Former FC Dallas President Michael Hitchcock believes that there is an “incredible opportunity for professional football in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Hitchcock, Managing Partner of Playbook Management International (PMI), is currently in Trinidad for a two-day (Thursday 4 and Friday 5 April) Business of Professional Football seminar, hosted by the TT Pro League and funded by the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain.
The TT Pro League Business Seminar – Road Map to Sustainability 2013 and Beyond is geared at improving the business side of clubs in becoming sustainable, and it is attended by club owners, managers and officials of the TT Pro League and representatives of the National Super League.
The seminar includes a combination of presentations and workshops: Profitable Business Management, Community Relations, New Media, Revenue Generation, Player Marketing, Successful Ticket Sales, Game Day Experience, Marketing and Public Relations, and Sponsorship and Sales Programs and Activation.
“We have with us, one of the most experienced groups in professional football, PMI, which is Playbook Management International and brings over 75 years of professional management experience in our hand selected clients,” said TT Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene during the seminar opening.
PMI boasts over 75 years of professional sports management with its Executives having served in the role of President for two Major League Soccer clubs, President of two North American Soccer League clubs & one Women’s Professional Soccer league club plus Vice President of five MLS clubs, in addition to working with over 50 sports teams, leagues, events, venues & sports consumer products.
PMI helps clients build a comprehensive & strategic business plan, called the Playbook, which provides a vision, mission and corresponding plan—road map to success—to maximize revenue and run a sustainable business operation.
As the League looks towards the future, Skeene recognized current and former club owners Jack Warner, Jamaal Shabazz, Darryl Mahabir, David John Williams and Jerry Hospidales as “the guys with the vision to understand that it would take years to develop something that is worthwhile and they put their monies where their mouth is.
“And they started this venture that has developed into the TT Pro League at present. We want to recognize these guys and say thank you for understanding what it takes to build and develop a sport industry which is so critical for the diversity of Trinidad and Tobago because sport and entertainment is the largest industry in the world and still growing.
“Also the Government (of Trinidad and Tobago) and in particular the Sports Company (of Trinidad and Tobago) for understanding that the vision of the TT Pro League is important to them as well as the population of Trinidad and Tobago. And the Sports Company has contributed to make this possible.”
The League CEO added, “The Chairman (Larry Romany) together with the Board (of Directors) from the inception, have visualized something which we expect, and we continue to expect to develop into one of the premier professional football Leagues in the Caribbean and Concacaf.
“We have gone through building a corporate identity, improving the brand awareness and recognition of the league through various and successful marketing strategies. We have also implemented successfully several brand extensions through the knockout competitions, which have contributed to the attendance at games in the knockouts, and we now have the need to focus on building on long term fan base. Which as for any developing League provides a challenge and it’s something that we need to put our minds to, so that it grows and it becomes sustainable in the long run.”
He said Hitchcock has recently completed a career in the Major League Soccer where he helped grow the League from its early struggling years to the strong vibrant League that it is today.
“During his 12 years plus MLS career, Hitchcock worked his way from the bottom of the organization to the top of President and General Manager (Dallas FC/Pizza Hut Park). So we are looking forward to two days of vibrant discussion and we encourage the participants [to be interactive],” added Skeene.
Meantime Hitchcock, who is accompanied PMI Technical Director Mark Snell, is no stranger to T&T; having played under former T&T goalkeeper and Technical Director Lincoln Phillip at Virginia Commonwealth University, shared an apartment with present Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Sport Anil Roberts at university, and made his first trip to Trinidad for the Shaka Hislop Tribute Cup back in 2007.
The Shaka Hislop Tribute Cup included FC Dallas and Brazilian-partner Clube Atletico Paranaense against two All-Star Pro League teams in honouring retired FCD goalkeeper and Trinidad and Tobago National Team legend Shaka Hislop.
Since then Hitchcock, the former FC Dallas/Pizza Hut Park President/Managing Director, has visited the Caribbean island several times which includes vacation and business trips.
“As a young aspiring college player and football administrator, I have always kept Trinidad (and Tobago) near and dear,” shared Hitchcock.
“Trinidad and Tobago have been creating good footballers that were having an impact on the world stage and I knew that people coming out of Trinidad and Tobago were great people.
“I can share with you today that I am more confident today than my first trip, and that there is something that is very special in Trinidad and Tobago. There is an incredible opportunity for professional football in (T&T).
“So I’m humble to be here, appreciate the invitation, and excited to share what we’ve learned in our struggles in the United States in trying to become sustainable.”
He said the key to survival with growth and realizing the vision is sustainability, and that clubs must find ways to become sustainable.
“I’m hoping for this seminar to share some light on where it could,” said owner of the financially struggled St. Ann’s Rangers football club early into day-one of the seminar.
Fakoory added, “Rangers have never been able to acquire a sponsor and I don’t know why.”
But Hitchcock earlier revealed that there were times when the MLS clubs were in meetings similar to the TT Pro League seminar saying, “This isn’t working guys.”
“[But] we said what can we do to make this sport sustainable? What can we do to make this League sustainable?
“And that’s what we are here to do,” he told participants during the seminar. “…to take a similar look and say how does this become sustainable. Every league is different, every team is different, but there is a way to create a model for sustainability.”
Note: Today the Major League Soccer, which had its first season 1996, is already ranked in the top 20 Leagues in the World.