The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) is set to significantly alter a deal hammered out by UEFA and Concacaf advisors, after discussion with local stakeholders, for a unified domestic elite league in a controversial move that would change the face of the local game.
In a media statement yesterday, the TTFA, through its new National Football Committee (NFC), proposed a budget for a two-tiered TT Pro League competition that would run for two years. Top flight Pro League teams will receive US$108,000 each for ‘club operations’ while each second tier club will receive US$8,000.
There will be no prize money—‘unless the TTFA is successful in sponsor negotiations’—and no registration fees. Instead, the top flight clubs will carve up the money set aside for performance incentives and share them out before a ball is kicked, as guaranteed income.
The National Football Committee, which is chaired by Selby Browne and also includes TTFA Board members Julia Baptiste, Colin Partap and Anthony Moore, invited Super League teams to join the TTPL’s second tier on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. There are 19 TTSL clubs at present and 12 spots available for them in the TTPL’s second division.
“The TTFA has now received FIFA approval for financial assistance to the TTFA and the transfer of the funds is awaited,” stated Moore, the NFC secretary. “The TTFA will use the FIFA Forward funds to facilitate the administration, club registration, match officials, marketing, and transportation of the TT Pro League’s two tiered Competition […] for a two year period.”
Effectively, the TTFA plans to take FIFA Forward money earmarked to start the T-League—a new competition involving TT Pro League and TTSL clubs with promotion and relegation—and instead use it to expand the Pro League.
One Concacaf and Caribbean Projects senior manager Howard McIntosh said he was completely in the dark about the TTFA’s plans. McIntosh stressed that FIFA and Concacaf cannot dictate to member associations on its internal plans, although the David John-Williams-led body still need approval to use FIFA money in that manner.
“We work with the football associations to develop proposals [but] we cannot force the FAs to do what we propose,” McIntosh told Wired868. “At the end of the day when they send those plans to us, we will see what we can work with. I hope in the very near future we will be advised and can make decisions.”
McIntosh was one of a handful of foreign officials who liaised with TTFA, TTPL and TTSL representatives on the restructure of the domestic game in January—along with the UEFA trio of international relations head Eva Pasquier, football operations specialist Robert Pongracz and international relations project specialist Chris Milnes.
The culmination of those discussions, announced at a joint press conference in the Hyatt Hotel in Port of Spain on 28 January, was the format for a new elite football competition to be overseen by a League Commission. That Commission was dissolved last month with its chairman Lindsay Gillette and TTFA president David John-Williams blaming each other for its collapse.
The TTFA’s new format suggests five fundamental changes to the previous deal, which formed the foundation of the T-League.
The first obvious departure is the name of the competition. The League Commission suggested the ‘T-League’ and it appeared that the aforementioned UEFA advisors concluded, after discussions with local football stakeholders, the ‘Pro League’ was a damaged brand.
McIntosh was diplomatic in his references to the Pro League but he confirmed that all parties felt rebranding would be positive for the local game.
“Whether I think [the Pro League brand] was good or bad is irrelevant because it is about determining the best way forward,” said McIntosh, “which, as we discussed, was a rebranded structure. A new league with a new name and a new image with the idea of driving better commercial relationships and increasing the live audience at the game and fan engagement.”
Browne and company—with John-Williams’ blessing—aim to not only keep the Pro League but expand it, by adding TTFA dollars to the taxpayers’ money already promised to the competition through a government subvention.
Another change is the decision-making process for the top flight domestic competition.
The Uefa/Concacaf-backed proposal was designed after discussions involving 29 clubs from the Pro League and Super League competitions as well as officials from the TTFA, Ministry of Sport and media.
In contrast, John-Williams’ four-man committee did not meet any of the respective parties and, by including Pro League CEO Julia Baptiste but excluding TTSL president Keith Look Loy, opened itself up to accusations of bias in favour of the former party.
Yet, their failure to consult irked even TTPL clubs who wondered, for instance, why they are being asked to hand their government subventions over to the TTFA for redistribution in what remains the Pro League.
Has the TTFA, headed by W Connection owner John-Williams, hijacked the Pro League?
The third significant change is in the distribution of money, which includes a fourth proponent: the erasure of performance incentives.
The Uefa/Concacaf proposal included a combined prize money of US$380,000 over the two years, with US$135,000 available each season for the top five tier one clubs and US$55,000 for the top six tier two teams.
The season one and two winners were to bank US$50,000 in the top tier and US$20,000 in the second tier.
Instead, the TTFA said there will be no prize money in either Pro League division unless separate sponsorship is sourced.
Uefa/Concacaf’s proposed split of guaranteed operating money over the two years was US$100,000 for each tier one team—including Defence Force FC and Police FC—and US$24,000 for tier two clubs. It meant US$1 million would go to top tier teams over two years and US$288,000 guaranteed to tier two clubs, outside of prize money.
However, the TTFA proffered US$216,000 to the Pro League first division and US$16,000 to the second division. Despite appearing to having the same financial pie available, the TTFA committee unilaterally decided to cut the share of TTSL clubs while more than doubling that of the TTPL clubs.
The TTFA deal cuts State-funded clubs, Defence Force and Police FC, from the list of beneficiaries.
So Pro League clubs get US$1,728,000 to share—if John-Williams and Browne factored in Defence Force and Police—while the guaranteed figure due to TTSL clubs drops from US$288,000 to just US$288,000 or US$264,000, depending on whether Police FC is in the second tier. Instead of paying out US$1,288,000 over the two year period, the TTFA will potentially hand over US$2,016,000 to Pro League clubs in both divisions.
It leaves roughly US$100,000 for other expenses.
Browne said the TTFA will ‘use the FIFA Forward funds to facilitate the administration, club registration, match officials, marketing, and transportation of the TT Pro League two-tiered Competition 2019 for a two year period’. He did not provide a breakdown of the cost of those line items.
Pro League clubs were given a 48 hour deadline to ‘agree on what amount of [the US$108,000 per season they were promised] will be set aside in a special account administered by the TTFA for the payment of players salaries and statutory deductions’.
The eight Pro League clubs due government subventions—Central FC, Club Sando, Morvant Caledonia AIA, North East Stars, Point Fortin Civic, San Juan Jabloteh Terminix La Horquetta Rangers and W Connection—would have received US$92,000 each from the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) over the next two years, even if they rejected the competitions proposed by Uefa/Concacaf and the TTFA.
And, finally, the TTFA’s proposed expanded Pro League has changed the manner of promotion and relegation into the top flight.
If John-Williams, Browne and company have anything in mind for this issue, then they have not shared it with the member clubs yet. Perhaps they are making it up as they go along.
However, the idea of a ‘first come, first served’ second tier—which, by its wording, appears to have deliberately left open the possibility of even zonal teams taking up places to populate the Pro League’s second division—puts paid to the notion of promotion by merit.
There was no mention of a promotion and relegation mechanism between the Pro League’s two divisions over the next two years either. Without it, the Pro League’s second division offers TTSL clubs a modest pay-out but little else.
Still even that, coupled with the fractious relationship some TTSL franchises have with Look Loy, appears to have been enough to lure a few clubs over to the Pro League second division.
Guaya United, the most well-supported club in the TTSL and 2017 champions, and Cunupia United, the reigning TTSL Cup winners, are already expected to switch camps in a move that weaken the Super League.
McIntosh suggested that Concacaf would support anything meant to improve football in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Concacaf is in full support of professional football in Trinidad and Tobago,” said McIntosh. “However when we say professional football, we mean two things: there is football being run professionally, and then there is professional football in the sense of people being paid to play…”
T-League versus restructured Pro League over two years
(Whose idea was this?)
T-League: The concept emerged after discussions between Howard McIntosh (One Concacaf manager), Eva Pasquier (UEFA international relations head), Robert Pongracz (Uefa football operations specialist), Chris Milnes (Uefa international relations project specialist), the TTFA Board, 10 Pro League clubs, 19 TTSL clubs.
Restructured Pro League: A subsection of the TTFA Board (Selby Browne, Julia Baptiste, Colin Partap and Anthony Moore) passed on their proposal for approval from the wider 13-member Board.
(How much money are clubs guaranteed?)
T-League: US$100,00 each in tier one; US$24,000 each in tier two.
Pro League: US$216,000 each in division one; US$16,000 each in division two.
(What prize money is at stake?)
T-League: US$270,000 to share between top five tier one clubs; US$110,000 for top six tier two clubs.
Restructured Pro League: None, unless the TTFA finds a separate sponsor.
(Who makes up the clubs in this ‘elite’ league?)
T-League: The top 10 Pro League teams start in tier one with 12 top TTSL teams in tier two. At the end of each season, the tier two winner would be promoted to the top flight with their spot taken by the top zonal team. There is no relegation for the first two seasons until each division has 12 teams each.
Restructured Pro League: The top 10 Pro League teams start in division one with the second division’s 12 places offered on a first come, first served basis to the TTSL. There is no articulated position on promotion or relegation.
(National Football Committee Press Release)
The National Football Committee of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association held a stakeholders meeting with 25 member clubs drawn from the TT Pro League, TT Super League and Champion of Champions Competition.
The meeting was chaired by Mr Selby Browne, Chairman of the NFC and a Board member of the TTFA, and discussed the approved proposal from the TT Pro League to run a two-tier competition commencing October 2019.
Mr Browne outlined the conditions precedent to the pro-league clubs receiving assistance from the SporTT Company. He confirmed that clubs should begin receiving financial assistance shortly. The clubs were given 48 hours to agree on what amount of these funds will be set aside in a special account administered by the TTFA for the payment of players salaries and statutory deductions.
He further advised the clubs that the TTFA has now received FIFA approval for financial assistance to the TTFA and the transfer of the funds is awaited.
The TTFA will use the FIFA Forward funds to facilitate the administration, club registration, match officials, marketing, and transportation of the TT Pro League two Tiered Competition 2019 for a two year period.
The proposal for [the] TT Pro League two tiered competition consists of 10 Pro League clubs in the first tier and 12 clubs in the second tier. Each club in the Tier 1 will receive US$108,000 to cover club operations. Clubs in Tier 2 will receive US$8,000 and pay no registration fees. No prize monies will be paid unless the TTFA is successful in sponsor negotiations. A kit sponsorship deal is also in the pipeline.
Following extensive discussions it was agreed that clubs will be given until noon on Monday 9th September 2019 to indicate their willingness to participate in the Tier 2 competition.
The Chairman also confirmed the Committee will continue the review for restructuring a new pathway for football in Trinidad and Tobago, and will meet with the TTFA member Zone Associations [and] all football stakeholders including Community Leagues, leading up to a symposium that will be held in the coming weeks.
The Chairman thanked all representatives of the 25 TTFA members for attendance and meaningful contributions to determine the way forward for development of football in Trinidad and Tobago.
Editor’s Note: Wired868 edited the initial story to reflect that the TTFA is offering Pro League division one clubs US$108,000 per season and division two clubs US$8,000 per season and not for the two seasons as initially stated.