Flashback, December 2008: CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh players and coaching staff celebrate after they were crowned the 2008 Toyota Classic champions, adding to their already successful season in which they also won the League Championship and Lucozade Sport Big 6. —Photo: DEXTER PHILIP

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Jabloteh boss: An extremely sad situation

Blames CL Financial meltdown, withdrawal of ministry funds

By Mark Pouchet

"It's a really sad situation. Extremely sad that it has reached this stage."

This is how chairman of football club San Juan Jabloteh Jerry Hospedales described the club's decision to withdraw from the TT Pro League, which it officially did last Monday because of financial pressure.

"It is extremely sad to announce at this time that we have to close down programmes. It is a sense of sadness, disappointment, but when the reality faces you, there is nothing else you can do," Hospedales told the Sunday Express in an interview last week.

He said the club is staring at debts that can be paid, including players' salaries (the starting salary for a TT Pro League player is $5,000 a month), unpaid bank loans and recurrent expenditure way over income.

The withdrawal of the senior team from the Pro League also accompanies the cessation of its youth programmes and clinics.

Only the netball programme, which conducts its own fund-raising activities, will continue.

From its formation as the San Juan Jabloteh Sports and Cultural Foundation 38 years ago, the club reached its peak with its admittance into the then Professional Football League (PFL).

But hard times struck in 2009 with the withdrawal of title sponsor CL Financial, due to that company's financial meltdown.

Since then, Hospedales said: "We have tried everything to get people to come on board."

A media release from the club last week stated, "Efforts to put together a group of sponsors to identify with the objective of the club and to seek to find solutions to the grave problems facing these communities have not been entirely successful."

Jabloteh's cash flow problems worsened with another development.

Their only stable source of finance—from the Ministry of Sport and the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT)— turned out to be less than stable.

Initially put at $17,000 per month in May 2010, that amount was suspended in January 2011, re-instituted in October 2011, with arrears only backdated to May 2011, increased to $50,000 per month in October 2011 and was again terminated in January 2012, and that was without notice and rationale, said Hospedales.

"We (Jabloteh) are totally of the view that the Ministry of Sport and SPORTT have the right to determine how they fund, and they have the right to say under what conditions the finance will be provided," he said.

Hospedales related one attempt to raise money with a barbecue that took two weeks to organise. That only netted $10,000, the equivalent of two players' salaries for one month.

"If you include a senior player, that is one senior player's salary and a half of another. We could not continue like that in an environment where we could not meet players' salaries," he said.

Hospedales said the club is convinced the State funding represents an important and stable source of finance to the community clubs participating in the TT Pro League and allows them to discharge their social mandate.

Hospedales said when SPORTT stopped the subvention to Jabloteh in January 2012, it was the only community club which was not accessing State funding.

But Hospedales said residents and businesses in the San Juan community also have to take blame for their situation because they have failed to get involved.

So what's next for Jabloteh?

Hospedales and his board members will continue with their weekly Monday meeting in San Juan, their routine for the last 38 years.

"We have a meeting to discuss our future (tomorrow) as we go along."

As far as any intervention from Government is concerned, "I have done what I can. I think that has come to an end as far as I am concerned," said Hospedales.

San Juan Jabloteh's achievements in the TT Pro League • TT Pro League competition on four occasions: 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2008 • FA Trophy on three occasions: 1998, 2005 and 2010 • First Citizens Cup on three occasions: 1999, 2000 and 2003 • Big 6 Cup on three occasions: 2004, 2006 and 2008 • Digicel Pro Bowl twice: 2005 and 2006 • Toyota Classic once: 2008 • Caribbean Football Union Club Championship in 2003 and participated in the CONCACAF Club Champions Cup in 2004, 2009 and in 2010.

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