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Pro League delay season due to money woes; Harrison warns Warriors will suffer if top flight folds

The Trinidad and Tobago Pro League will not start as scheduled, on Friday evening, after club owners voted for a two week delay to the 2018 season, barely four days before the promised kickoff time.

The move comes as Pro League teams remain in financial dire straits, as private sector support remains scarce while the government is yet to release promised funds to clubs.

Photo: Central FC attacker Dominic Douglas (centre) runs at the Defence Force backline during the FCB Cup final at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 20 July 2018.
(Copyright Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

It’s another setback for the local top flight, which is still trying to recover from the resignations of CEO Dexter Skeene and two chairmen, Larry Romany and Sam Phillips, in the past year.

Already the Pro League’s financial instability prompted several talented players to seek refuge with the second tier Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) competition, such as FC Santa Rosa winger Kishun Seecharan, Cunupia FC forward Kevon “Showtime” Woodley and the QPCC quintet of Kevon Villaroel, Sean De Silva, Yohance Marshall, Elton “Broadie” John and Keston George.

It could feasibly get worse before it gets better although there were mixed feelings from club owners about the Pro League’s ability to survive the current crisis.

In April, Current Pro League CEO Julia Baptiste negotiated a three-year deal worth TT$11 million from Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs, Shamfa Cudjoe, that was expected to have salvaged the League’s short-term future.

However, three months later, the government still has not released any funds; and it is worth pointing out that Cudjoe outlined several requirements which clubs had to meet before being eligible for funding.

Central FC operations manager Kevin Harrison said the “Couva Sharks”—which is in their sixth year of existence and boasts of three league titles—could be forced to fold soon, if government funding does not materialise. Their players, who won the First Citizens Cup on penalties last Friday, have not been paid in three months.

“The Minister announced that funding would start on 1 June, but we still have not received anything,” Harrison told Wired868. “If the funding does not come through in two weeks’ time we will have to withdraw from the League [for this season].”

Central did not have a full complement of substitutes or a reserve goalkeeper for last week’s Cup final; and coach Stern John revealed the depth of their struggles.

Photo: Central FC coach Stern John (left) points the way for his players during FCB Cup final action against Defence Force at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 20 July 2018.
(Copyright Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“Some of the guys have no money to come training,” said John, after their penalty shootout triumph over Defence Force. “We have to throw fundraisers for some of the boys to come training and I think you have to give them credit.”

Harrison revealed that, while his players excelled on the field, the financial uncertainty has thrown their personal lives into chaos. And he suggested that local football will be the loser if the Pro League collapses.

“One of our players is currently trying to avoid his car being repossessed,” Harrison said. “[…] If the Pro League folds in two weeks, where would the footballers for the national team come from? Are we going to use part-time footballers to form the make-up of the national team?

“[…] There’s a lot of negativity surrounding the Pro League [but last] Friday showed the people of Trinidad and Tobago how exciting the football could be. I hope that people realise it’s still a viable league.”

San Juan Jabloteh chairman Jerry Hospedales was more confident in the League’s ability to survive, although he urged the media to help generate interest in the competition.

Photo: San Juan Jabloteh attacker Keithy Simpson (left) runs at Cibao FC defender Paulson Pierre during the Caribbean Club Championship final on 21 May 2017 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“Some of the funding should materialise in the coming days but funding has been a pertinent problem for a long time and Jabloteh face the same problems like everybody else,” said Hospedales. “We need some more help from the media to generate interest [in the Pro League]. Media, clubs, the private sector and fans, we all need to come together and mobilise our resources.

“[…] We had so many experts and analysts who came to the fore in recent weeks [to talk about the Russia 2018 World Cup]. Why can’t that same fervour be translated to local football?”

On Tuesday, the Pro League held its annual financial seminar for players, who were advised about managing their money and given career tips by ex-Soca Warriors captain and Premier League forward Kenwyne Jones, former journalist and Royal Bank PRO Nicole Duke-Westfield and First Citizens official Kevon Durham.

Finances, though, remain the problem.

Hospedales insisted that Jabloteh will survive and he believes the Pro League will as well.

Photo: Defence Force midfielder Dylon King (centre) goes on a surging run while Central FC player Rhondel Gibson (right) looks on during the FCB Cup final at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 20 July 2018.
(Copyright Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“I’m not worried at all,” said Hospedales. “I’ve been in this for 44 years. If I used to let things like this frustrate me I would have packed up a long time ago.”

Wired868 was unable to reach Pro League CEO, Baptiste, for her views while chairman Richard Fakoory declined comment.

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.

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12 comments

  1. Trinidad and Tobago public don’t want a Pro-League if they did they will be paying patrons at the turnstile, they will have being purchasing Pro-League memorabilia and in some cases paying a little extra on their cable bill to see the games from the comfort of their homes.

    How long the Pro-League in existence ? What did Pro-League management due during their tenure ? Time to close down, it sounds brutal but the alternative is blowing good money after bad ala Dimanche Gras. The public clearly don’t want it and only the organisers seeing the viability but they cannot translate it into a self sustaining profitable entity.

  2. The proleague has to do its own swot analysis….identify…what are the strengths…..where are the weaknesses….what opportunities really exist for players…clubs….administrators…and who what are the threats that this league has and will continue to have if it continues in its current format

  3. Seems to me that the Pro League is just another CEPEP or URP . Only difference is the workers are permanent and not rotated like URP.

  4. why must the government assist the pro league so mean to say after all these years the league was so poorly manage that its unable to self sustained itself and must get government funding. this is why our football cant go anywhere

  5. The problem of private sector and now gov’t not supporting financially local football are the history wrt to the TTFA Board executive past and maybe present not accounting for monies earn at international tournaments, FIFA funding, grants from gov’t., private sector contributions, gate receipts at local tournaments etc. The ppl that is, private sector and gov’t and even the citizens are fed up of the alleged wastage, nepotism and greed by TTFA executive. While the TTFA is a private organization and not obligated to publish their audited account publicly however, there is no updated financial audit reports to even its members.

  6. I can’t see $2500 as a base salary for players in this modern day whatsoever. Its better they look for scholarships and get out of T,&T

  7. Well said Nicholas Lochanno and Simon Fraser!!!

  8. Sad news but I don’t see it getting better. Pro League owners have tried. Could more have been done better in the past? I’m sure! The reality is the public & private sector…[now gov’t] have never been interested to support professional/club football [costs/requirements]. In a more mature society, the only solution would be going back to the drawing board with TTFA, bringing the Clubs/Leagues/Zones together and finding what is feasible, achievable and sustainable in the current sport/fan culture & economic climate. Anything else may be only a plaster on a sore.

  9. “it is worth pointing out that Cudjoe outlined several requirements which clubs had to meet before being eligible for funding.”. Would like to learn more about these requirements.

    • Seems quite a few of our sporting bodies have problems preparing strategic and operational plans, budgets and audited financial reports. Or do they? 🤔

    • The Minister did not ask for anything that any investor would ask. Projection for the next three years, Audited books from the last 2-3 years, what are the base salaries among other things. Why are the clubs not complying? We do not want another Life Sport. Clubs have to be accountable to whom ever is willing to spend, thus avoiding the CEOs filling their pockets and leaving the players lacking. There are present clubs that had money for players and the owners spend it or kept it for themselves.