Bodden Town’s Michael Martin Cruz has been suspended for 10 years from all action coordinated by the Cayman Islands Football Association. In a press release from CIFA, Martin Cruz was named as the player behind the alleged assault of referee Ben Whitty following a league match between Bodden Town FC and Academy SC on 23 Jan.
The ruling came after an appeal from the Cayman Islands Referee Association, following the CIFA disciplinary committee decision to allow Bodden Town to play again this season. CIRA appealed the decision, saying it was inappropriate. On 25 Feb, a hearing was held on the CIRA appeal. CIRA presented an application to have Martin Cruz’s initial six-year ban increased to 10 years, according to the release.
Footage taken by CIFA officials of the incident was provided as evidence. In addition, the committee noted that Martin Cruz had nothing to do with the initial red card that sparked the altercation, but while referee Whitty was leaving the pitch heading towards to the changing room, the player chased after him and struck the referee from behind. The committee granted the CIRA appeal against Martin Cruz and increased his suspension to 10 years effective immediately.
Bodden Town’s goalkeeper, Shakur Welcome, was given the red card for allegedly throwing the ball at a linesman, which prompted officials to call off the match. Welcome has been banned for three years. The CIRA also appealed for Bodden Town Football Club to receive a two-year probation “for failing to control their fans”. Bodden Town board members argued it is difficult for any club to be held directly responsible for the actions of their fans given the difficulty in segregating people attending matches, identifying allegiances and monitoring behaviour.
CIRA was unable to identify specific violations committed by Bodden Town in the association’s governing documents. The CIFA committee noted in the release that the club shared its concerns about the inherent risk and difficulty of applying this offence in the Cayman Islands environment given the absence of any formal or required controls.
The committee said, in its opinion, the club, in failing to control its players, did commit misconduct and that this should be subject to sanction; however, the committee was unable to support the application of two years’ probation for the club. Instead, the committee fined Bodden Town $2,000 for misconduct as a result of the match being abandoned because of its player’s involvement with the incident.
The club paid 50% of the fine immediately, and the remaining 50% must be paid by 30 June in order for Bodden Town to be allowed to participate in any CIFA-sanctioned competition or related activities. Bodden Town coach Danu Smith was also mentioned in the CIRA appeal. The application claimed that Smith passed a displeasing remark during the incident. Smith denied saying anything that could be considered inciteful and/or offensive, to which the committee let him off with a verbal warning.
The CIFA committee emphasised that Bodden Town has a responsibility to manage its players and to ensure that they behave in an appropriate manner. The committee also noted that there is an open Royal Cayman Islands Police Service investigation into the 23 Jan. incident. Bodden Town has played three times this month and was scheduled to play their final league round last weekend against East End UFC. All CIFA-related activities have been postponed due to concerns over COVID-19.