Brawling in focus on the field

After a recent string of violent outbursts, it would seem tensions within the country are spilling over onto Cayman’s pitches and playing fields. Recently, flag football and adult coed softball games have been the scenes of brawls to which Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers were called. 

According to police Superintendent Adrian Seales, those disputes are worrying. “The RCIPS takes a dim view on persons who offer or bring violence to others,” he said. “Sporting events are to be enjoyed by all without public incidents or fear of their own safety.  

“Historically, Caymanian spectators at sporting events are well behaved, public order incidents requiring police intervention is not common.  

“Various sporting [events] hosted by the Cayman Islands have all been run without incident, [including] the recent Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football male and female competitions, CARIFTA Games and rugby competitions among others. The RCIPS remains committed and will prosecute anyone committing any offense(s) at a sporting event.”  

Some recent skirmishes have been seen at flag football games, which routinely see emotions boil over during adult games at the Ed Bush field in West Bay. According to witnesses, the playoffs for the national adult league featured disputes throughout, with at least two altercations being observed over the last month.  

One recent incident took place at the end of the women’s championship game, as both teams were doing routine handshakes – a common act of sportsmanship for most team sports – at midfield. Both head coaches were caught up in the row, which saw several onlookers come on to the field to try to resolve the dispute. 

George “Teddy” Hydes, one of two local founders for flag football in Cayman, said, with flag football, fights are not tied to political circumstances but rather to the nature of the sport. 

“Are we doing enough about fights? We are,” Mr. Hydes said. “We always try to do more all the time. It’s a work in progress. You have to take it seriously, that’s the way we approach these things. Every time there is an issue, we suspend and fine teams and players. We try to stop it from happening in the future. 

“The level is not always the same. Flag football is a contact sport and it’s physical. You’re bound to have arguments and disputes, that’s the nature of the game.” 

In Mr. Hydes’s view, disputes on the field are a small but inherent aspect of local team sports. “I’d say it’s a 70/30 ratio, with 70 percent being the majority who respect the sport. The 30 percent take it to a different level,” he said. 

The RCIPS released a summary of the altercation at last week’s softball game, stating that on Monday evening, Oct. 6, police were called to the Field of Dreams, where a complainant alleged that a male at the field had passed a rude comment about one of a woman’s two sons on the field, which led to a confrontation.  

“Several other persons on the field, seeing the altercation, got involved, challenging this individual in defense of the mother,” police said. The man who had made the initial remark ran from the field “under threat from the said group of individuals.” The police report continued, “While officers were still in attendance, the mother … challenged two other women and a male who stopped to speak with the one of the sons. This escalated as the mother attempted to kick the male [passerby] and she was restrained by officers.” 

The following day, the man who had run from the field reported to police officers that he had been assaulted by a group of men Monday evening. “He received slight injuries to his face, arm and right knee,” police said. No charges have been brought in connection to the altercation. 

The Cayman Islands Little League Association carried out an investigation into the fight and levied penalties against those involved. After a captains meeting on Tuesday night, sanctions were imposed and ranged from a lifetime ban to suspensions lasting until January 2016.  

The association spoke to the rarity of the brawl, saying the adult coed program has been in existence for 15 years, with hundreds of games each year and the fight marked the first time police have been called to an on-field altercation.  

In a further statement, the association said, “After a thorough investigation, the Little League board has taken appropriate disciplinary action ranging from banishment from the league’s facilities to one-game suspensions. 

“Little League wishes to continue to offer adult softball programs but, as a not-for-profit organization whose primary focus is on the children of Cayman, we can only seek to do so with the cooperation and support of all participants in the adult league. Going forward, Little League expects exemplary sportsmanship from all players, using this to make the Field of Dreams a better place to play recreational ball.” 

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