The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and the Native Spirit clothing company both pointed towards each other today as Wired868 sought further information on money raised from the sale of “I Support Akeem” tee-shirts.
The $100 tee-shirts, which sold out last month, were designed to raise funds for former two-time World Youth Cup defender Akeem Adams who suffered a massive heart attack in late September and is awaiting a heart transplant in Hungary.
The TTFA told the public that proceeds from the sale of the tee-shirts would go to the 22-year-old footballer, who is in ICU at the Vasmajori Heart Clinic in Budapest.
However, last night, TTFA press officer Shaun Fuentes told i95.5 FM radio host Andre Baptiste that only $25 from each shirt would go to Adams, which prompted an immediate and angry response from members of the public.
Native Spirit and the TTFA both told Wired868 that it was a misunderstanding and the public was not willfully misled.
TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips insisted there was never any hint that the local football body or Native Spirit would underwrite the production costs of the tee-shirts. So, he said the public should have understood that full proceeds would not go to the young player.
“I don’t think any reasonable person would think there wasn’t a cost attached (to producing the tee-shirts),” Phillips told Wired868. “There are always going to be inherent costs… We want the public to understand that it was never our intention to generate any additional funding.”
Funetes also told I95.5 FM that the TTFA never claimed that all proceeds from the “I Support Akeem” tee-shirts would go to Adams.
However, a copy of the TTFA press release clearly contradicted their claims. On October 6, a release, issued by Fuentes, informed the public that “all proceeds” would go to Adams.
Native Spirit managing director Bruce Kaufman stressed that, for his part, it was an innocent mix-up.
“It is unfortunate that the information (about the $25) got clouded over,” said Kaufman. “This was for a very good cause and it was a positive thing that the country really showed a lot of support, which was nice to see.”
But should the public have been told how much of their $100 purchase would go to Adams?
Kaufman said the TTFA always knew that it would only receive $25 per tee-shirt and it was the football body’s responsibility to inform the public.
“We were not responsible for any PR,” said Kaufman. “Protocol dictates that all information should come from the TTFA.”
But Phillips claimed he did not know how much money would go to Adams when the TTFA asked members of the public to purchase the tee-shirts in a press conference on October 3. He said the local football body found out later on.
“Once the shirts were being manufactured, we found out how much it would be,” said Phillips.
The first tee-shirt was printed on October 7, four days after the TTFA press conference.
But Kaufman countered that Native Spirit was open about the fact that only $25 would go to Adams, long before the company started printing. He told Wired868 that a company representative released that information on Facebook on October 4.
However, Kaufman said that the information was put on the employee’s personal page and not on Native Spirit’s official Facebook page. So, the clothing company did not directly advise its purchasers.
Fuentes, the TTFA press officer, said he followed instructions at all times and was unaware of the specifics of the charitable venture, even after Phillips found out about the $25 figure from Native Spirit. So, Fuentes said that could not have given the public any further information.
“The information was disseminated (to the public) based on the information that came to me,” said Fuentes. “I was never instructed to send out a press release that only $25 was going to the fund. And, in fact, I only found out that this week.”
Phillips suggested that the TTFA was busy getting ready for the friendly against New Zealand and had left the “I Support Akeem” venture to Native Spirit.
“Should we have gone out and put out another press release (about the $25)?” asked Phillips, rhetorically. “Perhaps. But we were in the middle of putting on a game and a lot of our focus was on the match itself.
“It became a Native Spirit production from then on… We lent them our logo and they designed and produced the shirt and then passed on the proceeds to us. We had nothing at all to do with the actual production of the shirt.”
And where did the remaining $75 go?
Kaufman said it was up to the TTFA to provide further details of the “I Support Akeem” venture to the public.
“The TTFA is our client so they should be the ones telling you,” said Kaufman.
But Phillips said the TTFA does not know any more than it has revealed already and is still waiting for further details from Native Spirit.
He insisted that the financial details would be forwarded to the public as soon as he receives them and suggested that, rather than the lack of relevant information, was the crux of the matter.
“The bottom line issue is getting the public to see the cost breakdown because it definitely wasn’t a profit making venture for the TTFA,” said Phillips. “Once those costs are explained, the answer to a lot of people’s questions will come out… Native Spirit has to provide the cost breakdown, including VAT, to show where that $100 went.”
Both parties insisted that the problem was a glitch in communication rather than dishonesty.
“We were very happy to be part of the ‘Heart of a Warrior Foundation’ and we would like to continue to be,” said Kaufman. “I would like to make sure the message is kept in a positive light because it is for a good cause. And it is still going for a good cause.”
Phillips also stressed that the TTFA is working hard to cleanse itself of an unsavoury reputation earned during the era of former special advisor and ex-FIFA vice president Jack Warner.
“We want the public to understand that it was never our intention to generate any additional funding,” he said. “We will continue to take part initiatives to support Akeem; this wasn’t a one-off…
“We are very concerned about being accountable.”
Phillips explained that CONCACAF and FIFA obligations by himself and TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee had also delayed the football body’s post-mortem of the New Zealand affair. Tim Kee, an insurance executive, also successful ran for a Port of Spain alderman position for the PNM at the local government elections and is tipped to be the city’s new mayor.
“In the future, barring any other scheduling issues, the attendances for matches would be reported a bit sooner than the New Zealand game,” said Phillips.
Neither the TTFA nor Native Spirit has so far provided a date for when further details on the “I Support Akeem” initiative will be made public.
Together, the TTFA and Native Spirit raised approximately $255,750 in the player’s name through the “I Support Akeem” tee-shirts and the “Akeem Adams section” at the New Zealand match; just $72,300 of that money will go to Adams.
Well-wishers who want to donate money directly to the player can do so by walking into any RBC branch and depositing money for Ancilla Dick at account number #100085172658914.