Petro Jazz Basketball Club have lodged an official complaint with the National Basketball Federation of Trinidad and Tobago’s (NBFTT) against former Super 10 Basketball League (SBL) Managing Director and Commissioner Keith Clement. The club is seeking to collect all outstanding prize money due to it for winning the Super 10 competition some three-plus years ago in 2013/14.
SBL By-Laws stipulate that the national governing body is the competition’s official Appeals Committee.
In a letter dated 24 April, 2017, Petro Jazz addressed the NBFTT and the Ministry of Sport outlining that the SBL and hosting company Gold Medal Sports are in gross violation of contractual agreements as they have not so far paid all of the prize money Petro Jazz is supposed to have earned for winning the Super 10 in 2013/14.
The club also lodged a formal complaint with the Ministry of Sport regarding suspected misappropriation of taxpayers’ money by Clement and the SBL.
At the media launch of the 2013/14 competition at Carib Brewery, Clement outlined that prize money and operational costs for the league totalled TT$700,000. Those costs, he said, were covered by title sponsor Mackeson, corporate bodies and the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs. He also announced that the prize for the champion team would be TT$100,000.
It is a matter of record that the Ministry of Sport, according to an October 2016 NBFTT release signed by Mitchell, provided sponsorship to the tune of TT$350,000 to cover prize money and officiating fees.
The Super 10 Basketball League has been dormant since that edition ended in February of 2014 and Petro Jazz reluctantly accepted part payment, believed to be in the region of $70,000, in December of 2014. Christmas Day 2014 was earmarked as the date for payment of the outstanding balance.
However, all of Petro Jazz’s efforts over the last 28 months to have Clement and SBL fulfil their financial obligations have proven futile. As late as last year, Wired868 learned, there were still claims of government funds that had been misappropriated, SBL-issued cheques that had bounced and SBL bills for indoor facilities that remained unpaid and monies still owed to teams.
In an October 2016 release, the NBFTT contended that Clement had issued “huge fines” to teams, failed to list in any line items in reports submitted to the Federation any income received from these fines and reported to funders that he had paid out as “prize money” all monies already received.
Contacted for a comment, Clement, who currently sits on the board of the NBFTT, declined to address any basketball-related issues.
An October 2016 NBFTT media release bearing then NBFTT interim president Claire Mitchell’s signature makes clear that Petro Jazz’s complaint against Clement is just one of many that has been brought to its attention. The NBFTT has, therefore, had a long-running war with the administrator who is an International Basketball Federation (FIBA)-certified commissioner.
The conflict with the NBFTT Board has seen numerous documented and public attempts by the Board to ban Clement from all basketball-related activity in T&T. But Petro Jazz suggested Clement is adept at dribbling, avoiding challenges and drawing fouls.
In October 2015, then NBFTT president Garvin Warwick revealed that the governing body had taken a decision at a statutory board meeting to permanently sever any and all relationships with Clement with immediate effect.
This decision also threatened his position as a FIBA Commissioner as that role is premised on the commissioner’s good standing with the local basketball body.
In the relevant NBFTT release, Warwick indicated that Clement’s expulsion was the result of the latter’s misuse of confidential documentation and information contained in a letter dated 11 August 2015.
The NBFTT subsequently revealed that, at a Federation meeting on 12 December 2015, Clement admitted to taking an envelope of financial mail from then NBFTT VP Darion Lall at the Ato Boldon Stadium without the knowledge or permission of elected officers, including the VP Finance who is the official solely responsible for handling all financial mail.
Clement reportedly sent the aforementioned letter along with the financial information contained in the mail to the local Fraud Squad and the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago seeking to bring charges against FIBA through the local national federation.
Clement successfully challenged his expulsion on the grounds that the process used was unconstitutional, going as far as to make counter claims of his own that senior members of the NBFTT were acting fraudulently.
Another battle between the two antagonists flared in January 2016 when Clement sent a letter to the NBFTT with a claim for fees totalling TT$42,250. The sum, he said, was owed to him for services rendered as league commissioner of the 2014 Hoop of Life (HOL) programme.
Then president Warwick issued a detailed response to Clement’s claims, noting that at no time was NBFTT asked to provide a match commissioner or otherwise for the HOL tournament and, as such, Clement was never appointed as tournament commissioner.
The three-page October 2016 release outlined that, after Clement ran the program for its first two years, he was replaced as HOL coordinator by Obadiah Asher in 2014. His removal, according to the release, resulted in Clement repeatedly requesting to be re-instated as commissioner for the multi-million dollar HOL programme.
According to the 12 October 2016 release, when the Board refused to accede to his requests, Clement, then employed as a sports reporter at the Guardian, began a series of “continuous malicious attacks for personal gain” on the Federation.
Mitchell, the current NBFTT general secretary, took over the title of president when Warwick resigned on 28 January 2016 to take up the role of advisor to the Sport Minister Darryl Smith.
In April 2016, Mitchell and the NBFTT Board conceded in a release dated 14 April, 2016 that the 2015 attempt to expel Clement had not been carried out in accordance with the organisation’s constitution. As such, Clement would be reinstated as a NBFTT Associate Member.
However, in the same release—in the same breath, one might say—they said that Clement would be asked to offer his resignation under the terms of Article 10:3 for “behaving in a manner that was injurious to the Federation.” Clement was given 28 days to step down, failing which steps would be taken in accordance with the constitution to expel him.
The release signed by Mitchell, continued, “it is the opinion of the Board, that Mr Clement’s alleged, deliberately destructive and vindictive actions is (sic) a full scale campaign to destabilize the Federation because he did not get sanctioning for Super 10 2014/15 amid questions from the management concerning certain non-payment of prize money, exorbitant fines, bounced cheques and outstanding expenses associated with his Government-funded, privately owned, operated and managed Super 10 Basketball League.”
During the public confrontation between the Federation and Clement, Petro Jazz opted to play their cards close to their chest. Clement, it needs to be pointed out, was welcomed onto the Board of the NBFTT in December 2016 as chairman of the Basketball Coaches Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BCATT).
In their official complaint, the club noted that Clement’s position constituted a clear conflict of interest since he, the subject of the grievance, is simultaneously a voting member in the decision making process on the Appeals Committee.
Petro Jazz believes that they are already starting the appeals process a man down and “at a disadvantage in this instance where the offending Associate Member sits on the Federation’s Board despite Article 5.c of the NBFTT Constitution, which states in part:
Associate Membership being that offered to the managers/owners of basketball training schools, individuals and representatives of sporting and legitimate business organizations, not necessarily involved in the sport of basketball; but which are supportive of the objectives of The Federation and which are in a position to assist The Federation, financially or otherwise in the attainment of its aim and objective. They will not be allowed to vote at meetings, will receive rights and privileges in The Federation and will make an appropriate contribution to be determined by the Board of Directors.
Compounding concerns about conflicts of interest and the absence of impartiality is a wariness about the possibility of some kind of backlash from the BCATT, which Clement chairs.
In a letter addressed to BCATT General Secretary Mario Davis, Petro Jazz detailed their concerns:
- How will BCATT represent our Coach’s / Team’s interest on the Federation’s Board given that the complaint is against its Chairman’s personal financial interests?
- Do any other Members of BCATT have any issue with outstanding payment from SBL / BCATT Chairman as we appeal to the Federation?
- Will BCATT and its Chairman be impartial and will coach-led teams feel safe enough from victimization and speak out given BCATT’s role in the National Coach Selection Process?
These are doubtless valid concerns that are likely to affect not just Petro Jazz but conceivably the future of basketball in Trinidad and Tobago. Whether or not the club’s efforts to collect its due yield fruit, basketball should not be allowed to suffer.
The ball, it seems, is firmly in the court of the Federation and the Ministry of Sport.