By: Andre Sooklal
Perform Sports Media Football Correspondent & Scout
BA in Sport Management
It’s 2018, a new year for football in Trinidad & Tobago. The Under 20 Women’s Qualifiers, the CFU Caribbean Club Championship took place and yet no one seems to care. The attendance at these games was embarrassingly bad and one has to wonder why. Many have tried to solve this problem but no one has been successful to so far. Here are 6 reasons why no one cares about football in Trinidad & Tobago.
6. Nobody knows anything about it…AT ALL!
Let us begin with the most obvious. If you walk up to the average person in Trinidad & Tobago and ask them about the TTProleague, the national team or anything involving Trinidad & Tobago football they will generally have no clue what you are talking about. If there is the odd chance that there is someone who is interested, they usually say they have no idea of what is going on. The very harsh reality the football fraternity needs to accept is that for a so-called “Football Mad” nation, we have to stop and accept a very real truth that the people that are responsible for getting the information out there are quite frankly not doing a very good job. Football is a sport but only the truly naïve will not admit that it is a business and should be run as such. Like all businesses, you have different components and one of them is marketing. For some unfathomable reason, the people who are in charge of these things believe that the very standard methods of marketing strategies are beneath them and they do not need to do it. If something is done it is done in such a dull, unappealing way that no one is even going to take notice. Yet somehow, despite the laughable attempts at marketing, they turn up and look at the empty stadiums scratching their heads wondering why no one is there. When questioned about this the response is usually “Go to our website.” Or “Fans just don’t care.”
5. (Trinidad & Tobago) football is just not a priority for people.
In our country of Trinidad & Tobago, we see people walking around sporting proudly the jerseys of the clubs that they support. They even get in heated arguments about their teams and are willing to spend upwards of $600 TT and more for merchandise. Sports bars are filled with people when it’s Champions League etc. What’s the problem? It is NOT for Trinidad & Tobago but for European and International teams! The average Trinidad and Tobago citizen much rather go to a carnival fete, go to movies, stay home and play FIFA than rush to a national football team game. People are disenchanted and seek entertainment in other ways. Sure you may get a crowd for the “Big” games but it’s mostly because people are hoping to see the international stars that they follow from teams like Mexico, USA and Costa Rica.
4. The product just isn’t appealing
We live in the era of social media; everything is just one click away. The average person has access to all the leagues in the world at their fingertips. The exciting engaging content of all EPL, La Liga, Serie A even the MLS! And then there is Trinidad & Tobago. Coaches and representatives of teams are “too busy” to do interviews and the organizations fail to update themselves on the modern marketing techniques. The fact that the “marketing” personnel are still using phrases that “Social media is a waste of time…” is pretty sad. The sole responsibility being put on the players is unfair and misplaced. The public relations and marketing departments, if they even exist are tasked with the job of ensuring that their staff fulfils these duties. Hiding behind the lack of funding is no longer a valid excuse. The overall product is not just the game but the promotions, the interactions of players and coaches with fans via social media. These aspects are essential if not the minimum standard in today’s world. Failure to understand this in football has proven costly and the desired target demographics are not reached and consequently alienated. The failure to understand that the sport of football is more than just the 90 minutes on the field has proven costly. The method of doing this is done all over the world. There is no need to reinvent the wheel but it seems this concept is a leap too far for the people who are in place for this. Too many ad hoc solutions are put in place and the field of sports marketing and management should be respected. As a result of these half-hearted attempts to marketing, the result is a product that is not marketable and no one is interested in.
3. Living in the past!
Yes, we were shamefully robbed in the game against Haiti in 1973 when the game ended 2-1 to Haiti, yes in 1989 the Strike Squad suffered the heartbreak of missing out in the World Cup in Italy losing to the United States, yes we made history in 2006 and made it to the World Cup but it is now in the past and it should stay there. The desperation to cling on to such memories has been such a hindrance to progress in football, it is almost a poison. The constant need to reminisce and be nostalgic is great but comes off like a heartbroken person who cannot move on from a past relationship. Our footballing environment clings to these memories so much that it borders on insanity. Who didn’t jump for joy when Dennis Lawrence scored that crucial header that sealed our historic qualification to Germany in 2006 against Bahrain but that was 12 years ago. Everything was set for us to become a dominant force in the region and begin the growth of a new era in Trinidad & Tobago football but the exact opposite happened, we regressed. We conveniently looked the other way when we reaped the benefits of corruption and as a result, the people responsible for development plateaued and never progressed. The financial cushion was no longer there and the deficiencies of the people involved were exposed with nowhere to hide. The fraternity recalled players way past their prime, put individuals in positions for sentimental reasons and not based on merit and qualifications. Then, when it all goes bad, sits back and remembers how great the past was and complain about how much times we were robbed.
2.) Unfriendly vibe
Football is arguably the most popular sport on the planet, yet somehow it does not apply to Trinidad & Tobago football at Club and International level. You no longer see families going to football games on weekends. If someone new decides to make the effort to go they are usually greeted by the handful of people there with hostile stares and condescending looks. From the moment you enter the embarrassingly silent stadiums, you are greeted by the annoyed-looking staff, followed by generic boring music. The very same people that they are trying to target are usually turned off, pushed away or repulsed by the hostility of everyone and the sombre environment. If by some miracle there is a passionate fan who is excited, he or she is quickly greeted by “shhh” and “what wrong with you?” looks, because God forbid someone is cheering at a football game right? In a country that prides itself on partying, the failure to transmit this quality to the sport is embarrassing, to say the least. If winning over new fans is the objective then clearly the people responsible for this have no clue what they are doing!
Number one on our list is definitely the most deserved. For some reason, there is a misplaced sense of arrogance and superiority surrounding Trinidad & Tobago football at all levels. Sure there are exceptions but they are often lost in the cynicism that dominates the game. We have club and association representatives who are tremendously unapproachable and are shockingly inept in the area of handling the media. For some unknown reason, it is the belief that people should be naturally obligated to follow their franchises and invest in their products. The very same people that speak about helping the game and preach about rebuilding the games are the same ones who stifle the growth and evolution of the game in this country. The half-hearted attempts at reaching out to communities and doing charitable work are completely transparent and insincere and fail to activate any emotional attachment from the very target audience that they alienated themselves. All new and innovative ideas are butchered, pirated and the few that are taken are executed poorly which only succeeds In deterring future interest. The very rare chance that someone is interested they are immediately turned off by the rampant cynicism, negativity, scandals, character assassinations, personal vendettas etc. The phrase “You either die a hero or live long enough to become to be the villain.” Used so beautifully in the Dark Knight applies perfectly here! Attempts have been made by others to remedy this and were quickly swept aside. It is very clear that arrogance is mistaken for professionalism and while the powers that be sit on their pedestals, the football population looks the other way and they have no one to blame but themselves. The request for professionalism is thrown around yet the same people that ask for such traits are the ones who contribute to the rampant lack of unprofessionalism. I could go on and on this topic but many other journalists have done this. There are some exceptions in recent times such as Stephen Hart and Dennis Lawrence but it’s clearly not enough to look past the deficiencies of the rest. While counties like Guyana, Barbados and Grenada are arrogantly referred to as smaller nations, they are surpassing Trinidad & Tobago and we continue to walk around like this is not the case. While they have grown we have devolved.
Check out #EXTV’s Top 5 ways to spot a bandwagon fan HERE
Author – Andre Sooklal
Twitter – @AndreSooklal
Instagram – @andresooklal
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