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Skeene: Pro League will survive economic crisis; urges teams to innovate

Trinidad and Tobago Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene has explained, via a press release, why he feels the top flight competition will survive, despite the economic downturn and financial spinoff that led to concern by member clubs.

Skeene, a former Trinidad and Tobago international footballer, described the current “challenging business environment” as an opportunity to reassess the business model and strategic plan of the League and clubs; and for innovation, creativity and sacrifice.

The following is a press release sent out on 4 March 2016 by the TT Pro League:

Photo: Central FC star Ataulla Guerra (centre) takes the 2014/15 Pro League trophy from Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC star Ataulla Guerra (centre) takes the 2014/15 Pro League trophy from Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Business is a cycle; the League will overcome and thrive no matter what the challenges. Tough decisions will have to be made for the betterment of the business of the League and professional football.

I am confident in the future of the Pro League and professional football in Trinidad and Tobago. Professional leagues all over the world have their challenges. In any recession, all sectors have challenges. It is those owners of  businesses who are resilient and innovative and think strategically will survive and thrive.

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The industry of professional football is no different.

The MLS in the US took over 15 years before they derived television revenue and in the process accumulated expenditure and losses to the tune of over US$100 million. It was their commitment to building a great league that made the difference.

Skeene, a Columbia university graduate said, in a downturn there are challenges. I have had very productive discussions with the Minister, Ministry and the Sport Company.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (right) shakes hands with SPORTT Company chairman Michael Phillips (left) while Sport Minister Darryl Smith looks on in 2015. (Courtesy TTFA Media)
Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (right) shakes hands with SPORTT Company chairman Michael Phillips (left) while Sport Minister Darryl Smith looks on in 2015.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

It is a matter of knowing where we are at, given the  prevailing market conditions, evaluating the position and then modify the plan to suit the existing environment to overcome the hurdles and take advantage of the existing opportunities.

All the business community is being faced with similar challenges. There are people who are worse off and those who are better off. The business of sport is now very important.

This is an opportunity to reassess the business model and strategic plan of the League and clubs. The League has to be innovative, creative and has to make sacrifices just like the rest of the country.

Each club will have to review its business plan. The League stands ready to work with each club to (help) them to identify revenue opportunities and cost deficiencies; to examine the profit and loss and balance sheet items with a view to generating income and cutting expenses.

Interest in professional football and the business of football remains high, locally and internationally, as there are investors and club owners who have applied to enter the Pro League for the upcoming 2016-17 season. Our commercial portfolio of partners continues to grow as well as their individual investments.

Photo: Central FC attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra (second from right) takes on the entire Caledonia AIA defence during a 2015/16 Pro League match. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra (second from right) takes on the entire Caledonia AIA defence during a 2015/16 Pro League match.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

In difficult times, people look for cheaper entertainment alternatives and football has all the right ingredients to fulfill this requirement.

Change is a reality and even though everybody in the country has to adjust and do their part in making the required sacrifices to help the country come out to a better place. I am confident that the League can do that as we revisit our business plan.

The business model has to be adjusted; a review of capital structure has to be undertaken. One of the things I am confident in, is where people’s disposable incomes are reduced the League will become a more important part of people’s entertainment focus.

It is a challenging business environment, but I am confident with review of business and marketing  plans, and  reengineering the process with the right  focus, the League will continue to be the number one in the Caribbean and one day challenge for the CONCACAF Club Championship (title).

Photo: W Connection chairman David John Williams (left) hugs goalkeeper Julani Archibald after the 2015 Pro Bowl Cup final. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection chairman David John Williams (left) hugs goalkeeper Julani Archibald after the 2015 Pro Bowl Cup final.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Fear not, the League is here to stay. Too much has been invested in the TT Pro League over the past 12 years to give  up now. The owners have invested over TT$200 million. We will survive.

We  remain focused and understand the importance of the League to football, the youth and communities of Trinidad and Tobago. I remain convinced once the League is able to get the grounds in the communities I can guarantee the Minister, Ministry and the national community that no government funding will have to be given to any Pro League club after three years.

The TT Pro League is the vehicle for the young men who have a God given talent to play football for a living, for clubs to represent Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF Club Championship and necessary criteria if Trinidad and Tobago is to qualify for a World Cup on a regular basis.

Fear not, professional football is here to stay and will thrive. Like the Chinese, we must see this period as one filled with opportunity.

It is not unrealistic that new owners will come into the League. It is just a reality. It has happened all over the world. Clubs have fallen out of leagues in past years and others have come in.

Photo: Club Sando striker Kevon Woodley (right) and North East Stars players Keryn Navarro (left) and goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel watch an effort flash just wide during their TT Pro League clash at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 1 March 2016. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Club Sando striker Kevon Woodley (right) and North East Stars players Keryn Navarro (left) and goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel watch an effort flash just wide during their TT Pro League clash at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 1 March 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

This weekend’s Pro League fixtures

(Friday March 4)

Morvant Caledonia Utd v W Connection, 6 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;

Central FC v Defence Force, 8 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;

(Saturday March 5)

St Ann’s Rangers v Club Sando, 4 pm, Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;

San Juan Jabloteh v Point Fortin Civic, 4.30 pm, Barataria Recreation Ground;

(Sunday March 6)

North East Stars v Police FC, 4 pm, Larry Gomes Stadium.

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110 comments

  1. It cannot be that we are laying the blame at the feet of the government for sport and in particular the so called Pro League. First and foremost, a professional league is a business. As Jamaal correctly pointed out, there has to be a strategic plan both from the league and club level. Those plans must sit within a framework of the overall plan for the development of football led by the TTFA.

    With those cogent plans in place, then you can approach the government to facilitate their end of the plan as it relates to assistance in the development of facilities in conjunction with corporate Trinidad and Tobago for funding.

    I spent some time in administration of hockey at club and national level decades ago. I was able to secure sponsorship from two major brands of equipment from my then club. There are lots of opportunities to develop the business aspects of sport and I see that as the responsibility of the associations and the clubs, not the government.

    Instead, we get idiotic constitutions that debar anyone from outside of football from assuming leadership roles while in England they actually head hunted the head of a multi national business to run their FA. We are stupid and small minded beyond belief and that is why we fail.

  2. @ Jamaal & cricket grounds – land space was widely available in south & central and clubs formed by residents/villages, who in time were officially embraced by the T&T Cricket Board, with varying degrees of community, business & political assistance.

  3. Lol. Place buzzing eh? I think this period is a wake up call for the Pro League clubs. If they continue as though it was business as usual, the league will fold.
    Every game involves 36 players when you add both teams together. If each player brings a relative, a partner and a girlfriend, you have 108 people. You have regular faces at games grouped together in the same rows and you have the start of a community growing that you can build on.
    What are the clubs doing to encourage that Jamaal?
    There won’t be 10 community grounds ready by next September. You’re lucky to get any at all.
    So, the Pro League clubs have to see what they can do in the meantime to provide hope.
    What do the clubs intend to do between now and September?

  4. Hahaha go comeback and yes i was now about to talk about the men who was fighting to get in d proleague but now it is a pipe dream!! Made their football reputations in secondary football but now it have no value!! Lasana Liburd get up answer d bell!!

  5. Smoking guns pal. Men under cover. Lol…..lol.

  6. Where is Trevor and Dominic and Lasana. Where is Mango like men sleep late. I do not be on much but I have a little time . So come with it.

  7. Well said and I learned from Terry Fenwick trust me he is a warrior. Thats is why I say fight but like to you fight is a singular meaning. Like when yu hear inflation you think only of prices.
    The fight is intellectual as well as on the ground. Because the politicians have to pass sonewhere walk somewhere to get we vote.
    Secondly the man called football more prepared to cry over who getting and not getting the crumbs rather than we organize and get the cake.

  8. Jamaal Shabazz d question we must ask ourselves is how come Maple, Malvern etc
    do not even have a club house today and they were d elitist of the time of queens park getting land? It seems our demographic can not unite and organise to get things collectively!! Y it is Fenwick came closest to securing a community ground?? U saw the paperwork the intellectual labour that went into it!! Are we willing to put in that kind of intellectual work or are we only willing to physical fight for d land!! An who stone walled the process i did not c a CRICKET minister of sport!! Time to look at the man in the mirror as a ppl ask him to make that change!

  9. Hannibal Najjar

    My comment is simple – like most things that do not have a practice set up for and entrenched in long-term planning and building on that vision and incremental but continuous assessment strategies, they fail. they be crutch along but, essentially, they have failed. I believe that the men at the Pro-League administrative level are very capable people but like all things in any society that is straight-jacketed in a Third World circulatory, respiratory, nervous, and muscular system, there is no lifeline. What I cannot understand for the life of me is that, we are being asked, like Mulraine is suggesting, we are asking the “disabled” to get better able when the economic “cards” are coming down. Have we not learned from history, and here I use the dream interpreter, Joseph, when he read the Pharaoh’s dreams and told him, you are going to have 7 years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Then, Pharaoh, in his wisdom and having concern for his people in Egypt and surrounding areas, appointed Joseph to lead the harvesting and storing charge so that in lean and famine times. That is a picture-perfect scenario of like we are seeing in T&T and elsewhere are experiencing (given that we are now having to rely on oil prices that are sub $30.00 per barrel when they were well over $100.00) and what are we asking people to do – bite off and chew even less than we have had when the times were more better but still insufficient! I cannot take part in these discussion anymore – Third World and heading to, Fourth! Keith Rowley, you waited for decades for this moment and I do NOT want to here you spiel an Obama cry that what you inherited puts you in a hapless position. You have to have had a plan especially when you had seen all the signs from a good distance before the GE that you were going to assume your dream of leading T&T and the nation into calmer and more fair-playing fields. I suggested to you prior to your predicted victory that the only thing that should be focusing your efforts on is that you “put smiles on the faces of the youth and you’d give them hope in their hearts; and when you do this, you’d be giving hope to the hearts of the elderly, and thence, you’d be putting smiles on the faces of in their horizon-reaching years.” This should be your goal and, legacy; if not, GET OUT!

    • Lasana Liburd

      I am sure the financial shortage is very real and the government must be juggling limited resources. But I do agree that they cannot afford to stop spending on communities.
      I think taking some of that National Security Budget and investing wisely in sport and culture can help not only those two fields but crime and health as well.

  10. And Gordon I agree with innovative ideas like Brian Lewis’ initiative but unless you advocating we get space suits without land ala facilities we have no pathway to independence

  11. Trevor tell me how cricket get their own ? Teach me I want to be guided.

    • Jamaal. I agree with you , I have to adjust my football clinic for cricket,the community users of the park gave to adjust for cricket, the cricketers are not even from this community. On the other hand millions spent to make Avidesh Samaroo ground an exclusive cricket ground, I cannot play football their , that is why I have asked the Min of ?Sport to do an audit, he told me its underway , so I wait .
      Hundreds of footballers use the Lange Park ground but eleven cricketers were given priority.

  12. We will get our field even if we have to fight for it

  13. Never have I said the community fields is the whole solution. But nobody has told me how cricket got their grounds. What community did Queens Park interact with to get their own.
    In society the masters the have land and the slaves does have discussion about land

  14. Keep poking Gordon, some answers coming.

  15. Jamaal it is not simply giving fields to clubs but I have been asking the Ministry of Sport to do an audit of all playing fields to show the demographic use,what it is used for and also a physical characteristics re drainage ,surface type and quality.
    Until that is done community fields cannot be assigned to clubs and the community must be involved in the process .

  16. Again i am force to mention Brian Lewis TTOC president bc he came into d job with a reputation as a talk and not a doer but this ten golds project have caught fire!! Some laughed bc it seemed far fetch bc of only two gold in thirty plus years but ppl are buying in!!! It is a like program that is needed for the proleague something to capture the fire and the imagination of the nation!! In this modern time the proleague must asses and come up with creative ways to survive and sorry to say ownership of community grounds are not the whole solution just a small part!!

  17. Jamaal Shabazz again i like ur point but y is there not a Caledonia cup for youth of the community this will generate connection to the teams, when last caledonia players did an out reach in the schools of the area, we think d only way to bring the crowds is through community field and while those are important the proleague needs to form community connections!! Dominic i just used d digicel as an example to show that if d league had political will it could easily negoitate with sportmax bc there is a connection to b honest i would prefer Wi Sports cover proleague football

  18. Great chat guys. Look forward to the continuation. Do not fall asleep Jamaal, Travis, Gordon and Dominic.

  19. Dominic I know I am up early but I will await you and other responses before I go deeper.

  20. For example Santa Rosa FC is more organized than most pro league clubs and Keith Lookloy is one of the most efficient technicians I know in football. But where are the major sponsors for his club and where is his access / even control to a revenue earning facility within the community ?
    Is this due to lack of management or indifference on the part of corporate entities to support . And has the politicians helped in any way by addressing the need for facilities within the community?

  21. The community spirit and rivalry that existed back in the day in sports was not supported by proper facilities 1 and greedy unscrupulous corporate giants 2. Thus the weakest link in the chain has allowed that rivalry to play out now in gangs and we producing thugs now not players

  22. Hence my relation to the sociopolitical factors. The politicians failure to turn dilapidated fields into revenue earning facilities has stifled the potential of pro and super league teams in areas like Morvant , Arima, Grande, St Anns, SanJuan etc from the pathway to self sufficiency.

  23. Dominic its impossible to outline the strategic plan of the league on this forum but I can state one .
    The acquisition of the home grounds within the community. And I cannot speak for the league here but from successive governments they have found it more convenient to hand us a cheque every month that to keep their commitment to upgrade identified grounds within the community into revenue earning facilities.

  24. Gordon, whilst you make some excellent points, I beg to differ with you on one. Digicel is the main sponsor of the pro league and whilst they also own a channel, they are in no way obligated to broadcast the PL games – unless of course that was negotiated by the PL as a part of the sponsorship agreement. I am sure that they also paid a substantial amount for those rights as well. How was that money then spent towards developing the league? What is the PL’s strategic plan for growth? I am curious to hear from the guys in the know

  25. I agree and i have a great problem with the present govt posture!! Economic down turn first declaration cut back
    on school books, put Vat on food items, cut proleague subventions etc guess who going to b hit d hardest?? Men does go to war for posture as d old ppl used to say is not what u say but how u say it!!! So watching Eric williams govt carefully!! Feeling is Sabga govt!!! No racial overtones intented!!

  26. It difficult to just see the thing as a management problem in isolation yet I will not discount your point. However if we do not address some of the political and economic issues change of management will not be enough.

  27. Travis Mulraine Jamaal Shabazz i could c what u all are saying but we can watch a proleague for over 15 years and still no solutions it is d DIGICEL proleague and it is DIGICEL sports max and the league have no tv coverage!! Wire 868 have sponsors and the proleague website can not sustain itself!! Lets put away the victim mentality!! A team was bringing a ground to the league u know who stone walled it?? Not a man from queens park or clarke road!! Thats y i love what Brian Lewis is doing at th TTOC action action action!! Time to change d convos

  28. It lacked specific innovative ideas from the league.

  29. Well professor the reality also is that football is played by the poorer classes for the most part,throw in boxing,basketball and netball,,and you see what I coming from, but ago I don’t want to go there,cause I am a problem solver. Enough said.

  30. Well said professor ,you know I from the same School of thought,but Eric Williams didn’t right the wrongs for HIS people,but lets stick to the football cause I could go All night about PNM and what they do to our people being born and bred in laventille. The leadership of the pro league has failed its stakeholders ,ah set ah fancy talk and no action to follow. It’s not rocket science to make this thing become viable

  31. All over the Caribbean the man called football have no ground to call his own. I wonder if I could telephone Robert Mugabe to solve this land problem or should we not solve this ourselves?

  32. The football problem is deeply rooted in our political economic and social condition. Its not by guess the man called football have nothing. Same as the Mr Steelband man.

  33. Travi I not saying the League should continue blind like all is well but how come as a little thing filter down men like the want my crew to starve. I will raise up the sufferers because I aint see nobody on the chat say let’s go and get we money from Calder Hart and Ish and Steve and build the league. Lets talk solutions

  34. I won’t comment here about my good friend Skeene,I think we should talk face to face.

  35. As a little relief comes to the streets is a big thing govt this and that. I will come home and watch is a spirit of resistance needed. To get people together the Super League and Pro League must find a way. We got to put pur heads together their are too much great minds in the game to throw our hands in the air.

  36. Government Corporate TT the Clubs and the League must find a way. Self sufficiency does not fall out the sky and hit yu in your head. Horse racing get subsidized for years. And still but that is not Eric Williams children who benefitting

  37. When a man have no land and nothing to protect his land he not far from being a slave. How Queens Park get their land?
    How those cricket teams get their land? So why Eric Williams children who work the land for 400 years cannot even get a ground in the community?

  38. I still say community fields is a huge step towards clubs self sufficiency.

  39. One must research how the subvention came by.

  40. ..You get the money because you’re in the league. You’re in the league because you get the money..

  41. A few clubs run entirely on the government subvention. But many do have some sponsorship money.
    Maybe one or two could actually restructure and survive without subvention. But for most, it could be a blow that sends them right down to zonal football.

    • Sean Powder

      Lasana

      I am not sure about the structure of the league, however assuming clubs are individually owned. The league should consider the MLS single entity structure where the clubs own a stake in the league as well the individual teams. Personally, I do not like the MLS system but I believe it has worked to grow the league to stage where they can move away from the single entity.

      Secondly, I believe that our clubs should adopt the German model where clubs are owned locally by the supporters/fans via shares. An investor may hold 40-49% but majority ownership should stay with the fans to solidify attendance and sponsorship.

      Ultimately, for our 1.5 million population, an MLS single entity with a complement of German fan ownership model might be our best path.

      The press release was released, that’s all I can say for it.

      • Lasana Liburd

        Well, I know the Pro League clubs run the league and instruct the board. I do think there is some sort of shareholder agreement. I don’t think the clubs have always acted in the interest of the growth of the league.
        For instance, I think it is too difficult and expensive for new clubs to enter the league when they really need community teams. And I think the clubs together can do more to address attendances.
        I’m actually a bit encouraged that the Pro League is going to fight for its survival.

  42. The entire press release can be summarised into one short phrase. But…

  43. We the public have to make it survive by attending matches … but you the administrtors have to undersstand that one thousand people attending and paying 100. dollars dont make cents. Better 10.000 people pay 20.00 and grow the base.

  44. “The business model has to be adjusted; a review of capital structure has to be undertaken. One of the things I am confident in, is where people’s disposable incomes are reduced the League will become a more important part of people’s entertainment focus.”

    What business model is he referring to? You would swear these clubs don’t depend on a government stipend to survive reading this.

  45. ..Lemme take that back yes. “No comment”..

  46. This has me a little confused though, ” In difficult times, people look for cheaper entertainment alternatives and football has all the right ingredients to fulfill this requirement.”
    Brrr ?

  47. Hmmm…I forsee a stronger bond between ProLeague and Super League to help with it’s sustenance.

  48. Would have liked to see some specific innovative ideas coming from the league..