By SHAUN FUENTES
THE 1999 Professional league will be sponsored to the tune of 4,700,00 by Craven A.
This was revealed by FIFA Vice president Jack Austin Warner yesterday at the league's historic launch at Queen's Park Oval Pavilion, Port of-Spain.
Craven A representative Richard Trestrail said he was proud to sponsor the league, especially since it was the first time any sporting discipline would be going professional in TT.
"This of course is an indication of Craven A's committment to the marketing and people of Trinidad and Tobago," said Trestrail.
He however, appealed for more support from the corporate sector. "Without support, sport will not be able to survive," he said.
Co-sponsors of the league are Caribbean Communications Network, First Citizens Bank, Neal and Massy Motors and Kenny's Sport Centre.
While seeing the importance for the Professional league in TT, moreso as this country approach qualfication for the 2002 World Cup, Warner said while many individuals may be a professional in their own way, "a footballer should and must be no different."
He said: "A professional league is the answer to football in the country," because it will enable the local football federation to keep their best players at home and make the sport more competitive.
Warner also mentioned that Concacaf stood firmly behind the decision of FIFA's president Sepp Blater to stage the World Cup Finals every two years.
"It means that the Copa Caribe and Gold Cup shall now be the qualifying vehicles for the region for the World Cup. It means that our competition gets more value. Nothing could be more fortituous for us than this league."
It was also announced that the TT senior team will face Mexico on March 28 as part of the league's opening. Seven foreign-based players, including Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy, Marvin Andrews, Anthony Rougier, Jerron Nixon, Stern John and former skipper David Nakhid, are billed to appear.
Three days later, the first round will come off at various venues across the nation with 1998 semi pro champions Joe Public up against CL Financial Jabloteh.
Eight teams: Joe Public, Doc's Khelwalaas, Jabloteh, Police, Futgof, Point Fortin Civic Centre, Defence Force and W Connection will be competing for a first prize of $500,000. Runners-up will take home $300,000, third- placed team $200,000 and the fourth to eighth placed teams $100,000 apiece.
"Player of the Year" will receive a Nissan Sentra motor car, sponsored by Neal and Massy.
There will also be cash incentives for winners of each of the four rounds and prizes for the most disciplined team as well as the most outstanding coach, referee and assistant referee.
Minimum salary is $2,000 per player with there being no salary ceiling. There will be three categories of players - those under contract, non-contract and amateur.
Warner said no club could have less than 50 percent contract players.
With the new professional league, the semi pro league will now be referred to as a First Division.
On hand at yesterday's launch was American Major League Vice President Bill Sage.