Home / Volley / Local Football / Hasely Crawford lights back for Commonwealth Games trials but concerns about Govt priorities

Hasely Crawford lights back for Commonwealth Games trials but concerns about Govt priorities

The lighting issues at the Hasely Crawford Stadium (HCS) country’s major stadium are expected to be resolved in time for the Carifta Games trials, scheduled to commence on 3 March. In fact, the country’s major stadium should be back to full functionality by the end of February.

This is the word coming from a booking clerk attached to the HCS.

“Repairs to the lights at the stadium will take at least three weeks,” the clerk said, explaining that works have been stalled somewhat because a fuse needed for the repair process to be completed has to be imported. “The lights should be up and ready for Carifta [trials] and the Sagicor National Championships.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprint star Richard “Torpedo” Thompson poses next to the clock after his title-winning 100-metre performance at the 2016 NAAA Championships at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Wired868 had been reliably informed that the lighting issues would have been resolved this week, with the venue set to host marquee Carnival events such as “Machel Monday” and the International Soca Monarch competition on 5 and 9 February respectively.

Workmen handling the lighting repairs at the HCS will have it all to do to get the venue back to 100% functionality—or as near as possible to that—when the National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad and Tobago (NAAATT) holds its trials for the Commonwealth Games on 17 and 18 February. The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) must submit its final list of athletes for the Commonwealth Games on 6 March and the NAAATT will certainly want that event to go off without a hitch.

That was not the case last year during the recently concluded Russia 2018 World Cup campaign. Then, the 22,000 capacity HCS venue was unable to host this country’s last two home qualifiers against Honduras and the USA.

Explaining the genesis of the problem at the HCS, a Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) employee—Wired868 will refer to him as GN—had this to say:

“The problem is the electricity, not the lights. They have been down since August when the transformer blew but we expect them to be back up soon.”

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 Team trains at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 9 January 2018.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Prior to two World Cup qualifiers in November 2015 and March 2016, the HCS suffered two power outages. And in January last year, there was also an outage in the dying moments of a TT Pro League match between Club Sando and W Connection.

The facility has remained largely unused for the past several months and the burden of hosting the just completed CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 World Cup qualifying tournament fell squarely on the Ato Boldon Stadium (ABS) in Couva.

Fortunately for the organisers, the weather was kind and the 16-matches-in-11-days tournament went off without a hitch. But the ABS too has had its problems, one of the light towers there having given up the ghost during Trinidad and Tobago’s Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier against Honduras in September last year.

For a couple years, sportsmen and women simply have not seen the light at the Larry Gomes in Malabar and the Mannie Ramjohn in Marabella, which certainly limits their ability to host events such as the just concluded CONCACAF tournament.

Trying to remain optimistic, GN suggested that SPORTT should be able to commence works on the Larry Gomes and Mannie Ramjohn facilities once the budget for the 2019 fiscal year is revealed by the Government later this year. However, he also noted that October is a busy period for the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) and he was doubtful that any major repair works would be possible at those two venues at that time.

Photo: Shiva Boys HC attacker Junior Asson (left) tries to escape from Naparima College defender and captain Rondell Payne during the Coca-Cola South Zone Intercol final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.
Shiva Boys won 2-0.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Speaking on condition of anonymity, GN said that it is the HCS’ north towers that need attention but the south towers at the Stadium are working perfectly well. However, neither GN nor the booking clerk was willing to offer an estimate of the cost of the lighting repairs at the HCS. And Wired868’s efforts to reach HCS facility manager Stephen Spence for a comment bore no fruit.

However, a former SPORTT employee—who might be referred to as Fabian—suggested that it would cost just over TT$1M to remedy the lighting issues at Larry Gomes and Mannie Ramjohn. He was, however, unable to tell Wired868 the estimated cost of the repairs to the towers at HCS necessary to get the facility again back up to international standard.

Asked to explain the cause of the recurrent problems at the national stadia over the past several months, Fabian pointed the finger directly at Government. The money for ensuring proper lighting at the different national stadia, he explained, comes under SPORTT’s recurrent expenditure budgetary head, which also covers general maintenance and upkeep of facilities, provision of office supplies, payments to athletes and payment of salaries of employees.

According to Fabian, the GoRTT allocation to the organisation is being cut every year. That means that SPORTT is being asked to make a woefully inadequate sum of money stretch to impossible lengths.

Photo: QPCC midfielder Logan Maingot (right) runs at the San Juan Jabloteh defence during the RBNYL Under-11 final at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 1 July 2017.
QPCC won 5-4 via kicks from the penalty spot.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

“There is no way you can get 40% of the allocation you requested,” he noted, “and maintain an international level. The number of facilities is increasing but the allocation is going down. […]

“When you build these international stadia, you have to understand that the cost doesn’t end there.”

The business model currently being used by SPORTT, he pointed out, is not really workable—“disastrous,” he said—and certainly not sustainable.

“Lots of sporting clubs want to use the [national stadia],” he told Wired868. “However, when approached to work out a method of payment, they don’t want to pay.”

And there is little or no reduction in expenses.

“Facilities are getting wear and tear and no revenue is coming in from sporting clubs and facilities,” he continued, identifying the Pro League and athletic clubs as getting a “free pass” in so far as the use of the national stadia is concerned.

Repeating that SPORTT’s government allocation continues to diminish every year, he noted that the organisation has no serious, sustainable, year-round revenue streams to supplement the funds it receives from Government; clubs and other sporting organisations are not required to pay for the use of the national stadia—whether it be for practice or for some other event.

Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (centre) and Minister of Public Utilities Fitzgerald Hinds (second from right) meet players from Morvant Caledonia United before kick-off against W Connection at the Hasely Crawford Stadium training ground on 20 January 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

With no World Cup qualifiers on the horizon and all Carnival events soon out of the way, he wonders for how much longer the GoRTT can be expected to shoulder the financial responsibility for freeloaders.

If he had his way, Fabian revealed, Pro League clubs in particular—and sporting clubs in general—would be required to take care of their internal expenses and not be able simply to look to Government for monthly subventions.

Late last year, that stance was largely endorsed by Pro League coaches Angus Eve, Earl Jean, Keith Jeffrey and Derek King when the quartet spoke to Wired868 about the daunting financial problems facing the local professional league. 

And bad as the money problems are, the personnel problem seems likely to make things worse. SPORTT has been leaking expertise in recent months, a mass exodus still taking place. To ring in the New Year, seven employees—including four from the Projects Department—were told that their contracts would not be renewed while an additional seven were told they were surplus to requirements last month.

Before that, former CEO Adam Montserin, Anthony Blake (facility manager), Jeewan Kowlessar (internal auditor) and Mellie Price (project administrator) were last year among several more persons relieved of their responsibilities.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago left-back Kevon Villaroel (left) tackles USA midfielder Christian Pulisic during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 10 October 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Luis Acosta)

Meinolf Meier, an engineer who owns the German company Agentur M which specializes in the installation of sport surfaces, is certain that the multiple firings are bound to be bad for the company and, by extension, for the country. Meier told Wired868 that a harmonious relationship between a country’s fixed assets—sports facilities and grounds—and its mobile assets—athletes and administrators—is essential for a sports community to flourish,

“When I am on site, I am nothing without these people […],” Meier said. “If you treat people badly, they will not do a good job.”

He insists that, with all the chopping and changing at the state body, one cannot expect any real stability and proper maintenance inevitably suffers.

Meier knows something about the subject. Through 2014-2016, he has provided consultancy services at several of the stadia in Trinidad and overseen the installation of a FIBA certified mobile basketball court in Shaw Park, Tobago. He has also worked in tandem with Trevor Hewitt’s Advanced Professional Technologies (APT) company in overseeing the installation of the drainage systems and the resurfacing of the synthetic running tracks at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar and the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Photo: Prime Minister Keith Rowley (centre) is introduced to former Brazil World Cup captain Cafu (second from left) and Jamaica World Cup player Ricardo Gardner (left) before an exhibition match at Soogrim Trace Grounds, Laventille on 31 July 2017.
At right is TTFA president David John-Williams.
(Courtesy Matthew Lee Kong/CA-images/Wired868)

The resurfacing of the ABS track was also included in the package. But, despite promises made by Sport and Youth Affairs Minister Darryl Smith to have repair work on the track carried out in 2017, Wired868 understands that money woes have at best postponed, at worst completely scuttled all plans for any such upgrade.

Meier, who claims that APT still owes him just under TT$300,000 for installation works he carried out on the HCS training track in November 2016, is of the view that the current general level of sport maintenance in the country is nowhere near satisfactory.

“Maintenance for a grand stand is different from maintenance for sports surfaces,” he said, citing first-hand knowledge of the sorry state of the HCS track after Carnival events. “I cannot do construction on grand stand; my [expertise] is sport surfaces.”

“When we did the installation [at the Larry Gomes Stadium] in Malabar, I was told there was maintenance for cleaning the stands but there was no maintenance for sport surfaces.”

And stepping away briefly from his area of expertise, Meier wondered about Government’s financial priorities.

Photo: Prime Minister Keith Rowley (centre) greets SPORTT chairman Dinanath Ramnarine (left) while Sport Minister Darryl Smith (right) looks on during the opening of the Brian Lara Cricket Stadium in Tarouba on 12 May 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“I have seldom seen a country in the world where money is burned like this,” said Meier. “When I see big stadia going up and I cannot be paid, I am going mad […]. Why do you need this big new stadium in Diego Martin?”

Unable to shed any light on that issue, Wired868 was merely able to assure that the activity at the HCS and all the other stadia will be continuously monitored. The hope is that the nation’s sportsmen and sportswomen will soon once again hear those magical words “Lights, camera, action!”

About Roneil Walcott

Roneil Walcott
Roneil Walcott is an avid sports fan and freelance reporter with a BA in Mass Communication from COSTAATT. Roneil is a former Harvard and St Mary's College cricketer who once had lofty aspirations of bringing joy to sport fans with the West Indies team. Now, his mission is to keep them on the edge of their seats with sharp commentary from off the playing field.

Check Also

‘Dinas’ sacked as SPORTT chairman; Camacho ready to “put sport back on a proper footing”

Dinanath Ramnarine was dismissed as Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) today, after a …

56 comments

  1. Tony Maxwell Hatt: “The Zenith Athletic Club says that due to the unavailability of the Dwight Yorke Stadium the 2018 edition of Zenith Relays originally scheduled for May 6th 2018 has been cancelled.
    Also, Southern Games which were originally scheduled to take place on March 18 2018 has been cancelled.
    The Secondary Schools Track & Field track meet scheduled for tommorow and Friday has been postponed.
    This is sad news for athletes preparing for the CARIFTA Games and other meets.”

    • Disappointingly, stadiums are built in Trinidad and Tobago without long-term maintenance management and control provision. The Ministry of Sports and Youth Affair appears to be a means for photo opportunities, not the development of our youths, juniors, seniors and professional sportsmen and women. Daryl Smith and his Permanent Secretary must be removed. The NAAA TT, SporTT, and TTOC, along with a reorganized Ministry of Sport, must assure that our sporting facilities are at international standards at all times. Finally, the people of Trinidad and Tobago must demand an in-depth financial audit of the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs.

    • What de heck??? Just so. I didn’t realize southern games got cancelled too. I only heard about the secondary school meet being postponed yesterday.

    • So Tony the southern games heats appear to be on for Sunday. At least there’s a meet in Sunday at MRS. Not sure if it’s southern games heats if the actual games cancelled?

  2. Stadiums and sport structures are built to garner popularity and votes for the Governments.
    There are no susession plan or budgets for maintenance.
    When the next elections are called the Governments will rush to do cosmetic makeovers.
    We don’t have Long Term Planning.

  3. Diversification for revenue generation, education, health, infrastructure and transport and safety and security are the priorities. Included in diversification is sports tourism which previous factored in when they built the aquacentre and cycling velodrome at Couva as well as the Tennis Centre at Tacariagia. Albeit some of the other stadia were neglected however the MSY and SPORTT comp. needs to account for revenue generated through rental of stadiums even Car parks for events.

  4. Maybe we could hold our sports meetings at the Port of Spain General Hospital. ..It “enjoys” the same level of care and maintenance. And we could use the savings to support Darryl’s “from the bottoms up/first ” approach

  5. Bottom Line: Machel Monday currently paying for stadium repairs.

  6. Fix Irwin park siparia ground its a beach only sand

  7. We are blinded by politics and political parties. These same administrations wash the money. While their country is shuffled by their own hands, too many friends and friendship in governing this country. High time some one is held accountable to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. I don’t mean the small man but all the investors and politicians that gets fat off tax payers monies, taking what they did not work for. Lets wake up and be true to ourselves PNM, UNC etc. No body cares about us. Take back our country, we are the government in a democratic country

  8. I find it some what difficult to appreciate the comment of the German engineer. “ I have seldom seen a country in the world….etc why do you need this big new stadium in Diego Martin” Take for example World Cup run by FIFA. Many state of the art stadia are built by countries in which competitions and are later laid waste by the passage of time due to non-utilization or underutilization. Brazil is a good recent example. At least one stadium used at last world is being used as a car park. No hue and cry here. History is replete with examples where Olympics stadia suffer the same death. No hue and cry there.

    • So your view is that the T&T govt should be free to use money in frivolous manner without comment because some wealthier nations than us do so?
      Do I understand that correctly? Lol.
      Btw, I assure you that Germany’s stadia are not white elephants and get regular use.

    • Lasana Liburd who determines “frivolity” of the manner in which money is spent? You? I believe the government has its priorities whether we like it or not. Remember that the are the government of the people not only of a scattered few.

      • Earl Best

        How careless can you get, Reynold! Surely you mean that they are supposed to be “the government of the people not only of a scattered few.”
        Methinks the jury is still out on whether or not they indeed are and responsible people should not attempt to beg the question or take anything for granted.

    • Once again, our local journalists engage in conformation bias where they find some schmuck, usually foreign, to voice the opinion they have and make an article from it.
      Exactly where is this “big stadium ” in Diego Martin? I thought that this was the completion of a proper sporting facility which is over 5 years late. This is supposed to serve the wider Diego Martin community and even be shared by clubs. What would you prefer? That we leave it unfinished and then the cry would be that the Government doesn’t care about sport and youth development

    • Reynold and Roger, the story answers both questions in terms of who felt it was frivolous and how many people did.
      What’s the point trying to have a debate if you two didn’t read or can’t understand what you read?
      Later…

    • Its’s strange that two of us can’t understand and you could and some how that makes you right.

    • Many people understand very well. You think you two are the majority?

    • Lasana Liburd not all. Where is the empirical?

    • If you think this story has anything to do with me and my opinion, then I just have to assume you didn’t read it or didn’t understand it.

  9. Kenneth H. Ransome Jr. don’t cuss when yuh reading this eh!

  10. How much fetes and concerts take place at the HC?..where is the rental money going?!?!?

  11. Corruption by any name is still the same, UNC,, PNM, and it really have stupid people yes, a swimming pool in laventille, and it have people bathing in pot hole,, oh gorm all yuh wake up nuh

  12. This is ridiculous…..steups…these are our so called leaders decisions….build another of these stadia for it to also be another white elephant.. what is wrong with these people. …ooh I got it kickbacks.. . See why we can’t progress as a nation…

  13. Trying to remain optimistic, GN suggested that SPORTT should be able to commence works on the Larry Gomes and Mannie Ramjohn facilities once the budget for the 2019 fiscal year is revealed by the Government later this year.

    Lol…lol.. 2019 budget… lol

  14. “I have seldom seen a country in the world where money is burned like this,” said Meier. “When I see big stadia going up and I cannot be paid, I am going mad […]. Why do you need this big new stadium in Diego Martin?”

    Because thats how KICKBACKS occur

  15. German music producer. “Trinis are not responsible.”

  16. We have been saying this awhile now, I wonder if they will listen, as it’s been spoken by a Foreigner!

  17. Earl Best

    I really am not sure that we know what the govt’s priorities are, at least, not from this story. The priorities reflected in this story are those of just THREE members of the govt, the Sport Minister, the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister.
    And I’d be interested in a response from anyone who disputes that.

  18. it have clubs and then it have “clubs”
    ALLLL of sport in T&T relies nearly 99% on transfers and subsidies to stay solvent.
    the few exceptions are TTCB cricket, NAAA Athletics and TTFA senior men’s national team.
    EVERYTHING ELSE relies 100% on GOTT.
    Is that a sustainable business model?
    Lemme ask yuh this:
    How can you ever call yuhself ah big man if yuh still getting an allowance from mammy and daddy?

  19. ..“Facilities are getting wear and tear and no revenue is coming in from sporting clubs and facilities,” he continued, identifying the Pro League and athletic clubs as getting a “free pass” in so far as the use of the national stadia is concerned.”..

    “Free pass”? Super League clubs PAY to use these facilities. GOOD money too.