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Minister Smith clears air on cuts...

The decision by Minister of Sports Darryl Smith to cut the subventions given to teams in the T&T Pro League by $33,000 was just a part of his job. Yesterday Smith revealed the teams were illegally being given the additional $33,000 after a minister of sport under the People’s Partnership Government took a decision to increase the amount from $50,000 to $83,000 without Cabinet approval. Smith did not say which minister it was but made it clear he was put there to clean up sports in T&T and that was what he was doing. During the PP’s term in office, Anil Roberts was appointed Minister of Sports in 2010 -2014, but was replaced by Rupert Griffith after the revelations of the controversial Life Sports Programme. Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar later replaced Griffith with former national defender Brent Sancho in February 2015 in a daring Cabinet reshuffle. Smith made it clear he has not really cut the funding but is now giving the clubs what they are supposed to be getting. Eight out of the 10 pro league teams such as W Connection, San Juan Jabloteh, Central FC, North East Stars, Point Fortin Civic Centre, Club Sando, Morvant Caledonia United and St Ann’s Rangers receive grants of $83,000 to help pay salaries. Smith also told the T&T Guardian that contrary to what was reported in the newspapers, he never promised anyone that the funding would not have been cut. “ In fact, I have been saying it from day one that the funding would be cut because of the severe financial situation the country is in now. I have to clean up sports in T&T” Smith explained. Meanwhile Dexter Skeene, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the TT Pro League has called on the Smith and government to hold back on paying teams the $50, 000 that was agreed on initially, until the end of the season. The pro league boss who told Guardian he cherished the Ministry of Sports as one of their partners in sport, said “The ideal situation would be for the ministry to maintain the $83,000 pay-out to clubs until the season ends, so that clubs can adjust to new contracts to its players. At present clubs have already committed themselves to pay certain amounts to players via contracts” Skeene explained. As far as Skeene is concerned his league has received no official documents to show that there will be a cut in the grants. However he said Smith and his ministry have been very understanding and the parties have been in constant discussions on how help will be provided in a recession. Already Smith has agreed to upgrade community fields on a phase basis which will provide clubs with the opportunity to generate revenue through gate receipts. Skeene calls on clubs to impress upon its marketing representatives to be forceful, efficient and effective as the time has come for them to be self sufficient. He maintained the pro league is here to stay as it provides national teams with players to represent the country at the World Cup level and other key world football tournaments. “Football is the number one sport and it affects most of the toung people in the country, so why not use it to impact the people” Skeene said.