THE Digicel Pro League is set to operate for at least the next two years following recent Government approval of $5 million in government funding. Dexter Skeene, the Pro League’s chief executive officer (CEO) on Saturday confirmed that the local professional league had obtained funding approval prior to the recent resignation of former Sport Minister Anil Robert, and the firing of the Board of the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT).
The Pro League is the top professional football league in the Caribbean, employing footballers from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, St Kitts-Nevis, Antigua, St Lucia, and even as far as the US, Brazil and Colombia.
However, professional football in the Caribbean is still in the development stages and could not survive without financial support of government and major sponsors such as Digicel and First Citizens Bank. “Government has approved two more years of support for the Pro League,” Skeene confirmed in response to Express enquiries. “That would amount to five million dollars over two years.”
The Pro League is set to begin its 14th consecutive season next month, even without significant support from spectators and substantial financial sponsorship as-associated with major leagues. Skeene said it would be difficult to sustain the league without financial help.
“Just like the support we receive from all our partners, government support is essential for the functioning of the Pro League and we are very appreciative of it,” Skeen said.
Skeene, a former national footballer who formed part of the storied Strike Squuad, also begged for continued support from government for clubs, some of which benefit from community funding from the Sportt Company.
Skeene also revealed that the start of the 2014-2015 season of the Digicel Pro League had now been pushed back a month, to facilitate two international tournaments being hosted by Trinidad and Tobago. The Pro League will officially kick off on September 20, with the staging of the Digicel Charity Shield between last season’s champions W Connection FC and 2013-2014 runners-up Central FC. Three days later, the first round of matches begin on September 23.
“We have nine teams confirmed and looking forward to Guaya United becoming the tenth,” added Skeene, while explaining that last season’s National Super League champions Guaya United will soon to appear before the Pro League board to get final appoval to compete in the competition this season.
Meanwhile, he explained that the re-adjustment in Pro League fixtures comes because of competition for the availability of various grounds, to stage competing events. Trinidad and Tobago are due to first host the inagural Women’s Caribbean Cup from August 19-25, followed by the final round of the Caribbean Football Union U-20 Men’s tournament is scheduled to be hosted by Trinidad & Tobago from September 10-19. “The board met last week and decided that we would push back the season a bit,” Skeen added. “Rather than compete for venues, we have decided to continue to support the national team programmes.”