The Sport Company of Trinidad & Tobago (SPoRTT) under past and, present ministers never ceases to amaze when it comes to supporting football in this country as Central FC is on the verge of becoming the latest victim of the poorly run cash-strapped government agency.
T&T teams, W Connection and Central FC are both currently representing Trinidad and Tobago at the CFU level. W Connection had the pleasure of playing at home in which they won all of their 3-games to top the group. While Central FC were the unfortunate of the pair to have gotten the more expensive route, of-course, not the fault of W Connection.
The Caribbean Football Union (CFU) does not provide funds for teams competing at this level and it has been a major downfall and embarrassment to Caribbean football and their respected countries. Many teams have had to pull-out of the tournament due to financial restraints including teams from Jamaica, Haiti and T&T, the 3 countries with probably the best leagues in the region.
The reigning Caribbean Champions, Central FC wrote to SPoRTT on the 2nd of January to request funds to cover flights to Jamaica as they got set to defend their 2016 Club Championship crown in late February. The cost was around TT$130k and they were told, no problem by SPoRTT officials.
A month later Central FC told SPoRTT that they've not received a subvention for January and February and that they couldn't afford to pay for an extra day at the hotel because CFU had changed up the fixture dates and it caused Central to rescheduled theirs as well.
CFU had booked the local outfit from the 9th of March and they would have arrived in Jamaica around 9pm after a 12 hour-journey, a distance equivalent from New York to Japan non-stop. Central FC had other plans and wanted to arrive on 8th so their players would have been well rested and ready for kick-off.
Now with the subvention snub and even if they were to receive both month payments now, they would still be short of $66,000 from their proposed budget.
Central FC offered to travel from Kingston to Montego Bay by bus, saving them around $30k and use the extra 20k of that for the hotel, SPoRTT agreed. On Tuesday afternoon a Central FC representative were told by SPoRTT that they could only give them $75k, leaving Central FC a mere 6-days to raise the remaining 60-70k.
Central FC told SWO: “We understand if SPoRTT can't help or give us what we needed, but why wait until now?
“If we were to pull out of the tournament it will be an embarrassment to T&T, not to mentioned we'll be fined US$10,000 and banned for 3 years.”
“The tournament, planned for 5 days will just be one game- Montego Bay United versus Scholars International and CFU would also lose the hotel fees that they paid for the team's stay.”
“Central FC are literally going to companies with a begging bowl to get there. They are not taking a physio to save costs and instead they found a guy in Jamaica who will assist them in that department. In-addition, we may have to cut our player's count to 16 who will be traveling with the team to Jamaica.”
“Certainly, not the best preparation! Football is really taking a kicking at the moment, added the Central FC representative.”
In February 2015, Central FC's CEO Brent Sancho was appointed Minister of Sports (MoS) to replace Rupert Griffith. The latter replaced former minister Anil Roberts, who resigned last year amid the Life Sport furore and corruption allegations concerning that programme.
The former T&T defender, Sancho, have had a bumpy road during his tenure and strangled T&T Football for quite some time until his short-term had come to an end after a new government party had won the General Elections late last year.
Sancho refused to release funds to the TTFA that had already been approved by former MoS Dr. Rupert Griffith. Brent Sancho made it clear that his ministry will no longer facilitate the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) until they can account for funds that have been previously squandered. To-date, even under new management, TTFA audits are still unrevealed.
In September 2015, Sancho's replacement Darryl Smith were appointment as Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs and right off the blocks he said: ‘I’m focused on the athletes."
Just last month Minister of Sport Darryl Smith said that it was just part of his job to slash Pro League teams monthly subvention by $33,000 per-team and claimed it was illegal in the first place.
Smith revealed the teams were illegally being given the additional $33,000 after a minister of sport under the People’s Partnership Government took a decision to increase the amount from $50,000 to $83,000 without Cabinet approval.
The move could be detrimental to the league, who employs over 1,500 workers (including players) from T&T and other parts of the Caribbean. Some clubs are already said that saying that they will not survive if government does not give back the $83,000 subvention to help with paying salaries.
Chairman of Point Fortin Civic FC Garthorne Craig said they have already closed down their entire youth programme which comprises an Under-14, u-16 and under-18 team and the club will not be able to last through to the end of the current season which will be the end of May. North East Stars, Club Sando and Morvant Caledonia United have also painted a bleak picture of this reality.
A few ago via a press conference, Darryl Smith approved 15 T&T Olympic hopefuls including Keshorn Walcott and Cleopatra Borel to received $1.4 million in total from government towards their preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Smith added: “We got your back” is the message Sports Minister Darryl Smith is sending to Trinidad and Tobago’s athletes preparing for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“We want you, the athletes, to be examples to the youth and of course to honour the red, white and black,” the Minister said, as he pledged five percent of his salary for the period February-August, 2016, to the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee’s Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund, added the Sport Minister.”
Smith has been visiting grounds throughout T&T to better the facilities for both clubs and fans alike but yet the Minister of Sport has decided that while he will allow free use of stadiums to Pro League teams, he however, is not prepared to fund the lights on the weekends. Therefore, many Pro-League games have to be played at 3.30 or 4pm now, mind you, because of such change, teams will be lucky if they get 50 supporters at games.
Clubs have also been told that they have to pay if they want to train at the Stadium fields, government teams (Defence Force and Police FC are however excused), while, Carnival fetes are always welcomed at all venues. The minister should considering changing his title to Minister of Fetes and Parties, pun intended.
While Cricket seems to be better run, particularly the CPL and Olympians are well supported. Maybe they are their own worst enemy but football has been a political platform especially in T&T and continues to suffer because of personal political vendettas, a few know-it-all and past con-artist who used the sport for financial gain.
CFU meanwhile, are more-or-less the same and with the lack of professionalism and structure in the administration department Clubs continues to pay a hefty price.
Instead of building on the current CFU Club Champions League, past CFU heads had ideas of their own to gain self recognition and personal interests. In 2013, they were seeking the potential of having a Caribbean professional Football League (CPFL), yet, they could hardly afford the run the current one which probably would cost much cheaper to run of the two.
CFU meanwhile, is comprised of 31 Member Associations and is probably one of the few FIFA tournaments that is poorly run and not financially supported by the ruling body, hopefully, with the new FIFA President Mr. Gianni Infantino who promised the region added help will fulfil his promise.
Providing CFU and its member association gets their act together.
About the CFU Club Championship.
CFU revealed that 14 clubs from eight member associations entered the competition that will open with a preliminary round consisting of two four-team groups and two three-team groups. The four group winners will advance to the final round, which will be contested at a single location April 29 – May 1, utilizing a semifinal, third-place match and final format.
The two finalists and third-place match winner will earn berths to the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League (SCCL).
Group 3 (Montego Bay Sports Complex – Montego Bay, Jamaica)
Wednesday March 9
Montego Bay United vs Scholars International SC
Friday March 11
Central FC vs Scholars International SC
Sunday March 13
Montego Bay United vs Central FC
Central FC Squad for Jamaica
Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams and Akel Clarke;
Defenders: Jamal Jack, Elton John, Andre Ettienne, Kevon Villaroel, Kaydion Gabriel and Samuel Delice;
Midfielders: Leston Paul, Sean de Silva, Darren Mitchell, Elijah Manners, Michael Yaw Darko and Nathaniel Garcia;
Forwards: Kadeem Corbin, Jason Marcano, Rundell Winchester, Nicholas Dillon, Mickaeel Jem Gordon and Marcus Joseph.
Brent Sancho (Managing director)
Kevin Harrison (Operations director)
Dale Saunders (Head Coach)
Stern John (Assistant Coach)
Kevin Jeffrey (Assistant Coach/Team manager)
Derek Khan (Team manager)
David Moses (Equipment manager)
Earl Walters (Masseur/assistant physiotherapist)
Central F.C.’s toughest CFU challenge could be just to get there.
Central FC Release.
Reigning Digicel TT Pro League and CFU Caribbean Club Champions, Bankers Central FC will fly to Jamaica to defend their title on Wednesday not knowing if they can actually cover the cost of the trip.
“We submitted a budget for the competition to SPORTT on 2nd January and it was indicated to us that the flights would be covered.” said Managing Director, Brent Sancho.
“But we were told on March 1st that we would only receive 60% of the costs. We were due to fly out on the 8th and this left us with a week to raise $65,000”
Central, who are 7 points clear of Defence Force at the top of the TTPro League, are on an unbeaten run of 13 games stretching back to December.
“The team is in great form. In fact this is the best spell in the clubs 4 year history.” said Sancho.
“Montego Bay United will be a tough test, but there is no point winning a trophy if you have an easy ride. I believe you have to beat the best to be the best. I would go as far as saying that whoever wins this game in Jamaica will go on to be the Caribbean champions”
Central also have to face the relatively unknown Scholars International from Cayman Islands while they’re in Jamaica.
“Our preparation on the field has been good. But off the field, we continually battle with finances. A cut in Government subvention would be perfectly acceptable and understandable. But coming in mid season when all clubs have created budgets based on $83,000 is a bitter blow. Even worse, the subventions are now always late. These subventions specifically cover part of the clubs salaries. We can’t tell players in January that they won’t be paid until March! To make matters worse, the cut in subvention is retrospective, so while we have spent money that we budgeted for, we will receive $33,000 per month less. “
Sancho says that the club is grateful to SPORTT chairman Michael Phillips and Anthony Creed for the support that they are giving. But the cuts are coming from higher up and there is no thought to the effect they are having.
“Because we have lost the seats that were reserved, we now have to fly a day late via Panama. To travel through Panama there is a World Health Organisation requirement that every passenger has a yellow fever vaccination certificate. So now we have to arrange yellow fever vaccinations for the entire squad and staff” said Sancho. “This will cost between $15,000 to $20,000. Ideally you would get these shots a few weeks before you travel because there will be side effects and we need our players at 100% fitness. Because of all these cuts, the shots won’t be given until Monday 7th March, two days before we travel.”
Sancho said that the club literally went begging to corporate T&T for assistance.
“To be honest, we were pleasantly surprised by the reception we received.” said Sancho. “Everyone says that Corporate T&T will not support football. But we found it completely the opposite. There were some companies that wanted to help but couldn’t, but others were adamant that Central had to defend their title. We raised $50,000 in two days, so we booked the flights and pray we can raise the outstanding amounts before we leave. I’d like to personally thank both Bankers Insurance and Ansa McAL for their support in getting us to Jamaica.”
The Sharks play Scholars International on 11th March and Montego Bay United on 13th March. Only the group winners will proceed to the CFU semi finals, from which 3 teams move forward to the Champions League.
“We will fly the flag for T&T in Jamaica and obviously we’re going there to win. But all the time, in the back of your mind, you’re worried about the future of professional football in T&T.”
Central F.C. squad for Jamaica: Elton John, Keion Goodridge, Andre Ettienne, Jason Marcano, Sean de Silva, Kadeem Corbin, Rundell Winchester, Darren Mitchell, Jamal Jack, Nicholas Dillon, Kaydion Gabriel, Michael Darko, Nathaniel Garcia, Jan-Michael Williams, Leston Paul, Kevon Villaroel, Elijah Manners, Mickaeel Gordon, Akel Clarke, Marcus Joseph.