The League kicks-off June 1
Government's $11 million bailout of the T&T Pro League has led to joy for many of the clubs, but tears for others, particularly at the administration of the sport.
In the Senate on Thursday new Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Shamfa Cudjoe announced that Cabinet had approved $11.1 million for the cash-strapped T&T Pro League which up to that day, was unsure of when the League was going to start. The monies, it is understood, will be for eight of the ten clubs for the next three years.
Yesterday, the League's administration was left penniless and could find itself in a bind due to huge costs for expenses.
Back on March 16 Guardian Media Sports broke the news with the headline "Gov’t $$$ to rescue Pro League" - after we were reliably informed that Government will pump $6 million to help the T&T Pro League for the 2018/2019 season after former Minister of Sports Darryl Smith took a Note to Cabinet and it was expected to get government’s approval in an effort to bail-out of the League which is experiencing severe financial difficulties.
Chairman of the Pro League Board Richard Fakoory and new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Julia Baptiste did not respond to our questions, but said that the league is expected to meet with minister Cudjoe and other officials of the ministry of sports, and at that time they will know what monies will be available to the League, if any.
Yesterday, Minister Cudjoe via a whats App message confirmed for Guardian Media Sports that the monies given are for eight clubs only, which means the League will still be on the hunt for additional cash to cover its expenses.
Over the years, Police and Defence Force teams are not funded through the arrangement.
A source at the embattled pro league who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity said it costs in excess of $1 million to run the league, taking into consideration huge costs to pay referees, salaries for staff, lights, travel, phone and many other overhead expenses.
The League is set for kick-off on June 1, but will only know the number of teams taking part, at the next meeting of the Board on Tuesday. Central FC owner and managing director Brent Sancho said his team still has to decide if they will be playing this year.
In the past, the governments through the Ministry of Sports and the Sport Company of T&T gave each club grants of $50,000 per month to help off-set specific cost items like salaries during the season.
Pro League stakeholders grateful for Govt $upport.
By Jelani Beckles (Newsday).
Good sense has prevailed
THE entire Pro League breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday afternoon after Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe revealed in Senate that Cabinet had approved $11 million to assist their operations. The 2018 season, which is set to kick off on June 1, will benefit from a $4.8 million injection – a tremendous boost to the cash-strapped local league struggling to stay afloat.
The league has been hit badly by a litany of financial woes which has seen prize monies unpaid, the exits of the league CEO Dexter Skeene and Chairman Sam Phillip, and the current champions North East Stars implementing a wage ceiling of $2,500 per month for all players.
For the immediate future, though, their problems have been addressed, with Government subventions going a long way towards paying salaries for all clubs.
Former national captain Jan-Michael Williams and Club Sando coach Angus Eve, were elated to hear the Government will be giving over $11 million to the TT Pro League, saying it will give young players an opportunity to pursue their careers. Williams, who has played for over 10 years in the Pro League club and won several titles with Central FC and W Connection, was happy to hear the news. Williams, one of the top goalkeepers locally, said a lot of people depend on the league.
“I think it is a situation where good sense and good governance prevailed, because you have a model that employs over 300 or 400 people directly and indirectly probably close to 1000 or 2000 people,” he said.
Williams, who recently ended a stint abroad in Honduras, said the league plays a key part in helping young people stay away from a life of crime.
“The people directly involved in the Professional League are young people between the ages of 16 and 30. It made a lot of sense, and you are seeing in recent times where players who were, or are involved in the Pro League, involved in some sort of crime one way or the other,” Williams said.
He noted a lot of players in the Pro League are counting on the league for survival, as they may not be academically inclined or know a trade. “A lot of these players don’t have four or five subjects — they don’t have degrees, they don’t have trade qualifications. So they will literally have to go and do manual hard labour and it is something that a lot of people do, but it is not something a professional footballer should be doing. If you are a professional player doing manual hard labour...you will struggle (playing professional football).”
Other than the help from the Government, Williams is hoping corporate T&T would come forward and give more support to the local league. Eve, a former national midfielder and current Pro League coach, praised the Government for the support but is also calling on others to come on board.
“For a small country, we are blessed with a lot of natural talent and we need the funding, not just from Government. I applaud the Government for coming on board, however, I think the private sector must play a part, also corporate T&T, (I ask) them to come in and support a venture which keeps young people off the streets,” Eve said.
Also an ex-national skipper, Eve said footballers in the TT Pro League are depending on it to make a living. “God has blessed all of us with an ability. Some people went to the route of their schooling and they have their education, not everybody is going to be a doctor,” he said.