By E. Glenford Prescott
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Cricket Association Inc. (SVGCA) has not been contacted as part of the investigations by the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) into reported allegations of a sexual assault of a Trinidad national youth cricketer reportedly by one of the twin-island republic’s sports officials during a tour in St. Vincent.
For the past few months, a two-man committee, comprised of TTCB president Azim Bassarath and TTCB second vice-president Lalman Kowlessar, has been investigating the allegations made by a member of the country’s youth cricket team during the West Indies Youth Tournament in July.
But SVGCA President, Kishore Shallow, told iWitness News that his organisation has not had any form of communications from the persons conducted the investigation in Trinidad.
Shallow said he only learnt of the alleged incident last week in the media and no one other than iWitness News had contacted him on the matter.
“It is a serious matter that I trust the TTCB will thoroughly investigate and address appropriately,” Shallow said.
“However, I can understand that it is a sensitive situation and the youngster should be rightfully protected from any publication that might affect him. So I am just hoping for a just process for the persons of interest”.
Shallow suggested a way in which the situation can be addressed.
“TTCB could handle that matter without problems. It’s easy. Find out from the boy what happened and then take action accordingly,” Shallow said.
Vice President of the TTCB, Patrick Rampersad, told the Sunday Guardian last week that the matter was a sensitive one, and that investigations were completed by a two-man committee and will soon be submitted to the executive of the TTCB. After that it will be made public.
However, national league representative, Dinanath Ramnarine claimed a press release that the TTCB has been attempting to cover the matter up.
“As members of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board, we are outraged to learn that the President of the TTCB, Mr. Azim Bassarath, received a complaint from the alleged victim five months ago which was promptly swept under the carpet,” the Ramnarine release said.
“We wish to state categorically that at no time was anyone of us, as board members, informed by the TTCB leadership on this issue. We understand that, now that the allegation has been made public, TTCB President Mr. Azim Bassarath and Second Vice President, Mr. Lalman Kowlessar met with the player this morning and promised ‘action’. In light of their failure to act for five months, we have absolutely no confidence in anything being done and consider their response to be cheap public relations.”
Ramnarine stated that the player filed a written report of sexual misconduct to the manager of the T&T Under 19 team on or around July 2016 during the Under 19 tournament in St. Vincent. Some time passed and the player noted that he did not get a response from the team manager and made inquiries as to what progress was being made.
The manager reportedly replied saying he had submitted a copy of the report to the TTCB president about a week after they returned home. Further inquiries yielded no further news.
When contacted for a comment, Nixon McLean vice-president of the West Indies Players Association (WIPA), the body that looks out for the welfare of players in the region, told iWitness News said he would prefer to wait until the investigations are completed and the findings made public before making any statement on the matter.
Mike Findlay, a former West Indies player and team manager, also chose not to address the matter directly but felt that proper background checks must be carried out on persons who are put in positions of responsibility to take care and supervise children.
Former Windward Islands batsman Miles Bascombe said he found the matter to be disturbing and, like Findlay, called for proper vetting of officials who are to come into contact or travel with junior sportsmen overseas.
Bascombe, who represented both SVG and the Windwards at U15, U19 and senior levels and the West Indies in a lone T20 match, said he couldn’t remember such an incident ever being raised at any stage during his days as a youth cricketer.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines hosted the West Indies U19 Tournament from July 27 to Aug. 21, which saw Trinidad and Tobago, who were led by Kirstan Kallicharan (whose parents were in SVG for the entire tour), capturing the three-day title and Guyana retaining the One-day crown.
The sexual assault case in Trinidad broke just weeks after a number of past footballers in the United Kingdom came forward to say that they were the victims of sexual assault while they were junior players at some of the top clubs.
According to a BBC report citing police sources, at least 83 potential suspects have now been identified and 98 clubs spanning all tiers of the game have been “impacted”.
The report said that in London alone, a Metropolitan police investigation has received 106 allegations against 30 clubs — four of which are in the Premier League.
According to BBC Sport the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), the UK’s leading children’s charity, says it has received more than 1,700 calls to a dedicated football abuse hotline set up just three weeks ago.
The Football Association plans to conduct an internal review to determine whether it could and should have done more, while FA chairman Greg Clarke says the crisis is the biggest facing the organisation that he can remember, reports the BBC.
The Scottish FA has also launched its own inquiry into alleged abuse.
On Nov. 16, former Crewe, Bury and Sheffield United player Andy Woodward, 43, waived his right to anonymity and told the Guardian he was sexually abused as a youth player.
Since he has spoken out, several other footballers –including former England and Tottenham midfielder Paul Stewart and ex-Manchester City striker David White — have told their stories publicly, the BBC said.
And a man who Vincentians would be familiar with, Crewe Alexandra director Dario Gradi, has been suspended pending an FA investigation that will include looking into claims he “smoothed over” a complaint of sexual assault against ex-Chelsea scout Eddie Heath in the 1970s, the BBC has also reported.
Gradi was instrumental in SVG’s former ace striker Rodney Jack landing a contract with Crewe whom he bought from Torquay United for a club record then of 600,000 pounds.
On Wednesday former Crewe football coach Barry Bennell was remanded in custody charged with eight child sex offences.
According to the Cewe Chronicle the 62-year-old appeared in South Cheshire Magistrates Court via video-link and will appear at Chester Crown Court on Jan. 11.
Gradi denies any wrongdoing and says he will help the FA’s review.