football fraternity) . But perhaps the Normalizing Committee did not understand or maybe they misinterpreted the FIFA influenced proposed constitution.

It is important to mention at this point that when, in 1885 the English FA legalized professionalism, and when Aston Villa director William McGregor organized a meeting of representatives of England's leading clubs, this led to the formation of the Football League in 1888. The football fields and road networks in England was worse than the state of Gambian football fields and road network today but that did not stop them from developing the beautiful game or from clubs traveling all over England to play League football. The rules and conditions that came with professionalism and competition forced local authorities, communities, football clubs and private sectors investors to provide funds for the construction of sports infrastructure and road networks.

Section two of Group One can be described as the 'Middle Guard' and most of the people belonging to this section are middle age to young. Some of them are very important figures in Gambian football history and most of them own, control or manage football clubs in the existing GFA League. They controlled Gambian football during the last seven years until they were sacked by the Min. of Youths and Sports and replaced by the Normalizing Committee of the GFA.

In fact, the middle guard was trained and promoted by the old guard to take over from them but the middle guard was in a hurry to take over power and when they saw some infighting amongst the old guard they decided to make their move. The middle guards played them against each other then push all of them aside, so some of the old guard felt betrayed, hence, the negative tension between them. Presently, it seems like the old guard have maneuvered their way back to power with the formation of the Normalizing Committee of the GFA.

There is no difference, in concept, objective or ambition, between sections one and two in group one just differences in interest and personality. The middle guard was elected into power mainly on the bases that the existing constitution will be revised and reformed to decentralize and professionalize football. The President of the GFA was elected precisely because he was from the provinces, despite the fact that he was a 'trainee' of the old guard and later was the owner of a GFA League club and despite the fact that he with his GFA executive worked with FIFA in formulating the first FIFA influenced proposed constitution.

It was not, however, in his interest to change anything in our football over the seven years he was President, hence, the frustration of the Gambian people and the Min. of Youth and Sports. Resigning their post after being removed was the safest thing to do because of their failure to deliver their promises. Presently, because they cannot really defend and justify themselves, the middle guard are engaged in character assassinations and petty exposure of the Min. of Youth and Sports and certain members of the Normalizing Committee of the GFA.

In their imaginary fear of losing their standing, influence and even clubs if decentralization and professionalism is practiced by the realization of the FIFA influenced proposed constitution the middle guard have mobilized some of the existing GFA League clubs and formed an association (the Football League Association) to resist the proposed constitution while pretending that it is the personnel's in the Normalizing Committee that they are really against.

Section one of Group two can be described as the 'Regional Middle Guard (RMG)' and most of the people belonging to this section are middle age to young. Some of them are very important figures in Gambian Regional football history and most of them own, control or manage nawettan centers in the provinces and football clubs in the existing Regional League. This section one of group two includes most of the Sports Chairpersons in the provinces.

They were at one time in GFA Executive elections between the old guard used to favour one opponent against another. Two to three of the old guards used it very effectively against their rivals but it was last used by the middle guard to push out the old guard after convincing the RMG's that the old guard was only using them.

The RMG are mainly football lovers from the provinces controlling/owning nawettan centers/Regional League clubs or people from the Grater Banjul Area (GBA) who migrated to the provinces and became sports chairperson or have a regional football club. They have for many years put their hopes, and total trust in both the Old and middle guard to change the status-quo, but to no avail. Their lack of knowledge of their constitutional rights and power has allowed themselves to be used many times by the old and middle guard. It is hoped that this time round they will stand up for their constitutional rights.

Section two of Group two can be described as the 'Regional New Guard (RNG)' and most of the people belonging to this section are middle age to young. Some of them are very important figures in Gambian Regional football history and most of them own, control or manage nawettan centers in the provinces and football clubs in the existing Regional League. This section two of group two includes a few of the Sports Chairpersons in the provinces.

The RNG are mainly football lovers from the provinces controlling/owning nawettan centers/Regional League clubs or people from the Grater Banjul Area (GBA) who migrated to the provinces and became sports chairperson or have a regional football club. Some of them have been fooled once or twice but are determined not to be fooled again, especially, by the Middle Guard and their GFA League club owners from the provinces. They have studied the proposed new constitution and have decided that it a step in the right direction and are determined to adopt it if it is not doctored.

However, this group is yet to be convinced of the sincerity of the old guard because they sent out a constitution which is still titled the 'GFA' and yet they go around announcing the formation of the Gambia Football Federation, the increase in the number of National First and Second Division clubs, etc. Which is which? When you are the bearer of something you don't really want to bear you create confusion.

I apologies, sincerely, if I have offended or hurt anybody by the above mentioned analysis of the history or events of Gambian football. The true intention was to get to the truth so if anybody feels that what has been said is wrong or misunderstood in any way you are welcome to put it right with facts and figures. The other intention is also to bring about understanding by Gambians of what really is going on in our football and form the basis of reconciliation between the various groups that are presently controlling our football.

One thing which is common and certain to all those groups mentioned above is that they love their country and the beautiful game; but they may have allowed their personal interest and/or lack of knowledge of sports sometimes comes in the way of the 4G's: "for the Good of The Gambia" and "for the Good of the Game".

The Third Group can be described as the rest of the Gambian football family and may include but not limited to:

1. Sponsors and The Media Practitioners

Despite its failure, the National Sports Policy, 1999 to 2008, which was prepared by the Department of State for Youths and Sports and sponsored by UNDP did make some profound observations and recommendations; in the following, for example:

"While the private sector has been providing sponsorship to some sporting activities, there is a great potential for such assistant to be increased and provided on a regular bases. However, in order for the private sector to increase its financial sponsorship, there is a need for a partnership to be fogged between government, the private sector and other stakeholders. Such partnership can only be strengthened and sustain if there is mutual benefit in the relationship.

The private sector is primarily motivated by profit consideration and if they do not anticipate financial benefits in the long run, there sponsorship will not be generous or provided on regular bases. The concept of ownership and partnership by all stakeholders should therefore underpin the policy objectives and strategy for financing sport promotion and development".

The Policy then recommended the following objectives:

1. To establish partnership in the financing of sports among all stake holders.

2. To encourage private sector financial sponsorship through tax incentive

3. To encourage sports associations and other sporting bodies to engage in fund raising activities and business ventures.

In Gambian football, for example, there is little or no private sector investment, because there is no or little support base (fan clubs, spectators, etc) for the existing GFA League clubs, therefore, no meaningful media interest (e.g. GRTS is not interested in entering into a TV Rights deal directly with the GFA League clubs).

When the Western Union Company studied the situation in The Gambia, for their sponsorship of sports, they decided to sponsor the Nawettan matches and the Super Nawettan Tournaments, because outside international matches, the nawettan matches are the most popular football tournament in the Gambia in terms of the number of spectators. For our football to develop and become an industry we must involve the local communities and that can only be done if National League competitions name and features community based clubs.

In order for football to become an industry, it requires the participation of the whole country. One would have to imagine at first, football clubs like, Fatoto FC, Basse FC, Bansang FC, Jangjangbureh FC, Brikamaba FC, Kudang FC, Brikama FC and Lamin FC, etc, and within Banjul, Karnifing Municipality (KM) and Western Coast Region, you could have 20 or more football clubs. One could also imagine all these clubs with their own sports fields or mini stadiums.

Sponsorship required to meeting the expenditure of the proposed Zonal, Regional and National football League maybe direct or indirect. Both approaches are examined below:

A. Direct Sponsorship: While the ease of raising substantial funds probably depends on the degree of economic development in a country, the basic principal of fund raising by donations are the same for any country. An appeal may have several facets. For example, approaches to central and local government departments and agencies, commercial companies, wealthy individuals, charitable-Trusts and Foundations, voluntary and social organizations (e.g., Rotary Club).

In practice, finding sponsors by small promotion organizations like Sports Promotion, Integration and Cooperation with private Enterprises (SPICE) in small developing countries like The Gambia, where the purchasing power of the population is low, may be difficult. But there have been many successful sporting sponsorship deals over recent years and so sports must be an attractive vehicle for many commercial organizations. Corporations can often be encouraged to sponsor a sports project, such as the proposed Regional Leagues, in return for some value they perceive they will get in return. That perceived value, maybe that they are a contributor to the game of domestic football.

They may contribute to demonstrate community support, good corporate citizenship, to generate positive visibility for a product or service (and thereby increase sales), to generate media exposure, or to compete with other companies outside of direct advertising. These corporations, then, do not wish to be anonymous donors. They want value for their financial involvement. Sponsors can provide cash, or product (Gift in Kind or GIK) or a combination of these.

Before any sponsor is considered SPICE must look carefully at what exactly the proposed Zonal, Regional and National football League has to offer a sponsor and establish clearly what the benefit to a sponsor will be. No longer are companies willing to donate money for no commercial return.

B. Indirect Sponsorship: Television, it is universally accepted, has played a major role in the popularization and rapid development of league football (for example, SKY Television and the English Premier League) in many counties. The SKY Television agreement with the Premier League, when it was first signed was worth £191,000,000 pounds over five seasons. The next contract rose to £670,000,000 pounds over four seasons. The Premier League last £1,024 Billion pound deal with B SKY B runs over the course of three seasons from August 2004. All this, for a League, that only began in 1992.

Television is the means by which most Gambians see and experience football. For this reason, SPICE and the proposed Zonal, Regional and National football League Company's main objective is to ensure that broadcast of the proposed Leagues is available to the whole of The Gambia. GRTS, the only television station in the country presently will be our partner in this endeavor. However, the possibility of cable sports TV, where the customer purchases a decoder and pays a monthly fee for a card will be examined,

2.Central government and local authorities

According to the National Sports Policy, 1999 t0 2008,"The provision of the enhanced sporting facilities should encourage and broaden the availability of and access to these facilities by communities and thereby encourage the participation in physical fitness and sports by a wide cross section of people of all ages and abilities". It was mentioned that the overall objectives of the Sports policy would depend mainly on the capacity of the sporting associations in partnership with public and private sector entities.

Despite mentioning and recognizing the Central Government on sports as mainly facilitators, the Action Plan targeted the Central Government as the main actor for the implementation of the Policy. The attitude of most Central Government official and members of sporting association in The Gambia (including the Normalizing Committee members), past and present, despite saying that government cannot do everything depends and think that Central Government should do everything in sports.

They think that it is the responsibility of Central Government to build stadiums all over the Regions, organize and administer sports all over the country, provide sporting facilities in all sports fields, pay all the expenditure of national sports clubs and individuals, etc. This is not the way things happen even in the most developed countries. Sports development, especially football/soccer was/is mainly developed by community participation, local government authorities, private business ownership/sponsorship, etc, not Central Government.

The word is partnership/participation not interference/control of sports from FIFA and CAF in football.The social, economical and cultural benefit of the development of the above mentioned clubs within their respective areas should not be underrated. Besides creating nationwide professional football players, managers, trainers etc, the game will:

a. Reduce rural to urban migration of the youths of the country.

b. Build mini stadiums all over the country; hence create work for local construction industries and business.

c. Reduce tribalism and increase positive zonal, divisional and regional unity.

d. Reduce political tension.

e. Develop transport, clothing and food industries all over the country.

f. Thousand of peoples all over the country will be employed directly or indirectly.

g. Improve the Health and welfare of Gambians of all ages and sex.

Not all the benefits can be mentioned here. But in order to achieve our goals and objectives in national football, we need to create new tournaments and new leagues that are national in character and sustainable in nature.

The proposed new Regional Leagues will not only develop the game, form the basis for the Gambian Super/Premier League, but will also:

1) Give a lot of youths, from all over the country, a chance to participate in the game, earn money and become local football stars.

2) Increase community participation and popularity in the game.

3) Encourage the development of mini-stadiums, while improving the existing football fields by the private sector and local governments.

4) Encourage the private sector to invest in local football clubs and other sporting infrastructures and facilities.

5) Reduce the tension in the football family between those within the GBA and the rest of the Regions in this country.

6) The introduction of the Premier League in England not only made the English league the best and richest in the world but also helped the British economy as a whole. The introduction of the New Gambia Football Federation (GFF) Zonal, Regional and National football League should have the same effect, God Willing.

In a recent speak at the Independence Stadium in Bakau, KM, and during a reconciliation meeting between the GFA Normalizing Committee and the Regional Organizing Committee (ROC), on Tuesday, 21st August, 2012, Mr. Alieu Jammeh, the Minister of Youth and Sports said, "there is a bright future for football in this country because of the issues we are looking at to restructure the game. We want to strengthen the academies, go to the grassroots and see a real football there because we believe that is where you tap talents; as well we also want to restructure the league to be a more professional league.

He also said, "You see people putting on shirts of other clubs bearing the names of players of other countries. We want a situation in The Gambia where if you mention a club people can be attached to that club so that when that club is playing that category of people will go and watch them". It is very difficult and unnatural to form a professional league when the football clubs participating in it are not professional clubs. Therefore, as mentioned above successful national football leagues must fulfill the above mentioned five basic conditions to succeed.

I think this is a good time to discuss the difference between professionalism and amateurism in relationship to football. Professionalism means doing things on a formal basis and for monetary return/reward. It means the league clubs and their national football association must have a constitution and is registered with the government (e.g. National Sports Council), their players must all register with the club and national football association, players are paid, the national association and clubs must have a registered office and 'home ground' football field.

These clubs normally have registered fans clubs and are sponsored. The league they participate in is also registered as a business and sponsored with a TV Rights agreement between the league and the TV owners. The GFA fall short of representing most of the football clubs in The Gambia and most of the clubs participating in the GFA league are not registered as a business, do not have their own football field where they can play home matches, do not have their own office, do not have a registered fans club and, mostly are not sponsored and the League has yet to enter into a deal with a TV station.

Amateurism means doing things on an informal basis and usually for non-monetary gain and/or on a voluntary basis. It is normally not registered anywhere even as a charitable organization. It is almost the complete opposite of professionalism. As you can see The GFA is yet to legalize professionalism, therefore, in terms of legalized professionalism The Gambia is (2012-1885) 127 years behind England.

Unfortunately, our Normalizing Committee does not seem to be committed to legalizing professionalism and to the formation of a nationwide Super Football League; otherwise, they would have done what Aston Villa director William McGregor did and organize a meeting of representatives of Gambian football clubs (GFA League, Regional and Nawettan clubs) before presenting any proposed GFA Constitution.

3. Promoters

Most sports promoters, like SPICE,believe that, government departments, private companies, etc, should not be named after professional football clubs (for example, Gamtel FC, Ports Authority FC, Interior FC, Quantum Associate FC, LG FC, etc).They may owned a football club, enter into long term deals with clubs, sponsor tournaments, leagues, etc, but they should never name a professional football club after themselves.

The Super Nawettan Tournament has proven to be the most popular domestic football tournament in the Gambia, yet, the events development is hampered by the fact that;

a) Only 10 football clubs (of which 95% of the clubs participating are from the Greater Banjul Area) are participating.

b) It is a tournament not a league.

c) It has not been given its proper importance by the GFA.

d) The event is not well advertised to increase spectators and sponsorship.

e) Security, especially, at local grounds is normally very poor.

f) GFA League club players are allowed to participate in the event.

From a promoters point of view football today is recognized as one of the largest industry in the world. The game is highly developed in countries where:

a. The teams are located and named after medium or large population centers

b. The teams and their football associations take up a national characteristic.

c. The teams each have their own football field, stadium or share one.

d. The teams have a large support base (fan club), hence; attract the necessary sponsorship and media promotion.

e. The National League matches are televised live.

None of the Gambian football clubs or GFA League has any of the above-mentioned criteria (except for Brikama United which has only two of the above mentioned criteria's) and if any one of the five above mentioned criteria is missing success will be difficult to achieve.

4. Fan Clubs and Spectators

Poor attendance at GFA league matches is mainly due to:

a. Most of the GFA league football clubs are not community-based clubs, hence, have no support base (fan club) or attract long term sponsorship. Brikama United FC is the only exception to this situation.

b. 99% of the GFA league clubs do not have their own football field; hence, they are playing on borrowed field. There is no home and away match.

c. Lack of infrastructure and facilities, such as pavilions, changing rooms, toilets, fence, etc in most football fields in The Gambia.

A large fan club and ownership of a football stadium by a football club is a key ingredient for the development of any football club, and for the league of any country. As mention in our articles football is basically a community based sport. Community participation is essential for the club to perform well and to be successful financially and socially. Without the fan clubs, players will not perform to expectation, stadiums will not be filled to capacity, sponsors and promoters will not be interested.

Clubs like Manchester United FC, Liverpool FC, Barcelona FC, Chelsea FC, Real Madrid FC, etc, have clearly demonstrated this. Change the names of these clubs to the owner of these clubs and you will get a negative effect. This negative effect is what is presently happening with our existing GFA League and League clubs. The lacks of fan clubs for most of the existing GFA League clubs reduce the pressure to build stadiums and develop existing football fields. Without the fan clubs, sponsors and promoters are not interested enough to invest money into clubs, sport centers and football players.

Proposed 'FIFA' Constitution and League Structures

This present proposed FIFA Constitution is worlds apart from the previous GFA Normalizing Committee Constitution which proves that some members of the Normalizing Committee do not really support the "FIFA inspired" Constitution, 2012, hence, the confusion. The constitution that is presented on paper and the one presented on radios and on the newspapers are completely different.

The officially presented "FIFA inspired" Constitution, 2012, speaks of 'Constitution of the GFA', 12 First Division National League clubs, 10 Second National League clubs, while the spokesperson of the GFA Normalizing Committee speaks of the proposed Gambia Football Federation (GFF), increasing the existing GFF League to 16 clubs, etc.

Other crucial questions that need to be answered by the GFA Normalizing Committee are:

1. If and when is the next AGM of the GFA going to be held and where?

2. If it is going to be held, is the "FIFA inspired" Constitution, 2012, going to be only discussed or adopted for the coming GFA/GFF Congress using the old GFA Constitution?

3. If not when are we going to finalize/reject or adopt the "FIFA inspired" Constitution, 2012

4. The Regional League and clubs, God Willing, should reach international standards of National League Football within 2 to 3 years. How can a professional Regional League club participate in an armature league (which the present GFA League clearly is going by international standards of National League Football)?

The football stakeholders should seriously consider having a Super/Premier League of 16 clubs included in the constitution. The Super/Premier League of 16 clubs which can run alongside the existing GFA League, will solve many of Gambian present structural, management, administrational and financial problems, as well as, encourage investment by the private sector in sports infrastructure and facilities. Most of the future community based clubs already have their own football fields and have the potential for attracting large fan clubs. Sponsorship and media interest for these clubs is only a matter of time and organization.

Proposed New League Strategy

According to Wikipedia, "The Football League, established in 1888 by Aston Villa director William McGregor, was the first professional football league in the world. Since its founding, however, many other leagues have been founded in England. Over the years there has been an increasing effort to link all these leagues together in a Pyramidal structure allowing promotion and relegation between different levels.

The primary motivation for this drive is to maintain the possibility that any club in England may dream of one day rising to the very top, no matter what status they currently hold. In a study made by FIFA in 2006 there are around 40,000 clubs registered with the FA, which is 11,000 more than any other country, the closest being the Brazilian Football Confederation who has 29,000 registered clubs. Even without taking relative population into account, England has more football clubs than any other country in the world."

The primary motivation of the old and middle guards in Gambia football was to protect existing GFA League clubs residing within the Greater Banjul Area, prevent clubs from the Regional Leagues from entering the GFA League Divisions and to help GFA League clubs sell players to international clubs. Even today there is effort to prevent the GFA League, the Regional League and the Nawettan League from linking together 'in a Pyramidal structure.'

So the drive 'to maintain the possibility that any club in The Gambia may dream of one day rising to the very top, no matter what status they currently hold' does not exist in The Gambia presently. For the League to have a Pyramidal structure the existing GFA League must be changed. Below I have presented three alternatives of a National League Structures for consideration:

Premier/Super League

The Premier/Super League is to be Gambian Football's top clubs. All the clubs have their own football field or have access to one as their home ground, all matches are played home and away, all the clubs are registered as a business, etc. A links with the Regional Football League and the existing GFA 1st and 2nd Division will be establish, and each season the bottom three clubs are relegated from the Premier/Super League and replaced by two from the proposed Regional League and one from the GFA 1st Division or 2nd Division.

The Premier/Super League is contested between 16 clubs each season. Each club in the Premier/Super League in any given season owns one tenth of a share in the league itself, meaning that they are all supposedly equal owners with equal rights and responsibilities."

Regional League

The Regional League will be ranked second in the hierarchy of Gambian football because the Regional will become the first professional league in The Gambia and the clubs participating in it the first professional clubs. The Regional League has 12 member clubs (Banjul/KM, WCR, NBR, URR, LRR, CRR) with each of the six Municipality/region providing two clubs each to play in the Regional League Championship.

The conditions or criteria required to qualify for participation in the Regional League will make it difficult for many clubs within the existing GFA League to participate. A regional clubs must be professional, have their own football field, named after a community, be able to play home and away matches, belong to a professional league, etc, etc.

The GFA Football League

"Although the oldest league in The Gambia, The GFA Football League should rank third in the hierarchy of Gambian football after the coming into effect of the proposed FIFA influenced football constitution.

According to Wikipedia, "Although the FA abandoned a formal definition of "amateur" in the early 1970s, the vast majority of clubs still effectively play as amateurs, with no financial reward and the leagues are not part of the National League System. Each armed service has one, for instance such as the Army Football Association which administers football within the British Army.

The Amateur Football Alliance (AFA) is the largest organized amateur competition, being particularly strong in the London area (the GFA League is basically a Grater Banjul Area football League). The AFA is also a County Football Association and as such governs leagues such as the Arthurian League which contains two former FA Cup winners, Old Etonians who won the FA Cup twice, in 1879 and 1882 as well as Old Carthusians who were FA Cup winners in 1881. Sunday league football in England tends to be lower level amateur football, which is also sometimes referred to as Pub League due to the number of public houses who field teams in Sunday leagues. Each local County Football Association governs all aspects of Sunday league football.

It is proposed that the GFA Football League 1st Division be increase to 16 clubs, the 2nd Division to 16 clubs and a 3rd Division formed with 16 clubs making 48 clubs within the GFA League. The 48 clubs and Divisions will mainly be composed of the existing GFA League clubs and clubs/winners of the proposed nationwide Nawettan Cup Winners Cup Championship.

Nawettan Cup Winners Cup Football

According to Wikipedia, "Below the Football League is what is commonly known as "non-League football". This term can be confusing, as it refers to those clubs outside the Football League, although they still play in organized league competitions. In recent years, the top few levels have been consolidated into the National League System, operated by the FA. Most clubs in the Conference National division are fully professional, the remainders are semi-professional.

There is automatic promotion and relegation between League Two and the Conference National, and for several levels below the Conference, although this becomes more irregular further down the league system. The non-League system is often known as the "pyramid", because the number of leagues at each level begins to increase the further down through the levels, with each league covering a smaller geographic area." This non-league football can be compared with Nawettan football competition except that in The Gambia it is mainly done on a semi-professional and amateur basis despite the fact that there is some financial reward and the leagues are not part of the National League System.

Nawettan football in The Gambia can be likened to non-league football. The nawettan competitions which normally starts off with 15 to 30 clubs playing, during the wet season, a league and knockout tournament within a nawettan center/field, then to a super nawettan competition between nawettan centers teams is the most dynamic and most popular domestic events in the Gambia.

The Cup Winners Cup Championship which used to be played only within the KM, it is proposed should be played nationwide to find the best nawettan club in The Gambia. The two finalist of the Cup Winners Cup competition should replace the two clubs that drop from the proposed GFA 3rd Division League

Reserve leagues

According to Wikipedia, "The top division for reserve teams of professional clubs is the Premier Reserve League, which was founded in 1999 and is split into Premier Reserve League North and Premier Reserve League South, both with ten participating teams. Beneath that operate the Central League for Football League clubs reserve teams in the Midlands and North of England, and the Football Combination for clubs from the South of England and Wales.

The Central League was formed in 1911 and currently has 28 teams, split into three divisions - Central, North and South. The winners of each division and the best runner-up compete in the end-of-season play-offs to decide the league champions. Whilst the Central League is for Football League reserve teams, The West Division contains a Manchester City side which uses a mix of reserve team and youth team squad players and in 2007-08 they were Central League champions. The Central League also organizes the Central League Cup, although not all clubs enter the cup.

The Football Combination was formed in 1915 and currently has 30 teams. The Combination is also split into three divisions - East, Central and Wales & East. Whilst the majority of teams are Football League reserve teams, the Combination also currently has the reserve teams of three Conference clubs - Forest Green Rovers, Lewes, and Salisbury City. The Football Combination also organizes the Combination Challenge Cup, although not all clubs enter the cup.

There is no promotion and relegation between the reserve team leagues. When a first team is relegated from the Premier League, their reserve team withdraws from the Premier Reserve League to either of the other two leagues and is replaced by the reserve team of the club promoted from the Championship.

Below the professional club reserve leagues, many clubs also operate reserve teams, which play in separate Reserve leagues, such as the Lancashire League. Some lower leagues, such as the North West Counties Football League organize their own reserve leagues. And, at some lower levels of the pyramid, reserve teams play against first teams." Reserve league football is yet to be formed in The Gambia.

Youth leagues

According to Wikipedia, "Many club sides have youth teams. The top level of youth football is the Premier Academy League, founded in 1997, which is for all Premier League and Football League clubs that have Academy sides. The league, which currently has 40 clubs, is divided into four groups each with ten teams. The winners of each group contest the end-of-season play-offs to decide the league champions.

The second tier youth league is the Football League Youth Alliance, also founded in 1997, in which those Football League clubs that have Centers of Excellence status field their youth teams. The league, which currently has 58 clubs, is divided into four regional conference leagues. The Youth Alliance also operates the annual Youth Alliance Cup. The FA Youth Cup is a nationwide cup competition for Under-18 teams organized by the FA. Over 4000 clubs enter the FA Youth Cup each season." There a few football academies in The Gambia and attempts have been made to regularize them but Youth league based on academies is yet to take off in The Gambia.

Amateur football

According to Wikipedia, "Smaller-sided versions of the game such as Five-a-side football are popular. Futsal is also a growing sport in England. These are often played informally, but there are many competitive small-sided leagues running across the country." This can be compared to the 'warrga warrga' tournaments in The Gambia.

Cup competitions

The proposed FIFA constitution and League Structure is going to change and in some places revolutionize Gambian football in many ways if it is managed wisely by the right people and the Min. of Youths and Sports. There will be several cup competitions for clubs at different levels of the football pyramid.

Editors Note: This is the opinion of a contributor and it must be noted that it does in anyway represents the opinion on this Editor and anyone in the Observer.

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