STORIES BY JOEL BAILEY
FINANCIAL PROBLEMS affecting the TT Pro League are not only being felt by the footballers and clubs involved. Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene said yesterday he too is feeling the financial pinch.
The long-serving CEO admitted in an interview with Newsday he is getting fed-up and frustrated as he has also been making tremendous sacrifices and has not been paid for several months.
Skeene, a former Trinidad and Tobago striker, said he is not happy to see players in his league being offered minimum wage. This week it was revealed reigning league champs North East Stars are paying their players between $2,500 to $3,000 a month which has seen close to 10 players including the coach Derek King leave the Arima-based club.
“I don’t agree and subscribe to the dependency on Government,” said Skeene. “I also don’t subscribe to the players having to play for minimum wage.
“I, myself, am making sacrifices. I haven’t been paid for a number of months. So it is about us ensuring that the business side of football is the focus now.”
Asked if his lack of payment is due to the lack of Government’s subventions towards the League, Skeene responded, “We have met with the Ministry of Sport (and) Sports Company about the importance of football – the Pro League – in the national context. To date, we have received no answer.” Skeene continued, “I don’t know if the Ministry of Sport understands the importance of professional football. When you look at the East/West corridor, (a number of) footballers coming from there, trying to earn a living from their God-given talent to play football – it’s mind-boggling to me.”
A disappointed Skeene said, “Right now I’m fed-up, I’m frustrated and I’m feeling it for the footballers. I was a footballer myself.”
He added, “As a past footballer, I understand how they must be feeling. I’ve worked too many years, 14 years I’ve given, sacrificing family time and I haven’t been paid. So understand the passion I have for this thing.”
Skeene said he understands clubs may have to make tough decision to stay afloat currently.
“It’s about the business of football. It’s about ensuring that the league is sustainable and viable in the long-term. It’s about implementing marketing strategies to ensure continued growth and it’s about positioning yourselves in the communities to create a fan-base, which is the life blood of professional football, which will then redound to the benefit of the club in terms of creating other revenue streams.”
Skeene said he has plans for the league but he is encountering problems to implement them.
“It’s reaching the stage where people from outside (the country) are interested in some of the ideas that I have, some of the things that are supposed to be done in the professional league here. “I’m seeing where football can take us, where professional football could help the economy, help with the social ills that’s taking place in Trinidad. If people are not serious, it’s a travesty where the league has reached.”
All is not doom and gloom for the Pro League as FLOW is involved with the Youth Pro League while First Citizens sponsors a knock-out tournament.
“I have discussions going on with sponsors,” Skeene said. “They want to see that the other stakeholders understand the importance and are willing to put the infrastructure in place. I’m also talking to the club owners about the message that is going out.” The Pro League CEO is strong in his desire to ensure the survival of the League.
“The League is an investment and it is about capital,” he said. “Any failures of the League is not about administration – it’s about capital, and the league has been under-capitalised.”
About the 2018 season, he pointed out, “The league will continue. The question is how do we put the right structure in place and, financially and marketing-wise, to get investment so that we get the best of professional football.”
Skeene ended with a poignant message to all involved, “We have a lot of talkers, time for action.”