Brent Sancho, a member of a commission formed to implement the UEFA/FIFA-proposed football leagues in T&T, says the T-League will happen.
Sancho's comment came amidst fears there will be no football this year due to the ongoing woes faced by the commission in getting the league going. However, Sancho yesterday said all will be done to ensure the T-League, which will comprise a Tier 1 for T&T Pro League clubs and a Tier 2 for T&T Super League teams, will take place this year, even if it means the tournament will run into next year.
Sancho said the timing of the funding from Government, through the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs and the FIFA Forward Project, has been one of their challenges. He is expecting the Government’s promised funding to be available by next week, coupled with funds from the FIFA Forward project.
Pro League clubs San Juan Jabloteh, North East Stars, Point Fortin FC, Terminix La Horquetta Rangers, Morvant Caledonia United, W Connection, Central FC and Club Sando will each receive $450,000 from the Government, of which $115,000 each will be put into an account that falls under the purview of the commission with oversight of the T&T Football Association (TTFA).
The funds from Government and FIFA, Sancho said, will be used to run the affairs of the league. The financial input from all the clubs will also cover for Pro League campaigners - Defence Force and Police FC, which did not have to put out any money as teams under national security. Super League clubs are not required to put out any funds.
Sancho, who is Central FC's owner and managing director, said for all these reasons and more the T-League has to get going. The league will be run by the commission under the supervision of the TTFA. He also said he believes commission chairman Lindsay Gillette is the best man to lead the sport in T&T.
However, Sancho could not say whether the league will be a one or two-round competition but noted that “even if it has to go until February or March next year, that will be fine.”
Only recently, Minister of Sports Shamfa Cudjoe said her ministry had not released the $2.4 million in funding for the T-League because of uncertainty surrounding the start and how it will be function.
In an interview yesterday, however, Sancho said, “Over the past three years, different formats of information that they have requested, this year the format has changed again. But that being said, the Minister has assured that she is willing to meet and we are positive that once we have those discussions we can start moving forward. She has made it clear that the money is there, so it’s just about conversation. Like anything else, once there is a will by all parties to make this a reality, then it will happen.”
Cudjoe’s concerns surround matters of compliance for clubs et cetera but Sancho said dialogue is the ideal solution.
The T-League is scheduled to start in mid-to-late September. In the meantime, however, the one-round pre-season Ascension Invitation Football League is ongoing and sponsors of this tournament have given the assurance a second round of matches will take place if a start to the T-League is not forthcoming.