Former Pro League chairman Sam Phillip said a disappointing meeting with the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) earlier this week was the final straw in his decision to quit the football post.
Nine months ago, the Pro League submitted to SPORTT a proposal regarding the government subvention for clubs—which fell from TT$80,000 to TT$50,000 to potentially zero—and access to community fields. However, according to Phillip, SPORTT officials informed the League that the document never reached Cabinet and invited the local football body to re-submit a proposal
Phillip stressed that he bore no ill-will towards SPORTT or the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs. But he decided there and then that it was time to part ways with the Pro League.
“If the only thing you can report to your Board is negative, then the only thing left to do is resign,” Phillip said. “We are [still] eternally grateful to the Ministry of Sport [and Youth Affairs] and the Sport Company for all the assistance we have received over the years.
“[…] Now that [Pro League CEO] Dexter [Skeene] is going, it is time for me to go as well.”
Dexter Skeene quit as Pro League CEO on 2 March after 14 years in the post; six days later, Phillip opted to follow him.
A former Trinidad and Tobago national football team manager and current Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) executive, Phillip only became Pro League chairman in June 2017 when then chairman Larry Romany—the former Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president—quit suddenly.
Then the Pro League’s deputy chairman, Phillip was elevated—temporarily, according to the initial plan—to the vacant post. The Board decided to leave him in the post but he has now had enough of the job.
Like Skeene, Phillip said he remains ready, once called upon, to serve local football and the Pro League in an unofficial capacity. At present, however, he wants to devote more time to his family.
“I have resigned from certain positions but I am not totally out of football,” said Phillip. “I do not serve football to see what I could get. I serve football to see what I could give.
“[…] Now, I will be able to give more time to the office [of the TTCB] and my family. I have two girls and now I have a grandson who is very dear to me.”
So what now for the Pro League?
St Ann’s Rangers owner Richard Fakoory, Morvant Caledonia United boss Jamaal Shabazz and outgoing CEO Skeene all declined comment. Fakoory pointed out that the Pro League Board meets again on 14 March and should plan its next step then.
However, San Juan Jabloteh chairman Jerry Hospedales insisted that the Pro League will survive the current turbulence.
“If you leave your occupation, would the organisation crash?” Hospedales asked rhetorically. “No, it will not crash once the proper structures are in place. As I said before, the Pro League will continue; it plays a significant role in Trinidad and Tobago football.
“Efforts are being made to put things in place. I can’t say exactly what at this point but […] we are evaluating the situation and, given the requirements of CONCACAF, we are doing all we can to ensure that a proper professional league is in place.”
Hospedales declined to say when Skeene and Phillip will be replaced. But he was adamant that there will be life after both administrators.
“We are going to miss Mr Skeene but he has been in the organisation for 15 years,” said Hospedales. “This is what happens; leaders come and leaders go. Give us some time.”