Home / Volley / Global Football / DJW hurdles AGM; TV cash vow mutes concerns about Hart and TTFA’s secrecy culture

DJW hurdles AGM; TV cash vow mutes concerns about Hart and TTFA’s secrecy culture

There were a few tackles and spells of high pressing. But, at the end of yesterday’s AGM, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams might have been tempted to pour himself a glass of celebratory wine.

Since the football body’s last AGM, the John-Williams-led organisation had: used TTFA money for its leader’s unsuccessful Caribbean Football Union (CFU) presidential bid, replaced technical director Kendall Walkes and almost every national head coach under the previous administration with largely inferior substitutes, failed to initiate promised sub-committees, entered financial contracts with little to no consultation with the board of directors and/or general council, mixed the business of his W Connection football club with the operations of the TTFA, and created a culture of silence that military-run dictatorships would be proud of.

Photo: Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president Gordon Derrick (second from left) is sandwiched by TTFA president David John-Williams (second from right) and TTFA employee Sharon O'Brien (far left) before the CFU Under-17 final on 25 September 2016 at the Ato Boldon Stadium. John-Williams tried unsuccessfully to replace Derrick as CFU president on 23 July 2016. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president Gordon Derrick (second from left) is sandwiched by TTFA president David John-Williams (second from right) and TTFA employee Sharon O’Brien (far left) before the CFU Under-17 final on 25 September 2016 at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
John-Williams tried unsuccessfully to replace Derrick as CFU president on 23 July 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Six months ago, technical committee chairman and Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene spoke frankly with Wired868 about the appointment of Brian Williams as National Under-20 Team coach. Williams, Skeene explained, was the only name on a shortlist offered by technical director Muhammad Isa.

“You must put proper procedures in place [because] football is not one person’s own and we have to make it transparent,” said Skeene. “When it comes to the selection of coaches, ideally this must be advertised both locally and overseas, so we can get the best coaches possible with everything being done in a transparent manner…

“[Even if the TTFA cannot pay coaches], we are supposed to get everyone who is willing to work for free and then look at who is the best that is willing to work for free.”

It was Isa who requested a technical committee meeting, on Monday 21 November, to discuss Hart’s future. Only, this time, Skeene said all questions on their deliberation and verdict must be referred to the football president instead.

Wired868 reminded Skeene that, as committee chairman, he had been authorised to speak to the media before about things under his portfolio.

Photo: W Connection attacker Hashim Arcia (left) collects the 2013 Charity Shield MVP award from Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: W Connection attacker Hashim Arcia (left) collects the 2013 Charity Shield MVP award from Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene.
(Courtesy Wired868)

“Subsequently they made a further decision,” said Skeene, “that only David [John-Williams] will talk…”

Far from resisting a culture in which one man spoke for everybody under its umbrella, the local football body appears to be warming to it. And, as former referees’ association head Osmond Downer attempted to grill John-Williams on the removal of the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach, many in the audience rolled their eyes.

“[Downer] wanted to know [why Hart was removed] and felt the general council, as the supreme body, should get the facts,” said the TTFA general council member, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

John-Williams responded, according to multiple sources, that as far as the board was concerned it did not fire Hart. Rather the coach and the board of directors came to a mutual understanding, which was predicated on a report from the technical committee that recommended change.

Hart, incidentally, declined comment on the suggestion that he left by mutual consent or—as the Trinidad Guardian claimed—had accepted a TT$3 million pay off, which would represent the worth of the two years left on his contract.

Downer refused to be appeased with piecemeal information at the AGM and, at least temporarily, stood his ground. So, John-Williams put it to a vote.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart (right) shouts instructions during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on 15 November 2016. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart (right) shouts instructions during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on 15 November 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Did the TTFA’s general council agree with the board’s decision to remove Hart as Soca Warriors coach?

There were three abstentions—Northern FA president Anthony Harford felt he could not vote without detailed knowledge about Hart’s dismissal—but, otherwise, the general council agreed that the coach’s time at the helm should come to a close. Even Downer voted along with the pack.

It was the final nail in the coffin for the long suffering Warriors coach.

Twelve months ago, Hart was considered the TTFA’s most competent member and marketable asset. Yet, in midweek, he suffered the indignity of his contribution to the local game being ripped apart—in his absence—by nondescript women’s football administrator, Sharon O’Brien.

Another general council member, who also spoke anonymously to Wired868, argued that the technical committee ought to bear some responsibility for Trinidad and Tobago’s poor start to the CONCACAF Hex. That committee, he insisted, should have removed Hart earlier!

“My position is the the technical committee should have been doing its work. They are responsible for the analysis of all the technical aspects of our football, which includes how the coach is performing and how the team is doing. And if we look at the technical report from the last Gold cup—when we were all in a euphoria—that report was not a plus for us…

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacking midfielder Keron Cummings (centre) celebrates his 2015 Gold Cup goal against Mexico with teammates (from right) Cordell Cato, Joevin Jones, Mekeil Williams and Aubrey David. (Courtesy MexSport/CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacking midfielder Keron Cummings (centre) celebrates his 2015 Gold Cup goal against Mexico with teammates (from right) Cordell Cato, Joevin Jones, Mekeil Williams and Aubrey David.
(Courtesy MexSport/CONCACAF)

“It tells you Hart needed help in terms of preparing this team to be on the cutting edge for a World Cup qualifier. The fact that we were unable to [get to] the Caribbean Cup semifinals is a statement in itself… It is clear that his dismissal was in the making.”

You either die a hero, goes the famous quote in the Dark Knight movie, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

The Hart issue, though, proved to be the only real tackle aimed at John-Williams—whose very appointment is shrouded in controversy after more than one improperly constituted body voted at the November 2015 TTFA election.

And the membership was merrily trading passes with the president when talk swung to financial figures.

John-Williams told the council that the football body’s debt stands at TT$16 million now. And he pointed to the TTFA’s TT$8 million sponsorship deal with NLCB for its national elite youth development programme and Scotiabank’s TT$250,000 partnership for its season tickets initiative as proof that the private sector was warming to his charms.

The football body, he claimed, was also due a US$1.6 million payment in FAP funding from FIFA.

He offered little details on the youth program—apparently the various zonal bodies are responsible for holding their own screening sessions and inviting Isa to attend—and no specifics on the season pass plan, which would suggest the effectiveness of that campaign.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago supporters pose for a photograph during a break in Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 11 November 2016. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago supporters pose for a photograph during a break in Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 11 November 2016.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

There are question marks too over the breakdown of the TTFA’s current debt, particularly with looming lawsuits from sacked technical director Kendall Walkes, the National Futsal Team and, possibly, Hart. Not to mention the fact that Raymond Tim Kee claimed the debt was roughly TT$12 million, just before he vacated office a year ago.

Was the TTFA’s debt growing or diminishing?

That possible discrepancy was not raised and no explanation was offered. But John-Williams was happy to discuss the pluses at length. The new ticketing system—which allows fans to purchase match tickets from Lotto machines nationwide—not only offers extra convenience to patrons but also allows the football body to track its customers’ geographic locations.

For the first time, John-Williams noted, the TTFA can tell what communities are most interested in the national team and tailor marketing campaigns to suit.

If council members were not totally sold yet, then most were when John-Williams turned to television rights.

Disgraced former CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb had entered the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) into a television rights deal with Traffic, which offered Caribbean nations US$1.6 million to split amongst themselves for getting to the Hex.

Photo: Disgraced former CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb. (Copyright AFP 2014/Alexia Fodere)
Photo: Disgraced former CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Alexia Fodere)

As the Caribbean’s lone representative, the TTFA are due the entire sum. However, John-Williams explained that figure was well below market value—after all, Webb confessed to accepting bribes from Traffic.

The board of directors, according to John-Williams, retained attorney Reginald Armour SC to look into the matter and believed it could have the Traffic deal voided. Should the TTFA manage that, the football president claimed there were global televisions rights companies lining up to pay in the region of US$2.5 million per year on a 10-year deal.

The general council, with few exceptions, had just one question to that: Do we get a piece?

John-Williams answered in the affirmative. The TTFA, he promised, will send money downstairs to help its regional bodies better run their affairs.

“He has achieved a lot in terms of what he met and the hurdles he has got over so far,” said another council member, in a vote of confidence for the football president.

It is worth noting that only 25 from the TTFA’s 49 general council members showed up for Saturday’s AGM. That represented a bare quorum. And just six from 13 board of directors—Richard Quan Chan, Wayne Cunningham, Joseph Taylor, Karanjabari Williams, vice-president Joanne Salazar and John-Williams—were present.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) vice-president Joanne Salazar (right) sits alongside TTFA deputy general secretary Michelle Lynch at a joint Shanghai Group of Companies/TTFA press conference in May 2016. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) vice-president Joanne Salazar (right) sits alongside TTFA deputy general secretary Michelle Lynch at a joint Shanghai Group of Companies/TTFA press conference in May 2016.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Only interim general secretary Azaad Khan—whose impending replacement, Justin Latapy-George, was at the AGM—and vice-president Ewing Davis are believed to have officially communicated the reason for their absences in advance. And when the board met to consider Hart’s removal, last Wednesday, the same board members, with the exception of Williams (K), were joined by Sherwyn Dyer and vice-president Allan Warner.

Other board members, Samuel Saunders (Central FA), Anthony Moore (Tobago FA) and Skeene (TT Pro League), missed both meetings.

“Downer said the business of football is being taken seriously by one percent of the board and just 50 percentage of members,” said a source. “And he said that was atrocious. That is something we all agreed upon.”

According to the TTFA constitution: “A position will be considered vacant […] if a member of the Board of Directors, irrespective of the reason, does not participate in four consecutive meetings of the Board of Directors.”

Central FA representative, Saunders, has been fingered as potentially being in breach of this rule already. And, if so, it means he will be expelled while his zone will only be allowed observer status—and not voting rights—until the next AGM in November 2017.

Yesterday, the general council mandated the TTFA board of directors to investigate absenteeism and strike off other members who breached the constitution.

Photo: VFFOTT vice-president Selby Browne (left) at the 2015 Wired868 Football Festival. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: VFFOTT vice-president Selby Browne (left) at the 2015 Wired868 Football Festival.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Once Downer and the similarly outspoken Veteran Footballers Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago (VFFOTT) vice-president Selby Browne were placated, John-Williams had little problems. Even when, remarkably, the president said he had not yet decided upon Hart’s replacement as head coach.

“He said no concrete decision [has been made] on any coach yet,” said the source, “but they are trying to secure one as soon as possible.”

There is unlikely to be any change regarding the TTFA’s future coach until the technical committee meets again on Wednesday.

Wired868 sent a few questions to John-Williams, this morning:

Is the TTFA considering a local interim coach, as reported in one newspaper? Can he update football fans on the TTFA’s efforts to secure a new coach?

And who will select the interim Trinidad and Tobago squad, which must be named next week, for the Gold Cup Play Offs in January?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (right) performs a duet with former Calypso Monarch, Cro Cro, at the launch of the National Elite Youth Development Program at the Trinidad Hilton on 14 October 2016. (Copyright TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (right) performs a duet with former Calypso Monarch, Cro Cro, at the launch of the National Elite Youth Development Program at the Trinidad Hilton on 14 October 2016.
(Copyright TTFA Media)

John-Williams read the questions but did not acknowledge them, let alone respond. Whatever issues there might be with his relationship with the media—or small sections of them—things are looking up for the administrator internally.

“Our membership was relatively pleased with what transpired,” said a source. “[John-Williams] came away with a satisfied meeting.”

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 15 years experience at several local and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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59 comments

  1. The more things change the more they remain the same. Prople who hold executive positions in these organisations always think they are a law unto themselves. They surround themselves with “yes yes ” people who thry themselves keep their mouths shut so they can all dance to the same tune and have a wonderful time at the expense of the State or private donations. We will continue to be in this position until people who do not need self satisfaction or glorification comes along but are truly interested in the welfare of our youths.

  2. the calypsonian cro cro is use as a political football / PNM put him last in the 60th anniversary competition to win 3,000 and he in they ass like a DUTTY DRAWS / Jack ass

  3. I’m so disgusted that I bought a season ticket. I don’t know if I’ll go to any more games. I’m putting TT Football in the same category as WI cricket now: I just don’t give a shit anymore. The TTFA is a disgrace.
    We have no players playing in mainstream European leagues, only Levi who is not a starter at AZ. In terms of talent we’re probably at the bottom of the Hex. We realistically have to aim for 4th place…3rd if we get very lucky. I really want to see a coach get more out of this group than Hart did. Good luck with that. He did himself in by bringing TT Football back to a level of respectability.
    Anybody wants a season ticket to buy? Used just once…

  4. Hahahaha nah I am on the wind down eh, I really doesn’t understand what is all this waiting, and waiting, and waiting eh, just for my dictator president to announce the next Coach and his assistants of the Trinidad and Tobago Red Army eh, it seems that nobody wants the job or what eh. Them really good yes. hahahaha

  5. Lol Mango is always on the wind up

  6. The ‘Smiling Assassin”…….BOOM.

  7. Heard that the smiling Assassin is in town. so I guess they will be Coach Terry Assistants or the Coaches themselves eh

  8. It is clear that the new head honcho has learned his lessons very well as he goes about consolidating TOTAL power over local football in his hands. The moves executed by him are very reminiscent of the infamous ‘JACK’ as he sets about promoting his PERSONAL AMBITIONS ahead of the GENERAL good of Trinidad and Tobago Football. In all his machinations he is aided and abetted by a traditionally ‘SPINELESS’ General Council, which over the decades has allowed NATIONAL FOOTBALL, to become PRIVATELY owned and concentrated in the hands of a clique of opportunists, always led by a TOP DOG figure who enjoys wielding the BIG STICK against all who oppose him. Accountability has long been an elusive dream in ALL MATTERS Football, even when Government funding (taxpayers dollars) have been involved. On the field of play, as a people we have been duped into believing that Total National Support, Team Spirit and Prayers will somehow more than make up for the GLARING TECHNICAL AND TACTICAL DEFICIENCIES of our homegrown players, who have more or less been left on their own to muddle along, in a so-called PROFESSIONAL League, which standard cannot even compare to that of the top MINOR LEAGUES of a few decades ago. The truth be told our local Football Standards are at rock bottom and has been so for quite sometime, while our HOMEGROWN Football Administrators have established the ability to stride the corridors of INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL POWER with comparative ease. This is a MAJOR Contradiction which everyone seems ill at ease to address.

  9. One small step forward ten steps back!!

  10. carlos trust me right thru politicians and the high rollers walking over these fools everyday and they not saying anything but giving them their hard earned money or bending over and taking it where the sun don’t shine

  11. They just need to hire Klinsman eh, to coach our Trinidad and Tobago Red Army the new name,and done away with the Soca Worries eh hahahahha

  12. Nah Dion. Though say that. Lol

  13. carlos lee there are only a few real men left in this country with balls so that will never happen

  14. Wouldn’t that be malfeasance on the part of the othet members of the board of directors?? To vote and agree to an action without details is the definition of “rubber stamping”..

    • Exactly eh! Although I wasn’t there and have to rely on a couple sources, it sounds like the vote was just a way to demonstrate to Downer that he wasn’t in the majority and get him to sit down.
      But I’d admit that only attendees can explain precisely how that went down.

    • Lasana Liburd my recurring theme “lack of a professional ethic”. You voting and don’t know the facts. Only in TT!!!!????

  15. One adjustment, the Northern FA said its board representative Kanjabari Williams did attend the AGM. They also took the time to explain their abstention from the vote on Hart.
    Their abstention, led by FA president Anthony Harford, was because they felt it wrong to vote on something when you did not have all the facts. And TTFA president David John-Williams never released details about Hart’s dismissal to the general council.
    The Northern FA should say more on the AGM later today on the record.

  16. But this man is a dictator. What is really going on in our football with David John Williams? My question is … what are we the football fans going to do about it? Continue to let him give us rose tinted glasses to watch on? continue to let him usurp power under our eyes and turn our beloved football into his money spinning web. Are we going to let him choose yet another coach from HIS WC Connection to relieve him of payments of their salaries and putting them under the responsibility of the TTFA again? What are we doing about this. We need to speak up. Let him know we are not STUPID SHEEP and dEMAND Fairplay in all matters concerning our beloved sport. We must speak up as a nation and not sit on the sidelines. Enough

  17. 5th December 2015 FIFA Ranking 49, current 24th November 2016 FIFA Ranking 78. What a difference a year makes.

    • Lasana Liburd

      It has been a shocking fall off. The thing is all our football teams have dipped not just the senior one. And that means Hart can’t be the sole problem.

  18. When kenwyne Jones is your star striker, who Bound to Start, it tells you ur team is weak !!!!

  19. Shouldn’t the Technical Committee be at least competent enough to make decisions on technical issues? Dem shoulda be removed long before Coach Hart. Steups!

  20. Earl Best

    “Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (right) performs a duet with former Calypso Monarch, Cro Cro, at the launch of the National Elite Youth Development Program at the Trinidad Hilton on 14 October 2016.”

    What were they singing, “We pissing in deh face and calling it rain”?

    I find this a bitter-sweet story. When will we as a country learn to stand up for our rights? When will we say ‘enough is enough’? The late Fidel Castro’s Granma newspaper reminded us years ago that “Cuando el pueblo se enfada, toda la injusticia tiembla.”

    It is worth reminding football fans, Wired868, even if indirectly implicitly, that “When the people say enough is enough, all those who do wrong begin to quake in their boots.”

    So, Keith and company, throwing our hands up in disgust and sucking our teeth is hardly enough.

    • Lasana Liburd

      Well, the Northern FA called to say they didn’t appreciate being lumped into the body of smiling faces at the AGM. So I look forward to hearing from them–on the record–as to how things went and how they feel they are playing their part to ensure that football is run properly.

  21. Dexter Skeene is a joke. He’s chair of the Technical Committee and is showing poor leadership. He’s simply content with his title and is happy to allow the good president and Isa to pull his strings. Unbelievable the jokey governance system within the TTFA. Where have all the good men gone? Men with strong backbone, who stand for what is right and are quick to stand up against wrong and against tyrants. Men who don’t allow themselves to be castrated without their consent.

  22. ..Contract is not the issue at this stage. They held the post. They did the ethical thing and resigned..

  23. They resigned including the Manager long time ,although they never signed a contract. Them really good yes.

  24. Do we know the status of the remaining technical staff? King, Hudson, et al. Were they terminated or are they still in limbo?

  25. Earl Best

    “For the first time, John-Williams noted, the TTFA can tell what communities are most interested in the national team and tailor marketing campaigns to suit.”

    There is obviously some validity in this claim but it is easy to overstate it. I patronize the Lotto booths, for instance, located near where I work in Port of Spain and San Fernando but I don’t live in either location.

  26. Earl Best

    “Photo: Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president Gordon Derrick (second from left) is sandwiched by TTFA president David John-Williams (second from right) and TTFA employee Sharon O’Brien (far left) before the CFU Under-17 final on 25 September 2016 at the Ato Boldon Stadium.”

    “…is sandwiched by…”? What a wonderfully weighted caption!

  27. Yuh mean’t to say it has already gone back to 10 years eh. Kendell LewisThem really good yes.

  28. Ttfa is beyond a joke. An atrocity

  29. When these guys are finished our football will go back 10 years only an intervention from God could save us

  30. I really don’t know why they are taking so long to present the new Coach of the Soca Worries nah and Congrats to you Terry Fenwick, you surely is the best man for the job at the moment so Russia 2018 here we comes……..BOOM.

  31. Eko Watts where have you been all this time eh, Isa Muhammed is the TD man lol

  32. Who is the Technical Director?

  33. Blah blah blah-Much ado about nothing – I mean not achieving anything.

  34. The strangulation of local football proceeds apace..