FORMER Sport Minister Brent Sancho and two former Central FC youth team coaches are all threatening court action over a dispute with regard to the youth football programme at the club.
Young coaches Shem Alexander and Adrian Romain, former footballers themselves, are alleging that Central FC received sponsorship funding for their youth programme but did not pass it on to the teams while they (Alexander and Romain) were in charge. The dispute revolves around Flow Trinidad sponsorship money given to Youth Pro League teams, to assist with the transportation of players to matches.
Central FC co-owner and managing director Sancho has denied allegations made by the two men and has threatened to take the parties to court if public statements are made.
“That is positively, absolutely not true. That is ridiculously not true,” Sancho vehemently stated.
“Anything that is printed or purported in the newspapers, we definitely going to court because that is ridiculous. That is definitely beyond ridiculous.” he continued. “My lawyers have told me don't make any comment on it. But we will be taking anything that is printed to court. For sure.”
Alexander and Romain are seeking reimbursement to the tune of $26,200, mainly for transport and minor expenses incurred during the period March 6, 2016 and March 18, 2017, when they were in charge of the Central FC youth teams. Several efforts at arbitration have failed.
Alexander said: “We have spoken to a lawyer and have been advised to take the matter to the high court.”
When contacted, Trinidad and Tobago Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene confirmed that all Pro League clubs had received assistance with transport from a $900,000 Flow sponsorship announced earlier this year by Cindy-Ann Gatt, Flow's Director of Marketing, at the 2017 season launch. The communications services provider is in the second term of a three-season partnership with the League.
Replying to direct Express questions, a clearly uncomfortable Skeene said: “The teams receive $10,000 for transport. For the tournament.”
Quizzed again, the Pro League CEO also admitted that for 2017, $10,000 in transport funding had already been passed on to Central FC out of the Flow sponsorship money.
Central FC has since informed the Pro League that the two men are no longer attached to the team. But until their partnership was annulled recently, Romain and Alexander managed Central FC youth teams in the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Flow Youth Pro League before falling out with club management over money.
Central FC are currently lying at the bottom of the Under 15 division of the Flow Youth Pro League, defaulting against Club Sando and suffering an eighth-straight loss as a result. Central are also one from bottom of the U-17 division but they are at mid-table in the U-13 division.
They are scheduled to play three matches against W Connection on Sunday.
Alexander and Romaine said that, having been attached to El Dorado West and St Augustine Secondary teams in the schools league for the past two seasons, they approached Central FC with the idea of representing the club in the Youth Pro League.
Most Trinidad and Tobago Pro League clubs franchise out to established youth teams to fulfill the Pro League statutes requiring all their teams to have a development programme. It saves the clubs the money required to directly assemble a youth team and also gives young players the chance to be associated with a “big” club.
The arrangement, which began in early 2016, saw Romain and Alexander take charge of the Central FC youth programme, using players from El Dorado West Secondary School as Central FC in the Flow Youth Pro League.
While admitting that Sancho did not want to directly invest in a youth team, they allege he had agreed to assist with transportation and small expenses, while also providing Central FC uniforms for the El Dorado West Secondary School players to wear when representing his club.
Their dispute stems from the allegations that Central FC received transport money from the Flow sponsorship, but distributed none to the teams. Instead, the coaches claim, they bore most of the burden associated with getting the teams to matches, except for occasional help from organisations like the YMCA.
The Express asked why should Sancho be responsible for paying team transport when he had indicated up front only reluctant interest in having youth teams in the first place.
“That is all well and good, but if you have a team competing in a Flow sponsored Youth Pro League and Flow gives money for transport, then it should be put into the team,” Alexander argued.