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Phillips quits SPORTT; chairman walks in wake of Tendulkar Stand furore

The Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) will soon be in the market for a new chairman after former Trinidad and Tobago international cyclist Michael Phillips quit the post yesterday afternoon.

In a public statement today—sent out via email—Phillips, who runs his own bike store, conceptualises and manages various sport events and is a professional artist, said his duties as SPORTT chairman had affected his business outside of government service and severely taxed his time.

Photo: FIFA president Gianni Infantino (right) charms SPORTT chairman Michael Phillips (centre) and Sport Minister Darryl Smith at a press conference at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 April 2017. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: FIFA president Gianni Infantino (right) charms SPORTT chairman Michael Phillips (centre) and Sport Minister Darryl Smith at a press conference at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 April 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“Regrettably, I have found the requirements and time needed to effectively remain as Chairman is more than I am able to extend at this time,” stated Phillips. “[…] Presently, there are items that I need to dedicate my attention to which do not permit the additional responsibility of SPORTT.

“I have given an undertaking to the Minister of Sport and to the sporting fraternity that I will make myself available where possible in the interests of creating a vibrant sporting industry for Trinidad and Tobago…”

The timing of Phillips’ departure means he will not be present when the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba is unveiled on 13 May 2017.

According to sources, this might not be by accident.

Just over a week ago, Phillips confirmed to the Trinidad Guardian that a stand at the Tarouba venue would be named after iconic former India batsman Sachin Tendulkar, who is also a friend of former West Indies cricket great and Trinidad and Tobago legend Brian Lara.

“Our decision to name the stand after Mr Tendulkar was done on the advice of Mr Brian Lara,” said Phillips. “We have included Mr Lara in our decision making process in terms of how we roll out the launch and management of both the stadium and the academy.”

The story and subsequent public backlash allegedly provoked a furious reaction from Sport Minister Darryl Smith, who is said to have blamed the SPORTT chairman for the furore.

Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (right) makes a pass at Minister of Public Utilities Fitzgerald Hinds. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (right) makes a pass at Minister of Public Utilities Fitzgerald Hinds.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

In correspondence copied to the Phillips’ colleagues and subordinates, Smith allegedly told him that only he, as Sport Minister, would be allowed to comment on the Tarouba stadium from then on.

Sources say that the strained relationship between the two men was already strained for several reasons and the Tendulkar stand incident was the last straw.

First, the Brian Lara Stadium fell under SPORTT and Phillips felt that, as chairman, he was well placed to discuss the project publicly. However, the different way in which each of the two men responded to the furore further widened an ideological gap between the pair.

According to sources, Lara’s proposal for a Tendulkar stand was felt to be a sound sport tourism initiative. Lara hoped to involve Tendulkar directly in the staging of events—like a cricket masters’ competition—at the venue and the naming of the stand was felt to be a gesture that could further solidify the co-operation.

India is a cricket-mad nation with over 1.3 billion people and getting Tendulkar on board was seen to be a good business strategy, as SPORTT considered ways to make the Tarouba venue self-sufficient.

However, Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) president Azim Bassarath described the idea as an insult to the former cricket stars of the two- island republic and the nation responded in accordance with that stance.

Photo: Former cricket legends Brian Lara (right) and Sachin Tendulkar. (Copyright AFP 2014/Alessandro Abbonizio)
Photo: Former cricket legends Brian Lara (right) and Sachin Tendulkar.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Alessandro Abbonizio)

Phillips allegedly felt SPORTT should explain the thinking behind the Tendulkar stand to the public. But Smith, as he is prone to do, insisted on total silence or diversions from the main talking point instead with the aim of merely riding out the storm.

“We had a reaction [to the Tendulkar stand proposal] that was territorial due to patriotism,” said a source. “You can understand the base response but we needed to explain it from a business perspective. Sachin has 28 million followers on Twitter. The actor Tom Cruise has 10 million. So anything that involves Tendulkar immediately gets more eyeballs than the number of people who have ever lived in Trinidad and Tobago…

“Lara is our most recognisable brand export to India while we send cricketers to the IPL every year to become millionaires. So we should be looking at things to strengthen ties between the two nations.

“[…] So while there may not be a stand in India named after Lara, why not be the first [between the two nations] to make the gesture?”

Wired868 asked Smith to respond to rumours of tension between him and his former chairman, who was allegedly considered for the Sport Minister portfolio before the last Cabinet reshuffle. However, up to the time of publication, Smith had not replied.

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

Phillips’ exit continues a striking spell of instability at SPORTT, which has had 11 different CEOs in the past decade and three chairmen in the last two and a half years.

Wired868 understands, although the post of SPORTT chairman is not full-time and only comes with a stipend, Phillips’ duties increasingly encroached upon his business hours to the extent that sport stakeholders began to turn up at his business with the hope of discussing government business.

The strained working relationship with his line minister allegedly did not help matters.

Now, it will be someone else’s mountain to climb.

(Michael Phillips’ statement on his SPORTT exit)

“I would like to take the opportunity to notify the public that I have tendered my resignation as Chairman of SPORTT. I am proud to have been able to make a contribution to the development of sport in Trinidad and Tobago in this capacity.

“I thank the Prime Minister, Corporation Sole and the Minister of Sport for having the confidence in me, to lead this organisation.

“Regrettably, I have found the requirements and time needed to effectively remain as Chairman is more than I am able to extend at this time.  However, I will continue to engage in the community programmes and activities that I have established in my personal capacity.

“Presently, there are items that I need to dedicate my attention to which do not permit the additional responsibility of SPORTT. I have given an undertaking to the Minister of Sport and to the sporting fraternity that I will make myself available where possible in the interests of creating a vibrant sporting industry for Trinidad and Tobago.

“A great deal of positive in sport has occurred over the last year and a half and I am confident that the trend will continue. There are many people working in the best interest of sport and SPORTT and it was a pleasure to have the chance to lend some of my personal experience to its growth.

“I wish the Ministry of Sport, SPORTT and the Board of Directors continued success as they move forward.”

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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74 comments

  1. That similar short sightedness is what has Calypso before and now Soca playing catch up in the international arena with reggae before and dance hall now . We seem to never see past our noses when it comes to sport and culture.

  2. Small minded Trinis, Who you think losing out,not Brian nor Tendulkar, but T&T. Imagine we talking Sport Tourism. Really T&T ain’t ready yet,not when there are racist, haters and non patriotic people living here TRINIDADIANS are .the only people in the world does bad talk their country. If so dissatisifed why still here?

  3. “’We had a reaction [to the Tendulkar stand proposal] that was territorial due to patriotism,’ said a source. ‘You can understand the base response but we needed to explain it from a business perspective. Sachin has 28 million followers on Twitter. The actor Tom Cruise has 10 million. So anything that involves Tendulkar immediately gets more eyeballs than the number of people who have ever lived in Trinidad and Tobago…”

    This is a fair point. Like most, I was opposed to the naming of the stand after Tendulkar, but having now had a better understanding of the business motives behind it, it makes sound sense. While I understand Smith’s reservations in light of the public backlash, the silence over transparency was a poor option. Then again, Smith’s portfolio fits him as well as his poorly-tailored clothes, so it really shouldn’t be surprising.

  4. The stupidity and rank selfishness of these Trolls is amazing!! Absolutely no care for the future of the country! But, will happily ask for The Liar and the 40 Thieves to raid the Treasury again and again with absolutely no revenue generating ideas forthcoming! And they want to talk about DIVERSIFICATION???

  5. Disruptive economics at work

  6. What do you suppose will do the trick? 🙂 🙂

  7. Lasana you know Jwala will say it’s because of the letter he wrote

  8. Needless to say, this doesn’t make the Sport Minister look too clever.

  9. Hmm.. Well look ting! Why wasn’t Phillips allowed to articulate the rationale behind the proposal to name the stand. Having been initially against the idea now that I’ve heard the reasons it has merit from a sport tourism perspective in my opinion. Also Michael has experience organizing international meets and attracting high calibre athletes so it is an idea worth exploring. Why politicians feel the need to feed us BS or nothing is beyond me. Sometimes being honest and up front also works.

    • Lol.. Brian you write fairly well so I was actually able to have a “clue” as to what your point was. However, it’s not an insult to tell someone that “they are missing the point”. Although from your remark directed at me you clearly think so. Sigh… I hope that what Lasana reiterated was able to resonate with you. If not then….

    • I feel the same way. Yes, the idea might not work. But we are mature enough to understand that. At least we can see there was some thinking behind it.

    • Lasana, I guess that you are very generous. Would a people with a strong sense of self and national pride use the name of a person not of them to market their national product? I’m a BIG fan of Tendulkar. I understand sport tourism and tourism well. We did not need to consider that to bring people to our shores. The basic pillars for a successful sport tourism segment are very easy to identify and it doesn’t entail any of these shenanigans. Look at the successful sport tourism destinations and see what they do and if they attempt anything like this. India is one of the biggest and best. See what they promote to get you there.

    • Brian I think you’re missing the point. It’s not so much whether naming the stand after Tendulkar would be a boost for sport tourism given how big his name is as well as how big Lara’s name is in India. It’s the fact that Michael was not allowed to put his reasoning in the public domain for people to decide if the idea has merit before bashing it and jumping on the TTCB bandwagon about putting local names first. There is room for both. And to show you how cricket crazy India is and how much Brian Lara is revered..a friend of mine was whisked through customs once when they realized she was from Trinidad and personally knew Brian Lara.

    • Rose-Marie Ingrid Lemessy-Forde Nice to tell me i’m missing the point when you clearly don’t have a clue what mine is! Brilliant!

    • Brian Harry The IPL and the Austrailian league rely on big name international players to brand their product as international, look at them indeed!

    • Eko Watts , I know that! Whats your point? Read and try to see what I’m saying.

    • Brian Harry Entertainment Tourism Sport Tourism you name it, relies on international heavy weights to attract destination tourists, nationalism is divisive, look at the success of Machel montano and you will understand that insularity has kept calypso in the calypso tent. The disqualification of a Caricom national fro the competition is a retrograde step, so too is the insularity of Caribbean nationalsm. Yes Caribbean identity has plenty to teach the world, but we cant teach if we cant reach them.

    • Oh. And I agree with Rose-Marie in so much as this cloaks and daggers business with ministers is really annoying.
      All the subterfuge and them trying to hide what they are up to from us as often as possible. If Phillips felt that the public should understand what they were trying to do, then I agree with that notion.

    • Rose (I say Rose affectionately to let you know I hold no anger) I take no offense. Maybe I should have been more open but in TT today I have been seeing such a lack of identity and national affinity. At a time like this we need to tap into all our national resources that help with building identity. All ideas are great ideas but they depend on time, place and space. I wish that there could be a place where people can talk about these things rather than writing short messages which are easily misunderstood.

  10. Why we can’t work together for betterment..steups

  11. Fed up with all of them. Mediocrity all around.

  12. http://www.trinidadexpress.com/20170503/sports/blow-for-sportt CEO Adam Montserin said yesterday that Phillips had tendered his resignation on Monday, for what were reported to be personal reasons. However, the Express understands that Phillips was asked to resign his post.

    • Really? Yet he says that he’s available anytime they may have need of him? The Express has gotten the story wrong many times before. So I’m a bit skeptical about any story they publish

  13. Why everything in Trinidad has to be a bacchanal. People think like the size of the country. Small. As the greatest batsment ever produced in Trinidad, Brian Lara requested a favour to name a Tendulkar stand, (who is alos one of the world best) so what is the furore?Brian thinking long term economics. Is Darryl a dictator,? Remember sir many have held that positon and are no longer there today, (Musical chairs) You passing through. Is thesame thing over and over .Humble yourself

  14. With 28 million followers on twitter

  15. What yuh mean Sachin would coach or mentor at academy?

  16. The bigger opportunity in Tarouba will not be another stadium but the Cricket Academy. If Lara can get Sachin to be part of that there will be tremendous long term value for cricket in Trinidad and the region.

  17. I would like to see stands named for our local and regional cricket heroes and sponsored by corporate tnt. For example the Gus Logie stand sponsored by Carib. The Phil Simmons stand sponsored by BMobile. The Viv Richards stand sponsored by Digicel, etc. And then maybe the Lara-Tendulkar Cricket Academy sponsored by xxxx.

    • I read it Lasana. You know I don’t respond to stuff without reading it first lol. See my initial response. His error was in going public with the naming of a stand for Sachin before doing it for our local heroes first. He put the cart before the horse and deserved the outpouring of disgust delivered by the population.

    • Oh. I got the impression that Guardian asked him whether they were naming a stand after Sachin and he confirmed it. Didn’t think he actually put the news out there in the first place.

    • Likely the case. But with all billions wasted on that stadium he/they should know that care need to be taken with just about anything surrounding the end use of it. You probably need a reputable PR firm to manage all communications related to that stadium.

    • You read the article Carlos? My source did try to give a deeper explanation.

    • Tendulkar will be well honored where he’s from . I loved to see the man bat but he’s not my hero and my tax dollars shouldn’t name anything for him! We seem to lack identity and self confidence

    • So Carlos Lee, would you prefer him do like the Minister and drop it at the last moment on an unsuspecting public? Cause that what I got out of the article

    • They could probably reasonably assign as many stands/sections as they want.

    • Savitri – I’m saying that had they come out and say that we are planning to name various stands at the BLS for a number of local and regional cricketing legends, and possibly one or more international cricketing icons – particularly ones who helped to push Lara to realize his full potential, then I think that would have been well received by the public. On top of that should have been an invitation for the public and corporate tnt to help identify appropriate local, regional, and international cricket legends that could be recognized via the naming of a stand. I think Sachin, because of his close friendship with Brian, would have naturally surfaced as the preferred international cricket icon to be recognized at the BLS.

    • Agree with the above, how many stands are there at the BLS? It looks smaller than the QPS to me. Something doesn’t sit right with this resignation.

  18. This is supposed to be an academy. Putting Tendulkar’s name will bring in much needed international funding required for training of young local and regional talent. It will also give us easier access to a market of 1.3b people. That’s 1000 times our population.

    • That is a myth. I rather suspect it will get name recognition but I don’t think that is how sponsors operate. They look at so many factors including how the local organisation is running cricket, the reach of their sponsorship etc – not the naming of a stand.

  19. It would have been good to explain the rationale of naming the stand after Tendulkar from the beginning. It makes a lot of sense. India is the most passionate cricket nation in the world! I support the sports tourism initiative.

  20. Good riddance. Poor decision to go public with the naming of a stand for Sachin before recognizing our local and/regional cricketing heroes with similar gestures.

  21. I don’t agree with them naming anything free sachin in Trinidad.. show me where in India bcl is named

  22. never understood the disapproval with Tendulkar, as if Lara did not make the recommendation and he’s not one of the best to ever play the game. If anything celebration of excellence should cross national boundaries.

  23. So regrettable at this hour…the exit of the Chairman..with only ten days to go for the Lara stadium to open…

  24. I would take Lara’s advice any day

  25. Ah hope India reciprocates and name cricket infrastructure in India after the great Brian Lara as they love him also.