For all of the glitz and glamour of men’s flag football, one of the most contentious issues is the quality of referees.
The Cayman Islands Flag Football Association has only been in existence roughly a decade. In that time most of the officiating duties have rested on businessmen Arthur Screaton and Red Bull distributor Andreas ‘Zulu’ Kettner.
For the 2011 Island Air Flag Football League a new crew of refs took to the field, headed by Rob Duty and Sean Glidden. Duty has served as assistant referee in years past and has even played while Glidden is a newcomer.
In spite of some questionable calls throughout the regular season and playoffs, association heads maintain support for the group. Among the supporters is association president Phil Brown, who states all of the referees will return next season.
“The refs worked out good and they will be stronger next year,” Brown said. “They’re committed to staying on next year. No one will be happy with all of the calls. However I’m confident in their knowledge and experience in the game. We in the association know it’s not easy to go out there and ref all day long.”
Sentiments among the players is quite different. Most express dissatisfaction with the refs’ familiarity with the rules and their overall decision-making. Among them is Craig ‘Festa’ Frederick, one of the league’s best pass rushers and the starting defensive lineman for the dms Hellcats.
“I might retire, this is my fourth title,” Frederick said. “The calls from Rob Duty were inconsistent. I’m not sure how he can call Barry (Bush, the Hellcats’ star offensive lineman) for holding some 10 times in the game. He even penalized me for unsportsmanlike conduct after the game ended.”
As Frederick alluded to, the West Bay-based side capped their 2011 season with a third straight championship, their sixth in the last 10 years (the side previously won in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010). Aside from the Hellcats, the only other winners this decade are the Durty Reid’s Raiders (2004), the A.L. Thompson Hammers (2006) and the Caybrew Farm Soldiers (2008), who are now called the Calabash Soldiers. This year the Hellcats beat the Cox Lumber Colts 18-12 in the title game at the Ed Bush field in West Bay.
A key player in that match was Brown, who in addition to being association president is the star linebacker for the Hellcats. Brown, who has been with the Hellcats since its inception, was named Finals Most Valuable Player but is quick to shrug off the award and any notion of winning championships being boring.
“I don’t know (about the MVP award), I’m a humble guy. The final was an exciting game. We kept our composure and played team ball as usual. It makes me want to go out there and do it again and get ready for a four-peat.
“We can keep it going, there’s no ‘I’ in team. Once we keep up the consistency we can win. It never gets old. I’ll never get tired of winning.”