Backing up pro football
A proud name in local football has gone off the national football radar as the collapse of the CL Financial empire claims another victim. Deep in debt with no confidence in its financial future, the board of CL Financial Jabloteh has decided to withdraw from the TTPro League.
For now, the decision brings an end to an illustrious Pro League career which saw the San Juan-based football club making repeat appearances in champions' row. Backed by the financial muscle of CL Financial, Jabloteh once had its pick of players and the services of highly-paid managers and coaches, including former national English player, Terry Fenwick.
In many ways, CL Financial Jabloteh set the standard for professional football in this country.
Ultimately, however, Jabloteh's failure is not merely that of CL Financial, but of football administration in this country which, despite the millions of dollars spent, has not created the conditions to give professional football a solid footing as a viable enterprise.
In discussing the decision to withdraw from the Pro League, Jabloteh's chairman Jerry Hospedales contended in yesterday's Sunday Express that residents and businesses in the San Juan community needed to accept some responsibility for the team's demise because they failed to get involved. But Mr Hospedales needs to consider whether enough had been done to give the community itself a real investment in this team and, even so, whether Jabloteh may not have fallen victim to the national hurt over CL Financial's recklessness.
The larger worry, however, must be the impact of Jabloteh's withdrawal on an already tenuous situation at the TTPro League which has seen the departure of other major clubs due to financial difficulties.
The league was the culmination of a dream to open up new horizons for our players here at home, to strengthen the national team, to expand the scope for football as a business, and to retain some of the value-added from football where historically the value of our most talented players was extracted and retained abroad.
Despite this latest challenge, these remain very powerful reasons for keeping the league alive. In this regard, the Government, which so easily found a large and still-undisclosed sum of money to put the face of Shaquille O'Neal on its $12 million "Hoops Of Life" community basketball initiative, should consider what assistance might be given to the TT Pro League to help tide it over this rough patch in guiding it towards self-sustainability. Now in its tenth year of existence, the TTPro League has demonstrated a durability and resilience that is worthy of support. But what it has always lacked is a deep enough grounding in communities to bring out the crowd support to dynamise its competition on a national level.
Given the Ministry of Sport's policy position of investing in community development through sport, there may be room here for collaboration between the parties. There's no reason why San Juan football should disappear into history along with CL Financial.