Discussion: How the Pro League, SSFL and all in-between can help T&T football

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The following post was created by Sherron Charles in Wired868’s Volley Facebook group and created a vibrant discussion:

Photo: The Defence Force  players take time out for a "selfie" against W Connection on 2 May 2014. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: The Defence Force players take time out for a “selfie” against W Connection on 2 May 2014.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The TT Pro League struggles commercially. Could someone please inform me why they see the need to invite more teams to ‘join the struggle?’ Is it because registration fees are their main source of income?

One would think that, in order to grow the league, they would put a cap on the number of participating teams and come up with a commercially viable structure.

And, when this is accomplished, THEN invite other teams, by way of promotion or invitation—a different argument for a different day—to join the league.

Photo: Naparima College forward Isaiah Hudson leaps into the air to celebrate his goal against Presentation College (San Fernando) in the South Zone Intercol final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Naparima College forward Isaiah Hudson leaps into the air to celebrate his goal against Presentation College (San Fernando) in the South Zone Intercol final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Editor’s Note: Read the comments sections below and join in. Please note that the most recent comments are published at the top.

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  1. Warning: Undefined variable $userid in /www/wired868_759/public/wp-content/plugins/user-photo/user-photo.php on line 114

    first time in years someone has accuse me of overthinking yes…

  2. Are the crowds larger at pro league matches than super league matches? Does anybody know?

  3. Been trying to say that all evening Lasana Liburd…

  4. Dennis Allen alyuh complicating something that is very simple, alyuh sounding like overthinkers, if we could qualify for the world cup every 4yrs and sell local players in every transfer window like Levi Garcia, then i can contently resign myself to the fact that football development has won

  5. Actually, the International Soca Monarch shows that you can get a crowd without quality yes. That probably isn’t the only example either. But I can’t say whether that is sustainable.
    There are many horrible football teams that get crowds too because of brand identity. But of course their crowds would increase with more success on the field.

  6. “create a marketing campaign”? to be paid for by whom? with what money for placement? the team owners paying for it? the GOTT? who? pass it on to the fans? how this being paid for

    • Thats my point, filling the stands without a quality product will cost quite a lot, but once u have quality on the field people will b rushing to see their team

    • costly pipe dreams buddy.
      bro…lemme break it down for u:
      a national full campaign of the scale you describe/envisage here would cost about $50,000-80,000 a week and would cost about another $100,000-500,000 for concept and execution.
      WITHOUT a TV partner…without a press partner…without an internet services partner…without a franchise rights owner to benefit from developing the branding and content…nobody could afford that.

  7. What we really talking about here, once u have a quality product the fans will be interested, lemme just flip this, so we create a marketing campaign and successfully fill the stadiums and then the supporters cannot see a quality product, and how long is that going to last exactly

  8. the reason the stands arent filled is not specifically because the standard of football is low. but barring a 100,000-word PhD discussion on why it’s not JUST that—let’s assume that we could do 5 things RIGHT NOW and fill the stands. what would those five things be?

  9. player development comes at a cost. who foots the bill? parents? as in the current state of things in T&T? same as in the US? Meanwhile in South America and the major cities in Europe the tok kids are coached at academies?
    The goalpost keeps shifting. the model in place in T&T now is about 20 years behind the global marketplace.

  10. Community clubs and their academies is the key or else we fail

  11. The only how that could work in that order is if we develop our players and stop talking nonsense about developing the various leagues

  12. Mr Dennis Allen, there is no way on the face of this earth that i could be wrong, DEVELOPMENT must come FIRST, DEVELOPMENT must come FIRST, when we create a proper development structure everything else will fall in place, better developed players will make better club teams and thus a better National team

  13. Me Cyrus, this is where we disagree. A quality product (in this case football), fills zero stadia. Fans with a connection to the team/players/club do. Acrington Stanley doesn’t get 3/4000 spectators because of their ‘high quality’. I get what you’re saying mind you…but having a quality product with disinterested fans to market it to reaps no reward.

  14. Mr Garcia, this is a very serious conversation, how could u enter this convo and talk about fulling stadiums, how are we going to full the stadiums if we dont have a quality product, the product on display is the players, we want to develop a higher quality player so that we can qualify for a World Cup every 4 yrs.
    Filling the stands will not develop the quality, u have to develop the quality first and then that will help fill the stands,

  15. both Dexter Cyrus and Carlon Garcia are wrong—and both are right.
    you are both looking at two different sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other.

  16. Dexter Cyrus you miss the point completely….this isn’t about developing football at grassroots or any level…it’s about filling the empty stadium seats. We could have the greatest academies and developmental programs…that isn’t sending the average spectator to the Ato Boldon Stadium to watch football.

    • But once you have a “crappy” product, nobody will come? Don’t you have to develop an attractive product first? And wouldn’t that be the point of cultivating excellence of skill and work ethic at the 13 year old level?
      One of the unattractive things about the pro league I think at the moment is that so few national team players are in it. So when you go to a pro league match, you aren’t seeing your kid’s football hero or even your favourite Trinidad and Tobago player. People like to see stars. That’s the reason for example that I think the LA Galaxy/Central match drew a bigger crowd than the Saprissa/W connection match for the Champions league even though the Saprissa/W Connection match was the better match. I think people thought they were going to see Gerard play. And even if they didn’t, they have greater familiarity with the Galaxy players than the Saprissa players.
      If the goal of football in this country is just to fill venues then we should embark on a strategy to have people like Henry and Gerard and Beckham complete their second retirement in the pro league after they’re done with the MLS. People will come out to see those guys regardless of their age and declining ability…

    • Actually Chabeth Haynes that was a discussion that was had very very recently…re: offering retiring big name players some money to play here for half the TTPL season. Unfortunately our playing fields were one of the major stumbling blocks. Nevertheless you perhaps accidentally proved my point…the TTPL offers nothing that fans identify with. W Connection could have the most attractive and high quality game but they still won’t fill the seats. One of the first laws of marketing is to appeal to your target’s emotions…the TTPL doesn’t do that in any way. It may sound basic and unfortunate, but knowing that next week you’re gonna be playing to a full stadium will make the players at least try to perform better and the by-product will be an improved quality of football

    • Hmm… Idk. Players start performing better and they start taking up foreign contracts wherever they get them. That’s why one of the things the pro league does not offer is the ability for fans to identify with players.
      Ask the average trini to name five pro league players and they can’t. Five national team players and maybe. So again… The “big” players leave the pro league and play elsewhere… You’re back at square one in terms of fan attendance. So if fan attendance is the ultimate goal of football, I can’t imagine we’ll ever succeed at achieving that.
      (And the fact that so few pro league players are on the national team gives the impression that the pro league is poor quality btw… Just saying.)

  17. Carlon Garcia you are totally clueless if u can say something that senseless, if we develop from grassroot club level, wont we have better teenage players and thus a higher level SSFL

  18. Everything is a comparison…smh. THAT is where the problem lies…not with sentimental attachments. TT simply cannot compete with nor compare itself against countries like the USA where the thinking toward sport is completely different. Lest the point is missed here…SSFL is not to be a substitute for youth or football development..it can be a vehicle through which the stadia can be filled for pro league games. But keep the comparisons coming….it’s gotten our stadia filled thus far right….

  19. too many people protecting empires

  20. they still haven’t brought us over, even though all clubs (bar one) voted to bring us on board

  21. ..LOL. And THAT is precisely why we will never be more than an inconsistent challenger for a World Cup place, with a sickly domestic football. Keep pinning self-limiting hopes on schools football to do the work of clubs. Meantime, USA has rejected the reliance on schools foorball – high school and ” college” – as the foundation for its elite league – MLS. They now increasinglt take players straight out of their club academies, which ban high school players from representing their schools. OR they import foreigners. The EPL has!an under 20 league while we have an under 20 schools league. Sentimental attachment to schools football is no substitute for realism and, yes, best practice..

  22. Folks keep juxtaposing, either with good intention or ignorance, our football against best practice. We must face reality and make lemonade with the lemons we have at hand. The SSFL is by far the most followed sporting competition in TT. Use it…stop laying claim to what ‘serious footballing nations do’…we have proven ourselves time and again to be furthest from that

  23. let’s examine how teams in modern day football make money (and see which of these apply to the TTPro League:
    shirtfront sponsorship
    transfer fees
    stadium naming rights
    TV rights contracts
    merchandise sales
    Season Ticket sales
    Matchday ticket sales
    Franchise rights licensing deals
    Player endorsement deals
    Clothing, gear and apparel deals.
    Share ownership
    leveraged deals based on future earnings
    training day apparel deals

  24. I totally agree with Keith, if we want to create another Russell Latapy, Dwight Yorke, Clayton Morris, Dexter Francis, we have to empower community clubs that have academies, the kid gets development from a club that he can come through the ranks at the said club until he is good enough to be sold or contribute to the club’s senior team, by which time another kid is going through the same programme at the club to ensure development continuity, nothing else will work

  25. Dexter Cyrus I will definitely support collaborating with the Super League. I think we need a (I might get licks for this) TTFA led restructuring of the football pyramid. One which not only helps development but ensure that there’s integration between clubs and schools where all can benefit.

  26. …Listen. There is no rocket science involved here. The solutions to our football problems have existed for the proverbial donkey years. And they have come from the practitioners. The REAL problem is the political interests of the administrators at every level, and the sentimentality of the fans like some on this page. NO serious football country will place schools football at the centre of its development programme. That level may play a small part but the hotbed of national development MUST be the clubs. Therefore, CLUB development MUST be at the heart of any development. ANY OTHER APPROACH is pure waste..

  27. Wanna bet that raises the standard of football in those 2 age groups

  28. Any player under contract with a Pro League club becomes ineligible

  29. Any club from Trinidad and Tobago can compete

  30. We need a national U17 and U23 league

  31. Because we all seem to want everything to become better at SSFL level, and at Youth Pro league level, by which time we have already lost soooooooo many kids through the woodwork, we need to tap into whatever we want to come up with as a solution for Trinidad and Tobago from the internationally recognised development age, thats at the age of 5

  32. Well that might be a starting point? Having a tournament that includes all youth teams?
    I’m not a fan of the pro league teams aligning with schools idea.
    1. I am finding these pro league teams seem to have predatory tendencies and therefore I wouldn’t support a school advocating for its players to join any particular pro league team. In any case, aren’t there only 10 pro league teams? Are there more schools than that? And what happens if the pro league expands? You shift a school from one pro league team to the new pro league team?
    And 2. Just logistically… A kid may go to school in POS but live in Sangre Grande, so it just might be easier to join a club team in Grande than force the kid to play with a pro league team in POS.

  33. So Mr Charles, seeing as the Super league clubs are already integrated into the communities, why shouldnt any collaboration include them

  34. Chabeth Haynes no. Only the pro league teams field youth pro league teams, I am not sure what’s the reason behind a decision like that

  35. ..I beg everyone’s pardon for being “one of Eric Williams’ small thinkers”. Good luck with the schools’project and improving the sickly TTPL. Pie in the sky abound..

  36. Meaning the youth arms of pro league clubs? So a club like Santa Rosa that isn’t in the pro league doesn’t participate in that tournament?

  37. Is there a club tournament for kids of SSFL age?

  38. My thoughts on the above suggestions:

    On points 1, 2 and 7 I think a relationship needs to be formed between the Pro League teams, SSFL teams and communities. Each has something to offer the other. The problem would be to get the hierarchies in each to put egos aside to determine the best way forward. I foresee a problem with the SSFL as they may not see themselves as equal to the TT Pro League especially with their Digicel deal. Within the communities, there may be a struggle when it comes to recreational use of the grounds but the prospect of heightened economic activity can use to convince residents.

    On point 3. Definitely better marketing needs to be done but I’m sure the TT Pro League can’t afford to due to financial constraints which may not exist if they are able to take the games to communities this widening their reach. Scheduling of games I think is a bit out of their hands because they can only use the stadia when they are available. This can also be fixed if teams existed within their own communities and had their own facilities.

    On point 4 this would be a tough sell mainly due to the fact that the television stations would have to also produce the broadcast unless the Pro League can secure sponsorship of their services from a production company. A production company with high quality equipment would also be needed for this to ensure the on screen product is of the best quality and if not as good as what the sports viewer is accustomed to it must be close.

    Finally on Point 6, I don’t agree with this. Clubs won’t allow anyone to tell them to change their names!

  39. You need to add hiring qualified persons (I suggest with management qualifications) to make decisions or sending current employees to get qualified

  40. When I initially posted this article I was expecting solutions on how we could make the TT Pro League a more commercially viable product however the discussion has gone off on various tangents which are relevant for the overall development of local football but not so for the intended discussion. Nevertheless, some worthy ideas have come out of the discussion and they are as followed.

    1) Bringing in a Tobago team and inviting another ‘proper’ community club. Also, a critical analysis of the failings of Point Fortin Civic Centre, a proper community club.

    2) Bringing the game to the masses by way of upgrading community fields thus better connecting with the fans and creating various revenue streams.

    3) Better marketing and scheduling of games.

    4) A TV deal between the Pro League and a local TV station. Also, streaming of the games to get to the Trinidad diaspora overseas.

    5) The incorporating of school teams into the Pro League. I assume because of their popularity via alumni and the ready made community which exists within.

    6) Changing the names of the Pro League teams to the names of school teams.

    7) Developing a relationship between Pro League and SSFL teams so the former can benefit from the latter’s following.

    Being a coach I am all for development but I believe the solution for creating a better TT Pro League lies in some of the above suggestions and others similar to it. Going forward let’s comment on the suggestions previously mentioned and/or put forward some of our own.

  41. Dexter Cyrus i agree with u wholeheartedly!! on ur community academy point i have coached players and when they make it big and are asked what was their first team they say Sky, defence force , jaboleth etc when i ask them how u aint call we academy they say that is not a real club so i know and feel ur pain!!

  42. Real Madrid partnering with a school in Trinidad doesnt do anything for football development in the entire country, we have to understand that football development doesnt start in schools, but i like the primary school idea Mr Pierre, it definitely can be a contributory factor, mainly bcuz that is the age that development has to start from

  43. Argumentative conversation is healthy in disagreeing to agree

  44. The situation with the parents is of course, the belief that something wrong with yuh child if yuh dont pass English and Maths.
    The same educational structure from whence we were colonised still stands today, and kids fall through the cracks in the woodwork bcuz of it, but thats a whole different can ah worms bredda

  45. What we have to tap into, is helping these community clubs and academies to keep creating and developing quality players, and not just keep hoping that quality will just fall through the woodwork, we need structures that will create top class quality from an earlier age

  46. we now getting somewhere dexter! So my point is if we go into d schools primary that is we could identify players, develop them and at d same time form a life long bond for d clubs that is just my point bc up to today some parents will not easily send their children to community academies but will send them to represent their school

  47. Development doesnt start at the teams u mentioned Mr Pierre, by the time they are chosen by these clubs they would have already been developed to a certain point, or else they would not be considered good enough to be chosen by any club or school

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