By JASON GREENHAM
“WE need more Dwight Yorkes,” says Joe Public’s Operations Manager, Ricardo Forbes.
And he thinks he has the ideas to find talented young footballers and make money doing so. “Football can be a lucrative career for aspiring young players,” he says.
PFL players at home earn an average of $3,500 a month. Russell Latapy, a Trinidadian who plays for Hibernian in Scotland makes TT$100,000 a week....but the best is yet to come....
Dwight Yorke earns over TT$250,000 a week from his contract and money he earns through advertising and product endorsement. Now there’s a goal for our up-and-coming footballers to strike for!
Joe Public is the nation’s newest football club and is seeking to resurrect
its sagging fortunes by building up closer links with the local community
near its grounds at the Centre of Excellence. In this way, Forbes hopes
to improve his club’s fortunes and introduce more talented young players
to a professional career in football.
The club is third in the Public Football League with one game in hand
and is owned by business entrepreneur Jack Warner.
Warner sees the future of his club and Trinidadian football in general as being dependent on how deeply clubs get involved in the community.
“I don’t think there’s any professional football club in Trinidad that makes money,” said Forbes when asked to comment on the club’s profitability.
Funding is partly through a sponsorship arrangement with L-Sporto, an Italian sports clothing and equipment manufacturer which has contributed US$3 million to the club.
O’Leo Lokai-Joe Public’s recently appointed marketing manager—sees the way to increased gate takings and advertising revenue to be through a hands-on approach to building club support up from the grassroots level.
“Honestly, we don’t have the following that we should in the community,” says Lokai. Lokai’s first step in his new marketing strategy is to distribute a free newsletter to the public. The journal is to be targeted at bars, hotels, schools and other outlets thought to be frequented by potential supporters.
Professional football is an underdeveloped career option for young men,
says Lokai. He outlined Joe Public’s plan to give Trinidad youth access
to the training, facilities and infrastructure required to build a career
in professional football. He described the current training and signing
of young players in Trinidad as a “bran tub” affair.
“It is a career where you can make money. Someone could really make good money as a football player,” he says.
Not only are there opportunities for players but there also exists a
host of jobs in ancillary roles such as ball boys, physiotherapists, the
ground maintenance crew and coaching. Better players in the Trinidad league
means more chances to export our most talented players to major international
leagues, says Lokai, adding that this can only be good for the economy.
Raising levels of professionalism in the country and increasing Joe Public’s match attendance to over its current 300 supporters per match are the main challenges facing Jack Warner’s firm, whose long-term goal is to set the standard in Trinidad and Tobago football.
Measures taken to make this dream come true include the recruitment
of promising young South American players, such Flavio da Silva.
Lokai says that increasing professionalism on the field is only one half of the equation. All aspects of the game, from its business ethos and levels of community involvement to improving players’ dribbling skills on the field, need to be addressed. He sees Joe Public as being the catalyst for the improvement of football in Trinidad.
Forbes added that both the quality and the profitability of football need to be improved. The minimum salary for a professional footballer in Trinidad is $2,000 a month. Joe Public charges between $10 and $15 for its tickets but average match attendance only stands at 400—500.
He spoke of the need to attract fans to games by showing “good quality
football that the public will be attracted to”. He sees the future of the
league as being dependent on attracting talented youth to the game and
the performance of the national team.
“If the national team does well, the public will come back to football,” he says.
One expected positive result of a higher standard of football in Trinidad will be an increase in export revenue for the country, via the sale of players to foreign leagues.
Joe Public have sold three players to the American Major League in January
this year—Travis Mulraine, Keno Thomas and Adrian Narine. Wesley John and
Angus Eve were also sold to clubs in the Portuguese and English leagues
The club has imported players too, such as da Silva who came from Rio in Brazil. Forbes says that South America provides a good source of foreign players owing to a favourable exchange rate.
He adds that Joe Public is attempting to offer non-academically minded youths an avenue through which they can become professional footballers.
Lokai says that for this to happen clubs and the PFL have to follow through with community involvement and good marketing at club level. Public information campaigns are needed at a national level to promote football in general.
“Everything is set,” he says.