Top T&T Pro League contenders W Connection, North East Stars, Central FC and Point Fortin Civic will not take part in this year’s inaugural Ascension Football League, which is being sponsored by a foreign company that supplies sports clothing, gear and other equipment.
The league is set to kick off this weekend (July 12) and will feature six pro league teams, namely San Juan Jabloteh, Morvant Caledonia United, Club Sando, Police FC, Defence Force and La Horquetta Rangers. They will be joined by six other teams from the T&T Super League to complete the list of 12 competitors for Division One of the tournament.
FC Santa Rosa, the 2018 Super League’s winner, Queen’s Park Cricket Club (QPCC), Prisons Service FC, Cunupia FC, Guaya United and Matura Re-United have been elevated to contest Division One.
Contacted yesterday, Connection Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Renee John-Williams said her coaches believe the pre-season tournament will not give them the type of preparation they require ahead of the much-fancied T-League, which, because of the involvement of UEFA and FIFA, will replace the T&T Pro League as the country’s tier 1 competition.
“Both Stuart-Charles Fevrier and Earl Jean made that decision and I am very confident in my technical team,” John-Williams said.
She noted the coaches may also not want to risk injuries in the tournament, so they prefer to prepare the players in another manner.
W Connection has been the country’s most successful football club, copping half a dozen league titles, along with four FA Cups, six First Citizens Cups, three CFU Club Championships and trophies in the Digicel Shield and Toyota Classic, among others.
John-Williams said her club officially began training recently, a month or so before the unofficial start of the T-League in September. It has been rumoured that the southern club could not put together a team due to financial reasons. Guardian Media Sports learnt that many of Connection’s players have sought greener pastures at La Horquetta Rangers, the team that acquired St Ann’s Rangers back in 2018.
John-Williams also explained her team will, this year, focus on player development.
The Ascension League will provide teams with the opportunity to cash in on a handsome first prize of $250,000, plus an appearance fee of $2,000 for each match, to be paid at the end of every month. The runner-up will receive $125,000 and there will also be prizes for the top four teams. Teams participating in the league will not be required to pay a registration fee, organizers said yesterday.
Yesterday, North East Stars Business Development Director Michael Awai said his team refused to play in the tournament because there is no security for his players.
“There are no contracts for players and they are unaware of the entity that will be running the tournament. If our players are injured, then what happens next?” Awai asked.
Meanwhile, Garthorne Craig, chairman of Point Fortin Civic, said his team missed the tournament’s registration deadline date and so they will not be playing.
Division Two of the tournament will also comprise 12 teams from the Super League. Like the Division One, it will feature a handsome prize structure along with an appearance fee of $1,000 per club for each match to be paid at the end of the month.
The league is set to be launched today at a press conference at the Hotel Normandie in St Ann’s.