Cunupia withdraw ‘frivolous and regrettable claim’ against Wallace, but may now be $200k in the hole

Cunupia FC director and head coach Michael De Four today withdrew a TT$4.5 million High Court claim against Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace and vice-presidents Clynt Taylor and Sam Phillip, beating the TTFA officials’ deadline to backdown by a full 10 days.

There is still, however, the matter of ‘50 per cent of the prescribed costs’ demanded by the TTFA’s legal team of Matthew Gayle, Dr Emir Crowne, Crystal Paul and Jason Jones, which could cost De Four an estimated TT$200,000 for troubling Wallace and his associates with the ‘frivolous and regrettable claim’.

Photo: Cunupia FC director and coach Michael De Four.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Wired868 was unable to reach De Four for comment. Gayle confirmed that the elected officials are not done with Cunupia’s director yet.

“My client has instructed me to pursue the issue of costs at the very least,” said Gayle.

Wallace and his United TTFA slate, which successfully contested the local football body’s election on 24 November 2019, have weathered sustained attacks from Fifa as well as local critics—including Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe, interim Pro League chairman Brent Sancho and national coaches Terry Fenwick, Angus Eve and Keith Jeffrey—ever since the Gianni Infantino-led Bureau of the Fifa Council moved to replace them on 17 March.

In the courtroom, though, the besieged TTFA officials have been irrepressible. And it took just one email from Wallace’s legal team for De Four to lose his belly for the fight.

For starters, De Four, who was represented by attorney Peter Taylor, allegedly failed to adhere to article 5.5 of the Civil Proceedings Rule (CPR) in serving Wallace via WhatsApp, without a relevant Order of the Court.

Photo: Former PNM MP and attorney Peter Taylor (centre) switched sides this year, as he supported UNC candidate for Moruga/Tabeland Michelle Benjamin (second from right).
UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is second from left.
(via UNC)

Taylor, a former PNM MP and Legal Minister, did not send a pre-action protocol letter either, in what Gayle described as an ‘abusive, frivolous and fundamentally flawed claim’. And that was before you got to the subject of the claim itself.

De Four suggested that the United TTFA’s tussle with Fifa, which the world governing body blamed for its suspension imposed on the TTFA, deprived Cunupia FC of sponsorships, grant funding and eligibility to compete in the Caribbean Club Championships and the Concacaf Club Championships—‘which are invaluable sources of finance and which has occasioned [Cunupia FC] to suffer loss and damage’.

De Four calculated Cunupia’s losses as:

  • Grant funding — TT$250,000
  • Government funding — TT$600,000
  • Sponsorship packages — TT$200,000
  • Tournament funding — TT$3,500,000

De Four’s claims were startling for a few reasons. First, Cunupia FC are not full Pro League members but only ‘participatory members’. In short, the club paid to play in the 2019/20 season but not to partake in any of the other benefits enjoyed by fellow clubs.

Photo: Cunupia FC attacker Kevon ‘Showtime’ Woodley (centre) tries to find a way past two Defence Force opponents during Pro League action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 18 February 2020.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/Wired868)

Or, to be even more concise, they are not due a cent in government funding and specifically agreed to that stipulation.

The figure quoted for tournament funding represents what Cunupia FC would pocket if they became Trinidad and Tobago’s first Concacaf champion of the Champions League era. There are two potential issues with that claim though.

First, the Pro League was not even eligible to compete in Concacaf when Cunupia paid to join the local competition. In fact, local clubs were denied the chance to play in the confederation’s showcase tournament for the past two years, due to the failure of the David John-Williams-led TTFA administration to properly oversee Concacaf’s licensing requirements.

Second, and perhaps just as relevant, Cunupia finished dead last in the Pro League this season. It is a stretch to suggest that Mexico heavyweights like Monterrey, Guadalajara and Pachuca are quaking in their boots at the potential challenge from De Four and his charges, who were whipped 8-1 by Terminix La Horquetta Rangers on 31 January.

Photo: La Horquetta Rangers attacker Kadeem Corbin (left) tries to escape from Cunupia FC midfielder Stephen Julien during Ascension Invitational action in La Horquetta on 24 August 2019.
(Copyright Nicholas Bhajan/CA-Images/Wired868)

Further, De Four’s case is based on the happenings at an online Zoom meeting chaired by Wallace on 22 September. at which the TTFA officials were asked to withdraw its case against Fifa.

“The said meeting was properly constituted having been attended by 32 of the 47 Association delegates,” stated De Four, “of whom 21 voted to withdraw the case, 8 voted to continue and 3 abstained… The [TTFA officials] acted contrary to the directives of the majority of its membership by failing to properly file the said Notice of Withdrawal by the 3:00pm deadline on September 23rd ultimo.”

However, the meeting on 22 September was not properly constituted at all—as was publicly revealed, repeatedly. It was an informal meeting to gauge the mood of football stakeholders.

It is also incorrect to say that the meeting was attended by ‘32 of the 47 [TTFA] delegates’, when the 32 attendees included non-delegates and no roll call was taken.

Cunupia FC, incidentally, are not TTFA member delegates and De Four’s only place in the local game’s ecosystem is as a ‘half-member’ of the Pro League.

Photo: Former Sport Minister and Pro League interim chairman Brent Sancho.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“There is […] no privity of contract between our respective clients, yet inexplicably, [Cunupia FC] purported to bring a claim for breach of contract,” stated Gayle. “The Statement of Case also does not disclose any purported terms of this non existent contract. Your client further asserts a claim in legitimate expectation, which as you no doubt advised your client, is a public law remedy, which has no place in a claim between private parties.

“There is no nexus between your client’s purported potential and/or theoretical future losses… In any event, no causation is pleaded and the purported potential/anticipated losses are predicated on the occurrence of several events which are yet to take place and may never do so.

“Furthermore, your client bases its claim in part on […] a meeting which pursuant to the very rules purportedly relied on in the Statement of Case, cannot be binding on my client or any other person.”

Gayle suggested that De Four was ‘acting speculatively on the basis of (mis)information from the public domain’ and his claim in anticipation of losses from a Fifa sanction was ‘firstly premature, and in any event directed at the wrong party’.

In response, he offered De Four to chance to ‘mitigate the potentially embarrassing consequences of failing in a claim and being mandated to pay my client’s costs on the prescribed scale’.

Photo: TTFA president William Wallace.
(Courtesy TTFA Media/Allan V Crane)

“Should you refuse to forthwith withdraw the claim, in response to this reasonable proposal which follows hereafter, the cost consequences for your client may prove devastating,” stated Gayle. “[…] I therefore respectfully suggest your client go back to the drawing board and seek to address a proper claim to a proper defendant.

“The above notwithstanding, in the spirit of the overriding objective, my client would be minded to accept 50% of the prescribed costs on the claim up to this stage in the proceedings—providing the claim is withdrawn and notice thereof served on me not later than 3pm on the 23rd October 2020, in default of which this offer shall automatically lapse.

“My firm instructions are thereafter to prepare an Application for Strike Out, seeking costs from the claim and the application on an indemnity basis from your client.

“In light of the above, I am however confident your client will reflect on the folly of its ways and immediately withdraw this frivolous and regrettable claim.”

This morning, less than two working days after the TTFA’s officials legal response, De Four hit reverse.

Photo: (From left) Former TTFA vice-president Susan Joseph-Warrick, president William Wallace, general secretary Ramesh Ramdhan and press manager Shaun Fuentes.

Wallace, Taylor, Phillip and their attorneys still expect an estimated TT$200,000 for their troubles, though.

Editor’s Note: The TTFA expect legal determination from the High Court this afternoon in its case against Fifa’s appointment of a normalisation committee in Trinidad and Tobago.

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