By L. K. Hewlett
With the Final Four off to an exciting start, major modifications are taking place behind the scenes to the change the face of local football.
Peter Jenkins, president of the St. Kitts/Nevis Football Association, cleared the air about the future changes in the structure of local soccer.
“SKNFA has joined with L-Sporto to create a new league called Major League Futbol (MLF),” Jenkins said. “The only change has been the restructuring of the premier division which is now a separate league — the MLF.
“The A and B Divisions are still in effect and will continue operating in the same fashion as they always have.”
The first MLF season is scheduled to begin in September with a 32-week schedule. Games will be played at the Warner Park facility where fans will be treated to quality football matches.
“The existing football clubs like Village Superstars and Newtown United will remain. The National team will also remain; since the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) only recognises national associations in their tournaments,” Jenkins said. “The MLF will consist of 10 teams; the top five from the premier division, four other invited local teams and a Development Squad of young players between 17 and 21 years, derived from the various clubs. Teams that have players moving to the Development Squad would have them replaced with foreign players so that those teams would not be left at a disadvantage.
“One big difference in the way MLF will operate is that salaries will be played to players in that league. Also it isn’t cast in stone, players are looking at being paid $100 per game; and with three scheduled games per week, each player stands to make about $1,200 per month. This will provide not only income for the players but incentive for them to practise hard and ‘step up’ their game. This will make for more keenly contested matches and more exciting games for viewing fans.”
Jenkins explained that the change is aimed at improving both the local soccer league and the players themselves, while creating opportunities that did not exist before. The MLF will consist of a board of directors with representatives from L-Sporto and SKNFA.
“Major League Futbol has the capital to take local soccer to the next level whereas SKNFA alone was not able to provide the much needed financing for such elevation. The change has so many benefits that will affect not only the players but the fans as well,” he said.
Major League Futbol is being promoted as one of the boldest approaches to the development and uplifting of football in the Caribbean. The primary objective of MLF is to assist St. Kitts/Nevis, Antigua/Barbuda, and other Caribbean National football teams to uplift the standard of their game. MLF also aims to prepare the respective teams for World Cup and other international tournaments. Focus will also be placed on the training of coaches and other football officials, with a view to elevating them to international standards as well.
Another strategy of MLF is to increase the standard of football to the point where St.Kitts can bring its FIFA Ranking to below 75 out of about 208 world-wide. Jenkins explained that it is very difficult for someone to get a work permit to play football in most of the football-developed countries if their National team is ranked above 75. ‘It almost doesn’t matter how talented that person may be’ he said.
St. Kitts is currently ranked 132.
Chris Anderson, L-Sporto representative and CEO of MLF, says he wants players to look at football as a business.
“I’ve been coming to St. Kitts for a while now and I’ve realised that this country has a lot of talent and potential. Major League Futbol will put the financing and business aspect in place so that players can maximise their ability and move on to higher levels in this game. MLF is pledging U$ 25,000 annually to each team in the league to have them properly outfitted with the necessary equipment to play the sport,” he said. “The MLF is endorsed by the Ministries of Sport in both islands and will extend in phases over the next few years, to encompass and embrace other regional territories in the Caribbean.”