The facilities at the National Stadium will soon see the much needed upgrades that will allow this island to take a more professional approach to sports, particularly football.

According to Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, ???in addition to refurbishing the football field and replacing the field event areas and the athletics track at the National Stadium, we are moving towards an upgrade of the lighting system???. He pointed out that negotiations with respect to the lighting are near completion.

Minister Lashley made these statements during the opening ceremony of the Barbados Football Association???s (BFA) 2014 Football Season, last night. The Minister???s remarks preceded an exhibition match between the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic and Queen???s College, which was then followed by a friendly match between the Barbados National Team and the Jamaican Reggae Boyz.

???We are aware that this stadium is in need of a complete upgrade, which will be a very costly undertaking. In the short term, focused attention will be placed on regular maintenance to ensure that the facilities can be used safely and productively. A team has been assembled within the Ministry to finalise a project proposal for the modernisation of the stadium in order that this can be presented for funding,??? the Sports Minister affirmed.

Mr. Lashley underscored the importance of these upgrades in the development of professional football, which he emphasised would be beneficial to this island. He stated that ???we in Barbados and the region should be making greater strides, to capture a share of this financial pie,??? but noted that it would require ???a shift in local thinking about the extent to which sports as an industry, can earn foreign exchange for the country.???

The Minister alluded to, and congratulated, BFA???s President, Randy Harris??? recent appointment to the Caribbean Professional League Task Force, where he would join representatives from FIFA and CONCACAF in exploring the feasibility of implementing semi-professional football in the region.

???I believe that the formation of this Task Force signals the dawn of a semi-professional football league in the Caribbean??? Semi-professional and professional sport is an extremely lucrative industry, one we need to exploit as a region??? In this regard, I wish to encourage a proactive approach by Barbadians, where we position ourselves to capitalise on the professional leagues when they come into existence in the region,??? Minister Lashley reasoned, adding that there would also be opportunities for small business development.

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