Thu, Dec

Flashback: Peter Miller Unplugged; how Essex salesman struck gold in T&T football.

The following article on then chief executive officer of the Football Company of Trinidad and Tobago (FCoTT), Peter Miller, was written by Lasana Liburd and first published in the Trinidad Express on 10 March 2002:

(FCoTT, at the time, was the sponsorship and marketing arm of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation.)

It is a tumultuous time for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) and, indeed, world governing body, Fifa, who have both been forced to go public with contrasting financial difficulties.

But only calm seems to reign at the office of Football Company of Trinidad and Tobago (FCoTT) chief executive officer Peter Miller.

It is Miller’s job to ensure that the accounts of local football are ticking over and—on the evidence of a February 28 interview—he is pleased as punch with his work so far.

“I can’t really want for anything more in life,” said the Englishman. “I’m very lucky. I get paid to do a job I like. I live in what to me is the best country in the world…

“I can’t honestly think of anything I’d rather have at the moment.”

Miller swivelled in his chair throughout the interview. Intermittent flashes of a bright smile, regular interjections of humour, and cool, calculated responses rolled easily from the 42-year-old who lists his profession as marketing manager.

The man from Essex seemed to be in his element.

“My goal is to establish FCoTT as the company it was set out to be,” said Miller. “To run the marketing and commercial affairs of football and to adequately fund the development of the game at all levels.”

The interview is littered with such grand quotes, which served as testimony to his seemingly immense self-belief.

Miller assured the Trinidad and Tobago public, for instance, that there was no financial crisis in local football and the national football team was in no danger of losing its Brazilian coach, Rene Simoes.

Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) president Oliver Camps publicly pleaded for sponsors to step up and pay a monthly sum of US$50,000 to keep Simoes and his three-man Brazilian entourage last December.

But Miller insisted that it was much ado about nothing and FCoTT was fulfilling its financial obligations. Simoes, he claimed, had not missed a payment.

That was not only news to the Sunday Express, but to the national coach as well, who publicly stated that he would offer his services to the T&TFF free of charge until 1 June 2002, by which time they must source the necessary funds to pay his salary.

“No, that’s not true,” said Simoes yesterday, when asked if he was being paid. “They paid [for] January… They said they had the money to pay [me for] January, but after, I don’t know. If he says everything has been put in place, then I’m very happy.

“I gave him until the 1st of June… But if [Miller] says that everything is in place, then I’m glad to hear that.”

It is not the first contradictory report that emerged from the interview at FCoTT, or following background checks on its CEO. Miller’s tale is a remarkable one—particularly depending on who is telling it.

The Englishman could not immediately satisfy a request for his résumé, while his promise to have it faxed later from FCoTT did not materialise as it was not readily available.

But Miller mentioned no university background and admitted he held no marketing degree or qualification. By his own admission, he is a self-made man around football.

“I’ve always been involved in sport, or rather football, in one way or another,” he said. “The representation of players and so on. Always on the commercial side, never good enough as a player to make it, I’m afraid…

“I played football at a very good standard, but not professionally.”

In the birthplace of football, Miller worked—unknown to Fifa, as he was never registered—as a sports agent. It was, he said, his only source of income. He also claimed to have been attached to famous English Premier League club, Newcastle United.

“I was their authorised representative for the Caribbean,” he said.

Miller could give the names of just two players under his wing in England who would be known to the local public. One is Vibe CT105FM W Connection striker Earl Jean of St Lucia and the other, England-born ex-Soca Warriors international Ronnie Mauge—both of whom he met at English Division Two club Plymouth Argyle.

It was on Jean’s recommendation that Miller went to St Lucia in 1998 to work as the marketing manager for the St Lucia Football Federation.

Miller claimed to have represented Jean for ‘five or six years’, although the striker said he did not stay at Plymouth for even two years before he returned to the Caribbean to join W Connection.

Jean’s recollection of Miller’s role in England also differed from what was obtained by the Sunday Express at the FCoTT office.

The talented St Lucian international recalled he was in the middle of his two-year contract at Plymouth Argyle when he was approached by a man who claimed to be the joint-owner and manager of one of his preferred restaurants.

The same gentleman, at the time, dabbled in the music industry, as far as the promotion and recording of CDs, and peddled Phat Farm clothing. His name was Peter Miller.

“Ronnie [Mauge] and I were both playing for Plymouth at the time,” said Jean. “And we went to a restaurant for lunch and he came up to us. That was more or less how it happened… He started giving us ideas and said he would like to market me.”

Miller’s wheeling paid immediate dividends as the smooth talker was able to get a printing firm in the area to sponsor a Mazda 323 for the striker. The pair became fast friends and the shoe was soon on the other foot, as the Englishman turned to the St Lucian for help.

“His business ran into problems,” said Jean. “So I advised him to go to St Lucia for a holiday and to clear his head… I said that I’d hook him up with Stuart [Charles-Fevrier] to see if there was anything he could do.”

Miller and his family—which included wife of 14 years, Penny, and sons Joseph (9) and Jake (7)—never looked back.

“We love it here,” said Miller. “In actual fact, this weekend (March 2) is the first time I’m going back to England in three years.”

Miller was scheduled to fly through England en route to a football finance conference in Madrid, Spain on official FCoTT business.

It seems a far cry from the story of a broken businessman who went to St Lucia just over three years ago, allegedly uncertain about his next move.

In St Lucia, Miller met Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier who—impressed by his work—brought him to Trinidad some months later to join the newly-formed Connection team, who were preparing for the inaugural Professional Football League (PFL).

It was enough time, according to Miller, to create history.

“I received the biggest sponsorship in (their) sporting history with Heineken,” he said. “There were also various other sponsorships that I developed.”

Once more, Miller’s memory differed with that of the other parties involved.

“[Miller] stayed for about three months in St Lucia,” said Fevrier. “He had some good ideas but nothing materialised. Maybe because he didn’t really stay around.

“One was for Heineken to give the football association enough beers, so that if you sell the beers you would get a million dollars over three to five years. The stock would be equivalent to that money. They agreed, but it didn’t happen.”

The Sunday Express was unable to confirm either story as St Lucia Football Association president Mark Louis was out of the island on a two-week vacation and did not respond to several e-mails.

Still, Fevrier offered a sympathetic ear to the Englishman when he asked him to tag along on his trip to Trinidad and W Connection.

“He felt he couldn’t do anything positive in St Lucia without me being there,” said Fevrier. “So he asked if I could speak to the owners of W Connection for him.”

In St Lucia, Miller received an allowance and was to be paid on commission from what he brought to the Football Association. There was no accommodation, travel or vehicle at his disposal.

Things would improve greatly for Miller in Trinidad and Tobago. Not at W Connection, though.

The south-based club made an impressive start, clinching the FA Cup in their first season of competitive football, before winning the league title in 2000, which they successfully defended last year. Their remarkable record led to Charles being awarded the Medal of Merit (silver) by the St Lucian government.

Miller didn’t do nearly as well.

“I was sacked,” said Miller. “Ask [club owner David] John-Williams why. Personally, I thought I did a very good job.”

Williams declined to speak on the record, but an executive member of the club, who preferred to remain anonymous, had much to say.

The WCFC source claimed that the club was initially disinterested in Miller and the St Lucia Football Association was less than satisfied with his work, but they hired him to appease Fevrier. It proved to be a disaster. Within three months, Miller was fired, only to be reinstated to protect the new club from potentially-damaging publicity.

Eight months later, he was dismissed for good.

“There were real haphazard sloppy presentations and plenty talk, but he was never producing,” said the source.

The last straw came after Miller failed to submit a budget for a visit by the England FA CEO, despite repeated requests. Miller was terminated immediately after that workshop.

But the Englishman is made of sturdy stuff and it was not long before he was back on his feet and even better off than before.


Flashback: Wheelers and dealers; how Miller and Fenwick got stuck in to T&T football.
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868).

The following is the second of a two-part series on then chief executive officer of the Football Company of Trinidad and Tobago (FCoTT), Peter Miller, and was written by Lasana Liburd and first published in the Trinidad Express on 17 March 2002:

Three years can seem a particularly long time in the world of football.

Ask Trinidad and Tobago’s Dwight Yorke, who went from English Premier League giant Manchester United’s hotshot to surplus product, or Brazilian superstar Ronaldo, who slipped from global enigma to cameo appearances through a persistent knee injury.

Or maybe you can speak to Football Company of Trinidad and Tobago (FCoTT) chief executive officer Peter Miller.

In 1999, Vibe CT 105FM W Connection president David John-Williams sacked the Englishman in the inaugural season of the local Professional Football League (PFL). But, in 2002, it was Miller who looked set to play an important role in keeping the competition on track after the pull-out of chief PFL financier, Fifa vice-president and Joe Public club owner Jack Warner.

Miller indicated to the PFL teams his willingness to officially market the league and agreed to present a marketing plan within a two-week time frame. That promise was made more than a month ago and, up to Friday evening, the PFL clubs still waited.

Williams, who now occupies the role of interim PFL chairman, told the Sunday Express the PFL was now considering putting out an advertisement inviting an independent marketing firm to do the job.

He did not say whether his appreciation of the 42-year-old Miller’s marketing and organisational talents had risen or fallen. Regardless, the Englishman is busier than ever before.

In mid-February, he was granted his third work permit by the Ministry of National Security, which is mandated to ensure the foreign worker is suitably qualified and providing a service that could not be adequately done by a local.

By his own admission, Miller has never studied marketing and did not hold a similar position in England, where his alleged job titles ranged from co-restaurant owner to small-time football agent.

National Security Minister Howard Chin Lee claimed ignorance of the case and said he merely acted on the recommendations of the Work Permit Advisory Committee.

That committee includes Permanent Secretary Trevor Percival and Allison Yorke (Work Permit Division). Yorke told the Express she was unwilling to speak about the case without the approval of Percival. And Percival, according to Yorke, said only he ‘would think about it’.

His high-profile job at FCoTT is not Miller’s only noteworthy position, as he is also linked with advertising firm Collier Morrison Belgrave (CMB) Limited, PFL club CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh, the University of the West Indies—as a guest lecturer—and sports promotion company Pro Sports Caribbean Limited.

His role with the respective corporations, though, depends on whose opinion one chooses to believe.

In a February 28 interview, Miller said he was a paid consultant for CMB, although he declined to give financial details. Efforts to contact CMB founding partner Clive Belgrave for further clarification did not bear fruit.

Miller admitted one of his first acts as FCoTT CEO was to hire CMB to handle the football advertising campaigns—with the Englishman being paid by both parties.

“The standard of advertising for the T&TFF (Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation) was pretty sub-standard,” said Miller. “[…] It’s like a coach who comes into a new team and brings players he knows. There is nothing untoward [about this].”

The move did generate some success as CMB won an award at the Advertising Association of Trinidad and Tobago’s annual gala function for their television and radio commercials done for the T&TFF.

Jabloteh and Pro Sports are much trickier issues, though.

“I work with them in the [same] sense that I work with all the clubs,” said Miller, when asked about his position with the San Juan outfit.

Does he receive a salary from Jabloteh?

“No, I don’t.”

The same question was posed to FCoTT marketing manager Paula Chester, who also denied being paid by Jabloteh.

Jabloteh chairman Jerry Hospedales and manager Kirk De Freitas said otherwise. Both men told the Express that the FCoTT pair were paid members of the Jabloteh staff.

“Miller does the brain-thrusting, planning and organisation,” said Hospedales. “[…] Paula Chester is also trying to implement things to help us. She’s just started. I don’t have an employed [marketing] staff, just them.”

Some within the PFL argue that if Miller indeed held dual roles, it presented a potential conflict of interest.

The man responsible for soliciting sponsors for local football—in its entirety—could, in the opinion of more than one source, easily persuade a potential client to do business with the club.

Hospedales agreed, but did not think it was an issue at present.

“The potential is always there for a conflict of interest,” said Hospedales. “But so far he has been managing all right… I think the larger doors he has opened will help all clubs.”

Miller admitted during the course of the interview that he held a soft spot for Jabloteh. It was the Bourg Mulatresse outfit who helped the Englishman to stay in the game after he was dumped by Connection.

According to another PFL source who requested anonymity, Miller showed up at Jabloteh’s doorstep claiming to have many football contacts and the ability to make the club lots of money.

In return, he requested a monthly salary in the range of $20,000, as well as a cellular phone, vehicle and other perks.

The Englishman promised two massive undertakings at Jabloteh. The first was a proposal to bring English Premier League team Newcastle United and Division One outfit Sheffield United to Trinidad and Tobago for a mini-tour.

“He said we should make $2 million from the matches,” said the PFL source. “Instead we ended up about $500,000 in debt… He then said, don’t worry about that [financial] loss as Newcastle would sponsor a football academy at Jabloteh to the value of close to $2 million.

“Again it never happened.”

His second big deal came after he had begun working with FCoTT. It was the introduction of former England international and Portsmouth manager Terry Fenwick.

Fenwick was a young manager whose first and only notable job in England ended quickly, as he and Portsmouth director of football, Terry Venables, were sacked in their second year at the club in the 1997/1998 season.

Fenwick replaced Ron La Forest at Jabloteh’s coaching helm for the 2001 PFL season and cost the club almost 20 times as much as the former Trinidad and Tobago international.

In terms of statistics, Fenwick was not immediately as successful as La Forest, failing to defend back-to-back First Citizens Bank cups won under his predecessor and ending outside the top-four PFL teams for the first time—19 points adrift of champions, W Connection.

(Editor’s Note: Fenwick went on to lead Jabloteh to Pro League titles in 2002, 2007 and 2008.)

But Jabloteh’s on-field fortunes were not Fenwick’s sole consideration. In late 2001—as Trinidad and Tobago prepared to host the FIFA Under-17 World Championship—Fenwick and Miller combined to form Pro Sports in Anguilla.

“It has been a thought of mine since I’ve been here,” said Miller. “I’ve been appalled by the treatment of players in this country and in the region generally […] from administrators and agents.”

Miller hesitated—for the first time during the interview—when asked about the choice of Anguilla as their company’s headquarters.

“No particular reason,” he said finally, with a smile.

Miller admitted he had never visited Anguilla before forming the company but he knew the Caribbean island was famous for its offshore banking and was often used as a tax haven and for protection from lawsuits and prying eyes.

Did Miller value the privacy of the company that highly?

“No, not at all,” he said. “If it is good for offshore banking, I am sure it’s got its advantages. I think you would need to speak to Terry [Fenwick] about it. If I remember rightly, he recommended it.”

Fenwick refused to answer any questions over the telephone, insisting on a face-to-face interview. He then explained he was too busy to make time for such an interview.

Pro Sports Ltd was responsible for arranging trials for young national footballers Nkosi Blackman, Jerol Forbes and Kenwyne Jones with Manchester United, earlier this year. But, again, it raised the eyebrows of a few local football authorities, concerned with the many hats being worn by Miller and Fenwick.

Using his post at the helm of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation’s financial arm, couldn’t Miller escape with promoting only players signed by the company? What is to stop Fenwick from using Pro Sport as a recruiting incentive?

Their respective employers did not seem overly concerned by their different involvements, though.

“I am happy with Miller’s work,” said T&TFF president Oliver Camps. “I have no problem with any [possible] conflict of interest.”

Camps was also unperturbed by Miller’s apparent lack of formal education or experience.

“We have had enough to evaluate him from his jobs in the Caribbean,” said Camps.

Hospedales also insisted he would not be left with the short end of the stick.

“As long as it don’t conflict with my business,” he said. “[…] As long as my team is being promoted.”

Warner’s retirement has left local football struggling to retain its balance and in need of leaders willing to step forward and direct or redirect its path.

Miller has stepped up as one such leader. The direction in which he has chosen to lead, though, is a contentious issue—depending on who you speak to.

UWI cut ties with Peter Miller—who worked as a part-time lecturer in sport marketing. Then TTFF special advisor Jack Warner shut down FCoTT next, while San Juan Jabloteh fired Miller in that same year and he did not get his work permit renewed to stay in Trinidad.

Terry Fenwick went on to become one of the Pro League’s most successful coaches, though. And, in 2019, Fenwick paved the way for Miller’s secret return to local football. Miller created the marketing plans used by William Wallace in his successful campaign for the presidency of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), and negotiated Fenwick’s salary as Men’s National Senior Team head coach.

In the process, the English salesman had Wallace agree to pay him US$25,000 per month over an initial two year period.