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Sat, Jun

T&T Premier Football League CEO Colin Wharfe delivers remarks during the league’s awards ceremony, on Friday, November 3rd 2023, at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre, St Ann’s
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Colin Wharfe, CEO of the T&T Premier Football League (TTPFL), says the league will submit a report to FIFA next week, with data to support a marked return of spectators and corporate sponsors to the top two tiers of football in the country.

Wharfe celebrated the league's inaugural season on Friday when the TTPFL hosted its awards ceremony for the two tier league competition at Trinidad Hilton.

“(I am here to) assure you that sometime towards the backend of next week, a full report of the season will be presented to the minister (of sport), to FIFA and to you guys so you understand in detail what the last season was about …”

The season kicked off in March and ended on October 10, with Defence Force winning tier one and 1976 FC Phoenix dominating tier two.

Wharfe said the league made significant progress with regard to recommendations made by FIFA.

“We have a lot more work to do to deepen the social and economic integration of our clubs within their communities,” he said, “but we are heartened by our overwhelmingly positive feedback from our social media followers and match attendees.

“In conjunction with our various stakeholders, we plan to leverage the inroads we made this season to fulfill our mandate of discovering and developing the wealth of talent with which we are blessed.”

He said the league based its success on the advances made on the objectives set out by the T&T Football Association for the league, including helping to restore stakeholder trust in the sport.

“In that regard, we had an investment by FIFA and the government, as well as Concacaf, both in cash and in kind. Corporate (TT) has begun to return, and you will see that with the naming of some of the clubs. And we hope to accelerate that process into the new season.”

He said data from the report will also reflect a return of fans to the sport, both at venues and via broadcast media.

Eighty-three matches were broadcast on Sportsmax, while over 50 were streamed on FIFA’s website.

Wharfe said social media was also a crucial marketing platform used to promote the league. But while he noted a wide “reach," the actual engagement from social media users was insufficient and should be seen as an area to explore in the coming season.

Match day attendances, he also said, were also considerably higher than the league projected.

“For those of us who have been around the Pro League (in 2018/2019) when it was ending, there were very few people in the stadia, so we had a very conservative expectation with respect to the crowd and (attendances this season) exceeded every expectation.

He said a FIFA-administered “post-mortem” identified areas in which the league made progress and others where it fell short.

Among the areas identified were: the need to improve marketing at the league and club levels; increase human capital in finance and operations; fill the position of an independent integrity officer; and institutional strengthening at the club level.

He said the three areas have been filled and will become active in the league moving forward.

Wharfe, a retired accountant, said times of change "require strong leaders to be the catalysts for helping team members to understand and buy into the transformation.

"The TTPFL," he said, "will persevere in providing a balance of leadership, guidance and safety nets…

"FIFA, the normalisation committee and the government have told us that time and time again. But we need to learn to fish."

The league, he added, will continue to work with clubs by providing a healthy support system to help them "reengineer their operations" and achieve their social and business objectives.

"Robust reforms will engender astute management, leading to greater accountability and transparency."

Wharfe's address followed that of head of the TTFA normalisation committee Robert Hadad, who commended Wharfe's leadership.

He said the awards were a testament of the hard work and dedication shown by the fans, players, clubs, officials and administrators.

"(Wharfe) has been unwavering in his drive to ensure the league is a success and governed according to process and corporate best practice."

He said the committee had its "battles" with the clubs at first.

"But I must say, I've enjoyed working with the clubs," said Hadad.

Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe-Lewis delivered the feature address, during which she described the normalisation committee as more "harmonised" in comparison to previous administrations.

She warned that the government was no longer willing to spend taxpayers' funds recklessly and was satisfied that the current body and the league were taking steps towards financial sustainability.


SOURCE: T&T Newsday