Home / Volley / Global Football / No soliciting! The High Court’s Judgment and the unravelling of John-Williams’ tv rights vow

No soliciting! The High Court’s Judgment and the unravelling of John-Williams’ tv rights vow

On 26 November 2016, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams and his board of directors were mandated by the local football body’s general council to seek to invalidate its contract with the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) and Traffic Sports USA, the Brazilian arm of a Brazilian sports event management television production company, for broadcast rights for its 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifying matches.

The general council arrived at this decision after John-Williams himself declared that attorney Reginald Armour SC felt the television rights contract could be voided due to the well publicised fraudulent behaviour of former Traffic president Aaron Davidson and ex-CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb.

Photo: Former Traffic US president Aaron Davidson (left) and ex-CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb both pleaded guilty to fraud and racketeering in the United States. (Copyright Business Wire)
Photo: Former Traffic US president Aaron Davidson (left) and ex-CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb both pleaded guilty to fraud and racketeering in the United States.
(Copyright Business Wire)

The reward for breaking their contract, according to one TTFA insider, was said to be as much US$3.8 million, which was what John-Williams allegedly promised to reap from the resale of the TTFA’s broadcast rights for the CONCACAF Hex stage on the open market.

In contrast, the Traffic deal offered just US$1.8 million.

But, for whatever reason, the John-Williams-led board apparently never followed the board’s instruction.

Rather than take the moral high ground by transparently pleading its case against the CFU in Jamaica or against Traffic in Florida, the local football body took an approach that now appears to be standard business for the current administration.

The John-Williams-led board pretended that its contract with the CFU and, by extension, Traffic and Telemundo, did not exist. And, like with former technical director Kendall Walkes or National Futsal coach Clayton Morris, it put the onus on the respective parties to prove otherwise.

So, a month before the biggest game of its Trinidad and Tobago deal—the visit of Mexico on 28 March—Telemundo was told to cough up more money or lose what it had already paid for.

“That is not the conduct of an honest commercial man,” said Christopher Hamel-Smith, during Telemundo’s legal charge at the Port of Spain High Court on 21 March 2017. “The conduct of an honest commercial man is that he respects the rights of somebody who is bonafide and he gets what he can get from the people who took advantage of him if he truly believes that.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams and new FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the TTFA headquarters on 27 January 2016. Infantino was the UEFA general secretary at the time. (Courtesy TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams and new FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the TTFA headquarters on 27 January 2016.
Infantino was the UEFA general secretary at the time.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

The TTFA was due, according to its contract with Traffic, US$50,000 for the Panama qualifier and US$80,000 for the Mexico qualifier. The football body demanded a minimum of US$450,000 and US$850,000 respectively from Telemundo—and not Traffic—instead.

The Telemundo Network is not the only rights holder for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers from Port of Spain. If the other networks faced similar requests and were not as nimble legally, they would be arguably left with the following option:

Hand over more money to the TTFA; or be locked out from the game and disappoint viewers, forfeit millions in advertising revenue and end up chasing an essentially bankrupt company for financial compensation after the fact.

Telemundo referred to the John-Williams-led TTFA approach, in court documents published by Philadelphia news outlet, philly.com, as “a shakedown.”

It is a narrative that fits the international view of Trinidad and Tobago’s football administrators—and one earned by the dealings of a certain Jack Warner.

Judge Mira Dean-Armorer ruled comprehensively against the local football body, as she granted Telemundo the injunction it sought for the upcoming two matches.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Keron Cummings (third from right) celebrates his second strike against Mexico with teammates (from right) Khaleem Hyland, Kenwyne Jones and Kevan George at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Copyright Nicholas Kamm/AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Keron Cummings (third from right) celebrates his second strike against Mexico with teammates (from right) Khaleem Hyland, Kenwyne Jones and Kevan George at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
(Copyright Nicholas Kamm/AFP 2015)

Armour SC, who represented the TTFA, failed to convince the Judge that the matter ought to be moved to the United States, that the greater risk of injustice lay with the local football body and not Telemundo, or that the claimant, led by Christopher Hamel-Smith SC, committed material nondisclosure in its affidavit from NBCUniversal executive vice president Eli Velazquez.

NBCUniversal, a company with over US$68 billion in assets, is the parent company of Telemundo.

Dean-Armorer did offer the consolation of agreeing in principle to have Telemundo place a deposit in an interest-bearing account of the court which “represents the minimum value that ought to be payable to the TTFA for the broadcast rights of these games which the TTFA will seek to enforce as against Traffic and the CFU in the proper forum so that the root of the fraud which the claimant refers to as the ‘chain of contracts’ can be unravelled in the best interest of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Even then, the Judge noted that the TTFA gave “no evidential basis for quantum suggested.” The relevant parties meet again today to arrive at a figure.

Legal costs are reserved until the end of the substantive battle, as Telemundo must still show why its contract ought to be honoured for the remainder of the 2018 World Cup qualifying series and 2022 as well.

Photo: NBCUniversal executive vice president Eli Velazquez. NBCUniversal is the parent company of Telemundo. (Copyright Sportsvideo.org)
Photo: NBCUniversal executive vice president Eli Velazquez.
NBCUniversal is the parent company of Telemundo.
(Copyright Sportsvideo.org)

Telemundo already made it clear that damages will be sought.

A day earlier in Florida, the TTFA’s agents, Elite Soccer and Publicidades, caved in to Telemundo—in the face of court action—and apparently abandoned their own mission to find the local football body a new buyer for its broadcast rights in the United States.

It was a bad omen.

Should the TTFA fail in its brazen bid to escape the CFU/Traffic/Telemundo chain of contracts, the US$1.8 million due could end up being used to cover damages, legal costs and fees that we might not yet know about—including the work of Elite Soccer and Publicidades and, possibly, a kill fee for whichever television network(s) promised to pay US$3.8 million to the local football body.

“This does not faze me,” John-Williams told Wired868, after the High Court’s ruling yesterday.

It is left to be seen if John-Williams can afford to be equally cavalier with the TTFA’s general council when he explains the direction chosen by his board and the financial repercussions that might result.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoys himself at new head coach Tom Saintfiet's maiden training session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 15 December 2016. (Courtesy Nicholas Williams/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoys himself at new head coach Tom Saintfiet’s maiden training session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 15 December 2016.
(Courtesy Nicholas Williams/Wired868)

Judge Mira Dean-Armorer’s Judgment

An Order and injunction restraining the [Trinidad and Tobago Football Association] until the hearing and determining of an application to continue the injunction pending the trial of this action—whether by itself, its officers or employees, its servants or agents, or otherwise howsoever—from:

A) Licensing, authorising, facilitating or otherwise permitting—or attempting to license, authorise, facilitate or otherwise permit—and party other than [Telemundo] to provide Spanish-speaking television or digital media broadcasts within the United States of America of:

  • (i) The World Cup home qualifying match to be played between Trinidad and Tobago and Panama on Friday 24 March 2017; or
  • (ii) The World Cup home qualifying match to be played between Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico on Tuesday 28 March 2017;

B) Selling, reselling, licensing, marketing, commercialising or otherwise trafficking—or attempting to sell, resell, license, market, commercialise or otherwise traffic—the right to provide Spanish-speaking television and digital media broadcasts within the United States of America of:

  • (i) The World Cup home qualifying match to be played between Trinidad and Tobago and Panama on Friday 24 March 2017; or
  • (ii) The World Cup home qualifying match to be played between Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico on Tuesday 28 March 2017;
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago players (from left) Mekeil Williams, Ataulla Guerra, Joevin Jones, Sheldon Bateau and Radanfah Abu Bakr look on during their penalty shoot out with Panama at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago players (from left) Mekeil Williams, Ataulla Guerra, Joevin Jones, Sheldon Bateau and Radanfah Abu Bakr look on during their penalty shoot out with Panama at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

C) Engaging and/or allowing and/or authorising and/or soliciting and/or inducing and/or encouraging any other party to sell, resell, license, commercialise, market or otherwise traffic—or attempt to sell, resell, license, commercialise, market or otherwise traffic—the right to provide Spanish-speaking television and digital media broadcasts within the United States of America of:

  • (i) The World Cup home qualifying match to be played between Trinidad and Tobago and Panama on Friday 24 March 2017; or
  • (ii) The World Cup home qualifying match to be played between Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico on Tuesday 28 March 2017;

D) Taking any steps to prevent, impede, hinder, constrain or restrict [Telemundo]—or that would have the effect of preventing, impeding, hindering, constraining or restricting [Telemundo]—from enjoying or exercising the exclusive right to provide Spanish-speaking television and/or digital media broadcasts within the United States of America of:

  • (i) The World Cup home qualifying match to be played between Trinidad and Tobago and Panama on Friday 24 March 2017; or
  • (ii) The World Cup home qualifying match to be played between Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico on Tuesday 28 March 2017.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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20 comments

  1. Lol see why this sport can’t grow in Trinidad and tobago because everyone in the ttfa only on money

  2. Who paying to watch Trinidad football anyway!

  3. Flow Sports announcement: The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and Flow Sports were unable to reach an agreement with regard to the televising of the Trinidad and Tobago World Cup Qualifier match today. This telecast will not be available on Flow Sports in Trinidad and Tobago. We regret the inconvenience this may cause our local viewers.
    Viewers in the rest of the Caribbean will be able to see the game live on Flow Sports as scheduled beginning at 7:00 pm. Game Two of the World Cup Qualifiers, USA vs Honduras will also be available live on Flow Sports as scheduled for ALL viewers including Trinidad. We are still in discussions with the TTFA around the rights for local carriage of the T&T vs Mexico match on Tuesday.

  4. Is that the equivalent of lobbying? Which TT just paid a man $16 million to do in the US?

  5. That Guardian photo of DJW dressing up for court… What about that dress code W Connection players must follow?

  6. How could he/we have taken that approach ?

    So more debt now…

  7. Brian at cooler fetes the dress code are better eh

  8. we buy this crap shoot wholesale………..FAs get blinded by d promise of concacaf \CFU money and now we football falling down ah rabbit hole

  9. I saw this last night and wondered if the street number and in what alternate universe he resides. I’ve never seen a businessman go to work and much less court , in a huge battle which affects his organization’s financial fortunes dressed like he’s going to a cooler fete

  10. Did you see what he wore to court?