EXECUTIVE MEMBERS of both the TT Pro League and Super League are open to merging both divisions of top-flight local football once the sport returns to normalcy after the ongoing global covid19 pandemic.
The possible partnership between the pair will see the Pro League serve as the highest ranked league in local professional football while the Super League stands to become the Second Division.
Last year, there were plans to stage an inaugural T-League – a combination of both Pro League and Super League. However, those plans were stalled due to differences of opinions between both parties.
This idea of a two-tier competition was also pitched to Super League clubs in August 2019 via a media release from Pro League chief executive officer Julia Baptiste ahead of the 2019-2020 season. One month later, this initiative was frowned upon by Super League clubs and its administration, who wrote the TT Football Association (TTFA) via its secretary Peter Thomas, rejecting their offer of a possible merger claiming it “unethical, political and short-sighted.”
However, since the December 2019 TTFA election, the Super League has reneged on its decision and is now intent on facilitating the joining of both local competitions.
In separate interviews with acting Pro League chairman, Brent Sancho and Super League president, Keith Look Loy on Friday, the pair agreed there is a possibility the merger can still be implemented post-covid19.
The local football season usually gets underway during late August and early September.
“It (merger) is very much an option. It’s something that we are talking about within the league. All sides had agreed to it and we were still in the talking processes of it and then (the TTFA) election came. We hope we can go back to the drawing board with this idea. It would be the sensible thing to do as it relates to football. Looking at the two-tier system, conversations should be held, I believe so. It’s been agreed upon by all parties to get it that way.”
In response to a question posed to Look Loy via WhatsApp on why the sudden change of heart, the Super League president revealed his board had now thrown its support behind this developmental initiative. He, however, claims it was the Pro League who may have had issues with the merger back in mid-2019.
“(I have) no comment on that. We don't know what the post-covid19 world and football will look like. Who says Super League opposed to anything? The last position advanced by the (William) Wallace administration was to form a two-tiered league. Super League agreed. Pro League apparently had problems,” he said.
Sancho though confirmed the agreement of all involved parties and welcomed the ushering in of a new frontier for domestic football. The TTFA board member believes the two-tier system, which will see bottom-ranked teams relegated from Pro League to the Super League and top-ranked Super League teams advance to the top-flight, will create a more modernised and attractive structure for TT football.
“I’m certain (a merger) would serve football better, the two-tier system. We have to move to merge for a more professional environment, to create genuine structure in football. All stakeholders have to come hands on deck to make sure we put out football back in the position we used to be in,” Sancho explained.
The 2006 TT World Cup representative remains optimistic the government’s coronavirus restrictions would soon be lifted to aid the speedy resumption of both youth, women and professional football on the local circuit.
While Sancho admitted the current pandemic is stifling corporate entities from investing in sport generally, he still called on stakeholders to rally behind the nation’s troops and pledge support to football development when things return to normalcy.
“Once we have a successful structure in football we would do well. We need to get that structure back going and we have to start putting TT first, that’s the bottom line. It’s imperative that we bounce back from this downtime as soon as we can,” he added.
Sancho concluded, “Particularly with sports, we need to put all hands on deck and everyone on board, because we know there will be difficult times, post covid19. This is a situation to not cut back, but to find resources to make sure we can move forward.”