The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) continues to operate at the edge of financial ruin as, despite general secretary Sheldon Phillips’ sunny disposition, the local football body seems clueless about how to pay its bills while it allegedly dodges debtors.
In January 2014, TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee agreed a seven digit out-of-court settlement with former “Soca Warrior” and football icon Russell Latapy for outstanding salaries owed for his stint as national head coach.
The TTFA, according to Latapy’s local agent Wayne Mandeville, was due to pay half the agreed figure in June 2014. Instead, Mandeville claimed that the deadline passed without word from the football body and he accused Tim Kee, who is also the Port of Spain Mayor, of avoiding Latapy.
“They have taken a strategy of avoidance,” Mandeville told Wired868. “Tim Kee is avoiding dealing with Russell and they are not even accepting calls or returning calls.
“Even if you have some financial issues, which Russell understands, to go about trying to avoid having a conversation with him and anyone associated with him is sad.”
Tim Kee did not answer or return calls on the matter from Wired868. However, Phillips stated that he was available for dialogue on the issue.
“While I can’t speak for Mr. Tim Kee on Mr. Mandeville’s comments, I can assure you we are doing everything we can,” said Phillips, “to take care of Mr. Latapy and the other coaches/technical staff who are owed salaries.
“Mr. Mandeville has my contact information and I want to make clear that it is not our intent to make him or Mr. Latapy have the feeling they are being avoided. As the person who handles daily operations of the FA, I am always accessible and will reach out as well.”
Latapy, who is assistant manager at Scotland Premier League club Inverness, is understood to be keeping his options open with regard to the TTFA’s failure to meet its legal obligations.
Meanwhile, the TTFA faces the possibility of a more direct threat from 13 World Cup 2006 players who will decide over the coming days whether to hand the football body a fresh ultimatum.
Despite Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s pay-out of $8.3 million (US$1.3 million) to the Warriors last month, the TTFA remains legally indebted to the players. And there was a strong suggestion from several players that they will continue with the case so as to hold former TTFF special advisor Jack Warner accountable for over $200 million in unaccounted World Cup revenue.
“When we started (this case) we wanted to see the books,” former World Cup goalkeeper Shaka Hislop told Wired868. “Then it became evident very early on that Mr Warner and the TTFF were not prepared to produce valid accounts. And it became less about what we were owed and more about what he was willing to pay to avoid us seeing the books…
“But now as (Warner) continues to make desperately misguided statements about the settlement and the case and we have the winding up order on the table, it gives us the opportunity to settle this in a not-so-orthodox manner and go after the accounting books.”
Tim Kee, in a recent radio interview, suggested that he was unwilling to go after the missing money and preferred to “eat little and live long.”
Hislop suggested that position could have dire consequences for the TTFA.
“The ideal circumstance is for the TTFA and the players to do this together,” said Hislop. “They have assured me that they are willing to pursue the missing funds… and I continue to believe that even though I am fully aware that some of their public statements contradicted that.
“But I also know that I am in a minority in that regard. If they do not come good on what they have saying to me privately, the majority of the group wants to exercise that winding up procedure on the TTFA (to enable the liquidator to go after its creditors).
“I have always gone with the group and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
Former technical director Anton Corneal, who resigned his post in April 2014, is also owed a seven-digit sum by the TTFA and is anxious to be paid for his years of service.
“I would like the TTFA to do what is right,” said Corneal. “People who work hard need to be rewarded financially because this is how I have to earn my living; through coaching.
“I hope they will see it fit very soon to find a solution to this problem. This was my job that I was doing so hopefully things will work out in the very near future.”
The TTFA also owes Pro League champion DIRECTV W Connection a cash prize of $50,000 for the 2013 TTFA FA Trophy title while Central FC is due $30,000 and North East Stars and Malabar FC are owed $10,000 each.
In a Wired868 interview on 13 February 2014, Phillips said the football clubs were days away from being paid for their success in the FA competition. Five months later, they continue to receive empty promises.
“We haven’t received the funding yet and I am disappointed with it,” said Connection president David John Williams. “We have had several promises but nothing has been forthcoming. I have been in constant communication but they keep saying next week.
“And they have been saying that since January.”
The TTFA’s financial shortcomings have affected its national teams too. The football body has not had a technical director since April while men’s head coach Stephen Hart confessed his frustrations to Wired868.
At present, the football body receives rent free accommodation at the Hasely Crawford Stadium but had its phone lines disconnected for non-payment at the start of this month. By Thursday, the TTFA’s office staff would have gone three months without pay.
“From (tomorrow), some staff has been told to come in on Monday and Wednesday and some will come on Tuesday and Thursday while everyone will come out on Friday,” said a TTFA insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “That is how it will be until…”
Wired868 understands the TTFA has not yet received its FIFA allocation for this year due to accountability issues. The FIFA press office has not yet confirmed this.
Tim Kee, who is also the PNM treasurer, is the chairman of the TTFA’s financial committee although the body is yet to convene formally.