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proleaguelogo.jpg....CEO promises speedy solution

The TT Pro League were left red faced yesterday as several referees boycotted their assigned fixtures in protest over unpaid money. Players, coaches and paid spectators were forced to head home after discovering that the respective Pro League matches would not go on in Malabar, Macoya and Marabella.

A notable exception was at Palo Seco, where Geoffrey Hospedales, a FIFA ref, turned up and United Petrotrin and Ma Pau agreed to play with makeshift referee's assistants.

There were no such accommodations at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium where one of four officials turned up for the top-of-the-table clash between leaders and defending champions Clico San Juan Jabloteh and W Connection. Local referees' association president Gary Andrews blamed the farce on the Pro League executive committee.

Andrews told the Express that the men in black were yet to be paid for their services this year--more than five months into the season-while their imposed deadline passed without redress on August 8.

"The referees' general council met (on July 17) and decided to give the Pro League until August 8 to pay up," said Andrews. "The Pro League got a letter to that effect. They wrote (back) asking for some grace but we cannot go against the general council.

"We cannot even consider (their request) until the general council meets again on Thursday."

However, Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene told the Express that they should be able to make a payment to the referees as early as Monday.

Skeene admitted financing is a problem at present and that the League are in negotiation with the government and private sector for funds. He initially expected to meet the referees' deadline but now hopes that they could make a payment on Monday.

He admitted that the Pro League owe all their stakeholders at present, including the clubs and match commissioners. Some of those debts may be settled this week. The others must wait until September at the latest, when a government subvention should materialise.

"We expect that by Monday we will be able to make a payment to the referees," said Skeene. "The League is awaiting financing and we have been speaking to the referees as well as all our stakeholders. We are asking them to be patient and ensure the league stays viable and sustainable.

"As soon as we receive financing, they will be renumerated."