Sat, Dec

Sancho delivers promised Women’s Premier League

CABINET yesterday agreed to the establishment of a Women’s Premier League (WPL) in this country. The announcement was made by Sports Minister Brent Sancho at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.

Sancho told reporters the nation-gripping performance of this country’s senior women’s football team in their unsuccessful bid to qualify for the 2015 World Cup, underscored the need for the league. He said the women’s team is currently 47th in the FIFA World rankings behind the United States, Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica from the CONCACAF region.

Stating that a non profit organisation called WPL TT Limited will have oversight of the new women’s football league, Sancho disclosed that Government will provide the company with an allocation of $1.7 million to assist in offsetting start up expenditure and other administrative costs.

Saying the WPL will kick off in the second week in June, Sancho said the league will be modelled on the American Major League Soccer (MLS) model and could include 30 to 40 players from outside of the country, “to give the league a bit more substance and a higher level of play.” Indicating the WPL will begin with six franchise teams, “comprising of the best female football talent in TT, Caribbean, Central America, South America and even as far as China,” Sancho said there will be a National Football League-style draft at the end of this month to select players for these teams.

He also said these teams will have tryouts for secondary school players to get a shot at making a team. Asked what incentives will be offered to foreign players to play in the WPL, Sancho said, “We want to provide, accommodation, food. We’re not going to be paying exorbitant salaries.” He explained that an important element of the league is buy-in by the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) and CONCACAF “to send their top players to TT to play at a very high level for three months.”

Stating the majority of the countries in the CFU and CONCACAF think this is a great initiative, Sancho said the WPL will help the senior women’s team to prepare for the upcoming Pan Am Games and their 2016 Olympic qualifiers. He added the country’s Under-17 and Under- 21 women’s teams can use the WPL to prepare for their respective qualifiers this year. He also disclosed that a top Chinese women’s team will be coming to TT to play the senior women’s team.

Saying that sports has taken “a big hit” in recent years with respect to corporate support, Sancho said he is encouraged by the level of interest by corporate entities in the WPL, “We’ve even gone as far as working out a TV deal for showing some of these games throughout the Caribbean.”

He also said teams in the WPL will be paired with teams from the existing TT Women’s Football League (WOLF) and this will be beneficial to both sides. Sancho also said he will meet with the TT Football Association (TTFA) to deal with financial issues last week. Stating he met with TTFA President Raymond Tim Kee last week, Sancho said they have agreed that monies will not be allocated to the Association in the absence of their accounts being presented to the Ministry.