Here is an article published by the Independent
newspaper on the current state of the domestic league. Permission has been
granted to TTFOL for the republishing of this article. Special thanks has
to go to the sports staff of the Independent, in particular Terence Hilton-Clarke
and his mother for making this venture available. Photos used
in this article are from the Trinidad
Express and Trinidad Guardian.
No money, no love in SPFL
THE SEMI PROFESSIONAL Football League has made a major impact on the
local footballing landscape since its inception two years ago. The marked
improvement in the standard of play has been noted by many, including national
team manager Richard Braithwaite and San Juan Jabloteh president Jerry
Hospedales. Large crowds, numbering up to 5,000 in some instances, had
been common throughout the 1997 season. Unlike the popular but outlawed
Premier Soccer League (1981-88), this country's second experiment with
semi-pro status has been embraced by all and sundry. It is a motley ensemble
which includes hard-core football fans, top-ranking football officials
and influential business executives. The presence of legions of teenagers
at fixtures - decked out in the latest products of Adidas, Nike, Puma and
Tommy Hilfiger - suggests that SPFL games are climbing the charts of popular
places to be seen, so far as adolescents are concerned.
However, beneath this veneer lies the coarse reality of operating a team
in the SPFL. The ineluctable fact that now, more than ever before, clubs
have to spend money, real money. Money to pay one's players and keep them
happy; money to even keep one's top players and hence remain competitive;
money to purchase uniforms and other equipment and, finally, money to maintain
some of the other basic amenities expected of a semi-pro club - youth teams,
ground maintenance etc.
The advent of a fully professional league in 1999 is sure to increase
this list of considerations. And, of course, the magnitude of headaches
frequently suffered by club chairmen! For now it seems that teams, more
or less, are coming to terms with the present demands. An inquiry conducted
among six of the clubs that competed in the 1997 Carib "150" Semi-Professional
Football League revealed a few basic differences when it came to the policies
the club's exhibited when it came to expenditure.
To start with perhaps the most basic example, Rangers spent $250,000
this past season and, according to manager Richard Fakoory a lot of this
money was budgeted with the welfare of the players in mind: "To be able
to keep your players, you have to treat them better." He stated, however
that he is uncertain as to how he is going to deal with things once the
pro league comes around.
One club that did experience the agony of losing its top players was National
Flour Mills, which saw strikers Warren Butler and Marc Borde defect to
San Juan Jabloteh this year. Of the $240,000 estimate put out by the NFM
Sports Club, 60% is intended to pay the salaries of the technical staff
and players who received approximately $250 per game. However, according
to team manager Elvis Charles, not everything has been covered as yet.
Right now the Sports Club is hoping to derive some fund's from the company's
marketing drive for a new, Tobago-based product called Andy's Nectar.
Citing NFM's relegation from the SPFL, and subsequent failure in the
Champion of Champions series, Charles admitted that, "Had things been financed
differently, we still might be up." Another company-based team, United
Petrotrin, received $80,000 from the company itself with the rest of funds
coming from other sources.
Like four of the five other club representatives interviewed, Rudolph
Thomas was surreptitious when it came to discussing player salaries. All
he revealed was that one player, forward Peter Prosper, received a basic
monthly salary on the basis of his professional experience with Al Ansar
in Lebanon, while the other players received specific fees for each match
with incentives provided depending on the result - regulation time victory,
penalty shootout triumph etc.
Caledonia AIA, winner of the Mt D'or "Big Four" tournament is indebted
to its main sponsor Courts, which supplied a lot of the $250,000 which
was used to pay salaries to the playing and technical staffs, maintain
security and to advertise. An additional $25,000 was spent on uniforms
and other footballing gear for the semi-professional team. Club representative
Stephen Lucas, said that the second team, which plays in the Eastern Football
Association (EFA) championship division, was provided with some of the
first team's older uniforms as well as boots. Caledonia also had a women's
team which cost $20,000 to run, along with under-19 and under-13 teams
which cost $15,000.
This is why some clubs made out their budgets with all their selections
in mind. San Juan Jabloteh, through the San Juan Sports and Cultural Organisation,
raised $420,000 for the 1997 season. With two netball teams to mind as
well, the club spent $130,000 on transportation ($41,000), equipment ($43,000),
refreshments for teams and opponents for home games at San Juan Senior
Comprehensive ($28,000) and medical care ($13,000).
Vijay Bhaggan, the club's first vice-president revealed that salaries for
players on the semi-pro squad varied according to experience and talent.
Like Thomas at Petrotrin, Bhaggan feels that salaries will "obviously increase"
in the next few years as the stakes become higher and the players demand
Joe Public's expenditure exceeded all. The Arouca-based "Eastern Lions"
spent $1.1 million in 1997 in order to accommodate its four teams - semi-pro,
EFA, under-20 and under-17 - in the areas of salaries, uniforms and transportation.
Funds were also appropriated for maintenance of the club's facilities at
the Centre of Excellence in Tunapuna, as well as the payment of the ground
With two more teams - under-15 and women's - to be added next year,
and with more big things in store, club manager Richard Abraham revealed
that Joe Public's budget for 1998 will be just under $2 million.
At this point, one is inclined to inquire as to how clubs are going to
survive, especially after 1999. Fakoory is already skeptical about the
chances of some of the newly promoted teams such as Fire Services. Bhaggan
held the view that Point Fortin Civic Centre, at least, has the capabilities
to hold its own in the top flight.
The question as to whether pure football/sports clubs like Joe Public,
Caledonia AIA and Rangers had the advantage over service/company based
teams such as Defence Force, United Petrotrin and Fire Services brought
mixed responses from both sides.
Joe Public's Abraham held the opinion that the company teams held the advantage
since their players had the benefit being employed with the firms, while
his players derive most of their incomes through the club: "When you are
in a position to offer employment, you are in a much more advantageous
position." However, Thomas took the opposite view, the one that team's
such as Joe Public enjoy the benefits of being a straight business venture,
while others such as his Petrotrin are dependent on their companies, whatever
the financial situation. Nevertheless, there is one thing on which all
are likely to agree - the promising future of Trinidad and Tobago football
for which the SPFL is serving as a basis. Fakoory encapsulated the sentiments
of Bhaggan, Thomas et al when he stated that the SPFL, "Is going to make
the standard of the football higher."
information on Terence Hilton-Clarke
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