“For the first time, these clubs have the opportunity and the awesome responsibility of control over the administration, the politics and the finances of the competition in which they participate…
“TTSL is, in conception and practice (so far) an example of grassroots, ‘coming from below’ football democracy. It comes from the communities of the nation, including Tobago. It is not an imposition from above. It is founded on merit.”
The following Letter to the Editor on the potential of the nascent Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) was submitted to Wired868 by interim TTSL president and CONCACAF technical study group member, Keith Look Loy:
The formation of the Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) on 13 December 2016 is arguably the most important development in local football in the last fifteen years.
That is a huge statement. Why do I make it? After all, in the last fifteen years we have witnessed amazing scenes.
Trinidad and Tobago participated in FIFA World Cups at men’s, women’s and youth level. A professional league was created at the apex of the local game. The Jack Warner era came to an end for better and worse—and I mean “better AND worse”, not “OR”.
Schoolboy football is now televised live to the region, even as the elite game suffers from a lack of gate receipts and income other than State funding. Amazing scenes, indeed.
But I repeat: The formation of the Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) on 13 December 2016 is arguably the most important development in local football in the last fifteen years.
Why? Because if the thirteen clubs that grasped the bull firmly by the horns on 13 December 2016 and bestrode it; if these thirteen clubs now bloomed to twenty with the joining of seven more to date; if these twenty clubs, therefore, press on with maturity, bravery and vision to fulfil the potential of their moment, then the landscape of Trinidad and Tobago football will be forever changed. I will explain.
For the past many years—since 2002 I believe—the TTFA has run a competition known as the “National Super League”. This was a mere competition, like the FA Cup and not a proper league. And it was run under a franchise sold by TTFF/TTFA and held by All Sport Promotions Limited (ASP).
ASP did a great job. But the participating clubs in this competition were orphans in this arrangement. Voiceless. Belonging neither to a Regional Association nor to the TTFF/TTFA. Having neither stake nor say in either. And certainly not in a position to seriously influence the politics and direction of the league and Football.
The ASP franchise ended on 31 December 2016. In the evolution of any organism, animal or otherwise, key moments come when the organism is transformed from one state into something qualitatively different.
The member clubs of the National Super League have seized their moment and transformed themselves into the Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL).
For the first time, these clubs have the opportunity and the awesome responsibility of control over the administration, the politics and the finances of the competition in which they participate.
OK, you say. That’s nice. Buh wah make dat “the most important development in local football in the last 15 years?”
The answer to that question is simple. TTSL is, in conception and practice (so far) an example of grassroots, “coming from below” football democracy. It comes from the communities of the nation, including Tobago.
It is not an imposition from above. It is founded on merit. No buying your way into the dance because you can afford it. You have to win your way in.
And in a football culture where debt and dependency seem to be genetically predisposed, TTSL holds the potential to create an alternative model of viable football administration and management that depends on something other than favours and hand outs. Yes. Even in these “harsh economic times”.
Call me a dreamer. Call me naïve. But my conviction is that the TTSL and its member clubs could produce a product that is marketable—in their communities and to commercial partners.
This potential is transparent. And spurred on by recognition of this potential and with desire for something better than what exists, TTSL, although less than two months old, has already been approached by potential commercial partners, and many have been the enquiries from regional association clubs that wish to come into the TTSL fold—yes, the consequence of the culture of league membership based on money not merit that has been introduced into our Football by some.
TTSL insists that there must be an integral connection of promotion and relegation with the TT Pro League. Super League clubs have attempted to pursue this for many years. Indeed, TTSL recently wrote to TTPL seeking an urgent discussion of this and other matters.
But “professional football”, as currently organised in Trinidad and Tobago, has failed—commercially and from an organisational standpoint.
Until the new century, every successful club in Trinidad and Tobago was rooted in a community. This is no longer so. That organic connection between club and people in a particular locale was lost around the turn of the century as teams began to pay players and to buy their place in a league.
In the dangerous social and economic climate which we endure, the time is now to return Football to its rightful place—the community. Even as they already make a contribution to Society, the importance of successful community clubs is critical to any chance of social integration today.
TTSL is found in twenty-four communities across the country, including Tobago. This is our “competitive advantage” and TTSL clubs must use it.
In this regard, as few TTSL members now have a youth programme—a real one—it must be a priority in the TTSL scheme of things to have clubs establish and maintain viable youth set ups. We are football clubs and nothing catches youth and allows for their social education better than football.
TTSL has adopted a set of “Founding Principles”, which are essentially: (1) equality of ownership and responsibility to the League and to Football; (2) unflinching commitment to a relationship with regional association football, and to the principle of promotion and relegation—membership based on merit not money—among all tiers of the local club game; and (3) equitable profit sharing by an agreed formula, because it is only the generation of profit for TTSL member club that will allow them sustainable resources to grow and develop themselves and Football as a whole.
But these “Founding Principles”, as worthy as they may be, exist only on paper and will be materialised only via proper planning and smart, tireless work by each club. The latitude for blaming others for failure is now gone.
TTSL has submitted its application for TTFA membership on 8 January 2017 and has requested a meeting with the TTFA Board of Management to ensure its application is successful. The league is requesting nothing more from TTFA than recognition. No money. Nothing.
TTSL is a progressive development and we expect TTFA to facilitate the membership of an elite league with twenty-four of its members. The League will begin its inaugural season on Sunday 11 June 2017.
We live in the era of twenty-four hour cable television football from elite league around the world. TTSL is not La Liga or the EPL or Serie A or the Bundesliga. We know this. It takes a conscious political decision by each and everyone to support the local game.
You love Trinidad and Tobago? You love Trinidad and Tobago football? You love Trinidad and Tobago youth?
Stop talking. Find the nearest TTSL game and go support that Holy Trinity…