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Enter Gillette: Swim president coos over DJW and Home of Football in debut appearance

Amateur Swimming Association of Trinidad and Tobago (ASATT) president and former Energy Minister and Petrotrin chairman Lindsay Gillette made his first public splash in local football yesterday, in a remarkably unremarkable press conference at his Woodford Street, Port of Spain office.

By Gillette’s retelling, the media gathering marked ‘a historic moment’ in the local game.

“I call it the rebirth of football, for want of a better term,” said Gillette, who was making his first public appearance as League Commission chairman—a post he has held for barely two months.

Photo: League Commission chairman Lindsay Gillette (second from left) shakes hands with TTFA general secretary Camara David (far left) while members Anthony Harford (second from right) and Julia Baptiste look on on 21 May 2019.
(Copyright TTFA Media)

Dutifully, sport journalists present, almost to a man, used ‘rebirth’ in their subsequent headlines. In truth, precious little was said on Monday that had not been aired four months ago when UEFA and Concacaf delegates gave their first media briefing on the proposed competition, which is a combination of the Pro League and Super League bodies.

This merger, mind you, has been so long discussed that it was formally raised back in 2015 when the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) ushered in its new constitution.

The problems identified four years ago—and for almost all of the 19 year existence of the Pro League—is at what price should lower league clubs be granted access to the top flight; and what to do with top tier clubs that did not perform well enough on the field to keep their spots.

The Pro League clubs insisted that they invested millions on their product and needed to protect this investment. And the lower tier outfits argued that the criteria for promotion—a large bond and guaranteed contracts for between 15 to 20 players—was too expensive and was not being met by many of the Pro League clubs anyway.

The ‘solution’ agreed to by the parties speaks volumes about the integrity of the enterprise.

The Pro League’s 10 clubs will keep out all interlopers for Year One and allow one TTSL team to join their ranks in Year Two and Three respectively, once the promoted clubs agree to offer guaranteed contracts to 18 players expected to be valued at a minimum of TT$3,000.

Photo: Cunupia FC forward Kevon “Showtime” Woodley (left) tries to find a way around FC Santa Rosa defender Jesse Reyes during TTSL action at the Arima Velodrome on 24 August 2018.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

So, by the end of the three year project, there would be zero relegations from Tier One of the competition-formerly-known-as-the-Pro-League with two promotions for clubs willing to meet the significant financial burden for entry.

Naturally, there is no word yet on how clubs will be policed to ensure player contracts are honoured, or what penalties negligent teams would incur.

The ‘fix’, arguably, bears a striking resemblance to the problem.

Gillette was not a man to be bogged down by details, though. The result was a 25-minute press conference in which the League Commission chairman repeated the words ‘transparency’ and ‘accountable’ like a mantra—arguably more times than wayward former NBA star Allen Iverson said ‘practice’ in his unforgettable press conference—without, arguably, providing much of either.

Wired868: “So, to be clear, we are having this press conference; but we are not sure about the date for the start of the League, the breakdown of money [from SPORTT and the TTFA] for the League, or the name of the League…”

Gillette (with a broad smile): “[But] aren’t you glad we are having it, to at least say that [the Pro League and Super League clubs] are having an agreement? […] I think within a next month, we will have all that clearly defined and we will do another one.

“What we want to do is bring you all up to date with every step of the way.”

Photo: Police FC goalkeeper and captain Adrian Foncette (top) tries to hold on to the ball between teammate Nequan Caruth (left) and W Connection attacker Marcus Joseph during the TTFA FA Trophy final against W Connection at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 8 December 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

An update on the new League—christened the ‘T-League’ in some quarters—was not Gillette’s only objective on Monday. Perhaps there was a hint in his opening statement.

“What I think [TTFA president] David John-Williams wants us to achieve this morning is to say what good is happening in football,” said a beaming Gillette. “A lot of things have happened that is good. I know there has been a lot of negativity around football over the past year and through the influence of UEFA as well as FIFA and [TTFA general secretary] Camara [David] and John-Williams, we have been able to do good things on the Commission, since this thing started.”

John-Williams, Gillette explained, was unavailable due to a supposed meeting with Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe. These days, one seems as likely to see a soucouyant building a sand castle at Maracas beach as to find John-Williams fielding questions from Wired868.

In any case, Gillette was an impressive proxy, enthusiastic, charming and straightforward—all without actually answering questions.

Four months ago, Concacaf delegates promised a June kickoff for the new competition. So, a reporter wanted to know, is there a new start date?

Photo: Central FC players (from right) Jameel Neptune, Akim Armstrong and Taryk Sampson react after edging Defence Force on penalties in the FCB Cup final at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 20 July 2018.
(Copyright Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

David: “The League is supposed to start in August or September. We want to start in mid-August or September for the latest…”

It was a very Caribbean bit of time-keeping. Like telling a friend that you would meet him promptly at around 5 or 6; or, for the latest, 8pm. But even that was too revealing for Gillette’s taste.

Gillette (interjects): “[…] Hoping to! I want to be very clear about that. We have a lot of work to do between now and then and we don’t want to start on the wrong foot.”

The former Petrotrin chairman is fond of being very clear, especially when he is being vague.

On 28 January 2019, Concacaf official Howard McIntosh revealed that the money injected into the League will come from the following sources: TT$6.3 million from the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago, US$1.5 million (TT$10.1 million) from FIFA Forward Programme funds due to the TTFA and US$175,000 (TT$1.2 million) from Concacaf’s subvention to the local football body.

Wired868: “Can you give us a breakdown of where the money is coming from?”

Gillette: “Right now I’d rather stay away from that because we are trying to ensure that this thing balances properly. We don’t want to go into deficit—I don’t want to go into a deficit—so we are going in a back and forth in terms of the numbers. We just wanted to make sure that everyone is aware of what we’re doing and not keep it hidden.

“We want to be as open as possible. But of course we still have to balance this budget properly and we are very, very close to determining exactly what we are going to spend over the next three years.”

Photo: TTFA president and W Connection owner David John-Williams (centre) greets players (from right) Hughtun Hector, Alvin Jones and Maurice Forde before kick off against Police FC in the TTFA FA Trophy final at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 8 December 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Wired868: “[…] Can you give us a date when we will get the exact figures?”

Gillette: “I don’t want to give that date, yet. I don’t have conclusion with our matters with UEFA, neither the Ministry… I don’t want you to hold me to a date that I can’t keep. I am being very upfront with respect to that.”

What about the delay in starting the League then? Why, Wired868 asked, have they failed so miserably to reach the June target agreed to by all parties back in January?

Gillette: “A lot of [the delay is down to] administration in terms of the way we go forward; and there is so much regulations from FIFA because that is the people who are putting the money forward for the programme. And what I’ve been told, it’s not the old FIFA, it’s the new FIFA. (Laughs) So we have to dot our I’s and cross our T’s, because it opens up total transparency and total accountability; and I am happy for that.”

What does the ‘old FIFA’ have to do with anything? The timeline was very much set under the ‘new FIFA’, just five months ago; and everyone surely knew then that the League would need administrators.

But, to be fair, he did use catchphrases like ‘total transparency’ and ‘total accountability’; so what’s not to like with that response?

“What is the name of the League?” asked another reporter.

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)

“That’s a good ,” said Gillette, with a good natured laugh. “Some people bandied about [the name] ‘T-League’ and it seems to be gaining strength…”

A press conference to announce a League that, after five months, still has not been named? It would be interesting to know if Gillette did similar launches with any of his private businesses.

Not that anyone was allowed to stray from the point at hand. One reporter, Kent Fuentes, asked whether there was concern by the League Commission as to the impact a lack of domestic football might have on the fortunes of the Soca Warriors for the June 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.

Gillette: “Can we, before we answer that, try to stick to what we are discussing. Because it is what we’re trying to achieve today… Our objective is to make football self-sufficient in the next three years.”

The ‘before we answer that’ riposte was apparently a euphemism. Gillette never did answer Fuentes’ query. And his suggestion that a discussion on the Men’s National Senior Team—through the context of the collective feet dragging of the League Commission—was too far off course to be taken seriously, seemed all the more curious when he suddenly conjured up a change of scenery for the press corps.

Gillette: “Have you been to the Home of Football? It’s an incredible project, eh? An incredible project. I think we are the only ones with that sort of facility in this region…”

He proceeded to spend roughly four minutes explaining why the facility, mired in controversy due to a shocking lack of transparency, was the answer to Trinidad and Tobago’s sport tourism problems.

Photo: (From right) TTFA president David John-Williams, Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe and FIFA official Veron Mosengo-Omba inspect the TTFA’s Home of Football in Couva on 20 August 2018.
(Courtesy MSYA)

And, just moments after declaring the Soca Warriors to be off-topic, Gillette explained how the Couva facility would be used by ‘probably 250 people’ for the Pan American Junior Water Polo competition in two months time.

Gillette: “Whoever did [the Home of Football] had great foresight; great, great, great foresight. So congratulations to the TTFA; because it is all built, it is finished.

“[…] It’s a great thing that Trinidad has right now. It’s a gem; I call it a gem. The whole facility, the whole area; it is a gem…”

Wired868: “Are you aware that there are aspects of the Home of Football that are before the courts right now?”

Gillette: “I am not…”

There was an uncharacteristically long pause from the head table. Perhaps Gillette reasoned that his supposed ignorance of TTSL president Keith Look Loy’s battle for transparency in the construction of the Home of Football—fully supported by the High Court—was more than even he could pull off.

Gillette: “I have heard about it; but that’s another story. Let’s put it that way.”

And in this case, ‘let’s put it that way’ was probably a roundabout way of suggesting where Wired868 could put that interruption.

Photo: FIFA president Gianni Infantino (right) and TTFA president David John-Williams at a press conference at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 April 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

While the League Commission has struggled to get its competition up and running, Terminix and La Horquetta Rangers director Richard Ferguson put over $2 million on the table for an invitational pre-season tournament for the Tier One and Two clubs.

The proposed competition offers an appearance fee of TT$2,000 per match for Tier One clubs and half that for teams in Tier Two, as well as prize money ranging between TT$300,000 and TT$75,000 in the top flight and TT$75,000 and TT$25,000 in the second division.

San Juan Jabloteh, Club Sando, Police FC, Defence Force, Morvant Caledonia United and Rangers have already confirmed their participation along with FC Santa Rosa and Cunupia FC who—in a gesture not reciprocated by the League Commission—were invited to the top flight, by virtue of being the TTSL league and knockout champions respectively.

Defending Pro League champions W Connection, owned by John-Williams, turned down the invite while Central FC, North East Stars and Point Fortin Civic allegedly failed to meet the deadline and were not considered.

Gillette said he hopes the Terminix-sponsored competition fills a gap in the dormant local game before the new League kicks off, sometime later this year. The TTFA has verbally sanctioned the competition but is yet to put that in writing.

Photo: Club Sando midfielder Jared London (centre) tries to force his way past Ma Pau Stars players (from left) Keryn Navarro, Jordan Devonish and Adrian Noel during Digicel Pro Bowl quarterfinal action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 9 February 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Gillette: “I will be upfront with you, they still have to write that letter… I hope they agree with the sanctioning letter. Because you know there can be a funny thing between the letter writer and the receiver.” (Laughs)

Wired868: “Are there any terms in there TTFA letter that we should know about?”

Gillette: “Well, I think when it is worked out then you will see it… There is [mention of] appearance fees and there is also prize money for first, second and third place. My concern? That the money gets paid; that’s all. (Laughs) That football is played and money is paid.”

The Pro League has not paid out any prize money to its clubs for the last four years. It is uncertain if Ferguson would appreciate the irony of John-Williams’ concern that bills are paid.

And speaking of unpaid bills, Wired868 understands that TTFA staff have not been paid salaries since March. Had David been paid? And could he confirm the fate of his office staff or offer any words of consolation to them?

“I won’t talk about that,” said David, who promptly swivelled on his heels and walked off.

It was an interesting contrast. A churlish general secretary who would not even pretend to try to answer a pertinent question; and an effervescent commissioner who was better at pretending to respond to questions than actually answering them.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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80 comments

  1. What a joke, the world’s game has become the laughing stock in Trinidad and Tobago’s Sporting landscape. in the meantime Athletics are bringing in Commonwealth and World Games gold medals, I know an athlete and a team are two different kettle of fish but still …..
    It’s time to do something drastic yes

  2. After 111years, this is where we are. Pro League or T League we looking like fish out of water. Everyday we hear of a new league set up but what. No club structure, organised regional associations, proper youth programme, administrators, referees training and development. Instead daily Constitution which they cannot interpret even to determine the status of a reconvened meeting.
    Bush lawyers posing as Constitutional lawyers.

  3. Question; Is the Pro league still funded by the Gov of TnT? Lasana Liburd

  4. Easily one of the most irritating & ridiculous press conferences I’ve seen in Caribbean & world sport ‍♂️

    Again I say #TimeforFIFAnormalizationcommittee

  5. Mango has asked to take a break from the group. Racist comments are unacceptable and I’m happy that members were quick to point that out.
    I do believe that sometimes people can be slow to catch up to societal changes in terms of what is acceptable or not. So sometimes misbehaviour is through ignorance rather than malicious intent. I know he will give that some thought and he is welcomed back when he is ready and once he can abide by the group rules.

  6. In light of UEFA FIFA CONCACAF pushing us to what works best. It seems more that 2 entities isnt best for our brothers.
    http://www.loopjamaica.com/content/jff-dissolves-professional-football-association-jamaica

  7. Mr Live Wire won’t have to suspend me I am going and take a exit so thanks Mr Live Wire and others it was a pleasure Blessings

  8. Lasana should moderate and suspend where Racist comments are posted. Case in point is his case last week did not accept this type of communication smh

  9. I shall be grateful if anyone can give me the names of the Board to run this new league headed by Gillette.

  10. Oh gosh man you really have plenty issues eh I was told that the man nicknamed China man the same like the other China man that use to take care of plenty players while spending his millions the same like me I think that he is or was belonged to the Chinese Association in our sweet country and don’t even know if he is still alive You really good yes

  11. I don’t want to be part of this man’s racist drivel, but am I the ONLY one here who see everything wrong with this man’s continuing reference to Gillette as “China man”? Is this seen to be acceptable? Would you accept “Whitey” Fenwick, “Negro man” John-Williams, “Indian man” Harford, “Black Chinee”Look Loy?

    • The racist remarks is totally unacepptable, this is not what we want for our country. Also wrong example for our young men and women upcoming in our country. There should be constructive criticism and no attempt to bring confusion and mud slinging to gain relevancy in the football fraternity.

  12. By the way who is now in charge of the new name for the Marvin Lee Stadium, “ The Ball Park “ Mr China man and maybe he persuaded uncle Jack to give him a borrow since they both belonged to the UNC back in the days and Alyuh eh noticed how he bigging up the Home of the Football hmmm just maybe he also have some shares in the place for swimming not to far from the Home of the football so when it comes to the competitions he will surely get a discount to use the hotel, I betting anyone that uncle Jack is still involved somewhere in this money making thing yes so I know that Mr Live Wire will have a time with them cause they all feel that they bright Them really good yes

  13. After watching Part 1 & 2 of the Press Conference, its embarrassing what is presented as leadership in TnT. Gillette presented himself as vacuous Commissioner filled only with DJW talking points. Sad!

  14. 1. The idea of one elite national league is hardly novel. It was first implemented in 1973. In the summer of that year I played a few matches with Tarouca United. We went through various permutations and combinations thereafter (Semipro and Pro League included). The Super League was also formed thereafter. The discussion of the need for ONE elite league came to the fore over the last decade, and with good reason as the Pro League entered its slow, painful collapse. This new league is, therefore, not a genius idea brought from Mt. Sinai by UEFA.
    2. The proposed new elite league will not save TTFA and/or our football. Ot will be merely ONE element in our game. The truth is that it will be surrounded by the rot in the Association – in grassroots and lyouth development, women’s football, national teams, technical administration, I could continue. And that rot will limit its growth. We need much more than a new league to save our football, as necessary as a new league may be.
    3. The glowing endorsement of the HOF by the Commission Chairman was not made on behalf of the Commission. It is his personal view. I am not party to that as I have been fighting for a year and a half for the transparent accounting of expenditure in that project. Nobody but the TTFA President and his inner Cabinet (now known as the Emergency Committee, and not even all of them) knows how FIFA’s money was spent in Couva. I refuse to endore that monument until DJW properly accounts for his use of FIFA monies.
    4. The HOF is not the result of the TTFA President’s “vision and foresight”. It is a FIFA requirement. Moreover, FIFA has been financing such infrastructure works since 1999, when I became FIFA Development Officer for CONCACAF and supervised such construction in many associations throughout the Caribbean and Central America. TTFA is merely complying with FIFA’s regulations.
    5. For the sake of CLARITY, let me say finally say that I have argued for a unified elite league for MANY years. I support it. But I intend to see it properly inplemented and will argue for that in the Commission. No games. No tricks.

  15. Gillette has zero credibility……one of the players in the Petrotrin debacle !

  16. Look Coach Terence William Fenwick and Kevin Harrison Alyuh need to get in there and really help these people who doesn’t have any clues how a real professional league must be organized in other to be very successful eh ah tired calling them bootleg my dictator president now even found a bootleg China man from Petrotrin to come on board and speaking ah set ah ta ta Them really good yes steuupsss

  17. Having watched the demise of aquatics under Gillette, let me wish football the patience of Job with his involvement.

  18. What Alyuh really expecting the China man worked for Petrotrin and was involved in some other sport and I am positively certain that he never kicked a lime , meh friend Mr Live Wire forgot to ask him that important question eh all the same don’t forget to invite him to our next Football Festival in June eh Them really good yes

  19. IS that the same Lindsay Gillette who was Petrotrin Chairman during the PP’s term in Govt? Camini Maharaj wrote some revealing articles about Petrotrin at that time.

  20. Sounds like that guy will fit right in with DJW and CD lol. All waffle talk, no answers and still everyone except the inner ‘secret’ circle still in the dark when the meetings over.

  21. This thing hurt my eyes to read it, then my brain in processing it. King David has yet again played smart with foolish mess.

    The NBA is a 30-team league with teams scattered across the North American continent. Each team plays 82 games for the regular season. In addition to those logistics, consideration has to be made for TV deals to ensure marketability of certain match ups. Game schedules are usually available for this two months before the start of the season, including knowing when the season starts…

    So it bothers me immensely that an organisation for a league of just ten teams can’t tell us, comprehensively, when the league will begin, which teams are in it, when games will be played, etc. These are the kinds of questions a real professional league administrator should prattle off the answers for without batting an eyelid. But not King David! And as for Lindsay, let’s just say that Gillette is not the best this league can get…

  22. Why have a press conference if you can give no figures, facts? Gillette.. up DJW arse like a blue fly..pure disorganisation.. I hold no punches.. anyone who can say positive things about DJW tenure and his works is beyond stupid..

  23. F##k me.. a lot of time spent on achieving hogwash.. utter and unparalleled dysfunction.. these people are just useless

  24. Lol. After reading this I appreciate how hard allyuh reporter’s jobs are. This was kinda like interviewing TTOC president only more comical

  25. TTFA Press Conference – The T-League – New League Commission (Pt. 2)


  26. TTFA Press Conference – The T-League – New League Commission (Pt. 1)


  27. Lol. After reading this I appreciate how hard allyuh reporter’s jobs are. This was kinda like interviewing TTOC president only more comical

  28. Here we go again and I am really hoping this time around with this new league the real professional marketing persons will be hired in order for the league to last like the MLS in my second sweetest country and finally bring the crowds out to support the football eh Mr Gillette and company Them really good yes

  29. Long watery styles

    Is there sponsorship or partnership for this?

    What has really changed?

    Is that an admittance of ignorance of the essentials of running the league etc?????