Sport Minister Brent Sancho revealed today that the Government hopes to acquire live feeds for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup in time for Trinidad and Tobago’s opening match against Guatemala on Thursday July 9.
“I am still talking to the different parties and we know there is interest from different (corporate companies),” Sancho told Wired868. “We would like to make sure the public can see these games live so we are working on making it a reality. It is of high importance that we work out a reasonable deal to have it shown.
“And not just football, we want to get most of our sport shown in Trinidad (and Tobago) so our public can see what our national teams are doing.
“I think it gives our athletes and sports a good market to hopefully inveigle corporate sponsorship. And it transcends down to the young ones who can see their heroes perform on the world stage.”
But it was a rare spot of good news for football as disharmony between the Sport Ministry and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) again affected the preparation of its national teams.
Yesterday, the Trinidad and Tobago National Women’s Senior Team and National Men’s Under-23 Team both left for the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, which officially starts on July 10.
But it was a matter of problems postponed rather than solved as the TTFA and Sport Ministry remain at loggerheads over match fees promised to footballers while mismanagement and distrust continues to hamper the respective teams.
Key to the current rift, which led to a threatened boycott by the “Women Soca Warriors”, was match fees of US$500 per game that was promised to both teams.
But, as the two teams prepared to depart, the TTFA could only assure the players of US$600 each for the entire three week competition.
It prompted a furious social media response from star attacker Kennya “Yaya” Cordner and a threatened boycott from her teammates.
TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips described the episode as a misunderstanding and suggested that the Women Warriors erroneously thought they were not due match fees.
“There were some players who thought that was it,” Phillips told Wired868, “and we said that is what we would be able to source (at the moment).”
It took an assurance from the Sport Minister to team captain Maylee Attin-Johnson to placate the women.
“My first concern was making sure we got them on the plane,” said Sancho. “Sheldon apparently told the girls not to go on the plane and wait for us to meet to sort it out, which didn’t make sense because they would have missed their flight…
“I said to get on the plane and we will sort it out.”
Phillips retorted that his suggestion was for a morning meeting, which would not have jeopardised the team’s travel plans.
More importantly though, Sancho’s promise did not necessarily address the issue since, according to the Sport Minister, he did not agree to any specific sum.
“First, we have to get a full scope of what is happening,” said Sancho. “We have to sit with a representative of the TTFA… We don’t know if we can meet their demands.
“We have to make sure the taxpayers’ dollars are used appropriately.”
TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee reiterated that the players only hope for match fees lay with the Government.
“Yes, the match fees will come down to the (Sport) Ministry,” said Tim Kee.
Both sides lay bare their misgivings about the other party and there was a hint that, even if the Pan American teams receive their due, future national football teams might suffer for the TTFA’s perceived brinksmanship.
“I am drawing the line in the sand,” said Sancho, who suggested that the TTFA was less than forthright about its true financial situation. “This is it (and) it is going to have a ripple effect on the other teams. We want to try our best to make the athletes happy but this is a song that has been playing for donkey years…
“If one party is seemingly not operating in the most honest way, then we have a problem.”
Sancho claimed the TTFA was due a CONCACAF payment of US$100,000, which was meant to prepare the National Senior Men’s Team for the 2015 Gold Cup. But, he said, the sum had not been mentioned in multiple discussions between the two parties.
“They told us that they only had $13,000 (TT) in their account so they couldn’t pay for visas for the Under-23 Team,” said Sancho “but one of the challenges we have is gauging what they have and what they don’t have because we got information that they received $100,000 US from CONCACAF.
“Then, when they knew we were aware of it, they said they would get the money at the end of July. Then, when we asked why preparatory money would only be available after the tournament, they came back and said they would get it by the end of the week.
“It is hard to keep up with the stories.”
Tim Kee countered that the CONCACAF payment had been affected by chaos enveloping the governing body, whose president Jeffrey Webb is fighting an extradition request by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).
He claimed the preparation funding would usually be available to teams before the Gold Cup but that was not the case on this occasion. The TTFA, he said, made a special request for some funds before the competition.
“When these things happened in Zurich the other day, there was a lot of panic in CONCACAF and people being sent home and so on,” said Tim Kee. “We applied to CONCACAF for some of that money as a loan and that is where we got $330,000 US from…
“They limited the maximum we could get to one third and that is compromising their own laws because they are very strict about (associations) getting something for one purpose and using it for something else.
“But they are fully aware of the challenges we face and they have compromised…”
Sancho insisted that the TTFA never submitted a specific request for match fees for its Pan American Teams.
“The TTFA submitted budgets for about 10 different teams when we first met,” said Sancho. “Since then, we have met with (TTFA official William) Wallace and Sheldon (Phillips), Wallace and (Senior Team coach Stephen) Hart, Wallace alone, Wallace and Tim Kee…
“Every time they came in, they were asking for different things. First, it would be flights, then flights and hotels, then a game was on and then off.
“These are the kind of things we have to deal with… They sent in an overall budget for all the teams but the cases change over time.
“They have to have specific requests for specific teams to access money. And from my knowledge, we didn’t have anything specific for the women’s team.”
Tim Kee conceded that the TTFA did not make an official request for the Women Warriors. However, Phillips suggested that the Sport Ministry was partly culpable for the budget changes referenced by the Minister.
“The adjustments in the budget are based on the continual shift in what we were told we had access to,” said Phillips. “It is very difficult to plan when this is happening. We are trying to create revenue streams that will lessen that dependence but that will take some time…
“The latest narrative we are getting from the Sport Ministry is NGOs don’t get their full subvention. So you present us with what we are authorised to get and we do our budget based on what you gave to us. And then at the eleventh hour, you tell us NGOs don’t get their full subvention…
“It has been an ongoing conversation and we will continue to sit with the (Sport Ministry) to sort things out.”
The overriding issue, of course, is the TTFA’s failure to raise money to fund its own teams.
“They have to take a long hard look at themselves and how they raise money,” said Sancho. “To sit down and wait for taxpayers’ money is ludicrous. We have lots of other sporting bodies who don’t have FIFA and CONCACAF money and they make it work and raise their own money.
“They need to tailor their plans according to the money they have. The Government is supposed to assist with a shortfall (so) if you have money coming in, then you use it.
“Cricket and everyone else seems to manage without issue or find ways of getting round their shortfalls. This is the only body we have this problem with.”
Just over a month ago, the TTFA requested match fees of US$1,000 for the Under-23 Men’s Team. The Sport Ministry retorted that it would pay no more than half the match fees requested for all national football teams.
So, the TTFA promised the Under-23 Men’s Team US$500 match fees instead. But an agreement was not reached with the Sport Ministry.
The Women Warriors then threatened to boycott the Pan Am competition unless they received equal pay with the Under-23 Men’s Team.
So now both teams have promises with no guarantor. And the TTFA and Sport Ministry continue to glare at each other with distrust and apprehension.
Sancho accused the TTFA of trying to hold the Sport Ministry over a barrel.
“It seems like we are always outing fires before we could even enter into negotiations with them,” said Sancho. “Because they agree match fees and stipends (with their players) and then throw them at us. I don’t know what the final arrangement was for the (TTFA) and the (Pan Am) players so there is a lot to happen before we get to (the promise to the Women Warriors).
“The main thing is I didn’t want an embarrassment to the country… The (TTFA) made it abundantly clear that they will be getting money from CONCACAF.
“So we will see how that goes and take it from there."