All systems are now go for the new Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL), which is carded to kick off on 11 June 2017.
The highest hurdle standing in their way was cleared on Wednesday evening when they finally got the long awaited ratification by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) after a brief 15-minute meeting involving TTSL representatives and TTFA President David John-Williams.
“We had a meeting last evening at the Cycling Centre in Couva between the TTFA board and the clubs of the Super League,” TTSL interim president Keith Look Loy told Wired868. “Of the 22 clubs, there were 19 in attendance [and] John-Williams will have to put it in writing by Monday before he and [TTFA general secretary Justin] Latapy-George go to the FIFA Congress in Bahrain.”
“It” is confirmation of the TTFA’s ratification decision and Look Loy is optimistic that official word from the TTFA will come as early as next week.
Although he seemed generally satisfied with the way the discussions had gone, John-Williams was neither willing to divulge the details of the meeting nor to give any commitment to a timeline.
“All I can tell you,” he said, “is that we had a very cordial meeting, a very positive meeting. Everything is fine so far as I’m concerned.”
Look Loy provided a little more detail.
“Essentially,” he explained, “the TTFA—although they have to put it in writing—by the agreement of the chairman David John-Williams […] have agreed that we (the TTSL) will enjoy what is the same status as the TT Pro League.
“We will be an autonomous group so what we wanted we have achieved after four months of unnecessary strife and uncertainty.”
The toing and froing between the two parties started at the beginning of the year when the TTSL submitted a formal request for membership to the TTFA.
The umbrella body demanded that the applicants submit a stack of documents, including company by-laws, a copy of the League’s constitution and documentation associated with the formation and registration of the company, which has 22 shareholders.
According to Keith Look Loy, who also manages FC Santa Rosa, the TTSL provided all requested documentation and submitted a formal request for TTFA recognition on 8 January. It took 46 days for the governing body to acknowledge receipt of the application, which occurred on February 23.
By the time the league was publicly launched in March, the TTSL organisers had not yet got word from the TTFA on the status of their membership application.
In the month that followed, John-Williams and Latapy-George found themselves embroiled in a constitutional standoff with not just Look Loy but Central FA president Shymdeo Gosein, which kept hundreds of players, coaching staff and officials uncertain and uneasy about whether they would be playing Super League football in the 2017/2018 season.
Look Loy expressed satisfaction with the eventual resolution but he remains wary that, despite the administrative victory, funding for the league is not yet forthcoming and continues to be an issue. The TTSL have already sealed a $100,000-plus equipment deal with sports apparel giants Umbro but the interim president lamented that the local corporate sector seems completely uninterested in supporting the new league.
“We have one sponsor,” he revealed, saying that details of the deal will be disclosed in the near future, “and this is not a Trinidad and Tobago company [but] a company out of Canada.”
“The local business sector has shown no interest in sponsoring the Super League,” he continued, “[but] a Canadian company [has] agreed to sponsor our League Cup. We’re hoping therefore that we’ll be able to find a local corporate entity to become the title sponsor of our league.”
“The issue of national integration, of a national league, of maintaining the presence of Tobago communities in the Trinidad and Tobago Super League,” the interim president stressed, “one of them is the Bethel Community—they won the knockout last year—is of primary importance to us. But so far we have been unable to convince the corporate sector or the state that this is important.”
But Look Loy has not thrown in the towel. He intends to meet with Sport Minister Darryl Smith next week with a view to getting him to agree to provide TT$400,000 to the League.
“Our budget is based entirely on income from membership fees,” he explained. “What we have done is that we have cut the suit to fit the cloth and we have trimmed it down to make sure that when we run this inaugural season, based on fees alone we would not be operating in debt.
“The biggest chunk in our expenditure is travel between the two islands for the 22 teams that will constitute the two leagues.”
The requested government subvention will cover the hefty price tag for travel between the two islands.
“That is going to cost us $420,000, which is a big chunk out of our budget,” said Look Loy. “We have been trying to talk to the Ministry of Sport about that. For the 15 years of the National Super League, the State in one form or fashion—whether the Ministry of Sport or the Sport Company or Caribbean Airlines—covered the cost of that travel.
“We have not been able to convince the Ministry of Sport or Caribbean Airlines to do that or even to subsidise it. When we sent in our fixtures to Caribbean Airlines to try and immediately start booking spaces, they told us they want money up front.
“If we could get that taken care of, we would be very happy with that because then we can have some money from internal sources to pay prize money.”
He also took time out to expand on the significance of the community-based league and knockout competition in the local footballing sphere.
“We would go on to continue organising ourselves and playing football,” he told Wired868. “We didn’t sit down waiting on this to arrive. We have been going about planning our business so we have all our fixtures, people checking the venues and everything is proceeding to kick off with the first league on the 11th of June and the second league on the 24th of June.
“I’ve always said that this is the most important development in Trinidad and Tobago football in the 21st century [and] the only progressive move we have seen in terms of the organising of football and the administration of football.
“In the end, we have achieved what we wanted to achieve and that is all that matters.”