Works and Infrastructure Minister and ex-FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner, has apparently broken the terms of his FIFA exit and exposed the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) to more sanctions from the world governing body by meddling in regional football matters.
Warner, according to a letter that was leaked to Wired868.com, threatened to use his ministerial influence to cut off State funding for the TTFF unless the football body supported his former fellow teacher, Harold Taylor, for the post of Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president.
Taylor, according to new CFU rules, needed the endorsement of his home association to run for an executive post and Warner seemed to sense some reluctance to do so by the TTFF, which is now led by acting President Lennox Watson.
On Friday 20 April 2012, just three days before the close of CFU nominations, Warner sent a letter to Sport Minister Anil Roberts that accused the TTFF of conspiring with FIFA President Sepp Blatter and demanded action against the football body.
“I am advised that (…) a conspirational agreement with members of the TTFF and Sepp Blatter, President of the FIFA (…) was made,” stated the letter, which was leaked to Wired868.com, “to deny any representative from Trinidad and Tobago the opportunity to contest the position of President of the CFU.”
He further claimed to be “disturbed” by the thought that the TTFF might support a non-national and stated an intention to raise the matter with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
“This attack, Minister, should never be allowed to continue and there has to be something we as a government can do in defense of our people,” the letter continued. “(…) May I suggest therefore that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago do not contribute one cent to any organisation that fails to support the progress of its people.
“And I wish to also bring this matter also to the attention of the Honourable Prime Minister.”
Wired868 understands that the letter, which was copied to TTFF General Secretary Richard Groden, panicked the football body and Taylor’s proposed nomination was hastily approved.
The CFU elections will be held during the upcoming 2012 FIFA Congress in Budapest, Hungary on May 24 and 25.
Taylor, who is believed to be at least 79-years-old, is among four candidates for the top CFU post along with Barbadian Ronald Jones, Antiguan Gordon Derrick and Cuban Luis Hernandez.
However, the two State agencies refused comment on whether they had used taxpayers’ money to improperly interfere in the business of an autonomous sporting body.
Warner, who is also chairman of the United National Congress (UNC)—the leading political party in the coalition—did not respond to questions emailed to him or relayed through his advisor Francis Joseph.
Joseph confirmed receipt of the Wired868‘s questions.
Similarly, Roberts did not answer questions passed on to him by his communications department while the Sport Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Ashwin Creed, abruptly changed his mind about an agreed telephone interview when asked about Warner’s letter.
“I have some people in my office now,” said Creed, with a chuckle. “Can you call back?”
Creed did not respond to further requests for comment.
TTFF treasurer Rudolph Thomas confirmed Warner’s letter was genuine and told Wired868 that the football body meets on Wednesday to discuss the way forward in the present political climate—sporting and otherwise.
Thomas said the TTFF is keen to distance itself from Warner’s controversial tenure.
“We are working tremendously hard to create a new brand for the TTFF,” said Thomas, “because the old brand is tainted.”
All Sports Promotion chairman Anthony Harford, whose company handles the TTFF’s marketing and sponsorship, claimed he was stunned by Warner’s letter and his apparent refusal to follow FIFA’s instructions and step away from the sport.
“Why would Mr Warner want to stop funding for football because the TTFF doesn’t want to support his preferred candidate for the CFU post?” asked Harford, rhetorically. “But until such time that the Sport Ministry demonstrates its unwillingness to live up to (our) contract, we don’t have a problem.”
It is uncertain whether FIFA would be as dismissive of Warner’s apparent meddling.
The FIFA Statutes, Section 13.1 (g) and 17.1, states that all Member associations are obliged to “manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties.”
Sanctions for breaching this bylaw include suspension from the governing football body even if “the third-party influence was not the fault of the Member concerned.”
No money, fewer friends and buffeted from all sides, the TTFF executive, headed by Watson and Groden, are facing civil suits from 13 members of the 2006 World Cup squad and several former employees, including ex-national coach and former Porto and Glasgow Rangers playmaker, Russell Latapy.
On 19 July 2012, Groden and former TTFF president Oliver Camps are to appear in the Port of Spain High Court to discover whether they will be jailed for contempt after repeatedly refusing to sue Warner over missing 2006 World Cup accounting statements.
The TTFF’s attorney, Derek Ali, has argued that suing Warner would expose his client to a counter-attack estimated at between $30 and $50 million. The football body has refused to say who funds its legal brief, at present, although Camps admitted that Warner paid the TTFF’s legal bills up to the time of his departure last October.
Camps also quit football after FIFA opened investigations into his conduct following the Bin Hammam bribery scandal.
Despite his flamboyant exit from FIFA and all football bodies, Warner is apparently still anxious to have influence in Caribbean matters while the Prime Minister continues to turn a blind eye to his conduct.
Seven years ago, Warner had the ageing Taylor step aside as CFU general secretary for a more vibrant person. The post eventually fell to Trinidadian Angenie Kanhai who was 24 when she took over and, last year, testified against Warner during FIFA’s bribery investigations.
Warner wants Taylor back now and a leaked letter suggests that he threatened to bankrupt the TTFF if it did not follow his demands.
Abandoned by FIFA and ignored by the Prime Minister, the TTFF agreed.
Editor’s Note: Sport Minister Anil Roberts, in a CNC newscast on 11 May 2012, admitted to receiving Jack Warner’s letter as revealed exclusively by Wired868