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DISCUSSIONS on merging the country’s top two football leagues—the professional TT Pro League and the semi-professional TT Super League—into one entity have begun, with the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) as the main financier. And both existing leagues would prefer the new entity to be run independently of the national governing body for the sport, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).

One of the stakeholders, TT Super League president Keith Look Loy, confirmed that discussions among a tripartite committee comprising TT Pro League CEO Julia Baptiste, himself and TTFA representative Richard Piper had already begun, although a definite time-frame for implementation was still uncertain.

"Call it what you like, a National League, the name is not important," Look Loy stated, "This presents an important opportunity for us to move toward having one league in our football again, with multiple divisions."

The new entity is to be funded to the tune of US$2 million over a period of two years. Look Loy felt the role of the Sports Company must not be understated. There are still two years left on a commitment by SporTT to fund the Pro League and it has been proposed that this money be used to fund the merged league, along with a portion of funds the TTFA obtains through the FIFA Forward Programme.

"It is a serious investment by the Sport Company and I believe they should be given credit for this. In fact, UEFA is not putting in a cent," Look Loy declared. "It is US $1million a year for two years. Of the TT $6.5 million or $6.6 million, according to the exchange rate, this year the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, via the Sport Company, is contributing $4.2 million." He continued: "We getting some monies from FIFA via what is called the Forward Programme and we getting a small contribution from Concacaf. But the big investor in all of this is the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago."

The newly-proposed entity will consist of a national league, with multiple divisions, featuring relegation and promotion. It will be governed under the auspices of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association but run independently by the league.

Look Loy felt the new arrangement was best for local football. He revealed that one of the recommendations out of the initial meeting of stakeholders was to keep league football independent of the TTFA.

"So far the two leagues are convinced that football should not return to the TTFA," said Look Loy.

He continued: "Let the TTFA run what a national association should run...national teams, development teams, education programs, grassroots. Let them do that, and league football will be run by league football."

The move to join the top local competition comes following a UEFA workshop held here two weeks ago. Recommendation was made that a pyramid system of local football should be re-established.

Robert Pongracz, a UEFA Football operations specialist made a recommendation for a system of promotion and relegation that would inspire clubs to strive for excellence and be rewarded for it.

Pongracz spoke of a proposal where monies from the FIFA subvention would be divided among the two top tier Leagues (Pro League and Super League) with two main characteristics. The first would be for there to be equal sharing among the clubs and thereby enabling clubs to plan ahead, as they would know how much they would be earning. The second would be for clubs to receive monies based on their performances.

SOURCE: T&T Express