The Flow Youth Pro League will, for the first time, include a knockout competition within its 2018 calendar which runs from February 18 through to May 27.
This along with increased television coverage by WISports (Flow channel 97) and heightened social media involvement were revealed during the Flow Youth Pro League 2018 launch on Wednesday at the VIP Lounge of the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain.
“[The Flow Youth Pro League] is an environment where true development can take place,” said Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene during his opening remarks. “(…) as there is a week between games where recovery of the players can take place and most importantly coaching and preparation for the next weekend’s game. This Flow Youth Pro League attracts the best talent in the country and is structured in such a way to ensure greater competitiveness.”
A combined thirty teams representing the ten (10) Pro League clubs (Central FC, Club Sando, Defence Force FC, Morvant Caledonia United, North East Stars, Point Fortin Civic, Police FC, San Juan Jabloteh, St. Ann's Rangers and W Connection), will compete across three divisions: Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 every Sunday from 10am, 2pm and 4pm respectively.
The league format, however, has been truncated to one round (February 18 – April 22) before second phase of the season (April 29 – May 27) features the inaugural knockout.
Last season Jabloteh produced the triple-triple, setting a new benchmark by becoming the first club to win all three divisions of the Flow Y-League three years in a row.
“The Flow Youth Pro League will continue to have a dynamic approach to youth football in T&T,” explained Skeene. “We will afford teams this year the opportunity to play two competitions and so be in line to win two competitions. This will bring further interest and generate excitement to the Flow Youth Pro League brand.
“Most importantly, the Flow Youth League will once again be on your television screens, weekly developing personalities and creating stars of the future.
“[And] in keeping with the modern environment and the modern youth, the space in which this generation operates is social media and accordingly the Flow Youth Pro League will focus a lot on a social media and awareness strategy. This year the League will continue to utilize social media to bring awareness and generate increased support for the Flow Youth Pro League. Each week the Flow Youth Pro League will offer awards to individuals who post the best pictures and videos of the games played every Sunday. This in my view is to build the fan base in the medium and short term. The Flow Youth Pro League is an important aspect of the TT Pro League achieving its goals in the medium and long term.”
Skeene also reminded that the Flow Youth Pro League continues to be a major supplier of players to Trinidad and Tobago Youth National Teams. “So we must use it to transform youth football in T&T and it is only fitting because the TT Pro League is the highest level in the football pyramid in T&T.
“Our goal is to continue to make the Flow Youth Pro League a compelling and attractive sports property which is cherished, admired and supported by all the youth. They must crave and want to play in it, support it and follow it. This will help build the fan base of the League. We can’t underestimate the value of this Youth Pro League, it mirrors the senior Pro League.”
The PL CEO said the Flow Youth Pro League is not only a development tool for the players but also important for young match commissioners, referees, coaches, trainers, managers and administrators.
Skeene commended Flow, now in their third year of sponsorship, for understanding the vision, mission and purpose of the Pro League's Youth programme.
He said the continued involvement of all clubs also affirms the Pro League’s unwavering faith in the talent and potential of the youth of the nation.
“Given these challenging economic times in Trinidad and Tobago, now more than ever, it is important to keep our young people motivated and confident in the system, the leaders and their future. Finding the right channels for our youth to fulfill their potential is critical at this juncture. What to me is most important is that the development of the youth of the country and the development of the people can never be in recession,” added the former Trinidad and Tobago footballer.
“This is one aspect of my job that I love the most,” said Cindy-Ann Gatt, Director of Marketing at Flow. “Through initiatives like this, we at Flow get the opportunity to invest in and nurture young talent.
“We are proud to continue for another year as we look forward to seeing talented young players touching the ball. If it’s anything like last year, I am sure we are going to have another great season, with our version of the international FA Cup – as spirited, determined young players give their all.
“While some may down cry the future of T&T football, I beg to disagree. Based on what I have seen, we are far from finished. At last year’s prize giving event, I said the Trinidad and Tobago football legacy is far from over. I maintain that to be true. The fact we have  teams participating this year, shows that these youngsters have not let up and neither have their coaches.
“When Flow signed up to become a partner with the Youth Pro League we didn’t anticipate just how rewarding this would be. As a partner, the YPL has elevated Flow not just from the perspective of brand visibility, but the partnership has reinforced our passion for sport and youth and the development of both areas. We are also glad to be involved in a partnership which promotes the development of young men in sport.”
Gatt said stories in media are heart-breaking especially as young men are involved in some of the darkest of acts. She believes the Youth Pro League is a safe place for our young men to learn about self-care, brotherhood, respect, teamwork, strategy and peace. She said the real battle should be on the football field. “A goal scored is a celebration of persistence. A skate tackle or a red card is a life lesson to learn. A game loss offers the opportunity to do better the next time.”