In 1999, the Trinidad & Tobago Professional Football League (PFL) was established which was the forerunner of the current Pro League. The PFL was born out of four seasons of a semi professional football league and a need to develop a cadre of locally bred professional players, coaches and administrators, to serve Trinidad & Tobago at international level. The PFL was owned and funded by FIFA Vice President Jack Warner from its inception until it closed its doors in 2002.
So important the professional league was deemed to the future of T&T's football, Warner stated at the start of the PFL in 1999- "Professionalism or death for Trinidad and Tobago’s football.”
The first season of the PFL saw eight clubs participate, they were:
Defence Force, Joe Public, Police, Point Fortin Civic Centre, Doc's Khelwalaas, CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh, W- Connection and FUTGOF. Defence Force won the league but more importantly the standards set by the League laid the foundations for the start of a new industry in Trinidad & Tobago. Each team had to show proof of a home venue to stage matches, the minimum wage a contracted player could receive was two thousand dollars ($2000.00) per month and each Club had to have a
minimum of 16 contracted players, a coach and a physiotherapist.
The results of the PFL started to show in the Trinidad & Tobago National Senior team as more locally based professionals started to seal their places on the team.
For the 2000 season two teams FUTGOF and Point Fortin Civic Centre were excluded because they could not continue to maintain the standards set by the PFL. Caledonia AIA and Arima Fire replaced them.
In 2002 with the withdrawal of the founder the PFL closed its doors and so the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League was born.
The clubs decided to play, even without a guarantee of prize money for the 2002 season- owning the league and ensuring its survival took paramount importance.
The clubs owned the T&T Pro League and a Board of Directors consisting of a representative of each club ran it. David John-Williams of W- Connection was appointed the Interim Chairman as the League searched the sporting and corporate community for a neutral Chairman to head the organization. Most Club owners felt the person to head the group should not belong to any club, free from bias.
At the end of the 2002 season Mr. Larry Romany who is Vice President of the Trinidad & Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) and a businessman was nominated as the Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League.
The Board spearheaded a move to approach the Government since the Pro League was evidence that sport could become an industry in Trinidad and Tobago.
This resulted in the Government pumping two million dollars ($2M) into the League for the first year and depreciating by 25% each year for the next three years.
A new marketing plan was set in place to assist in guaranteeing the survival of the Pro League and by extension professional football in Trinidad and Tobago.
The new company T&T Pro League Limited, governed by a Board of Directors, comprised of representatives of each of the participating Clubs, who are also the shareholders.
This non-executive Board sets out the policy for the operations of the League and the CEO is responsible for the running of these operations. The chairman is elected by the Board and cannot be associated with any of its member teams.
The operational aspect of the League as stated above is carried out by a management team led by a Chief Executive Officer. The office employs Marketing, Public Relations, Media, Accounting and Administrative Staff.
Additionally there are several sub-committees who contribute to the following areas (1) Marketing and Public Relations (2) Administrative Operations (3) Technical Committee.
Each Club is required to have the following organized management structure.
1. Board of Directors
3. Chief Executive Officer
4. Team Administrator
5. Technical Director/Coach
6. Assistant Coach
7. Marketing/Public Relations Manager
8. Equipment manager
10. Youth Development Officer
They are also required to have a dedicated home venue, which is secure allowing for the collection of gate receipts and with a good playing surface.
The size of the playing field must meet international standards and must be approved by the League’s Technical Committee comprising of a representative of the Referees Association, a Match Commissioner and the Chief Executive Officer.
Each Club must provide a marketing plan, which illustrates how the Club will generate financial and physical support. Financial statements of projected income and expenditure are also required to show how Clubs will meet their monthly commitments. An affiliation fee of $50,000.00 and an annual
administration fee are required by each Club to assist in the League’s operations.
The League has established a minimum salary of $1800.00 per month for each player. The average salary paid to each player is approximately $4000.00. Most teams are privately sponsored with an average annual cost of $1.5M in sponsorship needed for proper programme implementation.
IV. COMPETITION STRUCTURE
Pro League organizes a number of competitions each year. These are
1 The Digicel Pro League – comprises two rounds of competition.
2 The Digicel Pro Bowl Knockout Tournament
3 The First Citizens Cup
4 The Toyota Classic–
5 The Lucozade Sport Goal Shield
League games are played on Fridays and Saturday’s at 6:00pm and 8:00pm for the most part.
The knockout tournaments are played as double headers on Friday evenings.
At present the Under 14, 16 and Under 18 youth competitions are played on Sunday mornings. The Season which usually commenced in April and concluded in December, has now been moved in line with the European Leagues and begins in August and ends in May.
Presently the Pro League is financed by a government subvention along with corporate sponsorship. The government had initially agreed to assist the League via a subvention for a period of four (4) years with a 25% reduction each year which began in 2004. They have now agreed to continue their support for the League until it becomes viable and self sustainable. Other partners include companies involved in car dealership, financial services, food and beverage, sports-wear and equipment, and pharmaceuticals.
The revenue received from these sources is utilized to offset the competition expenses and prize money to the participating Clubs.
The League is responsible for the organizing of the League and Knockout tournaments. The League collects gate receipts for the knockout competitions while the Home Team is responsible for the collection of gate receipts for League games.
V. GEOGRAPHICAL STRUCTURE
There are now ten teams involved in the League up from seven teams that participated in the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League during 2005. These teams are:
- CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh
- Caledonia AIA
- Defence Force
- Joe Public
- Ma Pau FC
- North East Stars
- Superstar Rangers
- Tobago United
- United Petrotrin
- Vibe CT 105 W Connection
Each team represents different geographical areas
REGISTERED CLUBS 2005
CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh
Caledonia AI A Fire
North East Stars
Vibe CT 105 W Connection