The biggest fear in the T&T Professional Football League may be realised in 14 days. A large number of clubs maybe forced to cease their operations as soon as at the end of this month, if subventions from the government are not paid.
This would mean close to 500 people, including players, coaches, trainers and other club officials being on the breadline, right after the Christmas holidays.
All the clubs, with the exception of Defence Force and Police, receive monthly subventions of an estimated $83,000 to help offset the cost of salaries.
These subventions have not been paid for the past three months (October, November and December) and the clubs are now concerned about their future.
Some club officials have said they had to take bank drafts to ensure players’ salaries are paid.
However, when contacted yesterday Communications Manager at the Sport Company of T&T Adrian Raymond offered hope to the clubs and the league, saying: “I don’t think the clubs should be unduly worried about the payments because things are being put in place to deal with them.”
He painted a bleak picture of the financial situation now facing sport in T&T, saying because of the reduction in the price of oil and gas which is now below $40 per barrel, the company has had a drastic cut in its budget by $24 million which means that there will be sacrifices made and major chopping and changing measures will be in effect.
He pointed out his company had since been exploring ways to generate income through economies of scale and other means.
Raymond told the T&T Guardian: “The board at SPORTT was also recently appointed and apart from the sporting organisations, they have to deal with elite athletes funding etc.
But the fact is, that everything has to be done in the context of the economic situation.”
Efforts to contact Dexter Skeene, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the T&T Pro League were futile.
The Guardian understands that the monthly operating budget for clubs is estimated at $150,000 which include expenses such as travelling costs, equipment, medical, salaries and other miscellaneous expenses.
Point Fortin Civic Centre (PFCC) coach Leroy De Leon said his players accepted half their salaries last month and they have begun looking for jobs outside of football to take care of their families.
“I cannot tell them not to look for a job because they have their families to look after” De Leon said.
The President of St Ann’s Rangers, Richard Fakoory said at present his club will not be able to function beyond December 31, if the subventions are not paid.
He explained that while Rangers is up-to-date with payments of salaries, he will have to repay interest from bank-drafts he took to meet the player’s salaries.
Meanwhile, North East Stars manager Maurice Eligon said his club has also been hard-hit by the non-payment of the subventions, but they have been doing anything they can to ensure they survive.
He said: “Our club has been trying for years to get a recreation ground of its own where we can bring in money at the gates and help off-set some of their expenses.” Eligon said.
He added “We can assure ourselves 2000 spectators on game days, but instead we have to use the Larry Gomes Stadium as our home where it is difficult to get support.”
The T&T Guardian made attempts to contact Minister of Sports Darryl Smith on the issue but without success