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The Ascension Football Tournament organiser and sponsor Richard Ferguson shows off the token of appreciation during the tournament’s awards ceremony at the Phase 2 Recreation Grounds in La Horquetta on Friday, July 29th 2022.

Close to a month since submitting a proposal to T&T Football Association (TTFA) Normalisation Committee chairman Robert Hadad seeking approval for the inaugural $2.6 million-budgeted Ascension Caribbean Football Tournament, which involved teams from Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada and T&T, Richard Ferguson says he is yet to get a response.

Last Friday, Terminix La Horquetta Rangers which is owned by Ferguson, won the 2022 edition of the Ascension Football Tournament’s top prize of $100,000with the 2019 inaugural winners Defence Force got $50,000.00) for finishing second and Police FC got $20,000 for its third place performance.

According to the request, the tournament would be called, “The Ascension Caribbean Cup” and it would comprise six teams, the top three from the Ascension Tournament of T&T 2022 Rangers, Defence Force, and Police as well as the top clubs from Jamaica, Barbados, and Grenada.

The release noted: The tournament will not replace, restrict or substitute any sanctioned and existing leagues under the TTFA or any Concacaf Tournament, and the teams will not be required to pay any registration fees to play in the tournament as the clubs would be invited to participate.

Under the Ascension Caribbean Cup which will have five days of televised matches to be shown on Sportsmax, TV6, and CNC3, the top team will walk away with US$20,000 while the second-placed team will collect US$10,000, and the third-placed finisher, $US5,000.

His letter to the T&TFA dated July 8, 2022, added: “We seek permission to operate an Ascension Caribbean Cup Tournament in T&T which will run over a period of eight days, beginning on Friday, October 21, 2022, and all matches will take place at the Phase II La Horquetta Recreation Ground, La Horquetta, comprising of two groups of three clubs with a semi-final and final.”

Speaking to Guardian Media Sports about the advantages of running the Ascension Football Caribbean Cup, Ferguson boasted that it will be the first time that local professional clubs will be able to compete against other professional Caribbean clubs in over five years since the T&TFA clubs were debarred from competing in the Caribbean Football Union and Concacaf Club competitions for being non-compliant.

He added, “The Ascension Caribbean Cup can also be viewed as forming part of the reward for the top three local clubs of the Ascension Tournament of T&T for their success throughout the 2022 Ascension Tournament.

“With respect to its advantages, Ferguson said the tournament would be broadcasted live on local and regional television as well as being live streamed on the tournament’s website and other streaming platforms on the internet.

“In addition, it would give players the opportunity to showcase their talent and increase their chances of being selected by international clubs and representing their respective countries internationally, as well as improve the overall calibre of football being played locally and regionally, generate income and create employment for support staff associated with the tournament.

“Ultimately, the Ascension Caribbean Cup is geared toward creating a new and exciting competition within the region, but we have Mr Hadad, the chairman of the T&TFA Normalisation Committee regarding approval to run the Ascension Caribbean Cup since Friday, July 8, 2022, and have yet to receive a response from him.”

Admitting that with every passing day the cost of staging the competition increases due to travel airfare and accommodation, Ferguson said they remain hopeful that they will receive a favourable response from the T&TFA as there is no justifiable reason to delay the progress in football that is being made by the Ascension Tournament organisers.

With regards to the successful staging of the 2022 Ascension Tournament which saw the return of crowds to local football in mass numbers, Ferguson said the tournament sought to provide an avenue for local football clubs in T&T to participate in a league and provide them with a platform to showcase their talents after two years of inactivity in local football as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which began at the start of 2019.

Among the successes of the just concluded competition, Ferguson pointed out that each game was broadcasted live on local and regional television and was live streamed which brought tremendous exposure to the tournament as well as presented a display of the talents and abilities locally, regionally, and internationally.

In terms of financial benefits, Ferguson noted that the tournament illustrates that football in T&T is financially sustainable and viable, as the tournament was successfully run without Government subventions and donations with games being held at Phase II La Horquetta Recreation Ground, the Arima Velodrome, and the St James Police Training Barracks where the organisers charged patrons a reasonable fee to gain access to view the games at these various locations.

“And due to the overwhelming support from patrons over the 18 weeks of the tournament, the organisers were able to remit to the ten participating clubs a total of $250,000 in appearance fees, that is $25,000 for participating in the tournament for which there were no registration fees required.

“A former hockey player in his younger days, but now an avid football supporter and club owner, Ferguson also pointed out that football is the most popular in T&T and the tournament organisers realise football was removed from the communities and usually held in various stadiums which created challenges for supporters to attend, and as such, a decision was made to bring football back to the communities where the support and fan base was expected to grow.

“As a result of this unprecedented move, the tournament received overwhelming support from the community of La Horquetta, Arima, and St James.

“Moreover, supporters from various parts of T&T commuted to the various venues to see their favourite teams play throughout the tournament with the La Horquetta Recreation Grounds seeing patrons in the hundreds every Friday night since the tournament commenced in March.”

Ferguson ended, “The tournament also played its role culturally in exposing the world to the rich and authentic culture of T&T, inclusive of dancers, cheerleaders, rhythm section, and entertainment provided by local artiste after the Friday night games.”

SOURCE: T&T Guardian