Minister Sancho continues to give T&T football the government boot

By Inshan Mohammed

Gabby’s Government Boots ringing bells.

When The Mighty Gabby from Barbados sang his 80’s calypso super hit “Government Boots,” he was certainly not referring to anything related to T&T, but rather his frustration with the then Barbadian Prime Minister Tom Adams for wasting tax payers’ money.

Now, when you sit back and look at the current state of Trinidad and Tobago, the future appears bleak for its youth through sports and many Trinbagonians can’t help but to echo Gabby’s frustration.

Protecting and educating the youth will pave a bright future for T&T. Sports is also a way out for underprivileged young people to ease the pressures of life and secure a brighter future. It appears though that our government may see things differently.

Here is a bit of football trivia- He was known as a hard nosed defender who rarely gave up on tackles, he fought for players off the field, led many strikes against his former employers for better treatment, and even spearheaded the 2006 Soca Warriors into court battle against the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association. He was also the only T&T player to have literally scored a goal at a FIFA World Cup, an own-own to be exact.

If you haven’t guessed by now who is being referenced here, well, his name is Brent Sancho, a soft spoken and congenial gentleman who has been in the game for most of his life. He practically tailored his life and built his career around football.

Today, Sancho has cut all ties with football and became a full-time politician and is perfecting his new position gracefully. The former dreadlocked defender, who founded current Pro League Champions Central FC in 2012, has also cut ties with the Club. In fact, rumor has it that the club is on the verge of a major restructure due of negligence. With both Sancho and his current adviser Kevin Harrison playing more active roles in the T&T government, it has left the club in disarray and board members fuming.

Daren Mohamdally is one of the main directors at the Club and is also the operations manager at Super Industrial Services Limited (SIS) and are actively running things at Central FC. Former T&T player Anthony Rougier is said to have taken up the void left by managing director Harrison, who played a very big part of Central FC’s success in its 3 year existence.

Sancho seems to have found favor with the current TT government and replaced Dr. Rupert Griffith as Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs. Recently, Sancho again was on Rupert’s trail when he was given the nod by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to run for the Toco/Sangre Grande hot seat.

Lately, the Sport Minister again has been in the spotlight, but this time he is in fierce battle with the TTFA head Raymond Tim Kee over funding for local football.

Sancho is stressing to the football heads that he wants more transparency and has given them an ultimatum to open their books or face total isolation.

The TTFA in return made it clear that they had no problem doing so and after a couple meetings with auditing company KPMG they had sent documents from 2008-2011 to the Sport Minister and was awaiting further word from Sancho who insisted he had not received the documents.

He also made it clear that: “We have asked and received information about CONCACAF monies for their (T&T’s) participation in the Gold Cup but up to this minute we still have not gotten any official documentation other than what we were told CONCACAF gave them (TTFA).”

“They (TTFA) have said to us they have paid certain bills with this money but lo and behold the Ministry is left with the bill in our hand and we have had to cover again all they have said they had paid. So clearly they have not been transparent and honest in what they have said they have distributed,” Sancho concluded” in a T&T Express report from Mark Pouchet.

Brent Sancho then responded to claims of “systematically bullying” the TTFA . The Sports Minister told Sean Taylor of the T&T Express that he has consistently requested to see the TTFA accounts, a stipulation placed in the cabinet notes. “I believe I have a duty to have these conditions met,” he said.

“This is the only governing body that we have any problems with. It is abundantly clear that this organisation is playing politics with sport. During the Jamaica impasse, the government went as far as to fund $9.5 million to ensure staff were paid. The question is, when will it end? It has to stop.” he emphasised.

According to him, the Ministry has had enough and will not entertain any further funding unless the TTFA can be more transparent, and account for previous funds. “They will not be funded,” Sancho said. “Unless they can account for where our funds will go,” he ended.

Fresh from the Pan American competition and another successful Gold Cup campaign, both T&T men and women team are left scratching their heads thinking what’s next for them and with this latest stance by the Ministry things could get even worse.

With supposed matches rumored to happen starting next month with games against; Mexico (September 4th [confirmed]), Bolivia (September 8th), Panama (October 8th [confirmed]) and a play-off match against Haiti in (October?) for a Copa America Centenario spot. It would be interesting to see the support the team gets. If the rumor is true then the TTFA must be credited for these matches and outsiders must take note and go out and support the T&T team.

It has also been revealed by an inside source that: “I would say, money well spent and it all goes back into the teams, these games are not cheap.” As for Sancho, he has gotten the ear of some off the T&T’s women team members and is using them as a political tool to help show up their employers and they are not aware of the damage it is causing. To date, according to a TTFA representative, the TTFA has spent close to $180,000 USD on Women’s football development over the past year, a sum of over one million TT dollars.”

“Even Soca Warriors captain Kenwyne Jones was in the press lately calling for unity between TTFA and Sport Minister. And Kenwyne is right, “who are really the winners and losers here?”

A former TTFA Insider wanted to know:

1. Is Minister Sancho misleading the public about the amount of money that was spent in the cabinet note when he first raised the issue that he later recanted?

2. Is Sancho’s claim that the FA didn’t submit budgets true when they clearly did and when he was given a record that supported their position he didn’t have the decency to admit to the error?

3. Why does Sancho continue to say through his spokesman that they never received accounts information when I was given proof showing that documents were sent directly to him and his Permanent Secretary.

4. Why did Sancho demand that the FA pay a $100,000 travel bill the ministry had to pay and they have an affidavit from a former SPORTT board member supporting their claim?

5. Why did Sancho push for the TTFA paying for 50% of match fees when the cabinet note already accounted for full payment of player match fees?

6. Why did he try to establish that the FA pay 50% of gate receipts to player fees (do you remember that?). When they had explained that would leave the players in worse shape he relented?

7. Why did he spend over $1.7 million on a farce of a women’s league (WPL) and claim the league would have prepared the senior team for the Pan-Am games?

Here’s why it didn’t work:

a. Some of the 40 foreign players brought in were of questionable quality yet they were housed and fed at the expense of our national teams.

b. WPL teams took precedence over national teams for practice fields. It was usual for our national teams to have to give up fields for training to WPL teams.

c. Players spent more time going to clubs, beaches, and basically having a vacation on tax dollars while national teams suffer.

d. The established league that had been serving the women’s game (WoLF) was damaged instead of helped. Asked yourself, what now for WoLF? How did the WPL helped? Sancho needs to be honest about how much it really cost tax-payers.

e. In the end the Senior Women’s team failed to advance in their Pan-Am outing because the WPL was used instead of a traditional camp setting of 4-6 weeks.

In comparison, the Senior Men had a traditional camp and trained together for 6 weeks prior to the Gold Cup under the TTFA program, which one worked?

8. Lastly, the money football gets from the ministry is NOT A HANDOUT or A FAVOR. It is an investment of public funds designed to prepare and enable our national teams to represent the country. It is not Brent Sancho’s money and furthermore, Brent Sancho does not have the right to come in and add additional terms to funds allocated to national teams.

The source also revealed: “He does so because he has a personal slant against the FA that disables him from carrying out his duties objectively and with the mindset that the players and coaches will feel the hurt more.”

“The TTFA spent $10 million of its own funds to help pay-off the 2006 Warriors.”

“As a former national footballer who went through the same tribulations that he is putting the current crop through and his cynical method of becoming a hero and saving people from problems he actually created shows a level of self importance that should concern anyone who is a fan of football.”

“Look at the situation with Central FC and the bonus issue. Just like Jack Warner he denied the players a promise, but in return felt better to just say that Raymond Tim Kee is a reincarnation of Jack and cause of all his negativity to be focused on the TTFA and away from the real problems.”

“Sancho is an active litigant against the TTFA and the incidents that are playing them in front of the public should be no surprise once people understand that Sancho has every motive to not work with the TTFA.”

“Why make the players, coaches and fans suffer? No one is saying that the Ministry should blindly give money to the TTFA, why not pay some of the burden directly to the source then?

“Even government agencies such as the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) are fighting against the FA, last year the chairman (Winston Siriram) said no money will be given to national teams because its a “PNM” TTFA, added the source.”

Raymond Tim Kee is here already and will be until next election no matter the outcome of this battle and minister Brent Sancho will be here until next election no matter what’s the outcome?

One cannot see how not giving funds to the TTFA (indirectly) will affect Tim Kee? The worst that can happen is he steps down, but then what? Does Sancho have a suitable replacement? Will he give unlimited funds to the new president? Is his riff with Tim Kee personal? What caused this?

As for the new constitution, a president can only serve two terms and the TTFA election is suppose to be in November. And the voting panel has opened up where many others can vote unlike before where it was set up so that the ruling party was assured victory.

Why can’t these two gentlemen take the battle to the voting polls and lets just get behind our national teams. November is only a few months away.

When our players take the field in T&T’s next match it is the name of our beloved country that is uttered by commentators, not Raymond Tim Kee or Brent Sancho.

SWO is therefor pleading with the Sport Minister as well as the TTFA to put aside any possible hidden agendas or personal grudges and please find some common ground. You both have been down that road before and should know how it negatively affects our players. They do not deserve this.

There are about 4 weeks until general elections and it would be relieving to see Mr. Sancho do the right thing for a change and lead the politics away from our football. At least if he loses his post in the next election, he will be remembered for his positive contributions to the sport we hope he still loves.