Will the 2023-2024 season of Togo's D1 really start on September 17, 2023 as planned? This question is on everyone's mind, given recent developments in the project to professionalize the championship. So far, the conditions for such a project have not been met.
The start of the Togolese championship could be postponed
Last May, the steering committee for the professionalization of Togolese soccer launched a call for expressions of interest from Togolese clubs wishing to take part in the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 professional soccer leagues. According to information received, the deadline for applications is May 29, 2023. Once the applications have been studied, the clubs that meet the criteria will be granted a professional license to take part in Togo's professional leagues. To date, however, the committee has not selected the D1 clubs for the professional championship, nor the D2 clubs. This silence casts considerable doubt over whether the championship will be held on time this season. Many believe that the start of the season will be postponed imminently.
With just a month to go before the start of the season, there are still doubts as to whether clubs will be able to meet expectations regarding the conditions for participation in the professional championship. Conditions that are certain to claim victims.
After several years of amateurism, Togo is now keen to move to a professional championship. In place since 2022, the project's steering committee, chaired by Me Têtê Wilson-Bahun, is proposing a professional League 1 of 14 clubs and a League 2 of 16 clubs, with territorial, sporting, legal, sports infrastructure, fan safety and management, financial, personnel and technical management criteria to be taken into account for the professional, women's and cadet teams. In both Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, a single club will represent a prefecture, with the exception of Greater Lomé, which will have 4 clubs. Criteria that some clubs are having difficulty meeting.
Clubs are required to set up a sports company (société anonyme or société par action simplifiée) to manage the professional activities of the existing sports association, in accordance with the provisions of the LFT statutes.
Clubs must have player categories, a professional team, a women's team and a cadet team. Professional players (25) with a professional contract. Have a women's team, all categories combined (30) and youth teams: cadets (30), training contract.
Clubs are required to provide a bank guarantee of seventy million (70,000,000) CFA francs. Set up a bank account in the club's name. Provide a business plan. Pay all club financial transactions by cheque or bank transfer. Provide a financial statement at the end of the season.
Sports infrastructure criteria:
Have a contract for the use of sports facilities. For matches or competitions, a stadium meeting safety standards including at least: a playing field meeting competition standards (grass or synthetic), a grandstand for officials and spectators, changing rooms and sanitary facilities meeting modern stadium standards, a center with a regulation playing field for training the different categories, a stadium and the center or training field must be located in a town or city in the region to which the club belongs. In addition to the sports facilities, the club's head office must be located in a town or city in the region to which the club belongs.
Reasons for a probable postponement of the season
To date, discussions surrounding the launch of Togo's professional championship are still at ground zero. Many clubs are not ready to change their name, one of the conditions for joining the professional league. Also, the condition of "one club per prefecture" does not meet with unanimous approval. Some clubs are not ready to meet this criterion, which in principle will make certain clubs disappear forever from the annals of Togolese soccer. So it's hard to see clubs like ASCK of Kara or Unisport FC of Sokodé abandoning their multimillion-dollar plans to join Semassi FC of Sokodé or ASKO of Kara respectively.
These details suggest that the start of the 2023-2024 season, originally scheduled for September 17, will be postponed, as much remains to be done. For the moment, no official note from the Togolese Football Federation (FTF) has been published.