THE Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs has given the green light for Pro league clubs that are compliant with the policy of the Ministry and Sport Company to immediately access their Government subvention.
The Ministry made the announcement in a press release yesterday, exactly one week before the league commences. The Ministry confirmed a Newsday report earlier this week which revealed W Connection and Point Fortin Civic were the only clubs who failed to submit their financial documents and statements to become compliant. The Ministry said W Connection indicated their auditor was out of the country but would have submitted the remaining documents by yesterday. Point Fortin Civic have not responded.
Renee John-Williams, owner of W Connection, questioned about her club’s lack of compliance, told Newsday in an interview earlier this week, “W Connection (is) compliant with the TTFA (TT Football Association). It’s a TTFA issue but I wouldn’t comment publicly on my club’s internal matters. We’re TTFA compliant.”
The Ministry reiterated yesterday that self-sufficiency is supposed to be the aim of the Pro League as Government has pumped $76 million into the league from 2005-2017.
The Ministry said although $11.1 million was approved by Cabinet to assist the league for the next three years, funding will be reduced annually. Each club will receive $600,000 in year one, $450,000 in year two and $337,500 in the final year.
Speaking to Newsday yesterday, Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe and Sport Company Chairman Douglas Camacho confirmed that compliant clubs will get their subventions. Their comments are in contrast with a previous stance that all clubs would have to be compliant before funding is disbursed.
Cudjoe said, “We already transferred the money to SporTT.”
The Minister queried why compliance has become such a problem for some clubs as when discussions were held with the Pro League in April-May this year, no club raised an issue that it would be a challenge.
“We can’t make assumptions outside the discussions we had…That is the agreement we had,” she said.
She said the requirements stipulated by the Ministry and SporTT are no different from that which existed in the past so it should be no surprise to clubs what they needed to produce.
Although relieved to finally get funding, the withholding of subventions has not gone down well with one club owner. Brent Sancho, owner of Central FC, has been fuming as his players have gone on strike since winning the First Citizens Cup on July 20. He said his club was one of the first to become compliant. The Sports Ministry revealed yesterday Club Sando and St Ann’s Rangers were the first to submit documents (July 12), followed by Central FC (July 16), Morvant Caledonia (July 20), North East Stars (July 21) and San Juan Jabloteh (July 23).
Sancho said the decision to release the funds to only those clubs that are compliant should have been done long ago as it did not make sense to punish those who followed the regulations because of an errant few. He said the delay will hurt the standard of football to start the 2018 season.
“It will hamper the football in general. We’ve gone a year-plus without subvention and the damage has been done,” he said.
Asked whether he is steering the club to self-sufficiency,” the ex-Sports Minister said, “ We have survived without it (subvention) before, but with the current economic climate, it is very difficult.”
He said most leagues worldwide have some form of Government assistance, but said a television deal is imperative to boost the league.
Sancho, a former national footballer, expressed disappointment in the lack of corporate support for the league given the thrilling First Citizens Cup final recently which featured a number of young players who put on an enthralling display of football.