A whopping $2.3 million have been put out on the Ascension Football League, to ensure football in T&T gets back on track, courtesy an unknown United States clothing company that is desirous of entering the Caribbean market.
The League is set to kick off on Friday with two matches, one at the Arima Velodrome between home team FC Santa Rosa and Queen's Park CC from 8 pm, and another at the Guayaguayare Recreation Ground between Guaya United and Police FC from 6 pm.
At a launch at Galery 1 of the Hotel Normandie in St Ann's yesterday, chief organiser Richard Piper said Ascension's input has been grand, and it ranges from prize monies to payments for promotion and television coverage, to insurance for players, and payment of all officials.
As reported in the Guardian yesterday, the League will be played in two divisions, each comprising 12 teams. Division I will feature Guaya United, Police FC, FC Santa Rosa, Queen's Park, Terminix La Horquetta Rangers, San Juan Jabloteh, Morvant Caledonia United, Prison Service FC, Matura Re-United, Club Sando, Cunupia FC and Defence Force, all battling for a winner's cheque of $250,000, as well as $125,000 and $75,000 for second and third, respectively.
Division II comprises Harlem Strikers, UTT, Moruga FC, Police FC, Petit Valley/Diego Martin United, Marabella Family Crisis Centre, RSSR FC, Bethel United, Club Sando Uprising Youths, San Fernando Giants, Erin FC and Deportivo PF, is a combined team from the Point Fortin football competition held earlier this year. They will be competing for $100,000, $65,000 and $35,000 as the top three prizes.
Harford said as organisers they have taken out an insurance policy which will cover players for injuries and death in the sum of $5,000 (injury) and $10,000 (death) to go to next of kin. The policy will also cover team officials.
He also lashed out at North East Stars Business Development Director Michael Awai for claims there is no security for players, saying it is standard procedure in football that the home team is responsible for security.
The league is set to be a one-round competition but could go for two rounds if monies promised to clubs by the government for the coming T-League later this year, does not come.
"The Ascension League has its birth through this desperate need as you are aware, the promised funding from the government has not yet materialised to afford the start of the TT Pro League season, and the expected funds from the FIFA, has also not yet materialised, so we have reached out to the Ascension people and they have accepted," Harford said.
Richard Piper, the tournament director said, "The tournament will mirror the operations of the T-League when it gets started. As part of the sanction of the TTFA we had to have an indemnity clause that says they are not going to be responsible for anything pertaining to this tournament, and we gave them the assurance that this will not happen."
According to Piper, another innovative aspect of the tournament is that there is no registration fee. Teams will also receive appearance fees of $2,000 for Division I and $1,000 for Division II for each match, and Flow will provide television coverage of matches which will be aired as a package on any given day in the week.
Meanwhile, Terminix La Horquetta Rangers, which has spent in excess of $5 million to upgrade its facility at Phase Two La Horquetta, has requested that its matches played there.