Veteran Footballers Foundation president Selby Browne has accused the Robert Hadad-led Normalisation Committee and its trustee, Maria Daniel, of misleading members of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).
And further, in a letter penned on Christmas Eve to acting TTFA general secretary Amiel Mohammed, Browne has now “demanded” that the local football body name the mysterious financier who offered a US$3.5m interest free loan to cover the Association’s debts.
The letter, which was dispatched on Boxing Day, appears to be part of a counter-offensive by the TTFA membership, with relations between local stakeholders and Fifa at its lowest ebb.
On 10 December 2022—which was 34 months into a normalisation period that Fifa president Gianni Infantino initially said would not exceed 24 months—the TTFA members voted 20 to 5 in favour of a motion by Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (TTFRA) president Osmond Downer that:
“[…] The TTFA Normalisation Committee takes all steps to complete its mandate and to arrange for the election of a new Board of Directors to run the affairs of the TTFA as required by the Constitution of the TTFA, and that this be done in the shortest possible time, but no later than 18 March 2023.”
Six days later, the response came from TTFA trustee Maria Daniel that: “[…] If the time is not given to the Normalisation Committee and the current management team to implement [steps at ensuring the proper financial management of the TTFA], the success of this restructuring effort will be at risk,” stated Daniel, who was initially hired by Fifa.
“[…] Legally the payments to the creditors can be made on or before 28 March 2023. If no agreement can be reached with the financier before the end of the six-month period, the Proposal shall be deemed to have failed.”
Should the TTFA be unable to satisfy its creditors, the local football body runs the risk of being shut down.
If Daniel’s letter was supposed to scare members into accepting a strained relationship with Hadad, it has so far had the opposite effect.
Browne described Daniel’s missive as “self-incriminating” and countered that it confirms “the failure of both Trustee and the Normalization Committee to put in place the required arrangements entered into in its agreements with the Financier, TTFA creditors, and presented to the High Court of Justice of Trinidad and Tobago”.
Like Downer, Browne suggested that Daniel’s 16 December statement was inconsistent with her previous promise to pay up to TT$200,000 to creditors by Christmas Day.
And he rejected what he viewed as an attempt to blame the “inability of the Trustee and the Normalisation Committee to implement the scheduled pre-Christmas payments to creditors” on the TTFA membership, for exercising their constitutional rights.
“This statement has two things to do with its foundation in fact,” stated Browne. “The first is nothing whatever to do with fact, and the second, absolutely nothing whatever to do with fact.”
Browne, in a letter copied to the TTFA membership, then played his own card, with a demand that the Normalisation Committee provides:
- A copy of the Minutes of the meeting called by the Normalisation Committee to present for the TTFA Membership approval, the petition presented to the High Court of Justice of Trinidad and Tobago on behalf of the TTFA Membership and approved on 28 September 2022;
- The name of the financier with whom both the Trustee and Normalisation Committee identified for the Proposal and Agreement petition presented to the High Court of Justice of Trinidad and Tobago on behalf of the TTFA Membership;
- The status of work done by both the Trustee and Normalisation Committee with the requirement for policies, guidelines, and management structure recommendations to ensure that the TTFA’s governance be restructured and oversight strengthened so that the mismanagement that has happened in the past would not recur;
- State whether both the Trustee and Normalisation Committee have plans to ensure payment to TTFA creditors will commence on or before 15 January 2023.
Fifa is believed to be the undeclared financier of the TTFA’s US$3.5m interest free loan, although neither party has confirmed such up until now.
“It is hoped that your urgent responses to these questions will be provided as a priority,” stated Browne, “to ensure the TTFA Membership can be provided with information for consideration within seven days of the date of this letter or no later than 30 December 2022.
“I look forward to your usual competent and prompt action and responses.”
The identity of the TTFA’s financier is not the only secret being kept from members. In over two years of normalisation, it remains uncertain where Fifa has sent over US$4m in subventions and relief funding meant for Trinidad and Tobago.
The money has not docked at the TTFA’s account at First Citizens Bank.
At what exchange rate is the local football body receiving its own subvention? Is the US currency being sold on to the benefit of a non-TTFA member?
It is one of multiple questions only likely to be answered when TTFA members elect a new president.
In theory, the TTFA members and Fifa bureaucrats can afford to play the waiting game for a few months, with regard to their current impasse. But it will be a particularly uncomfortable period for creditors like Kendall Walkes, Stephen Hart and Dennis Lawrence.
“My client (Stephen Hart) has done nothing wrong and has nothing to do with the domesticities of the TTFA—that right now is not my concern,” attorney Keith Scotland told Wired868. “He has a court judgment and I just want him to be paid… I would see my client as collateral damage [of internal TTFA politics].”
For now, the TTFA membership refuses to accept responsibility for their creditors’ discomfort. And they are not ready to back down.
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