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Dear Editor: TTFA member bodies have no uniformity, and it’s killing our game

“[The TTFA’s] associate members also need structural reform, especially for youth development. Every group does whatever it wants. Under-8s may play in 7v7 competitions in south Trinidad, but play 5v5 in the east, and something completely different in the north—each with different sized goalposts or field dimensions. There is no national uniformity…”

The following letter to the editor on the state of local football was submitted to Wired868 by American Youth Soccer Organisation (AYSO) president and former Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical committee member Dale Toney:

Photo: A SKHY FC player (right) tries to keep the ball from a Maracas United opponent during during RBYL U-11 action at the Queen’s Park Savannah on 31 March 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Is normalisation really working for the TTFA? The definition of the word states ‘to bring or restore to normal condition’. Is this the normalcy?

The TTFA, an association that is 113 years old, is desperately in need of a structural overhaul. Changes need to be made because it’s a fiduciary and should  start performing like one: by developing an organisational structure for its various departments with functions and job description for each, along with codes of conduct and conflict of interest policies for office employees, technical team staff, players and coaches. 

Its associate members also need structural reform, especially for youth development. Every group does whatever it wants. Under-8s may play in 7v7 competitions in south Trinidad, but play 5v5 in the east, and something completely different in the north—each with different sized goalposts or field dimensions. There is no national uniformity.

Then there are the unregistered leagues and tournaments which pop up out of nowhere. 

We look to Europe and the USA to import elite players, but why not adopt or emulate some of their processes to build a greater number of home-grown players?

Photo: Shiva Boys Hindu College playmaker Judah Garcia (left) beats St Mary’s College midfielder Daniel Conocchiari to the ball during 2015 SSFL action at Serpentine Road.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

In the US youth soccer circuit, you need to show proof of affiliation to your home state association, insurance and other compliance items to enter a tournament. At the TTFA’s 2017 AGM, an amendment was proposed and passed that was meant to regularise all local football tournaments.

Only authorised member bodies are authorised to conduct competitions and they must notify the TTFA with the database of clubs, coaching schools, academies, players, and coaches (with their certifications) that are taking part. These bodies must provide the FA with subscription fees, financial statements, bylaws, a constitution, and valid bank account with transaction signatories to earn that right.

There should be no room for every Tom, Dick or Harry to throw a tournament using national referees and simply pocket the proceeds and walk away, with no accountability or significant benefit to the TTFA’s membership.

Then there is the neglect of women’s football, with most of the fields our girls play on lacking washroom facilities and security.

Photo: Pleasantville Secondary attacker Alexcia Ali (right) tries to escape from Signal Hill Secondary defender Derisha Bristol during the National Intercol final at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 4 December 2019.
(Copyright Kerlon Orr/CA-images/Wired868)

Our Pro League has shown little progress from its inception, the Secondary School Football League has its high points but many players are on the block or working odd jobs as soon as the season ends, and the Primary Schools League can barely justify its existence. The relevant authorities in education and sports need to do more to create career opportunities through sport.

Can’t we involve our universities in providing research on physical growth patterns, nutrition, rest-recovery, bio-banding, psychosocial attributes, cognitive behaviour and other factors that could be important for the success of our children?

What about a scenario where our school players are drafted into a revamped, rebranded vibrant Pro League that has moved on from the one-owner syndrome and is able to attract corporate sponsorship?

I keep hearing about all the challenges but am yet to see anyone make a concerted effort to change the mindset and attitude of the TTFA’s stakeholders. 

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

Has the FA ever stood up for a cause in Trinidad and Tobago—whether it be women’s rights or child abuse—or help the nation commemorate anything?  

But who am I to say better can be done? As the saying goes: we like it so. Let’s host an Ease of Restriction Fete instead. Choose a stadium.       

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Letters to the Editor
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