Four-time Pro League champions San Juan Jabloteh have pulled out of the second season of the Premier Football League (TTPFL) due to financial shortcomings and club director Phillip Fraser says only a miracle can see the club participating in the upcoming campaign which kicks off on November 24.
Jabloteh, fondly known as the “San Juan Kings,” have been a force to be reckoned with in local football since they were founded in 1974. Their last two league titles came in back-to-back seasons in 2007 and 2008. Jabloteh also had a presence on TT’s senior team which went to the Fifa World Cup in Germany in 2006, with the trio of Cyd Gray, Aurtis Whitley and Anthony Wolfe making the Warriors’ final squad.
Ahead of the 2023/24 TTPFL season though, Fraser said it’s “painful” for the Jabloteh community to be missing out on TT’s highest level of football competition. Jabloteh also skipped the Pro League’s 2012/13 season owing to similar financial concerns.
“Jabloteh will not be one of the teams playing in the upcoming TTPFL season unless some miracle happens by now or tomorrow,” Fraser told Newsday during an interview on Thursday.
“That’s to tell you how bad it is. Only miracles can happen to save Jabloteh right now if somebody in corporate TT feels Jabloteh should be part of the (TTPFL) because 30 men are being deprived of an opportunity to show their talent.
“The motto of our club speaks to helping the youths and those in deprived neighbourhoods. But we have been left with no alternative. It is a really sad day for football in the community of San Juan/Santa Cruz and of course the East/West corridor because we represent a large cross section of people in the community.”
Phillip said the budget for the upcoming season was originally set at $1.3 million, with Jabloteh able to bring the figure down to an estimated $900,000 after reducing salaries of members of the technical staff including coach Marvin Gordon. Despite the best efforts of their main sponsor Langston Roach Industries, Jabloteh could not generate the necessary funds to sustain an entire season.
“With a budget, you’re supposed to show income too and we were only able to show a contribution because we have had consistent contributions from Langston Roach on a monthly basis. But it cannot sustain the needs of a full season with 30 players and a technical staff.
“You could reduce your budget maybe to $600,000. But at the end of the day, what quality of football will you get? You would have to pay most of your players $2,000 (a month) and less and that’s going below the basic minimum wage. If we went any further, it would have meant us spinning top in mud.”
Fraser said the monthly salary projection for the players for the upcoming season ranged from $3,000-$7,500. He thanked Langston Roach Industries and other sponsors for their support over the years and acknowledged the difficulties faced in the current economic climate.
“I am not ridiculing any sponsor. Times are hard but we need to move forward.”
Last season, a youthful Jabloteh team finished eighth on the 12-team table in the inaugural TTPFL campaign with 22 points from as many matches. TT youth internationals Dantaye Gilbert and Lindell Sween both showed promise for Jabloteh in midfield, with Dwight Jordan (six goals) and veteran striker Kevon Woodley (ten goals) leading the attack reasonably well.
Gilbert, a former standout with Presentation College (San Fernando) in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) moved to Jong PSV in the Dutch second division in September. Woodley, 37, transferred to Eagles FC (formerly Cunupia FC) ahead of the upcoming TTPFL season.
Fraser said players are free to go to other clubs in the interim, but it’s a reality he is not too keen to face.
“I don’t even want to think about players transferring to other clubs because I wanted my team to take part in the TTPFL. I was hell-bent on us playing this season because Jabloteh was formed in 1974 with that mandate of uplifting the community. I wish my godfather would come from somewhere and assist this club right now.”
Fraser says Jabloteh’s youth programme will continue as normal as the club tries to stick to its original vision. Still, he wishes to see Jabloteh return to the highest heights at senior level.
“Even (TT men’s football coach) Angus Eve was one of our players. A lot of national footballers played with San Juan Jabloteh and now to hear that we are out of the TTPFL, it is most painful.”
Another local powerhouse club, W Connection, have decided to take a “sabbatical” for the 2023/24 TTPFL season as they work to restructure the administrative and financial aspects of the club.