BRENT SANCHO, acting chairman of the TT Pro League, has acknowledged that there is a strong likelihood that the proposed Elite League (a merger of the Pro League and the TT Super League) will not kick off on January 27th, as has been initially planned.
In fact, there is no concrete evidence that the Elite League will take place at all, since there has been little communication, from the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee to both the Pro League and Super League.
On November 8, at the National Racquet Centre in Tacarigua, the Normalisation Committee (which runs the daily affairs of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association) as well as the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company of TT, in collaboration with FIFA and CONCACAF, held a media conference, to announce plans for the Elite League to begin this month.
At the time, Normalisation Committee chairman Robert Hadad said, “The new structure will feature a transitional first season in early 2023. During this transitional league, a committee featuring representatives from the club stakeholders, TTFA, the Government and independent qualified professionals will work towards establishing the new Elite League structure on a long-term basis, with a projected kick off of the full league season to run from September/October 2023 to May 2024.”
However, Sancho said in an interview on Monday, “The last we’ve heard is that the League is supposed to carded to start on January 27th. We haven’t heard anything since that.
“We had a discussion as it relates to Pro League clubs and the composition of the League, some of the concerns that the clubs would have had. The Pro League board, a couple weeks back, also is pursuing the opportunity of looking at measures of what it would look like if we went and play on our own.”
Sancho continued, “The main objective is to facilitate the (return) of football. At the end of the day, we at the TT Pro League would have entered into discussions probably two-and-a-half (to) three years ago, to put in the hands of the Normalisation Committee elite football in this country. It’s been a very long time.
“We’re extremely concerned with the impact and we’ve said that to the NC. In fact, it’s hard in terms of the player pool. We’re extremely concerned on the impact it’s hard on the industry.”
Sancho pointed out, “We’ve had a request to get assistance (from) the covid relief funds that the NC would have received from FIFA. We were not assisted in that, which would have helped in giving our players some sort of financial relief. That didn’t come to fruition.”
The former TT defender noted, “We have to take everything into stock because we feel it is extremely necessary now that we have to explore every single action as it relates to top tier football in this country. We’ve reached to that point where alarms are ringing, and it has been ringing for some time. We’ve tried our best to be as patient as possible and, as much as we’ll continue to be patient, we are going to explore and look at the entirety of the picture.”
As far as the Super League (headed by former referee Lee Davis) is concerned, Sancho said, “I know they have been in discussion with the Normalisation Committee. I don’t know where they are, as it relates to the Super League’s position.
“The clubs are very concerned of the length of time of (the inactivity). We’ve had Ascension, we’ve had Tiger Tanks, we’ve had NLCB (tournaments) playing but there has been nothing (at the top tier level).
He added, “Just like any other industry in this country, the pandemic would have had a tremendous impact into it. We’ve put, basically, our cards in the hands of the normalisation committee. We've been patient but the buck stops with us, so we have to make decisions.”
When was the last time the Normalisation Committee communicated with the Pro League?
Sancho replied, “I think the last time there was a meeting would have been during the World Cup (in Qatar), the end of November or in December. The main thing is the execution. There is no secret that funding is the key thing for this league to take off.
“Pro League club owners have done tremendously well in the (over) 20 years of existence, in terms of funding this thing. If we are serious in attaining one out of eight spots for the (2026) World Cup, I believe how serious we take this situation would have a bearing as to how we do it.”
Asked how the clubs are dealing with this issue, Sancho responded, “All members want to play football. It is a tremendous and herculean kind of push to get them there. We need to get things back on track.
“We have to figure out a way to kickstart the industry. The longer we stay dormant, it will be the more difficult for things to restart.”
Efforts to reach Hadad, and acting general secretary of the TTFA Amiel Mohammed, proved futile up to press time on Monday.