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Minister of Sport, Shamfa Cudjoe

The T&T Pro League will have to produce a very strong business plan if it is to receive funding from the government.

Minister of Sports and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe said this on Saturday as she addressed the issues facing sports in T&T, as well as the ways the government can help, on the Andre Baptiste Radio Programme on I95.5FM.

“Football is everybody’s sport, so of course, the government will invest and contribute but their business plan has to be a sound one, and we have to do better than we did before,” Cudjoe said.

The T&T Pro League has been on a transitioning phase with a possible merger with the T&T Super League (TTSL) to form the main Leagues in the country, which is set to be comparable with the top International Leagues such as the English Premiership, the German Bundesliga and the Spanish La Liga, among others.

This process was being assisted by the sport’s world governing body- FIFA, CONCACAF AND UEFA, along with the country’s parent body the T&T Football Association (TTFA), back in 2018.

Cudjoe said her government has invested in the Pro League for some 16 years and the league is still not sustainable.

"We have invested in the Pro League from as early as 2004, that is over 16 years of investment in the Pro League that had the intention of becoming self-sustainable, and with that arrangement with the Pro League, where we said after three years have been completed, we would look at the business plan on the way forward.”

According to Cudjoe: “I knew they were making significant strides as it relates to having the Pro League and the Super League merge, and under the guidance of the TTFA, those conversations had started.

"I don’t know where they are right now, but I haven’t seen a proposal, as it relates to that. Of course, I hope it will be something that will redound to the benefit of all local athletes and the development of football."

In 2020, Cudjoe said publicly that funding was only going to be given to grassroot sports, a comment that came in the midst of the wrangling between the embattled football association which was led by William Wallace, and the sport’s world governing body FIFA over the right to replace the Wallace-led United TTFA with a FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee.



Cudjoe tells sports bodies: Organise yourselves
By Narissa Fraser (T&T Newsday).

SPORT Minister Shamfa Cudjoe wants local sport administrations to be better organised. She said while people would always say the ministry should “invest more money,” into these groups, self-sustenance is just as important as seeking help from the government.

Cudjoe was speaking on a Twitter “Space” – a live voice-chat feature – on Tuesday night.

The space was hosted by Caribbean Football Union (CFU) general secretary Camara David, who is also a former general secretary of the TT Football Association (TTFA).

Cudjoe said leagues including the TT Pro League – which began in 1999 – have not been “as successful as they should,” but that it isn’t necessarily the fault of the government.

She said this is actually based on “the state of football, the mal-management and mismanagement of football, the failure of these entities to come together and come up with a plan that works…

“It was supposed to be a self-sufficient initiative…Up to 2020, the taxpayer had been investing in the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League. Year after year.”

She said football takes the “giant share” of the ministry’s funding and has been doing so for years.

“You got to organise yourself,” she said. “Because taxpayers cannot carry you and only you for that long…We have 54 sporting disciplines, so we have a duty as government to not make this investment in just football, but in cricket, in hockey, in Scrabble, jump-rope…”

She recalled an incident when an unnamed sporting body booked a recreation space, then “big bad football came and wanted to use the space and expected the government to ask the other group that made the booking first so football could have its way.”

She said things cannot work like that and everyone’s sport should be respected.

“We continue to invest, but it’s not simply the government’s role. You guys, as athletic governing bodies, members clubs and so on, you have to do your part. Be organised and manage your business properly.”

Cudjoe said internationally, athletes are often funded by the private sector and she “cannot fathom why for so many different activities in T&T, the first person to turn to is the government.

"Yes, we are a facilitator, yes we provide support and funding and so on – but what are you doing? Are you going to rest the weight on the taxpayers’ dollars for the rest of your existence?

"We have to rethink that strategy.”

A member of the public asked if she felt the ministry’s resources were being spread across too many different sports, which was, in turn, causing a lack of resources.

But Cudjoe disagreed..

“What are we saying to the rugby player, the swimmer, the different people that are passionate about their sport?”

She also commended Special Olympians, saying they too are a priority.

She praised companies such as Digicel and Republic Bank as being “private-sector entities who are serious about sport and doing their part.”

But she said it is equally important for groups seeking such funding to have a clean, positive brand.

“And more importantly, that these athletes and NGBs (national governing bodies) would position themselves and organise themselves in a way that they are attracting (these companies) and their profile is nice and clean so that they can attract the funding and can carry the branding of the private sectors.

“Some of these sport divisions have so much confusion and so much madness going o,, who want to put their name to that? You also have to check yourself and that is what I keep telling the TTFA and the normalisation committee as they try to rebuild and rebrand themselves now…”

“This is not just about football and making it to the World Cup. This is about cleaning up your profile and the private sector can say, ‘I can put my name and my money behind that.’"

She said NGBs need to focus on capacity-building and succession planning.