The Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) will hold its first formal elections on 9 August at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Balmain, Couva with interim president and FC Santa Rosa coach Keith Look Loy likely to be challenged for the head job and a seat on the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) Board of Directors.
All presidential candidates must be nominated by the general membership by 26 July in order to contest the elections and TTSL secretary Camara David said that no candidacy has been confirmed just yet.
“A number of people said that they are willing to go up for the presidency but I do not want to say anything until things are confirmed,” said David. “I want to wait until I get something official in writing from the potential candidates… Until then, it’s just ‘he say, she say.’
“A lot could take place. The interim president said he’s willing to go up but we don’t know if that situation can change.”
Interim vice-president Ryan Ottley, a 29-year-old Flying Officer in the Defence Force and manager of the regiment’s TTSL team, is believed to be testing the waters before deciding on a formal bid.
“At this time, I can’t say if I will be throwing my hat in the ring officially,” Ottley told Wired868. “Personally, I have a lot more to offer to football. I’m young and enthusiastic.
“It’s not that I am not able to run but it must be something that is of interest for the clubs and not my personal aspirations. My take has always been that it’s the members first and anybody’s personal aspirations afterwards.”
Thus far, Look Loy, the 64-year-old former CONCACAF technical group member and former TTFA technical director, has been seen as the driving force behind the fledgling body and he hopes his work is enough to see him elected TTSL president.
“The TTSL clubs have asked me to run,” said Look Loy, “not all of them [but] the vast majority have asked me to remain in office. And, in fact, the attitude of a large percentage of the clubs is that the interim board has done well.
“[…] People are saying the board has done well, [so] leave the board there and let us go forward.”
According to article 14.2 of the TTSL by-laws, nominations for candidates for the office of President, Vice-President and members of the Board of Directors: “must be sent to the Company Secretariat in writing at least fourteen (14) days before the General Meeting [with] a proposer and seconder who are financial members of the TTSL. Only Full members of TTSL are entitled to make nominations.”
The elections will follow the one club, one vote system and will include all 24 TTSL clubs from its two divisions, which are the 19 active teams along with Matura ReUnited, Real Maracas, Petrotrin Palo Seco, Saddle Hill Hotspur and Barrackpore United, which were all given a season’s grace before they join the competition.
The TTSL president will serve a four-year term and can be re-elected once. And, according to article 14.6, TTSL presidential candidates “shall have been active in football for at least three years during the five years preceding the election […] in a managerial or a similar position in the territory of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.”
The current interim TTSL executive includes Look Loy and Ottley as president and vice-president respectively along with George Joseph (Bethel United FC) and Quincy Jones (Siparia Spurs) as board members.
Look Loy dismissed suggestions that the current composition of the board made the TTSL susceptible to conflicts of interest and noted the creation of independent disciplinary, appeals and competitions and tournaments committees to avoid this.
Look Loy and David both cited, as an example, a league fixture between Queen’s Park Cricket Club (QPCC) and Santa Rosa, which was called off on 25 June because the field marking at the St Mary’s College Grounds in St Clair was deemed unsuitable for play.
The League secretariat, headed by David, ruled that the game must be played on 10 September at the Arima Velodrome—which effectively means the “Big Cannons” will have two home games against QPCC this season.
“The Tournaments and Competitions Committee met,” said David, “and Look Loy was asked to excuse himself from that meeting…”
Look Loy said he was dissatisfied with the ruling but claimed it proved that talk about a conflict of interest is a “non-issue.” In fact, he said his holding an interim position had worked against Santa Rosa in that instance.
“Everyone knows when you come to a match and the referee blows off the game, because your ground ain’t good, yuh lorse,” said Look Loy. “If I was not the interim president, I would have appealed that decision. [But] we said no, we don’t need this [potential controversy] because it is unseemly for the club of the president to be protesting a decision of the League.
“And we swallowed what we thought was a bad decision.”
Although David agreed that the TTSL is not hampered by any conflicts of interest, he did suggest that an independent president might be a better option—as in the case of the Pro League, which has always maintained a chairman or CEO who is not attached to any team.
“Right now, we don’t have any independent person running,” he said. “The ideal thing would be to have an independent person…”
However, Ottley and Look Loy insisted that the member clubs can successfully run their own affairs. And the interim president further suggested that the TTSL Board was almost redundant since “most of the power lies with the general membership.”
“Let those who labour hold the reins of power,” Look Loy told Wired868. “[…] Since 1908, we have had a long line of outsiders come into our football to run it; people who don’t come from inside of football, people who don’t come from inside of the clubs.
“They have been running our football. And what do we have to show for it?”
Ottley, who has worked at administrative level with the Defence Force Super League team for the past four years, agreed with Look Loy.
“It will be naïve to say that an independent person will not come with some level of bias,” said Ottley. “You have to trust that the persons who are elected to the Board will serve the best interests of the members and the development of football.”
There has been at least one hiccup with the interim TTSL Board so far. David and Ottley confirmed that the Caribbean Football Trust Limited (CFTL) sponsorship deal of TT$550,000 for two TTSL competitions in the ongoing season was not discussed at board level before it reached the general membership.
“The interim president told the general meeting the details of the contract and the general meeting raised whatever issues they had with it,” said David.
David explained that, as secretary, he usually sends out proposals to prospective sponsors. In this case, however, the CFTL contacted Look Loy through its chairman, Chris Anderson, and the interim president thrashed out the details of the contract with the general membership before getting back to the regional company.
On 5 June, the TTSL and CFTL signed on the dotted line for the sponsorship of the League Cup and a “Power 8” knockout tournament.
Ottley said that he had missed the TTSL’s last general meeting and so was unable to comment on the finer details of the CFTL contract.
“What I can tell you is that it wasn’t discussed at the board level because there was not a board meeting to deal with it,” he said . “But I’m not at liberty to comment on the intricacies of the contract or any other aspect of the sponsorship we got through CFTL.”
Look Loy explained that the TTSL Board has had issues in scheduling meetings because of the work commitments of its members.
“Certain board members find it problematic to attend meetings and we have had to search and search for dates that are convenient for some people to meet,” said the interim TTSL president. “I despise bureaucracy; I like efficiency and efficient work flow…”
But, more to the point, Look Loy noted that—unlike the TTFA—the TTSL Constitution puts the power to make commercial decisions in the hands of the general membership and not the Board.
“The general membership decided on our first general meeting on the 13th of January,” said Look Loy, “that the only body to decide on commercial matters is the general membership. There is no board here that can potentially hijack football away from the membership. That cannot happen in the TTSL…
“We have had 12 general membership meetings in six months—whereas the TTFA might not have had that much in the last six years!—and our average attendance from 24 members is in the high teens. So grassroots democracy and club power are very much alive in the TTSL.”
Board members, Look Loy included, cannot vote at general membership meetings as only club representatives have that right.
Look Loy said the CFTL deal—which might also include a gala exhibition match with global ex-football stars like Ronaldinho and Rivaldo—came as a direct result of his stewardship.
“They contacted me and said they want to work with me,” he said. “But I cannot make that decision and it has to go to the membership, which I have done. It is the membership that is guiding the League.
“It was a good deal and we had no other alternative to look at so the meeting agreed to go with it. I believe Ottley was absent from that meeting and when I asked he said he forgot about it. The other board members were there.”
Look Loy and Ottley both expressed satisfaction with the work of the interim Board so far, which has helped ensure a vibrant social media presence and a live streaming deal with Switzerland-based tech company, mycujoo.
A partnership with bMobile, which will dovetail with the mycujoo deal, is virtually sealed already.
“Our social media is second to none in Trinidad and Tobago and possibly Caribbean football,” said Look Loy. “And our relationship with mycujoo to live-stream our games is unprecedented in Trinidad and Tobago football and maybe the Caribbean as well.
“My understanding is the TT Pro League went to them to see what is possible and they said, ‘No thanks, we are working with the Super League’…”
In terms of the TTSL’s vision and where it fits into the local football landscape, Look Loy and Ottley differ slightly.
Ottley prefers a collaborative approach with fellow bodies like the TTFA, which, he suggested, is crucial for Trinidad and Tobago’s football to flourish.
“This is not a battle between the Super League, the TTFA and the Pro League,” said Ottley. “We should go to the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs as a united body […] and show what we are able to offer as an alternative to crime and violence in Trinidad and Tobago.
“It’s not about a war, it’s not about a battle. No more should we continue to fight amongst ourselves and have that kind of press going forward. As the Bible rightfully says, a nation divided cannot stand.”
Look Loy is more interested in making the TTSL the dominant force in the local game. He suggested that the infrastructure is already in place to achieve that with the TTSL’s secretariat, public relations and marketing teams and empowered general membership.
And he described the recent National Senior Team call-up for Santa Rosa forward Keron Clarke as “recognition of the work and effort of all of us in the Super League.”
“The vision for the Super League is to be the best elite football league in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean,” Look Loy said.
on 9 August, the general membership will decide on the best man to bring that vision to fruition in the immediate future.