North East Stars and San Juan Jabloteh will join Point Fortin Civic FC in hosting games within their communities this season, as the 2015/16 Digicel TT Pro League competition promises a community-based focus for the upcoming term.
Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene said the top flight clubs will play more games outside of the national stadia this season with the Sangre Grande Recreation Ground, Mahaica Oval and the Brian Lara Recreation Ground in Santa Cruz earmarked for increased use.
Mahaica Oval is already a popular Pro League venue and Point Fortin will host defending champion club, Central FC, from 5 pm today. Skeene also suggested that the Brian Lara and Sangre Grande Recreation Grounds should be in use before the end of the year once security issues are smoothed out.
“Community fields are a critical success factor,” said Skeene, “and I remain convinced that when put in place it will be the catalyst to take professional football (in Trinidad and Tobago) to the next level.”
Apart from playing in more homey environments, the players have added motivation as this season sees the return of the Rawle Fletcher, Kevon Carter and Akeem Adams Trophies. The three Pro League rounds are named after these three deceased heroes and the winning team from each round will pocket TT$50,000.
The best player of each round will also be rewarded with a TT$10,000 cash prize. These incentives pale in comparison to the real juggernaut, which is the million dollar prize for winning the TT Pro League.
Defending Pro League champion, Central FC, has already laid down the gauntlet by defeating Couva rival, DIRECTV W Connection, in the season opening Charity Shield. And the likes of Civic, North East and Defence Force will be eager to upstage the Couva clubs, which both recently bowed out of the CONCACAF Champions League, albeit gracefully.
The players and teams will also have the chance to get in touch with their communities and the wider public even more through the “Helping Others is a Priority Everyday” (HOPE) program.
“HOPE was designed as part of the CSR (corporate social responsibility) of the league to get the league and clubs to give back to their communities to develop a link between them and the communities,” Skeene told Wired868.
Central FC goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams has already jumped on board HOPE and volunteered himself to be a spokesperson for the Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA).
Skeene is optimistic about the future of the 14 year old league and expects clubs to be self-sustainable and viable with the aim or returning to the wholesome community atmosphere.
The atmosphere inside the VIP lounge of the Hasely Crawford was a friendly and jovial one but all jokes will be put aside when the teams kick into action this weekend with a full slate of matches across the country.
TT Pro League Match Day 1
(Friday September 25)
Defence Force 1, St Ann’s Rangers 1 at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
(Saturday 26 September 26)
W Connection vs Police FC, Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, 4 pm;
North East Stars vs Club Sando, Larry Gomes Stadium, 4 pm;
Point Fortin Civic vs Central FC, Mahaica Oval, 6 pm;
(Sunday September 27)
Morvant Caledonia United vs San Juan Jabloteh, Hasely Crawford, 4 pm.