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Sport

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BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Deputy Sport Editor

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

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The Caribbean has long been yearning for a professional football league of its own.

But the reality is that its implementation is easier said than done.

For a full professional tournament to get commercial, financial and other key backing, its viability as a business must be the engine that drives it, says Concacaf President Victor Montagliani.

He said a sense of desire to fulfil the need for a Caribbean professional league must be backed by a solid economic foundation for such a challenging and ambitious venture to worth the effort.

The Concacaf boss says there is “a need” for such a professional league, but cautioned that prudent due diligence, including research, consultation and a clear business model must fuel this dream and desire.

“It's not about wanting to champion; it's about needing to champion. Just before this pandemic we had already put together a group made up of people with infinite knowledge of the reality of running professional football in our region and that was going to be a working group to be chaired by Concacaf, but also Fifa was going to play a role on the committee.

“We were actually in the midst of launching that and we were about to call the first meeting for the end of March and obviously that was affected by what went loose in the world,” Montagliani told the Jamaica Observer in wide-ranging interview recently.

He reiterated that he and his team are fully committed in moving the idea of a Caribbean professional league closer to the discussion table, a feasibility study and a draft outline.

“I know that it was talked about before, but the true matter of this is that it has to be done in a holistic and realistic way with a proper economic model,” Montagliani said.

Though the economic realities of the new Canadian Premier League (CPL) may be different to that of the proposed Caribbean league, there would be similar challenges, says Montagliani.

“The issues in Canada are not dissimilar to those in the Caribbean as travel is big deal in Canada. For example, to travel from Vancouver to Toronto, a regular ticket is over Can$1,000, so it's not cheap in my country and is not much different from the Caribbean.

“But I know it will take proper planning and proper consultation, because the reality is any true investor wants to invest in something that looks, feels and tastes solid, not a pie in the sky thing; this can't be about passion [only] because this is business.

“It can't just be about the Caribbean, it has to be about football first, and about business; it has to be about us leading it at Concacaf and getting the right people from the region around the table to look at the realistic goal of having some type of Caribbean professional league in the not too distant future,” Montagliani stated.

Meanwhile, the Concacaf chief says the new Member Associations (MAs) Division, which is charged with catering to a wide range of needs of the confederation's 41 members, has performed beyond expectation in a year.

Among its functions are governance and administrations with the MAs; coordination of the One Concacaf Programme and applications; coordination of working group for proposed Caribbean professional league and conflict resolution.

“It's a department which I work closely with, of course all of our departments, but that one is not only daily, but hourly and the guys that are in it, namely the two gentlemen in Jamaica — Horace Reid and Howard McIntosh, do a tremendous amount of heavy lifting.

“In terms of the requirements and the needs of our member associations, there has to be a lot of hand holding and providing a shoulder, and it's not all bout numbers and paperwork, it's the human aspect of the MA department that rises it above anything I have seen at the world level,” noted Montagliani, who is also a Fifa vice-president.

With the restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the Canadian businessman said daily operations of Concacaf is being done in the virtual space.

“Everything is being done virtually, we are reaching out to the members and everything is being done through various virtual platforms and also telephones,” Montagliani concluded.


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