Still no $$ for UK stay – Tobago club hotel-hopping

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The young footballers from Jaric Titans Sports Development Club and their chaperones at Heathrow Airport in London on Wednesday. The group is asking for donations to pay for
accommodation for over 100 children and 55 adults who visited the UK for the Manchester International Easter Football Cup, taking place this weekend.

THE 150-plus strong contingent of children, parents, and officials of Tobago youth football club Jaric Titans have been temporarily accommodated at the Hilton Garden Inn, connected to Manchester’s legendary Old Trafford stadium.

The group arrived in the UK on Wednesday to participate in an Easter football tournament in the city.Jaric Titans coach Brian Browne told Newsday the group was afforded temporary accommodation after intervention by the organisers of the tournament, EuroWorld Sports, who “spoke to the hotels.”

Despite his failure to secure funding and pay for accommodation, Browne, together with about 100 players and 55 adults, arrived in Manchester after taking what he described as a “leap of faith” on Wednesday morning, ahead of the tournament on Saturday and Sunday.

He said the itinerary remains unchanged and some of the players are scheduled to participate in a screening exercise by club giants Manchester City on Tuesday.

Browne said Jaric Titans did not pay the Hilton a deposit, nor has it raised enough funds yet to stay there or at any other suitable lodging until they depart on April 5.However, he said the team will transfer from Hilton to a Holiday Inn hotel on Friday, thanks to EuroWorld Sports, who will foot the bill at least until the club can raise the funds.

EuroWorld Sports, Browne told Newsday, “is looking after all our stuff: ground transport, accommodation, and meals (breakfast and dinner),” which would have been part of the tournament’s hotel package.

The coach said he was unsure how many rooms were being occupied by the entire contingent, since the “ladies at the club are the ones who are looking after those things.”

On Friday, they are scheduled to transfer to the Holiday Inn, where they had originally intended to stay for the entire trip.

“Eurosport (sic) has been the one to negotiate on our behalf. (They) made some arrangement, I think in good faith, with the hotel (Hilton),” Browne said. “You know, something is going to be worked out and that’s how we’re here.”

He described EuroWorld’s intervention as a “humanitarian move” because “they (don’t) want us to obviously have nowhere to stay.”

Browne said the parents of children on the trip were asked to contribute $10,000, which would have  covered only airfare. Their return flight tickets have been paid for.

The club, however, is still seeking to raise funds by crowdfunding through the website GoFundMe. They have raised just £4,530 of the £60,000 target, with one anonymous donor making a whopping £1,000 contribution (about TT$8,500).

The description on the page, created by Browne’s friend Arlene Alexander-Price, said Jaric Titans had been making arrangements to take a “group of underprivileged young players to the Manchester Cup in England for more than a year.

“They received commitments from a number of persons and agencies who have now reneged or have not fulfilled their promise and the cup is this weekend,” the appeal read.

Browne told Newsday every parent who allowed their child to travel to the UK for the Manchester Easter Cup mini-football tournament knew that accommodation had not yet been paid for.

“Hundred per cent aware. Fully aware. We had a meeting the evening before we left.

“We wrote letters and applied to different agencies to get the funding and some commitments were made. I am not going to call names, because I do not want to implicate anybody. I understand how the public are.

“I don’t want to make anyone look worse and create anything negative. We understand that we would have to take some criticism and we will take it in stride. God is good!”

He said commitments made by an “agency” were broken, leading to the situation, but defended Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, saying she was not at fault in the situation.

“I hearing people chastising (Cudjoe). But she has done nothing wrong throughout the whole process. We did apply for some funding and it was agreed upon that the government agency would help.”

Browne was also asked to respond to some public assertions that he made the bold move expecting the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) or any state agency to ultimately “bail the club out.”

He initially chose not to respond, but changed his mind, saying, “No, that was never the intention.”

There have also been complaints by some guardians that they paid but their children had not been taken on the trip. But Browne said that was because the payments were made late, causing logistical issues with flights.

“That’s an unfortunate situation, because we were booked on separate flights because of how late some people brought their money.

“Of course, it’s not a free trip and people have to pay and because of how late some brought in the cash, you know, we had to split the flights and…coming out of Tobago, it was super-complicated.

“And we know that we’re going to take some lash for it (but) our president has been working around the clock to try and get the other contingent to come up.

“But there’s another question to ask: now, with the current situation that we’re in up here, does it really make sense?”

Newsday also asked him to respond to public accusations of his perceived recklessness.

“Firstly,” he said, “we know that people will say (what they have to). Some will say positive things and encourage you, and some will say negative things to try and drag you down, that’s a given.

“Secondly, I did not leave without knowing where we would stay. We know where we were going to stay because we were liaising with (EuroWorld Sports).

“Our issue is getting the funds to pay for where we would stay. They already agreed that we can come, they’re going to house us, and then we worry about paying them.

“So that is why we have the GoFundMe to help us pay that bill.”

If the crowdfunding effort fails, Browne said he has spoken to people who will “step in, pull some strings and work things out.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Amery Browne was made aware of the situation on Thursday and asked the High Commission in London to look into the matter. Brian Browne said the High Commission has contacted them and is expected to discuss the situation further on Friday.