Speyside High School, one of two Tobago schools in the Premier Division of the Secondary Schools Football League this year, has plans to bring at least one national title back to the sister isle.
But travelling between the islands is a problem that can potentially put paid to those plans, money for travelling between the two islands, to be more precise. According to Speyside coach Kerry Lynch, funding from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has yet to be approved for the team to travel to Trinidad during the current season.
“I calculated [the cost],” he told Wired868 last week. “It’s $40,000 to go down to Trinidad seven times. The SSFL informed me that I have to submit our budgets for the plane tickets, the times and how much (sic) persons so I already have a letter drafted; it’s just to drop it in [to the THA] now.”
Speyside is not alone in its woes but at least it has some breathing space. Fellow Tobago Premiership participant Signal Hill Secondary, proud winners of six national titles, are in the same boat. Unlike Speyside, however, they were bound for Trinidad in round one and came away with one point from their game against Trinity College East.
Speyside, in contrast, had a full week before they travel to Trinidad for the first time for this season—their assignment a tough one against the other Trinity College in lonely Moka. In the first round, they had what proved to be a not-too-tricky assignment at home to the Nigel Grosvenor-coached Queen’s Royal College, as they won 2-0.
Grosvenor, who led St Anthony’s College to five of their six national championships, told Wired868 that he and his new charges have had no issues making the trip across the Gulf. And he implied that suggesting that you might get money from the League before the start of the season was macaroni-pie-in-the-sky talk.
“The thing is you don’t get that money one time,” said Grosvenor. “You put out the money and then you get it back. That is how it works.
“The onus is on them if they want to play in the Premier Division or not. It’s only so much the League will help them out with and they would have to find the funds for the rest.”
The Signal Hill authorities seem to have got the same memo as Grovesnor. Manager Quasi Duke told Wired868 that their travelling expenses were already accounted for and, in fact, they purchased tickets for all their trips to Trinidad last Wednesday.
“I’ve now got tickets for the entire season,” said Duke. “My thing was more urgent because we [had to travel to Trinidad for our opening game] on Saturday.”
Signal Hill coach Nigel De Souza confirmed that there was no money problem although, when they first approached the THA—as Duke revealed—they were told that there was no money allocated for that purpose.
“When the initial talks started, they said that they don’t have money to give the Tobago teams to go to Trinidad and play football,” said De Souza. “They were saying that they don’t have money. It’s a reflection of what is taking place right now.”
“But as of now, we have the funds to [travel].”
For Speyside and Lynch, there is no such peace of mind as the negotiation process is still ongoing. But Lynch hastened to point out that the real issue was not simply not having enough money to travel but the myriad inconveniences that come with not receiving funds up front.
“It is imperative that we get the assistance and the approval very early,” he insisted. “Year before last year, there were times when we overnight in the airport, reaching in 2 ‘o’ clock in the morning on the last flight and guys have to leave from the airport and reach quite Charlotteville because Speyside is up in the East.”
Wired868 was informed that, since the SSFL’s Premier League was established in 2014, the administration and the THA have both struggled with the logistics of getting Tobago teams across the seas. As a result, there were no Tobago teams in the first year as no one was certain about how the travel bills would be paid and no one wanted to run the risk of finding himself saddled with a huge debt.
Which explains why the Speyside authorities are so insistent that a THA intervention is absolutely vital. Up to Thursday, they had had no word from the THA and Wired868’s efforts to contact Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles or members of the SSFL Executive yielded no fruit.
Lynch, however, remains optimistic that they will receive the funds this week, before they leave for their Trinity challenge. Pointing out that Signal Hill had had “no trouble getting through with their tickets,” he expressed the hope that the same will prove true for his school.
“I believe we will get the tickets,” he confided to Wired868 last week, “at some time during the course of the week.”
The coach stopped short of saying so in words but his optimism is not limited to what will happen with funding. He made it clear that, whether or not there are issues with getting his team to and from Trinidad, on the field at least they will ensure that, for Speyside, things go swimmingly.