THE semifinalists in the 2019 Manzanilla Football Competition have expressed concern that organisers of the tournament have reneged on an agreement and refused to pay prize money for the tournament until all matches are completed.
The tournament, which kicked off in October last year, was originally scheduled to be held over a two-month period but to date, the semi-final round and final are yet to be played.
The teams in the semi-finals are Take That and Cool It, Dream Team, Manzanilla Block 3 and Eastern Police.
Competing teams paid $1,000 registration with approximately 18 players per team. The tournament was held at North Manzanilla Grounds.
Since the completion of the quarter-final stage last year, the four advancing teams were told a date would be set for the remaining matches. However, according to Take That and Cool It manager Sherwin Joseph, the organisers kept delaying the tourney’s resumption.
When the covid19 pandemic hit T&T in March, all sporting facilities were closed and team sports banned to prevent the spread of the virus. During this time, organisers told teams that the final two stages would be completed as soon as the restrictions were lifted.
On June 22, the Prime Minister allowed lifted some team sports restrictions as covid19 cases were under control.
Joseph said attempts were made to contact organisers for an update but no new information was forthcoming.
The four team managers allegedly visited the home of one of the tournament’s organisers an agreed that the cash rewards for the top-three teams ($15,000, $7,500 and $3,000) would be combined and divided among them on August 19.
Joseph said a former MP for Toco/Sangre Grande was also made aware of the situation and sought to assure the teams the money would be paid.
“When that day came (August 19), plans changed and organisers decided they wanted to play the remaining matches. However, the covid19 restrictions were re-implemented so no football could get under way.
“That entire week we kept trying to contact the organisers and nobody answered. It leaves us with nothing now,” Joseph complained.
Newsday also spoke to an Eastern Police representative, who reiterated Joseph’s claims.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the Eastern Police representative said, “They kept giving us the run around until the covid19 excuse came up. They made empty promises. They keep telling us they have the funds but nothing has been done since. Up to today (Friday) I tried to call (former MP). I’m trying to be as professional and transparent as possible.”
Unsuccessful PNM candidate in the 2019 local government election Nigel Safe, whose name was on the flyer promoting the competition, on Friday acknowledged speaking to the teams when they had proposed dividing the prize money. He said he was okay with that but when he approached the organising committee with that arrangement, they refused to accept it.
He said committee members said the tournament was held to build community spirit and just disbursing the prize money would defeat the purpose of the competition.
Safe assured the semifinalists that the money is there to pay the prizes. He said when team sports can resume the remaining matches will be advertised and the community will be given “a proper football closing.”
Newsday spoke to another member of the organising committee who said, “They have to wait for the Prime Minister to say when football can resume. Everybody will play and they will get their prizes.”