With the absence of a football players’ union in Trinidad and Tobago, the burning issue of the absence of some of our better women’s national players from the “Women Soca Warriors” is destined to be a one-sided affair.
As the head of what many consider to be the leading sport management company in our region, I thought it a perfect opportunity to present a few thoughts and solutions on the issue at hand.
As part of the 2014 Brazil World Cup Organising Committee and as a TBL sports executive and football agent to some top players including two present senior national women’s players, I am aware of the round the clock schedule for football administrators.
We all heard about the stance taken by our former women’s captain Maylee Attin-Johnson two weeks ago, as she decided not to represent her country because of differences with team manager Sharon O’Brien.
Attin-Johnson’s opinion is also shared by a few more members of the team but, as often happens, players stay quiet and continue to play, due to their passion for the game; or they just say: ‘Leave it to God.’
The Manager of any national team is the link between the decision makers, such as the board of Directors, and the players. So, communication is key; and if one isn’t effectively communicating or does not have the ear of all, then how can they be effective in doing their job?
Imagine a bank teller saying that your account was accessed and funds removed but the only way you can get answers about a possible remedy to your loss would be to fly to the head office in Canada for information. If that happened, I am positive you will choose to do business with another bank.
Well, some of the issues affecting the Women Warriors that have created problems include: old uniforms, male uniforms being used, non-payment of stipends, not understanding policy of payments when abroad on duty, not knowing when a player will travel, being unaware of who and where your technical staff is or coming from.
I’m assuming the workload is too much. The men’s “Soca Warriors” have three managers, each possibly handling different aspects of the team. If our senior women’s team is the ‘flagship female team’ then why do we only have one manager?
The women’s manager may be further occupied since she holds a position on the board of directors, heads the women’s league, handles Caribbean Football Union (CFU) duties for women’s tournaments held in Trinidad and Tobago and manages the FIFA TMS system for international transfers involving players from the domestic league.
To me, these are all full-time positions which are laden with challenges and headaches.
So I have a question: Why would any person with several senior positions, try to hold on to a position that is somewhat of lesser stature?
Nowhere does a board director hold on to a managerial positions at any club or international team, so why has it happened in Trinidad and Tobago’s women’s football? Is it being held to a lesser standard?
I proceed to think deeper.
What may be the benefits of holding on to such a position, especially when team managers have supposedly not been paid for months?
Maybe, the managerial position is enticing due to per diems or stipends provided by the government or other stakeholders; or the frequent trips might be some form of a paid vacation that may not be afforded in other circumstances.
All these points lead to a solution. But first, let me inform you of the risks.
The Women Warriors were said to be at 80 percent fitness and two top class games (against the United States) were supposed to help our players get closer to 100 percent by February.
But, with the exclusion of some top players for various reason and others de-motivated while in camp, we risk that, by next February’s 2016 CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers, we might have players—like Attin-Johnson and Ayanna Russell—with varying degrees of fitness to those who remained with the team once the issues are settled.
Our sporting culture needs to change. The product is the most important thing and the product is the footballers.
I am happy to nominate three young, educated, travelled, financially secure men with football management experience, who all the players are comfortable with and have worked with before in different capacities.
I can also name four women who I believe would be an asset to the team as they are again well educated in sport management, have the experience and, more-so, the respect of the players.
I have not spoken to these persons about this but I am positive once needed an agreement would be reached. They are: Sherlan Cabralis, her qualifications speak volumes and simply because she can challenge any sports administrator in this country.
Calisia and Calistra Gregoire, young, enthusiastic and honest-hearted in the sports administration world and both carry international sports qualifications under their belts. And lastly, Morvant/Caledonia United official Ricarda Nelson, who is now the second most senior female administrator in the Pro League due to Renee John-Williams’ promotion to the W Connection CEO.
Nelson is straightforward and gets the job done. Full stop.
I will end by saying to the national players: differences are never the problem, instead it is people who are not strong enough to deal with it and still get what is needed done.
Being an agent, I have worked with all types of players but our success rate remains at 100 because our purpose is ‘product’ driven.
The present manager holds other positions, so she loses nothing. A new manager can come in as an interim, in order to have all the players on board and focused for the upcoming matches.
And, after February’s Olympic qualifiers, the TTFA’s board can sit, analyse and make a decision to either return to the old or remain with the new. But at least then football would not be affected.