Is TTFA squatting at HoF? Bol, Fenwick, debt repayment plan and missing financials among NC issues

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s first general meeting under the Robert Hadad-led normalisation committee passed without rancour today but with few questions answered.

A TTFA press statement this evening said that ‘many of the issues were addressed’ but did not identify any. It listed some matters that were ‘still to be resolved/discussed’:

Photo: Normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad.
(via Trinidad Guardian)
  • Approval of the audited financial statements for the year ended 31st December 2019;
  • Expulsion of the coaches association;
  • Admission for membership pursuant to the Unified Football Coaches of T&T application.

Those topics are to be re-tabled at an extraordinary general meeting within 14 days’ time.

The TTFA, apparently, failed to properly disassociate the defunct coaches association in 2019 and must complete that process before considering an application for membership by the fledgling Unified Football Coaches of Trinidad and Tobago (UFCTT).

Notably, Hadad and fellow committee members Judy Daniel, Nigel Romano and Nicholas Gomez did not present audited statements for their spending since taking over the local football body in 2020.

However, the normalisation committee did present a budget which showed a surplus of TT$157,609 for the last calendar year. During that period, the Men’s National Senior Team, Women’s National Under-20 Team and the Men’s Beach Soccer and Futsal Team all competed while the other teams had their respective competitions cancelled owing to the pandemic.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Mekeil Williams (foreground) tries to keep the ball away from Guatemala attacker Darwin Lom during 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup action.
(via TTFA Media)

Despite the cancellations, staff still had to be paid in accordance with the terms of their contracts.

The normalisation committee puts its 2020 income—minus the South West Regional Health Association (SWRHA) reimbursement for use of the Home of Football—at TT$20,698,200. Apart from TT$96,500 in membership subscription fees, the entire income came from Fifa, Concacaf and the Caribbean Football Union (CFU).

In the expenses column, there was TT$2,395,303.44 for TTFA administrative staff salaries and NIS contributions, TT$15,638,287.56 for TTFA technical staff salaries and expenses and another TT$3,157,000 for administrative expenses (excluding the SWHRA usage).

In its convocation documents sent before the general meeting, the normalisation committee offered some details on its two-year apparel deal with Bol, signed in March 2021. According to the contract, the TTFA ‘will receive approximately 9,000 units of sponsored sports apparel annually au gratis and a sponsorship bonus of  US$50,0000 in each of the contract years’.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago international stand-out and InterMiami CF winger Joevin Jones shows off the BOL national team kit.
(via TTFA Media)

Under the bonus incentives included in the deal, the Soca Warriors earned the TTFA US$25,000 for qualifying to the group stage of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.

The Women’s National Senior Team can also earn between US$25,000 for a group stage place in the Concacaf tournament with US$50,000 for a semifinal place or US$100,000 for winning the tournament outright. The bonus money is only for the team’s final placing and not cumulative.

The Women Soca Warriors would earn US$500,000 for the TTFA if they qualified for the 2023 World Cup.

The TTFA is also ‘contractually entitled to an annual royalty payment of 6% of the net sales of the respective preceding calendar year’.

A W Connection representative enquired about the pay-out to the Men’s National Senior Team staff before today’s meeting and whether there were any legal challenges. (The normalisation committee insists on written questions rather than direct oral ones.)

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Terry Fenwick shouts an instruction during 2022 World Cup qualifying action against St Kitts and Nevis in Santo Domingo on 8 June 2021.
(via TTFA Media)

“Following the dismissal of key members of the Senior Men’s National Team prior to the expiration of their contracts, no further details were provided regarding same,” said the local stakeholder, on 16 September. “Kindly advise as to the terms of separation and/or if any legal proceedings were initiated against the TTFA in this regard.”

The 23 September response was directed to W Connection director Renee John-Williams.

“Senior members of the Senior Men’s National Team and the TTFA by mutual agreement agreed to separation on the grounds of affordability,” stated the normalisation committee, via action general secretary Amiel Mohammed. “These members have been generous in understanding the financial constraints of the TTFA and their settlement packages have allowed for a mutual parting that is amenable to the TTFA.

“Senior Men’s National Team head coach Terrence Fenwick was terminated on 11th June 2021 in accordance with the terms of his contract, with one month’s salary in lieu as per the notice period.”

John-Williams also requested more detailed financial documentation.

Photo: Nipdec and National Flour Mills chairman and normalisation committee member Nigel Romano.

“Constitutionally, the audited financial statements for the period ending 31st December 2020 should have been prepared and were supposed to be presented at the upcoming AGM,” stated the missive. “Kindly advise as to the status of these documents and when the membership can expect to be furnished with them.”

The normalisation committee again offered an explanation.

“[…] As you know, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic and the legal battles that punctuated the normalisation process, as well as the suspension of the TTFA from Fifa on 24th September 2020,” replied Mohammed, “the TTFA AGM could not take place in 2020. Therefore, the independent external auditors could not have been appropriately appointed to begin work on the audit of the financials for the year ended 31st December, 2020.

“With this in mind, the normalisation committee will be recommending to the members the appointment of independent external auditors at the 2020/2021 AGM to have the audited financials completed. An extraordinary general meeting will be convened thereafter, with the support of the general meeting at the 2020/2021 AGM, to have the audited financials for year ended 31st December 2020 presented and approved.

Photo: Fifa-appointed normalisation committee member Nicholas Gomez.

“Similarly, financial matters such as the Budget for January 2022 to December 2022 will be presented at the proposed extraordinary general meeting for approval.”

There was little tangible information on the TTFA’s debt repayment plan, which was a key reason for Fifa’s implementation of a normalisation committee in the first place.

The Hadad-led body said Ernst & Young was given the task of creating a blueprint for the TTFA to get out of its financial hole but offered no details. EY will be paid for its services by Fifa.

“[…] Numerous financial service firms were invited to submit proposals to assist in the development of the debt-repayment proposals,” stated the normalisation committee, in its convocation documents before today’s meeting. “The proposals were evaluated and EY was then selected as the firm of choice as they offered the most thorough scope of work and value proposition for this exercise. The costs associated with this debt repayment project will be fully funded by FIFA. 

“Over the duration of its term, the NC will reveal the enablers needed and inhibitors identified as the committee collaborates with all TTFA stakeholders to fulfil its mandate and carefully plan the way forward for T&T football.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart reacts to the final whistle in the 2016 Copa America play-off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City on 8 January 2016.
The TTFA owes Hart TT$5 million, making him its second largest creditor.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

There were no further updates on that matter today.

Another eye-raiser is that the TTFA apparently does not have a lease for the land on which the David John-Williams-led body constructed the controversial multi-million dollar Home of Football facility, opened in 2019 despite being essentially incomplete.

“The deed for the leasehold land, granted to the TTFA by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, was never perfected and therefore cannot be treated as an asset,” stated the normalisation committee. “The letter, dated 3rd August 2017 from Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, merely lays out the description of the property, its purpose and intended use. However, it is not a deed of lease and therefore it cannot convey the property to the TTFA. 

“It is in this regard, that the [TT$42,524,000] capital grant was removed as the TTFA does not have an absolute title to the land and therefore it cannot be included among TTFA’s assets.”

Photo: (From left) Then Sports Minister Darryl Smith, House Speaker Esmond Forde, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat and then TTFA president David John-Williams share a light moment during the TTFA’s sod turning ceremony at the National Cycling Velodrome, Couva.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Veteran Footballers Association of Trinidad and Tobago interim president Selby Browne asked what the normalisation committee has done to address the lease issue—Fifa statutes mandate that the TTFA must have at least a 20-year lease to qualify for the Fifa Forward funding which was received for the HoF.

“Based on the accepted reasons for removal of the Government Capital Grant of $42,524,000 from the TTFA asset, why has the Committee been unable to immediately receive the deed to establish title to this major asset, since taking responsibility for the TTFA and the HoF?” Browne asked, via email. “Worse, having missed an excellent opportunity to ensure this important objective was realised, when entering into an occupancy agreement with the said Government of TT for the HoF.

What therefore are the immediate plans of the Committee to urgently have this important responsibility to secure the title to the land realised soonest?

“The fact that the TTFA also does not have a lease for the Office at the Couva stadium seems to indicate the TTFA is a squatter at both locations.”

Photo: Former TTFA president David John-Williams (right) and then general secretary Camara David pose during the opening of the TTFA Home of Football on 18 November 2019.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

Wired868 was not advised of a response to Browne’s concern.

The EY report presented to the normalisation committee also ‘revealed total estimated outstanding liabilities and unasserted claims (contingent liabilities) of approximately TT$98.5 million as of 9 February 2021’.

“The Association’s current liabilities exceed its current assets by TT$45,700,820,” stated the convocation documents. “The normalisation committee cannot as yet determine the ability of the Association to continue as a going concern.”

Once more, there was no discussion on the implications of the TTFA’s financial state. Members—and creditors—will hope to learn more at the EGM within the next two weeks.

Hadad, in his statement today, asked members to move forward ‘together’ with the normalisation committee.

Photo: Robert Hadad is co-CEO of Hadco and board member at the International School in POS.
Hadad was appointed head of Fifa’s normalisation committee in Trinidad and Tobago on 27 March 2020.
(Copyright Gary Jordan Photography ©2017)

“If we really wish to rebuild football in this country, then we must embrace the debt crisis as the entire membership’s problem,” said Hadad. “It is an unprecedented problem, but it is a problem that we all share.The issues have been aired, improvements in governance outlined, the need for fundraising and debt repayment stated—let us work together to restore this fractured association.”

Thus far, Hadad’s idea of ‘togetherness’ appears to be that his four-member committee does whatever it is allowed to by Fifa while local football stakeholders stay out of their way.

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