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Reduced prize money and shortened season, as Pro League goes back to the future

The Trinidad and Tobago Pro League will return to its original format of operating within a calendar year, after five years of aligning itself with a European-styled September to May season. This shift was made in an effort to mesh with the general FIFA calendar and attract foreign transfer opportunities for the players of respective clubs.

The announcement was made this afternoon as the Digicel TT Pro League formally announced the launch of its 2016/17 Season at the Digicel Hospitality Box in the Queen’s Park Oval.

Photo: Central FC forward Jason Marcano (centre) is dragged to the ground by his teammates after his opening goal against North East Stars at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella on 8 May 2016. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC forward Jason Marcano (centre) is dragged to the ground by his teammates after his opening goal against North East Stars at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella on 8 May 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

This marks the 15th year that the Pro League, T&T’s highest club football competition, will be taking to fields across the nation—although professional football started three years earlier with the now defunct Professional Football League (PFL).

The 2016/17 season will kick off with a double header at Mahaica Oval on Friday 30 September with Club Sando tackling CFU Club Championship qualifiers San Juan Jabloteh at 5pm. Hosts Point Fortin Civic FC battle Morvant Caledonia United in the later fixture from 7.30pm.

A shortened format is on the cards for 2016/17, as teams will face each other in only two rounds of league action and two knockout tournaments from September 2016 to February 2017.

According to TT Pro League CEO, Dexter Skeene, the league then restarts in 2017 with an April to December schedule, which should take advantage of financial and competitive opportunities.

Skeene said he was proud of the Pro League’s resilience and willingness to adapt to survive in these trying economic times:

Photo: Defence Force attacker Hashim Arcia (centre) runs at W Connection defender Jelani Peters during the Digicel Pro Bowl final at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 27 May 2016. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Defence Force attacker Hashim Arcia (centre) runs at W Connection defender Jelani Peters during the Digicel Pro Bowl final at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 27 May 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Brand extensions, like the Friday Night Limes and Family Fun Sundays will highlight our exciting game day activities. The clubs have come together to strategize and execute the marketing of the Digicel Pro League competition… with a marketing committee headed by Mr Darryl Mahabir [Ma Pau Stars CEO] and this augers well for the League and our motto: One People, One Vision, One Culture, Striving for Excellence.

A family-friendly atmosphere, children-geared events and interactive fan games are some of the offerings for the upcoming season, coupled with an effort to structure the weekly match days into double-header outings which highlight the host teams.

This, according to Skeene, would be the first significant step in bringing professional football back to the communities:

This year, the owners, clubs and coaches are united in taking the games to the communities. We continue to challenge ourselves to re-examine every year, the prevailing circumstances and economic conditions to apply the strategies necessary to become profitable.

The minister, the ministry, SPORTT and local government have been in discussions and are willing to work together to upgrade football-friendly facilities to enhance the League’s attendance and build the fan bases of the clubs and thereby [provide] the tools necessary to become self sufficient and viable.

Photo: San Juan Jabloteh winger Nathan Lewis (left) tries to evade St Ann's Rangers defender Shakiyl Phillip during Pro League action at the Barataria Recreation Ground on 2 April 2016. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)
Photo: San Juan Jabloteh winger Nathan Lewis (left) tries to evade St Ann’s Rangers defender Shakiyl Phillip during Pro League action at the Barataria Recreation Ground on 2 April 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

Mahaica Oval (Point Fortin), Irwin Park (Siparia), Barataria Recreation Ground, Defence Force Headquarters Field (Chagaramas), Park Street Recreation Ground (Morvant) and Sangre Grande Recreation Ground have all been earmarked as potential venues for the 2016/17 season.

Sport Minister Darryl Smith, a former national footballer, hinted at plans in the 2016 budget to fully restore the recreation grounds at Park Street (Morvant), Diego Martin, Hague Street (Carenage) as well as other grounds to assist in the development of grassroots football.

Smith also teased that the Ministry was exploring the possibility of installing astro turf surfaces at specific grounds, which would provide an easily maintainable playing surface for everyday use as well as for the benefit of the respective football and cricket teams.

He noted too that the proper fencing of the grounds, so as to enable clubs to generate gate revenue, was another area he would address.

Smith insisted that, despite previous suggestions to the contrary, the TT Pro League and football were priorities that were close to his heart. For the 2016/17 season, at least, the financial subvention would remain at the original level with clubs receiving TT$50,000 per month from the Ministry of Sport.

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)

“You have the commitment from me and from the government to work with you all [the League] with regards to the grassroots level,” said Smith. “At no time have we ever said that we are not going to support the league. We understand the importance of the work you all do. It’s just that everybody has to feel the pinch.

“We have gone back to the original figure that it was and we will continue with that this year and we will come together at the end of next year and see how we can move forward.”

Smith’s announcement was met with grateful applause, although the TT Pro League’s main sponsor, Digicel, disappointed the audience. Digicel’s head of marketing, Lori-Ann Glasgow, announced that the 2016/17 Pro League winner will be awarded TT$100,000, which is a significant drop from the TT$1 million prize money offered for the three previous seasons.

Central FC picked up two million dollar bounties while DIRECTV W Connection won once.

Carlos Edwards, former Trinidad and Tobago World Cup 2006 stand out and new Ma Pau Stars signing, insisted that the newly branded team was anxious to win the competition regardless:

First and foremost our aim is to win the league. We don’t want to just make up numbers. We do have a good squad and good people around us. We go with one aim. To win the league. If you don’t want to win, then you shouldn’t be anywhere near a football team or around sport.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Carlos Edwards in action during his professional career in Britain.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Carlos Edwards in action during his professional career in Britain.

Edwards represented Defence Force in the inaugural Pro League season but has not played since, as he migrated to play professionally in Britain and, at one point, for England Premier League club, Sunderland. Now, he hopes to help restore the League to its former stature.

“I think it’s about time I came back and helped the younger guys and try to put the Pro League back on the map,” said Edwards. “It was an easy decision to come to Ma Pau as well. You look at the facilitating of the staff with the likes of [coach] Ross Russell and [manager] Kevin Jeffrey. I know them inside out and they know what they are about so my loyalty [went] towards them.”

TT Pro League fixtures

(Friday 30 September)

Club Sando vs San Juan Jabloteh, 5pm, Mahaica Oval;

Point Fortin Civic FC vs Morvant Caledonia, 7.30pm, Mahaica Oval;

(Sunday 2 October)

Defence Force vs St Ann’s Rangers, 3.30pm, Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar;

Photo: Morvant Caledonia United Akim Armstrong (left) and Point Fortin Civic midfielder Kelvin Modeste during Lucozade Sport Goal Shield qualifying action on 5 April 2016 at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/CA-images/Wired868)
Photo: Morvant Caledonia United Akim Armstrong (left) and Point Fortin Civic midfielder Kelvin Modeste during Lucozade Sport Goal Shield qualifying action on 5 April 2016 at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/CA-images/Wired868)

(Tuesday 4 October)

Ma Pau Stars vs Police FC, 6pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;

Central FC vs W Connection, 8pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium.

About Amiel Mohammed

Amiel Mohammed
Amiel Mohammed is a sports enthusiast and has worked in communications for Central FC and the Women's Premier League TT. He has also pioneered numerous projects geared towards creating opportunities for the differently abled such as the Differently-Abled Football Camp 2015 and Focus Football Coaching Academy.

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147 comments

  1. Regarding venues, Devon London, firstly, players and coaches would infinitely prefer to play in stadiums as the pitches are of very good standard. However, as the clubs wish to increase attendances they will sacrifice good surfaces for the sake of accessibility. While the venues you mention may be better located, there are various standards to be achieved such as crowd safety, bathroom facilities as well as income collection. Ojoe Road is good as it has a mostly secure perimeter, space for additional bathrooms and plenty of space should crowds need to be evacuated away from an area. I can’t argue against all of the venues you mentioned as I have not inspected all, but each club has nominated fields it would like to use and those are being assessed. Another part of the concept is that the Friday night games should be played in the same venue for two or three weeks. Aside from helping logistically, it is hoped that each week, the crowds are bigger. Also, it creates anticipation for those in other areas, so when Friday night football comes to your region, interest will be high. Remember, this is a response to the many cries for football in the community. It is an experiment and like all experiments there will be expected, unexpected and unforeseen results. I think 500 people in a tight space creates a good atmosphere, so aside from the unforeseen light failure, I feel it was a good start.

  2. Jomo I. Johnson, the Pro League confirmed the venue switch today:

    (Sunday 2 October)

    Defence Force vs St Ann’s Rangers, 3.30pm, Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar;

    (Tuesday 4 October)

    Ma Pau Stars vs Police FC, 6pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;

    Central FC vs W Connection, 8pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium.

  3. Fixture Change!

    (Sunday 2 October)

    Defence Force vs St Ann’s Rangers, 3.30pm, Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar;

    (Tuesday 4 October)

    Ma Pau Stars vs Police FC, 6pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;

    Central FC vs W Connection, 8pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium.

  4. Lasana Liburd I’m seeing elsewhere that the police vs ma pau game will be played in Larry Gomes but ur article has ato boldon.

  5. Error …Directv W.connection fc won the first Million Dollar prize money in the Pro Ttpro League …thnks know it has been difficult to highlight lol

  6. ..Yes. State funds continue to be wasted and pillaged with no regard for the general population..

  7. ..No idea what it entails but good for them. That said, clubs need to bring sponsorship monies in and the State needs to stop bank rolling the TTPL – particularly when the general population is increasingly under economic and financial pressure and we about to be hit in the gut with another austerity budget..

  8. ..But, to be fair, congratulations to Central FC on their new sponsorship deal. THAT is the way it should be done…

  9. ..Back to the future OR Same old, same old X.0. You get State money because you in the league. You in the league because you get State money. Nutten new there..

  10. After Christmas is not a good time to out of a salary, especially until April

  11. Do the players get paid from December to April?

  12. Those 2 periods can’t be the schedule, because they clash. September to February, April to December schedule

  13. More football and less prize money…wondering how clubs going to adapt to just 2 months rest before going again. That’s extra cost on them again…would love to see how they sustain

  14. Last 3 years I hearing about, Friday Night Limes and Family Fun Sunday’s, but the crowds ain’t growing.

    Lasana you have a template for that in your articles ? Lol

    • Yeah. I remember them serving doubles on Friday evening. It didn’t last long. Hopefully they give it a longer try this time.

    • Lol. Doubles eh attract nobody na.

      Let’s see how the community grounds work

    • As racist as this may sound….they need to use that Friday night Lime & Sunday to get the mixed, east indian and white population to buy in! My take…. a generational plan using school populations, with some community mobilization. Pro League support needs to look like national football games!

    • Wooossaaa….this should be interested…go ahead dey Nicholas Lochan

    • Lemme hear more about how you would accomplish that Nicholas…

    • IMO it has to be a two tiered approach; 1. Ownership/Special VIP treatment feeling for new companies/owners to buy in & be involved. Arima Race Club has a special level where race horse owners sit in the same old chairs, pay fees etc but feel exclusive to the common man with their own floor where they alone mingle with a few promos, special parking etc.

    • the 2. is the Club Structure and SSFL. I have worked long enough to see football talent isn’t race based. Pro League clubs need better restructuring with the SSFL and community clubs to provide as wide a platform of interest from primary school, secondary right up to pro, while marketing this appeal to immediate circles of these players. May seem small but 1,000 individual players, with a circle support of 10 persons is 10,000. Over 10 years, it’s 100,000

    • I’ve seen something like this in cricket. Where communities, other players and friends come out to see a player. Even a school player. May not be regular but it’s certainly something to understudy and maybe applicable. Even SSFL has some ‘stars’ but most disappear along with their school fan club at some point.

    • I think it will be extremely difficult Nicholas. First, the Pro League doesn’t attract middle class families because it doesn’t offer a proper living wage for their children who have the option of a full or partial scholarship.
      Second, they have way more entertainment options whether you get them a box or not.
      In terms of the race structure, I think if you look at the number of Indo players at SSFL level then the Pro League is not really underrepresented there. Not by much at least.
      It’s fine to have the ambition of growing. But I don’t see anything that will make any real impact in those areas over the next five years, apart from following the MLS model.

    • And the MLS model is import the players you are not producing who you think will appeal to that community you are trying to reach.
      It can be done affordably once you can house them. There would even be young British players who would give you a six month loan deal to get some experience once you can take care of them.

    • I agree but I don’t see it surviving otherwise. When I mean race base… I wasn’t specific to all races as players, but as supporters. I was looking at how East Indians will support Bravo, Pollard etc. We even do it for national players, even SSFL, but when it comes to Pro League….its a different story. Not even one game!

    • Bravo, Pollard and so on are global stars though. Just like people from all races would support Drogba or Pogba. They just need to see something that they appreciate or identify with.

    • Guys…this pic is in reference to my point 2! A market which Pro Clubs need to attract to build support in addition to the community and the circle of friends SSFL players can bring over a generation.

    • Apart from the enthusiasm of the crowd which far surpassed anything at pro league level, the attendance itself is not bigger than a significant pro league cup final. It just seems that way because of the venue.
      When Terry Fenwick and Stuart Charles were going at it, the Central v Connection derby got crowds that matched this or maybe surpassed it. Or when the league had Nixon or Dwarika. Or quality Brazilians like Goulart.

    • Nicholas I honestly don’t believe that circle of friends is going to carry over as much to really boost a crowd na.
      Extramural sport will always have the craze. They’re still kids, school days mean a lot more to them than the actual sport. When they get grown and real life hits them…it’ll be a whole different story, lol.

      I get where you’re coming from but can’t see that one happening.

    • Yes Kirwin…it’s the best start I see to awake dormant communities. Filtering it into community activity and alignment is the only way I see the League’s support base seriously growing. And Lasana Liburd you are very correct with the early Pro League days. I was a boy but I remember large crowds coming to see players like Velox, Elva, Jean, Glenn and Norray

    • Btw, about a third of the crowd was barely watching the game. It was a lime for the kids. Probably the cool place to be. And there might not have been that many options. School football or homework. Lol.

    • Anybody ever check out the oval football scene on a Friday? It attracts a high turnout of upper and middle class crowds. It’s a great place for kids to hang out and there’s also food and drinks on sale. All in all its a real cool lime. Although to be honest for most people the football is an aside. I was just wondering if there could be some aspects or ideas from the oval football league that could be taken away to help boost community games.

    • Rose-Marie I think people will come out to community games if they are very accessible and safe. Refreshments for sale at affordable prices will help. A little comfort as in a seat helps.
      Many of those school children will NOT follow their team for away games.
      People always pretend that accessibility doesn’t matter. But it does.

    • True accessibility and safety to a greater extent. I feel comfortable letting my children roam around the grounds liming with their own friends. There’s great visible security.

  15. If I can be permitted to ask a few questions :

    September 2016 to February 2017, April to December schedule,

    Which would be the annual schedule?

    Does this mean that players who do not contract outside, will have no job for the off times?

    How does playing April to December help get contacts outside except in the MLS?

    The subvention is $50,000, and the prize is $100,000??

  16. Interesting. With restoration of funding levels, looking forward to hearing central government budget allocations for sport and other ministries. Also, did Kevin Jeffrey change clubs?