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Skeene: Pro League will survive economic crisis; urges teams to innovate

Trinidad and Tobago Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene has explained, via a press release, why he feels the top flight competition will survive, despite the economic downturn and financial spinoff that led to concern by member clubs.

Skeene, a former Trinidad and Tobago international footballer, described the current “challenging business environment” as an opportunity to reassess the business model and strategic plan of the League and clubs; and for innovation, creativity and sacrifice.

The following is a press release sent out on 4 March 2016 by the TT Pro League:

Photo: Central FC star Ataulla Guerra (centre) takes the 2014/15 Pro League trophy from Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC star Ataulla Guerra (centre) takes the 2014/15 Pro League trophy from Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Business is a cycle; the League will overcome and thrive no matter what the challenges. Tough decisions will have to be made for the betterment of the business of the League and professional football.

I am confident in the future of the Pro League and professional football in Trinidad and Tobago. Professional leagues all over the world have their challenges. In any recession, all sectors have challenges. It is those owners of  businesses who are resilient and innovative and think strategically will survive and thrive.

The industry of professional football is no different.

The MLS in the US took over 15 years before they derived television revenue and in the process accumulated expenditure and losses to the tune of over US$100 million. It was their commitment to building a great league that made the difference.

Skeene, a Columbia university graduate said, in a downturn there are challenges. I have had very productive discussions with the Minister, Ministry and the Sport Company.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (right) shakes hands with SPORTT Company chairman Michael Phillips (left) while Sport Minister Darryl Smith looks on in 2015. (Courtesy TTFA Media)
Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (right) shakes hands with SPORTT Company chairman Michael Phillips (left) while Sport Minister Darryl Smith looks on in 2015.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

It is a matter of knowing where we are at, given the  prevailing market conditions, evaluating the position and then modify the plan to suit the existing environment to overcome the hurdles and take advantage of the existing opportunities.

All the business community is being faced with similar challenges. There are people who are worse off and those who are better off. The business of sport is now very important.

This is an opportunity to reassess the business model and strategic plan of the League and clubs. The League has to be innovative, creative and has to make sacrifices just like the rest of the country.

Each club will have to review its business plan. The League stands ready to work with each club to (help) them to identify revenue opportunities and cost deficiencies; to examine the profit and loss and balance sheet items with a view to generating income and cutting expenses.

Interest in professional football and the business of football remains high, locally and internationally, as there are investors and club owners who have applied to enter the Pro League for the upcoming 2016-17 season. Our commercial portfolio of partners continues to grow as well as their individual investments.

Photo: Central FC attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra (second from right) takes on the entire Caledonia AIA defence during a 2015/16 Pro League match. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra (second from right) takes on the entire Caledonia AIA defence during a 2015/16 Pro League match.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

In difficult times, people look for cheaper entertainment alternatives and football has all the right ingredients to fulfill this requirement.

Change is a reality and even though everybody in the country has to adjust and do their part in making the required sacrifices to help the country come out to a better place. I am confident that the League can do that as we revisit our business plan.

The business model has to be adjusted; a review of capital structure has to be undertaken. One of the things I am confident in, is where people’s disposable incomes are reduced the League will become a more important part of people’s entertainment focus.

It is a challenging business environment, but I am confident with review of business and marketing  plans, and  reengineering the process with the right  focus, the League will continue to be the number one in the Caribbean and one day challenge for the CONCACAF Club Championship (title).

Photo: W Connection chairman David John Williams (left) hugs goalkeeper Julani Archibald after the 2015 Pro Bowl Cup final. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection chairman David John Williams (left) hugs goalkeeper Julani Archibald after the 2015 Pro Bowl Cup final.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Fear not, the League is here to stay. Too much has been invested in the TT Pro League over the past 12 years to give  up now. The owners have invested over TT$200 million. We will survive.

We  remain focused and understand the importance of the League to football, the youth and communities of Trinidad and Tobago. I remain convinced once the League is able to get the grounds in the communities I can guarantee the Minister, Ministry and the national community that no government funding will have to be given to any Pro League club after three years.

The TT Pro League is the vehicle for the young men who have a God given talent to play football for a living, for clubs to represent Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF Club Championship and necessary criteria if Trinidad and Tobago is to qualify for a World Cup on a regular basis.

Fear not, professional football is here to stay and will thrive. Like the Chinese, we must see this period as one filled with opportunity.

It is not unrealistic that new owners will come into the League. It is just a reality. It has happened all over the world. Clubs have fallen out of leagues in past years and others have come in.

Photo: Club Sando striker Kevon Woodley (right) and North East Stars players Keryn Navarro (left) and goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel watch an effort flash just wide during their TT Pro League clash at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 1 March 2016. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Club Sando striker Kevon Woodley (right) and North East Stars players Keryn Navarro (left) and goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel watch an effort flash just wide during their TT Pro League clash at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 1 March 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

This weekend’s Pro League fixtures

(Friday March 4)

Morvant Caledonia Utd v W Connection, 6 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;

Central FC v Defence Force, 8 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;

(Saturday March 5)

St Ann’s Rangers v Club Sando, 4 pm, Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;

San Juan Jabloteh v Point Fortin Civic, 4.30 pm, Barataria Recreation Ground;

(Sunday March 6)

North East Stars v Police FC, 4 pm, Larry Gomes Stadium.

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110 comments

  1. Lasana that is an excellent article but as i have said on numerous occasions it the league is covered correctly it can generate income both locally and internationally!! I keep on asking the question how wire 868 generate income while the proleague website none? There are folk in the diaspora who long for local content when away! From the time we only looking at gates as d solution we lost

  2. ..All legitimate questions. And more could be added. That said, and whatever the answers, we see the problems that currently exist. The central issue for the foreseeable future, therefore, is whether TT could support full time professional football. Football with a living wage and adequate conditions for players and fans. I think people know my answer to that..

  3. Those who are better qualified than I am to do so need to verify wether the problem is a marketing one or a product one or what mixture.
    Is it a general problem with sports or is it specific to football?
    Are more people playing football but not willing to pay to see local football? Why?

  4. Trevor Bridglalsingh that’s exactly what I said just not so well articulated nonetheless I totally agree that let’s face it and I know I’ll get some flack for saying this but the product which is football in this case just isn’t good bar a few clubs. Football “players” have an obligation to this cause too and that is to work hard, train hard, be disciplined and committed to keep improving on their playing ability which by extension will give spectators a good product. People want to see good football period! But how can they improve their game when partying and drinking is a priority in their life? Didn’t people in the past pay to go to see ASL, ECM etc play football? Whilst I agree the game has evolved and it’s now a business etc but we need to be reminded that standard of the football is mediocre at best and my back is broad so I can take my licks for saying this.

  5. I think we also have to be very realistic in what is the product we are dealing with. Community spirit and involvement is just that,emotion, how do we get a critical mass to want to pay to be involved.
    We know from experience when the community feels they own the team no one feels they should pay
    So the football product has to be attractive enough to get the community and football fans to pay to watch, the quality of the game and entertainment value first.
    Football is competing with a lot of other entertainment options.
    We love football , we want to get the money of those who want excitement and entertainment .

  6. Everyone has good points but I’ll also add the harsh reality that if a CEO,Chairman, Director etc. can’t bring some needed change after a period… the reins should be handed to someone else to try!

  7. Yes star but to change the gutter men have to go in the mud. Some brothers refuse to offer themselves for office if you can make a difference we must try. This is the difference between wired868 and that so called website where is just nonsensical crap. I have learned a lot and seen a lot of rational food for thought. Proud to be part of this discourse

  8. Jamaal, there is the makings of a nice think tank inside Wired868!

  9. Agreed and when the community spirit is reignigted then the benefits of football as a social tool can take effect. Its an uphill task to maintain a football club right now be it pro super or zonal league.

  10. Jamaal – I am a member of Queen’s Park whilst I cannot tell you how we acquired that ground, what I can tell you is that our Super League team (Championship Division) played the majority of our “home” games at Dibe Recreational Ground – and so I understand and support your call for access to the community grounds for teams to develop.

    That being said, the grounds are just a part of the process. To me, the first step is generating more awareness for the leagues. Apart from the die-hard football “peongs” not many people have more than a passing knowlege of the leagues or the teams that participate in them. Even as a championship division team, we actively try to recruit fans for our team (usually through social media) by sharing matchday results, profiling our players and talking about the league in general. Our players support us by sharing the posts on their personal pages so that it reaches more people. This very basic strategy has helped us to build a very modest, but loyal fan base.

    And whilst I maintain that it is the responsibility of the individual teams to build their own “brand”, we need to come together as a collective and develop a strategy for not only acquiring grounds, but for creating real connections between our teams and the respective communities we play in.

    Once that happens our fan bases begin to grow, making it more attractive to sponsors which can eventually lead to increased revenue streams and having less reliance on the subventions from the government. But it only works if we (the clubs) come together as a collective, put our heads together and starting turning talk into action.

  11. Travis Mulraine put down ur bat!! lol i mean stop kick ppl! U have hit the nail on the head

  12. Cannot argue with those points Travis

  13. And finally my brothers lets stop kidding ourselves thinking that football is our no.1 sport. Cricket holds that distinction both for achievements and the wealth that can be garnered from a career in cricket without having to live in far flung places across the globe. Also look at the late Mr Lequay’s legacy of the center in couva ,what is Jack’s legacy to Trinidad ‘s football???

  14. Now let’s look Joe Public and the resources at their disposal ,,do I need to say more???

  15. I believe that only john Williams understands the business of football among all the club owners, you look at their set up and it speaks volumes,compare that with Jabloteh who received 4 million a year for 8 yrs and today they playing in Barataria??? Ironically the chairman of this club is an “ECONOMIST” LOL

  16. Well I love this discourse but we have myriad of problems as Gordon Pierre has pointed out, but we have to face the reality that face many social issues that spill over into all walks of life football included. Being the leader of a steelband I have experienced firsthand the lack of care for those in the hood who trying to make a positive contribution to our nation. In Jamaica they are all Jamaican and proud in Trinidad we are Indian,African ,Chinese , European and Syrian .

  17. Order order we running off track if we open gate and play
    football we have a professional minor league it happen year long in our communities!! Y dont we look for solutions that are progressive put in the work form community connections relationships imagine proleague clubs was getting near a million dollars per year and none have a finianical institution as a sponsor? At least a credit union where d club put one hundred a month in shares for the player to match, instant benefit for club, player and sponsor we not talking about gates and community work yet just using what was given!! Innovative ideas stop d nostigia the solutions to d proleague is NOT sewn to community fields!!!

  18. It differs from club to club. In most cases clubs are funded by a combination of personal investment, corporate sponsorship and govt subvention.

  19. How much do these sponsors actually pump into Pro League clubs?

  20. Well I tell you I am impressed boy Gordo. Well done Lasana. Lets not forget is not govt money alone that runs pro league clubs eh.

  21. Fully agreed Lasana Liburd let them set measureable goals bc thats d problem only vision and mission at d proleague no goals and objectives so every year is d same rhetoric!! Lets get numbers set measureable outcomes!!

  22. Jamaal and Earl, give us a sign of good faith. Let the Pro League clubs set a target for attendances or performance at the upcoming CONCACAF tournament.
    Something we can gauge the clubs by and say: Yes, this is working; this is going somewhere.
    We need that momentum from the clubs as well.

    • Well said Lasana Liburd. “Let the pro league clubs set a target for performance” not just at CONCACAF tournaments but even here. Our closest thing to a good entertaining game and showcase of talent is a W Connection v Central or Army v W if you catch my drift. Outside of that the “product” itself which is football has to be good too and I speak purely from a spectator’s perspective eh.

    • We always have our targets lasana…difficult as they may seem at times but I think any club should have their targets. ..its not just about getting on that stage…since I started at playing at the club the ambition has always been to get into the final…only way u can win. ..objective is getting out of the group stages and into quaters and semi’s…yes its tough and like we have said before.. 1.financial situation..!but more so in trying to keep our best players for quarter final stages..Over the years we have sold our best players…if we can keep our players then there is every possibility and I always believe that because football is about preparation and that 90 mins on the park!..do.we have what it takes as a club? yes, we do…because we have been close…2. The league has to revert to the original schedule April to December. ..to give us that fighting chance… playing in that champions League every year is vital also for experience for our young players. ..regular international games are so crucial. .

  23. Jamaal, increased gates will force the politicians and potential sponsors to take note. So how will the Pro League clubs get them?

  24. Bets out with an icon in Marvin Oliver and playing within the community Jabloteh will finish the league the most popular team with proper management.
    If does not force the hand of the politicians to act or corporate TT what will be the excuse for them?

  25. Jabloteh starting the move today playing in Barataria with no gates. Great move Morvant Caledonia will follow suit. Nicholas yu could talk about how cricket teams in central get their own but not Queens Park. Further there are grounds in the East and North what we need is access to be able to develop them. I do not want Govt to even develop it for us give us access and we will do for self.

  26. So now we starting to get a pathway instead of people just taking pot shots.