Semi-Pro Football League Kicks Off March 10

By Reginald Andrew
Major stakeholders: SPFL staff, SLFA officials and Ministry of Sports personnel at yesterday’s media launch.
Major stakeholders: SPFL staff, SLFA officials and Ministry of Sports personnel at yesterday’s media launch.

THE much talked about Semi-Pro Football League will commence on March 10 at the Mindoo Phillip park (MPP).

The tournament’s match opener will be between Marchand and Babonneau at 4.00p.m., followed by Gros Islet vs. La Clery at 6.00p.m.

Organisers are looking forward to some ‘block-buster’ action, with some of the island’s top-ranked teams competing in the event that is due to run for a period of six months.

The Government of Saint Lucia has allocated a sum of $3.247 million ‘seed money’ to kick start the competition, and from these funds $2.57 million will cater for the players salaries and further development.

A total of 19 affiliate district league teams have registered with the Saint Lucia Football Association [SLFA] Inc. They will participate in the competition, which is sub-divided into Tiers I and II.

Tier 1 – The Premiere Cup Teams (2024):

Gros Islet Football League, Dennery Football League, La Clery Football League, Castries Football League, Laborie Football League, Choiseul Football League, Canaries Football League, Desruisseaux Football League, Mabouya Valley Football League and Soufriere Football League.

Tier 2 – The Super Cup Teams (2024):

Micoud Football League, Roseau Valley Football League, South Castries Football League, Mon Repos Football League, Vieux Fort South Football League, Vieux Fort North Football League, Babonneau Football League, Anse La Raye Football League and Marchand Football League.

Five venues have been identified to host matches, namely Gros Islet, Soufriere, Vieux Fort, Canaries and the MPP, which is likely to be available, by July, after the ICC T20 World Cup is completed. With Saint Lucia as a host venue for this widely popular global sporting event, the MPP will be upgraded to accommodate practice matches for the cricketers.

At yesterday’s media launch, SLFA President Lyndon Cooper stressed on the benefits that can be derived from the ‘professionalization’ of football on the island.

“We want to reconfirm that the establishment of this professional football setup is no accident. It’s part of the SLFA’s both long term and short development plan,” he said, while reiterating the FA’s commitment to further develop the sport.

Cooper said the initiative was discussed some years ago, and the SLFA’s put forward a policy decision designed to re-strategise its competitive status. Two pillars were then set up – to develop the game, and to take the country to the next World Cup.

“In doing that, about three years ago, we acknowledged that we had to move the sport to another level,” he added. “And that led us to begin to establish a professional league. The SLFA remains committed to the development of this league and without any doubt we feel it is going to be one of the most successful competitions that this country has ever seen.”

SPFL’s CEO Francis “Parry” Daniel reiterated that the theme of the venture is: Utilisng Football to transform lives. He said the game will provide incentives for players and the technical unit, as well as empowering the affiliates and prospective sponsors and communities to ‘take ownership’ of their respective district teams.

Added Daniel: “We aim to provide unparalleled football experiences, innovative services and unwavering support to footballers and enthusiasts in the process of improving the competitiveness of our tournaments and overall effectiveness of our players.

“By fostering a culture of excellence, inclusivity and passion, we aim to contribute to communities across Saint Lucia where everyone can discover the joy, discipline and boundless possibilities that football brings and that’s why we exist.”

Speaking on drawing greater attraction to the sport and to generate more economic spinoffs within the communities, he declared: “Our vision is to echo the ‘heartbeat of football’ in every district, creating a vibrant local eceonomy by providing opportunities in support of advancing national team aspiration.”

While acknowledging the hard work and dedication that went into the establishment of the SPFL, Sports Minister Kenson Casimir echoed warm sentiments about the prospects in store for the island’s football players and the wider economic impact in the communities.

The Gros Islet parliamentary representative recalled that the SPFL initiative began some years ago, “and has been ongoing for some time in Saint Lucia.” And with his exploits as a former young national player, to becoming the “parliamentary representative for the largest constituency on island” he felt it was imperative to enable youngsters to buy into the power of sports.

With much hype and excitement mounting for the SPFL match-play schedule, Casimir asserted: “Football and sports has the ability to transform lives and through that I have been put in a position to really chart the way forward for our young men and women in this country.”

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