Regional football is on the cusp of receiving a major professional boost.
The 2017 Islands Cup Open was launched at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex Friday with plans to introduced franchise-type football to the region which will see several of the Caribbean’s greatest players as well as marquee internationals involved.
Speaking at the launch, chairman of the organizing committee of Caribbean Football Trust LTD (CFTL), Chris Anderson-Joyeau, said the initiative was the culmination of a dream which had been long in planning and which would provide opportunities to the region’s footballers. He said this year’s tournament would be a showpiece and from 2018 there would be the major thrust. He said financial backers had already committed to an initial five-year investment in the franchise football.
Though not stating financial specifics, an official document subsequently distributed by Anderson-Joyeau indicated that the annual operational budget would not exceed US$17 million per year in the first three years but there would be an increase in the fourth year estimated at US$25 million, and also with an increase in franchise teams.
Anderson-Joyeau said Barbados would be the training base for the 12-week tournament that runs from July 6 to 16. The teams to compete this year are Combined Islands, Trinbago Oilers, Suriname Gladiators, Jamaica Ruffnecks and Barbados Challengers. Scouting and recruiting have already commenced. Anderson said eight franchises would be involved.
Among the top regional stars on board will be former Trinidad and Tobago international Russell Latapy. He will be the head coach of the Barbados franchise and will have former Barbados national player Ricky Goddard as his assistant coach. A number of other marquee coaches are currently in negotiation with organisers, including England’s John Barnes and Ricky Hill, Holland’s Clarence Seedorf and Brazilian legend Falcao, as well as Latapy’s compatriot and former Trinidad and Tobago national player Everald Cummings. Both Latapy and Cummins were at the media briefing.
Among the players with whom organisers are currently still in discussions are Brazil’s Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, France’s Florent Malouda and Djibril Cissé and Mali’s Mohamed Sissoko. Anderson revealed that Swedish company Spring Media was already on board with respect to broadcast rights.
Anderson-Joyeau, a former Trinidadian footballer, said players and clubs would benefit significantly from the professional tournament. In addition to the monetary incentives which he put at US$3 000 monthly at the low end and up to US$25 000, $30 000, players would be guaranteed medical and health insurance coverage during this inaugural year. He also said where players were recruited from clubs for the tournament the clubs would receive 20 per cent of the funds payable to the specific players.
Addressing the media session, University of the West Indies’ sports director Roland Butcher welcomed the initiative and the opportunities which it could provide for the region’s footballers. He said in many instances players from countries like Barbados could not break into European clubs because of low FIFA rankings as well as the limited internationals the players had played.
Also addressing the gathering was noted St Kitts and Nevis football administrator Peter Jenkins as well as former head coach of the St Vincent and the Grenadines senior men’s football team Lenny Taylor. Taylor is technical director for CFTL. Also making presentations were India Super League franchise director Arunava Chaudhuri and chairman of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., Alvin Jemmott.