Building football by returning it to its roots

Dexter Skeene

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The return of football to the communities has been a major step towards improving the T&T Professional Football League product.

Dexter Skeene, the T&T Pro League Chief Executive Officer explained this as he pointed to large crowds at matches at the weekend at which hundreds of supporters turned up in San Fernando and Barataria to see Club Sando defeat Police and W Connection triumph over Caledonia Morvant United at the Barataria Oval.

There was also a welcome turn-out of football fans as San Juan Jabloteh drew with St Ann’s Rangers at Barataria while well over 3,000 supporters came out to watch the first official community football game at the newly renovated Morvant Recreation Ground recently.

Skeene, an ex national standout said he was also expecting a bumper turn-out when San Juan Jabloteh will play their first match in their backyard at the Brian Lara Recreation Ground, Santa Cruz today against W Connection at 6 pm, as he expects to turn large attendances into gate receipts and profits.

Skeene said, “At the Pro League we have long said that as long as the teams are provided with the opportunity to have secure home fields in their respective communities, where they can collect gate receipts, and provide fans with a quality experience that includes modern, up to standard facilities, the government will eventually not have to pay a subvention to the League or clubs.”

Since its inception in 2002, professional football in T&T has had its fair share of upheaval but recent indicators point to a long awaited revival and steady progress in the right direction.

This level of support for the local game comes as no surprise to those involved in the sport at the administration level. Skeene believes as football returns to its community roots, clubs will be able to increase their fan bases, monetise their assets and utilise these to earn and develop revenue streams.

“It goes without saying that revenue generating initiatives such as merchandising are critical to the sustainability and viability of football as a sporting product,” the Pro League boss said.

An Australian study in 2015 found that every dollar spent on community football, generated at least a $4.40 return on investment in terms of social connectedness, well being, mental health status, employment outcomes, personal development and physical health.

“The reality of sport in T&T, like any other business has always been that without a product and brand to market and promote, success will always remain a far off dream. I am confident that as we expand football into communities across the country (games are now being played at Barataria Oval, Morvant Park Street Recreation ground, Mahaica Oval and Naparima College and soon at the Brian Lara recreation ground in San Juan and New Settlement ground) we are developing a brand and a product that will position the League to take advantage of sports unique opportunities,” Skeene said.

He thanks Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Darryl Smith and his staff, the Sport Company of T&T and its manager Anthony Blake and president of the T&T Football Association David John-Williams in guiding their first steps towards this achievement.

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