Brent Sancho, owner and Managing Director of Central FC, said local football will return to the “dark ages” if the TT Pro League collapses and a semi-professional method is adopted. Sancho made the comments yesterday as debate continues about the sustainability of the current model and uncertainty of the future of the league.
Several clubs have been struggling to stay afloat with the Government slow in paying its $50,000 subventions to the clubs, resulting in operational problems within the league. Central FC, winners of the league from 2014-2016, have been hit hardest, with several of their players leaving for greener pastures.
Still, Sancho is adamant that they must persist with what is currently in place, which he said is better than the TT Super League (TTSL).
“Like most businesses, it’s challenging. For most Pro League clubs, playing in the Super League is not an option. They (TTSL) have their niche in Trinidad, but if clubs went back to that, Trinidad football will go back to the dark ages. If you’re taking about part-time football for our players and a semi-professional structure, it will send TT football back,” he said.
“You’re talking about competing against countries that have full-time professional leagues. The TT Pro League has been a production line to the national programme from since its inception. We’ve already overachieved by qualifying for the hexagonal (final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying stage) on many occasions, if we go back into that kind of realm we’ll be going backwards. If you look at other Caribbean counties like Dominican Republic, even Jamaica league is getting stronger, we’ll find ourselves in a position where we’ll start falling behind these kind of countries.”
Asked if the current Pro League model is sustainable given its financial issues and dependence on Government subventions to stay alive, Sancho remained optimistic.
“The current model is sustainable. The problem we have is the culture and mindset of people in this country. We look at sport as recreational when it is a business. Football has proven in the past it is an important part of the fabric of the country. You don’t have to look far with the 2006 World Cup and what it brought to the country and the joy. And even the Pro League, the amount of young people it employs and keeps off the streets, it’s not a situation that it is the wrong module.
There are things in the Pro League that needs to be fixed and come better - there are no ifs, ands or buts about that – but holistically speaking, we need to continue. Pulling the plug on it will have detriment (effect) both on and off the field.” What are the major changes the Pro League needs to make to become more economically self sufficient and entice sponsors?
“It will be great to see the TT Pro League on television like the Jamaica league where they get the visibility they need. It’s something that can happen and something the league needs to push for. And also playing in suitable facilities, I don’t think playing in the Ato Boldon (Stadium) and Hasely Crawford (Stadium) is conducive. Teams need to go back into their respective areas and work on their communities and work on that village football type of module to get people to come out.”
Sancho also addressed rumours that Central FC are looking to reacquire at least five of the players that left them for reigning champions North East Stars on a temporary basis for the CONCACAF Champions League.
“That’s not true at all. We have been having discussions with all clubs. All clubs are finding ways to deal with this guava season,” he said.
Sancho admitted, though, that he is looking to strengthen the squad for their first match in Dominican Republic on February 7.