“[…] Nobody wins if we go down the road of the local court, especially for our country, for our football development, and for the dreams of many—not just players, but the hundreds of thousands of supporters who would lose the opportunity to dream of one day seeing a repeat of what we achieved in 2006.
“Now is a time for us to make a decision to find a way to rectify this situation via dialogue, compromise and mutual respect between all relevant parties…”
The following is a letter to the editor from Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith on the legal impasse between the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s (TTFA) elected officers and the Fifa-appointed normalisation committee:
The future for our nation’s football is at a crossroad, and very soon some would be compelled to make a decision towards which direction it goes.
Being heavily involved in the sport for years, I have observed that our biggest internal obstacle has been the continued reluctance for everyone to agree to the common goal of putting the sport development first instead of the slate that they support. Whereby, election after election, if those who are appointed as president, executive, or head coach, are not in their favour, the mantra has been to destroy, discredit, and undermine—instead of all just circling the wagon and supporting those duly elected.
This however is now an external issue and far bigger than the usual internal bickering that we have seen with our football for decades. The United TTFA has decided to take on the might of Fifa on a stance of principle by going to court over their decision to remove a duly elected executive.
Being a previous manager of several Defence Force sport teams, and now police commissioner, I am aware that both services try to avoid the internal football politics. Both teams simply have their silent vote and say little.
Unfortunately, this is not a time to remain silent, as it is the future of our football that can be affected, and it may take years to recover if we go a certain direction.
I have the world of respect for Mr William Wallace and his slate, and I do believe that they have a major role to play in the development of our football in the near future. In fact, this was endorsed by them being appointed to do just that in the last election.
However, the end cannot justify the means by the present course of action. Because as with any mission, one cannot just look at the short-term result, but instead must look towards the domino effect, as it relates to what would trigger another reaction by Fifa.
This is what any good leader, manager, administrator, player, supporter or patriot of football would do in this situation.
Any club or zone supporting the present stance to take Fifa to court is virtually agreeing that we are prepared to have all of our national teams shut down and banned from participating in all competitive and friendly international tournaments and matches, inclusive of the upcoming World Cup and Concacaf Gold Cup.
This would also mean massive loss of revenue from several quarters, inclusive of the same Fifa, as well as sponsorship and support from the private and public sector, which we cannot swallow at this time—especially with the massive debt that the normalisation committee is presently trying to pay off of over 100 million TT.
The present direction would just add fuel to the fire and sink us further.
With the upcoming World Cup qualifiers and Concacaf Gold Cup drawing near, there are dozens of players in their late 20s and early 30s who were looking forward to what may be their final chance to represent their country at such a level. There are also several young players in that squad now looking to establish their professional and international careers.
Additionally, this could also cause the suspension of our national youth teams from international matches and tournaments, hence affecting hundreds of other young players.
We must not be dream killers for young people in our country.
I, more than most, am always prepared to fight for what I believe in, against the odds. But when I fight, it is for a purpose. You do not do all it takes to win a battle, just to lose a war.
Nobody wins if we go down the road of the local court, especially for our country, for our football development, and for the dreams of many—not just players, but the hundreds of thousands of supporters who would lose the opportunity to dream of one day seeing a repeat of what we achieved in 2006.
Now is a time for us to make a decision to find a way to rectify this situation via dialogue, compromise and mutual respect between all relevant parties. Because the present agenda to fight a war with Fifa in a local court may not be the best way, as everyone would lose, which no-one wants—inclusive of Fifa, United TTFA and the many football players and supporters in this country.
After all the flexed muscles and shots fired across the bow from all sides, I speak on behalf of the TTPS football team by asking that we all agree continuing this war via the courts would not help anyone.
Let us rectify our differences via mediation and respect for each other, which can then become a win-win for all.
I am confident that Mr Wallace and United TTFA, Mr Robert Hadad and the normalisation Committee, Fifa, Concacaf and every football loving citizen in this country would prefer this.
A mediator that all parties can agree to and obviously trust, would be the first step to have us move in the right direction.
Editor’s Note: The United TTFA slate has approached Fifa for mediation on multiple occasions. Each time, the global football body has refused.