By Rawle Toney
The highly anticipated Stag Elite League was officially launched on Saturday evening at the 704 Sky Lounge. Eight teams will do battle to see who will cash in on the league’s $15M prize money with September 18 set as the kick-off date at the Leonora Track & Field and Football Facility.
Apart from securing one of the two spots to represent Guyana at the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) club championship and probably the CONCACAF Champions League, a club could pocket as much as $10M at the completion of the league.
The league will be split into two – Genesis and Finale, with the club coming out on top taking home $4M, second-placers $2M, third-placers $1M and fourth-placers $500 000. There’s also a $1M bonus for the club with the most points at the end of both seasons.
Ansa McAl, behind their Stag Beer brand, is the league’s title sponsor while COURTS Guyana Inc. and E-Networks have thrown in hefty sums behind the hosting of the league.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) Normalisation Committee, Clinton Urling, said the league in itself, will be football’s ‘litmus test’.
The Normalisation Committee tenure will come to an end on November 14, when football stakeholders head to the polls at their ‘Congress’ and, according to Urling, all eyes will be on the new administration to ensure that the league is sustained.
Alpha United, Slingerz FC, Buxton United, Monedderlust, Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Georgetown Football Club (GFC), Pele and Fruta Conquerors are the eight participating teams.
“I hope also to see in the future that the GFF doesn’t own the league, but the clubs in the league to rightfully take charge. We (GFF) are starting it now but the long-term plan is to ensure that those clubs can manage, run the league and share the revenue,” Urling said.
He added “The last league I think the prize money was about $6.5M and this year we pumped it up to $15M. The first time, the GFF will be paying the players. So for ever match played, the players will be receiving a direct support from the GFF”.
Urling said that the league, apart from the tangible support from corporate Guyana, is heavily funded by the sport’s world governing body FIFA, since they (FIFA) believe that “the league is where you develop players and teams and to have champions. Not just one of competitions”.
“Football is the world’s biggest sport; the world’s most commercially viable sport, and FIFA, if you look at their World Cup – Guyana’s GDP is $3.2 billion and FIFA in the 2014 World Cup revenue is 4.8 billion which is more than ours (Guyana) GDP in an entire year,” said Urling.
The former chairman of the Private Sector Commission further pointed out that “the potential of football in Guyana is huge, but to get to that level, there’s a lot of investment that has to go into the sport; the intangible that people don’t see. When we came in as an NC, we thought it was easy to do an international match, but to prepare your teams and ensure we have the adequate infrastructure – football is a very costly exercise and this league is a costly exercise”
Notably missing from the list of sponsors is the Government of Guyana, but last week, the GFF met with Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who stated that the David Granger-led administration is keen on playing a part in helping in the development of football in Guyana.
Urling at Saturday’s launch, emphasised, “Football in Guyana can never develop if the Government doesn’t come on board and financially support the football programme. People like to use the examples and to tell you what’s happening in Jamaica and Trinidad but those programmes receive tremendous support from the Government. FIFA’s support is not sufficient, corporate support is also not sufficient so we would definitely have to get the Government’s support.”
“I’m pretty confident after our meeting last week that they will come on board and I hope that we can build on that relationship with the Government and the Public Sector,” Urling noted.