Cudjoe: Clubs holding back Pro League start.

Minister of sport Shamfa Cudjoe said the delay in the release of government subventions to TT Pro League clubs is down to their failure to submit financial statements to the Sport Company of TT (SporTT).

Government assistance has practically kept the clubs – with the exception of Police FC and Defence Force – and the league afloat since its inception in 1999. The 2018 league was expected to kick off on Friday but is now expected to begin on August 3. Central FC operations manager Kevin Harrison was quoted in an article as saying his team may have to opt out of the 2018 season, as their players have not been paid for a few months.

Cudjoe, in an interview with Newsday yesterday, said the Ministry is “making arrangements to transfer the money to SporTT” but pointed the blame at the local clubs.

“SporTT has its process where sporting clubs have to fill out their financial information to SporTT,” she said. “I know some of them would have (done so) but there are a number of sporting clubs that have not submitted financials to SporTT and that’s the last update that I have.”

Recently the TT Football Association (TTFA) sought to enforce a policy where clubs must be compliant to retain their status within the local governing body. This was met with some resistance as some clubs did not submit their documents in time.

Cudjoe yesterday promised to “see if any progress has been made in getting more of the financials and the documents in” to the Sport Company.

“However,” she added, “up to last Thursday, when I met with SporTT, we have not received all the necessary information. It’s not just ‘here, look some money.’ You have to show some financial standings, that the club is active, that the financials are up to date, and so on. And some of them would have submitted, but the majority had not submitted to SporTT.”

Cudjoe said the Ministry was now considering a plan to fund the teams and athletes indirectly, through their respective NGBs (National Governing Body).

“We are looking at another option where maybe we can look at transferring the money directly to Pro League and then have the Pro League’s central administration distribute it. I don’t know if that’s an option that can be explored but right now the cabinet note speaks specifically to paying to the (Pro League) clubs through SporTT.”

She continued: “I have been in conversation with the new chairman of SporTT, Mr Douglas Camacho, and we are examining SporTT’s policy in dealing specifically with NGBs rather than (clubs) and that can be a challenge for some sporting disciplines because you have within some sporting disciplines, discrepancies between different groups.

“Sometimes within one discipline, somebody (a club) may not have a good relationship with the NGB and so on, so we want to restore those relationships and deal specifically with NGBs and get everyone’s financials so that things can run smoothly.

“When you get to that place of dealing specifically with clubs, you can run yourself in some trouble. At this point where we have financial challenges, we have to implement a strategy and a policy that best serves everyone and one that is economically proper and suitable to suit this guava season as they say.”

Acting Pro League CEO Julia Baptiste, who took charge after former CEO Dexter Skeene quit due the mountainous burden of financial woes plaguing the league, acknowledged such issues still exist.

“The subventions helps to ensure that the clubs are able to run their business,” she noted. “You can’t run the business on the subvention alone but it helps because you need it in order to sustain what is happening at the club.”

But she is hopeful that corporate sponsors can come on board sooner rather than later.

“We have been working hard on trying to submit proposals to see if we can get one or two corporate people who would want to partner with us in taking professional football to the next level,” Baptiste said. “We’re hoping that they’re organisations out there who’re willing to do that.” She continued, “It is a struggle. We have challenges. I just have to try and pull it back to the best possible place, and then move forward. It’s plenty work, plenty ground to cover with little resources, but at the end of the day, I have to give it my best shot.”