John-Williams absent again as concerns about TTFA financial statement go unanswered for third meeting

Stakeholders of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) must wait another 30 days at least for answers about the spending of the David John-Williams-led administration, after the local football body’s reconvened AGM on Tuesday 20 February again ended without any clarity on the TTFA’s financial statement for 2016.

For the second successive AGM, John-Williams was a no-show. On 23 December 2017, the TTFA president said he was sick. On Tuesday, TTFA vice-president Ewing Davis—who chaired the meeting in John-Williams’ absence—said the administrator was abroad on FIFA business.

Photo: TTFA president and W Connection founder David John-Williams.

John-Williams’ excuse for skipping the meeting as well as the timing of the AGM itself was not universally accepted in good faith.

“That meeting was to be called within 60 days,” said one TTFA member, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There were so many weekends that it could have been called, yet it was called on a Tuesday night—a working day—and the President was not there.”

The most crucial item outstanding for TTFA members remains the approval of the football body’s financial statement.

On 19 December, 2016, John-Williams became the first football president to publish the TTFA’s annual financial statement—a move that earned him plaudits in the media and from the public. But there was a catch. The figures shared publicly represented the financial activity of the football body in the year ending in December 2015. However, John-Williams only became president on 30 November 2015.

And, thus far, local football’s commander-in-chief has not been as open about his own spending.

At an extraordinary general meeting on Wednesday 5 July 2017, the TTFA made its first attempt to have its financial statement approved, which is a prerequisite for FIFA funding.

Photo: FIFA president Gianni Infantino (right) and TTFA president David John-Williams at a press conference at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 April 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

However, general secretary Justin Latapy-George did not forward the document to the membership, as mandated by the TTFA Constitution. Instead, the John-Williams-led Administration attempted to simply read out several pages of financial data to bemused listeners for their approval.

“There were no print-outs available,” said Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (TTFRA) vice-president Osmond Downer at the time. “One man read that this book was examined, etc but nothing was in front of members to look at. So it was decided that [the TTFA’s Audit Report] could not be considered.”

The postponement of the Audit Report began what, to a cynical observer, might look like a cat-and-mouse game.

At the following AGM on 25 November 2017, Latapy-George, acting on instructions from John-Williams, gave financial documents to less than a third of the membership on the supposed grounds that the others were not fully compliant. Once more, the membership successfully resisted, as Downer pointed convincingly to the constitution.

Once John-Williams’ attempt to disenfranchise some members was overruled, the membership was back to where they had started, with most members not having copies of the financial statements or sufficient time to peruse the documents while some argued that the meeting itself was unconstitutional. So, the AGM was postponed to a date within 30 days.

Photo: TTFA general secretary Justin Latapy-George (left) chats with ex-TTSL general secretary Camara David at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 10 April 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

The John-Williams-led TTFA board chose two days before Christmas to stage its AGM. And, this time, the President called in sick and didn’t show. In his absence, Davis presided over the meeting but neither he, Latapy-George nor board member Wayne Cunningham was able to answer questions about the football body’s finances.

“What came across clearly was either [financial] decisions are being taken that the Board knows nothing about,” said TTSL president Keith Look Loy, “or the board members know about it and are not prepared to talk.”

The TTFA had another 30 days to reconvene the AGM. And, on Tuesday 20 February, John-Williams was again absent.

“The general feeling of the people present was the absence of the president meant he didn’t think this was important to him,” Veteran Footballers Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago (VFOTT) president Selby Browne told Wired868, “because he had 60 days to pick a date he could be present.

“Saying he was on FIFA business is nonsense. It is not as if FIFA told him on Monday, ‘find yourself in Zurich tomorrow.’ FIFA’s business is scheduled well in advance.”

Once more, Davis, Latapy-George and Cunningham had no answers for the meeting while the TTFA’s financial officer, Tyril Patrick, was absent. Despite being cash-strapped, the local football body still has not formed a financial committee—although John-Williams is already halfway through his term as president.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (centre) is flanked by Women’s National Senior Team coach Carolina Morace (right) and press officer Shaun Fuentes at a press conference in the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 1 February 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“We asked why the financial officer was not there to answer our questions,” said Look Loy, “and the response from the chair, Davis, was that the financial officer changed recently and the new person couldn’t answer questions on the previous period. But that is ludicrous. He has been there for several months and he should be up to speed with what is happening.”

For the third time in the last four meetings, Latapy-George failed to forward necessary documents to the members. On this occasion, the general secretary did not pass on the TTFA’s activity report, which was meant to list the going-ons at the football body in 2016.

“[Latapy-George] got up and started reading and we are there trying to jot down points but it was impossible,” said the anonymous TTFA member. “By the time we were four or five pages in, Osmond got up on a point of order and asked for it to be deferred to the same meeting where we will be considering the financial statement.

“When the secretary called the AGM, all these documents should have been circulated so people will have time and opportunity to study them and make valuable contributions.”

TTFA board meetings are usually poorly attended and, at a reconvened meeting, any turn-out would constitute a quorum. Yet, according to Browne, such was the interest in the football body’s financial statement that at least 35 persons showed up.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Laurelle Theodore (left) pressures Canada right back Emma Regan during CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship action at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 20 January 2018.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“The financial statement says TT$1.26 million was spent on legal fees,” said Browne. “Well, I want to know about the television rights dispute [with Telemundo]. That entire business [of refusing to allow them to exercise their contract] was the action of a lunatic.

“There were also no-brainers like going to court with [former general secretary] Sheldon Phillips. There is no defence for that because you can’t win those things in court. All you are doing is pushing up your legal fees!”

The anonymous member pointed to a line item called “Technical expenses” on the financial statement, which mushroomed from roughly TT$15 million in 2015 to just under TT$32 million in John-Williams’ first year in office.

“Professional fees”—which the members interpret as meaning coaching salaries—is a sub-section of Technical expenses, which has shot up from TT$6 million under Tim Kee to over TT$15 million under the current president.

“The statement says some TT$15 million were spent on Technical expenses but there are no details,” said the member. “Nobody knows all the people who were employed and who was paid what. And nobody was there to answer.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coaching staff (from left to right) Ross Russell, Stern John, Stuart Charles-Fevrier and Dennis Lawrence stand for the national anthem before a World Cup qualifier against USA at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Denver, Colorado on 8 June 2017.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

The payment of coaches is a particularly touchy area for members since the current administration has hired more than a half-dozen persons linked to Pro League club, W Connection, which is owned by the president.

The National Under-14 boy’s team, which is fully funded by the NLCB, is almost entirely made up of Connection staff with Stuart Charles-Fevrier (head coach), Leonson Lewis, Clyde Leon (both assistant coaches), Aquelius Sylvester (goalkeeper coach), Troy Boodoosingh (medic) and Gary St Rose (general manager) all linked to the president’s club. The team manager, Wesley Webb, remains the most expensive signing in Connection’s history.

“Are these people getting double salaries?” asked the anonymous TTFA member. “Are they getting money from W Connection? Or TTFA? Or both?

“Is the TTFA paying W Connection’s coaching salaries?”

Cunningham told Wired868 that the postponement of the meeting did not necessarily mean that the board members present were unable to answer questions.

“The members wanted to hear from the President direct so everybody agreed to that,” said Cunningham. “They said they don’t want second-hand information. And also there was a report that wasn’t circulated and they wanted to see it themselves.”

Photo: TTFA president and W Connection owner David John-Williams (left) presents the winning cheque to his daughter and Connection director Renee John-Williams after their FA Trophy final win over Police FC at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 8 December 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Browne suggested that Cunningham’s version was not entirely accurate.

“Cunningham said [Latapy-George] can answer for financial matters,” said Browne, “and the General Secretary said no.”

Wired868 asked Cunningham if he could answer the financial queries of the membership.

“That is not my thing,” said Cunningham. “I see my role on the board as looking out for the interests of the zonal bodies.”

According to the TTFA’s Constitution, Latapy-George is supposed to handle the day-to-day operation of the football body on the say-so of the Board. However, stakeholders do not believe this is happening.

“The secretary should know everything that goes on but that doesn’t seem to be the case here,” said the source. “Some people are even feeling sorry for the secretary because he is being kept in the dark about many things. Or, at least, that is the impression we get.”

Browne agreed.

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.

“Neither the board nor directors nor the general secretary are, on a daily basis, au courant with what is transpiring in the TTFA,” said Browne, “because you have two meetings without the president and nobody on the board can say what is the position on ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’.”

Look Loy was not as sympathetic towards the supposed bystanders.

“Whatever problems anyone might have, the point is it is not [John-Williams and his slate] who are supposed to govern but the Board,” said the TTSL president. “And they have not been exercising due diligence in the running of the organisation. They have been letting things slide and by that I mean slide into the abyss.

“Good governance by the Board is essential in rescuing the TTFA from itself. The Board has to exercise leadership. I think the governance of the Association is the problem.”

Look Loy was recently nominated to the Board and attended his first board meeting this year. He will get his chance to impose himself soon enough.

Look Loy and Browne both submitted detailed lists of questions about the running of the football body to the TTFA president, general secretary and Board last year. The former said he is not satisfied that his queries were properly answered while the latter got no more than an acknowledgement.

Photo: VFFOTT president Selby Browne.

“The general secretary acknowledged receipt [of my list of questions] but there has been no attempt whatsoever to reply,” said Browne. “It tells me you are not prepared to answer questions of accountability, management of the finances and your fiduciary stewardship.

“[…] Anybody who is not prepared to answer that runs the risk of having people believe you have something to hide.”

Look Loy pointed out that the issues at the AGM went beyond unanswered questions.

“They told us the AGM would be held at the Couva Cycling Centre first, then, without notice, they changed it to the Media Room in the Ato Boldon Stadium,” he said, “So all during the meeting, people are calling me and asking if the meeting is still on because they are at the Cycling Centre and they are not seeing anybody there.

“I made the comment in closing the agenda that the performance of the Board and the Executive was particularly shoddy and woeful. I mean, they can’t even stage a meeting?”

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  1. Krishendath Kuarsingh

    It is apparent that Mr David John-Williams is of the belief that the TTFA is his private property and that he can do whatever he wants. Further, he believes that he is not accountable to anyone.

    The TTFA gets funding from Government (our tax payers money) and FIFA. He has to account to both bodies for the monies received, clearly outlining how the money is spent. Failure to do so can result in the withholding of such funding to the TTFA.

    Perhaps those Board Members who feel aggrieved should write to the General Secretary of FIFA and to the Minister of Sports about the non accountability for funds received from their Organizations and point out that there may possibly be a mismanagement or misappropriation of the said funds.

    The concerned members of the Board and Clubs need to take serious/drastic action now. More about this suggestion later on.

  2. And why does he still hold that office again? No accountability of funding, missing key stakeholders meetings, Trinidad’s football at it’s all time worst…..are we missing something?

  3. Can’t believe what I am reading

    • Yuh better believe! Everyone gets in for their own personal gain

    • I just read that and want to take two Excedrin, without water, for those members seeking answers.

      Is the TTFA being run by officials who think they are accountable to no one? ?

      With all that run around, members have to go to meetings with sneakers on? ?

      All those excuses, delays, refusal to answer (trapping and passing the responsibility), “convenient” absences by key people, sending mandatory documents late or not at all, ommision of information when documents are actually sent, reading out financial info for people to process without timely circulation are supposed to raise big red flags. Big like the one by Fire One Macoya.

  4. Well that can’t be good for several reasons…..

  5. Continuation of the same old same old.

  6. When looking into the spending habits, one needs to be concerned with how the several FIFA grants were spent. Were they used for the purpose for which they were intended? Haiti had a properly prepared ladies team due to FIFA grant to prepare the team. Where did our grant go?
    Am I missing something?

    • Believe the constitution has to be revisited and tweaked to allow for recall and censure. May have to wait for election and new leadership.

    • ..The way forward is tortuous and being prepared every day with every battle..

    • i think history will show in a Trinidad context as far as associations go waiting for an election to hopefully upset the apple cart and the status quo takes some doing. Does this not apply with TTFA or they are different??and it not like TUCO as an example

    • Brian Jordan they don’t need to amend the Constitution:

      Article 38 Dismissal of a person or body

      1 The General Meeting may dismiss a person or a member of a body. The Board of Directors may place the dismissal of a person or a member of a body on the agenda for the General Meeting. The Board of Directors may also dismiss a person or a member of a body provisionally. Any Board of Directors Member (Keith Look Loy) may submit a proposal to place such a motion for dismissal on the agenda of the Board of Directors or General Meeting.

      2 The motion for dismissal must be justified. It will be sent to the Members of the Board of Directors and/or to the Members along with the agenda.

      3 The person or body in question has the right to defend him or herself.

      4 The motion for dismissal shall be decided by means of secret ballot. For the motion to be passed, a majority of three quarters of the valid votes is required.

      5 The person or body dismissed (provisionally) is relieved of his or its functions with immediate effect.

    • Nigel. I think #2 has to be further defined. “Justified” is a nebulous and very non specific term to me.

    • Don’t read too much into it, it’s saying that the motion itself must be justified. It’s a very low threshold which essentially means that you have to have at least *some* basis for bringing the motion before the Committee. It doesn’t address the deliberative process or what would constitute sufficient grounds for removal. Ideally that would be defined but it’s not necessary. The fact that 75% of the Board leans one way or the other would be compelling in if itself.

    • Agreed mostly, however, given recent history and board trends, it could be considered a loophole to allow for wiggle room.. most likely end result being person not being removed at the end of the process..

    • Brian I thought of that but that’s why I mentioned the removal vote threshold. Even if there’s “good” reason for removal, without that 75% triggering vote nothing else really matters. There is no provision for review of the Board’s decision, but even if there were, any appellate authority would give deference to the decision in all but the most compelling of circumstances. 75% is a very high bar, 60%-66% is more typical. If you meet that bar it’s kinda hard to later argue about the outcome.

    • Let’s see if it is even triggered ever..

    • Especially given how Warner… I mean Williams has stacked the Board.

    • i guess i need an understanding of the constitution and how the governing body comes into power to understand the transparency of the process and how the election process works

  7. ..Very accurate article. TTFA’s parlous financial condition is inherited but also, in serious measure, the result of bad management decisions by the current executive – like the firings of technicians. The settlement of debt is key and the honourable thing to do is to sit with the creditors to negotiate a schedule of payments. Allowing matters to go to court when you know you cannot win is stunbornly suicidal..

  8. Sounds like delaying tactics… thankfully people like Selby and KLL are rallying members to remain committed to getting the truth about the Financial State of the TTFA out in the open…let’s see what happens at the next meeting…time longer than twine.

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