Sat, Jun

Players staying away from training...Now looking for jobs.

A meeting among the staff of the T&T football team, its coach Terry Fenwick and chairman of the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee Robert Hadad is expected to be taking place today, amidst concerns that players and staff members are threatening to stay away from training sessions, due to unpaid stipend and wages.

On Monday, a Guardian Media reported the situation of a staff member facing eviction from an apartment he has occupied for two years, due to non-payment of salaries. It was reported that the staff member has not paid his rent in almost a year, adding that he is one of probably three staff members facing similar issues.

Now a parallel situation exists, following rumours that local players are planning to seek alternative ways of earning an income, rather than depending on football.

"Players have said to me that they're going to look for jobs rather than run-down football where they are even getting a stipend," one player said.

Their actions, he said, come from another report in which Hadad said his committee was not obligated to pay stipends to players and described it as setting a dangerous precedent.  

According to a Guardian report on Sunday, Hadad revealed: “We are not obligated to pay anybody a stipend, number one. Number two, there are a few players who have come to us and we have said to them that we’re not obligated to pay a stipend. We have presented our budget to FIFA for the year and it does not include anything called a stipend.”

Fenwick's training squad comprises mainly young players, most of whom are out of contract because no football is being played in T&T due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Still, they endure the hardship to attend training sessions, not knowing if they will be picked for World Cup qualifying matches, or if the normalisation committee will be compassionate to their financial situation at present, the player noted.    

On Monday, Fenwick began his session at the Police Barracks in St James with a call for all players and staff to persevere in the midst of the financially difficult period, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But from his sessions that usually average 25-30 players on any given day, only 16 showed up for practice, ahead of T&T's crucial World Cup qualifying matches against the Bahamas on June 5 and St Kitts and Nevis, three days later.

The players and staff have been banking on a promised payment of wages by the normalisation committee at the Piarco International Airport before the team left for the opening two games against Guyana and Puerto Rico, and also in December last year following the payment of the first and only tranche of salaries to be given out.  

If the meeting comes off, Hadad will have to answer questions of why payment of salaries and stipends are being withheld, and when will it be paid?

The player admitted that if the situation continues after the meeting with the normalisation committee, then possibly, Fenwick could have no training squad for matches.