Sport Minister Brent Sancho seems bent on shattering the perception that he is a caretaker appointment after revealing his plans to start a women’s professional football league in less than four months.
Sancho told Wired868 that the league, like the local men’s Pro League, will be modelled on the United States’ Major League Soccer (MLS) set-up with franchises for sale and no relegation. And he says that the women’s competition, which would envelop the current T&T Women’s League Football (WOLF), will kick off in May 2015.
“It will be a three month league (…) and (the cost) is very practical and very doable,” said Sancho, who recused himself from his role as managing director of Pro League club, Central FC, to run the Sport Ministry last month.
The Sport Minister did not reveal the final proposed cost for the project or a minimum wage for players. But he estimated that it would cost between TT$500,000 to TT$700,000 a year to run a “franchise”, which is inclusive of salaries, operation costs and promotions.
“This league isn’t designed to make anyone a millionaire or to be able to live off it in year one,” said Sancho. “But what it does is give women players the capacity to play football for three months of the year, coupled with international friendlies around it.”
The Sport Minister said he has already discussed the proposed league with the management of WOLF (T&T’s Women’s League Football). However, Wired868 found women’s football officials to be excited and alarmed in equal measure.
“I think it is a great idea but we have so much development work to do,” said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Who is going to coach these teams when so many local women’s coaches are underprepared? Does it help school football players and their development?
“I think there are so many factors to take into consideration… To me, our priority should be about building our pool of players.
“It is a great idea but I just think it is rushed and we should bring all the stakeholders to the table and think more carefully about this.”
However, Sancho, who was sworn in as Sport Minister just four weeks ago, believes that now is the perfect time to start the league due to the increased public attention for the women’s game. And he claimed that his early talks found that corporate Trinidad and Tobago is still buzzing at the excitement caused by the “Women Soca Warriors.”
“This league may be the brainchild of the Ministry (…) and there has been encouraging feedback from corporate Trinidad and Tobago,” said Sancho. “The women (footballers) are high in the memory of corporate Trinidad at the moment.”
There is precedent to a State-run professional league as Ecuador’s Sport Ministry kick started a women’s league in 2014. Ecuador edged Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 on 2 December 2014 to edge the W/Warriors to a Canada 2015 World Cup place.
At present, the men’s Pro League is heavily subsidised by the Government, which pays most clubs between TT$60,000 to TT$80,000 a month to run its operations and also provides an administrative budget of over TT$2 million a season to the League’s executive body.
Sancho, who also discussed radical changes to the Government’s relationship with the TTFA, hopes to help the women’s league to be self-sufficient within three years and has similar plans for the men’s Pro League.
Editor’s Note: Wired868 will publish the first part of an extensive and exclusive interview with Sport Minister Brent Sancho on Friday March 6.