Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee will hang on to his football portfolio for another seven months at least after FIFA granted the local football body an undemocratic extension without citing any by-law that allowed its decision.
The delay, according to correspondence sent by FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke, was primarily to allow the TTFA time to get its statutes in line with FIFA’s, although constitutional reform was proposed by Tim Kee rather than the global football body in the first place.
“The (FIFA Associations) Committee also took note of the weaknesses of the TTFA Statutes and the work carried out by the Independent Reform Committee,” stated Valcke, “which proposed structural changes of the TTFA which could be in line with the FIFA Standard Statutes.
“Under these circumstances, the Associations Committee decided to provide an extension of the mandate of the current TTFA board until 30 June 2015 in order to revise the statutes in close collaboration with FIFA and CONCACAF and to organise elections accordingly.”
The letter from the FIFA general secretary was dated 25 September 2014 although the TTFA only released it today, just two hours before the Trinidad and Tobago national senior women’s team kicked off a crucial World Cup qualifier against Guatemala.
It did not say why the current statutes, which were in place for two decades, should affect next month’s TTFA election.
The reason for the lengthy postponement of the TTFA election would come as a surprise to the Independent Reform Committee (IRC), headed by Independent senator Elton Prescott, SC, which spent between August 2013 and April 2014 creating a template for a new TTFA constitution.
Former 2006 World Cup player and ESPN analyst Shaka Hislop, who was a member of the IRC, said he had not seen the TTFA’s release. However, he had the impression that FIFA was pleased with their constitutional reforms.
“We recommended certain changes to the TTFA’s constitution,” Hislop told Wired868. “My understanding is they were received by FIFA and met favourably by FIFA. And now it is just a matter of implementation, which we don’t have a direct say on.”
Apart from Prescott and Hislop, the IRC also comprised of former West Indies Players Association (WIPA) president Dinanath Ramnarine, journalist Dr Sheila Rampersad, Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis and archivist Patrick Raymond.
Now, according to a TTFA release, a new committee called the Constitutional Reform Panel will receive a nine-month mandate to apparently do the same job. The names of the new committee members have not yet been released.
“It would be very interesting to get clarity from the FIFA officials about if the reform committee’s recommendations and the proposed constitution is acceptable to FIFA,” said Lewis.
Lewis revealed that some of their recommendations included term limits and the separation of the governance structure between the elected TTFA officials and the day to day management of the football, which, he felt, should “provide for proper transparency and accountability.”
“The putting together of a reform panel and the utilisation of the report is not on the surface a ringing endorsement of our recommendations,” said Lewis. “In the absence of clarity, I’m not sure whether to feel elated or not about the amount of work we did on the constitution.
“It is not clear if the reform panel is going to go over the same process as the independent reform committee.”
The decision to create a new constitution for local football was initially proposed by the TTFA, rather than FIFA, in April 2013. However, Valcke said the the FIFA Associations Committee now feels it so important that it has overruled the present TTFA bylaws in a bid to keep Tim Kee in charge until it is completed to the governing body’s liking.
At least one member of that FIFA Associations Committee, United States Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati, is no stranger to Phillips or Tim Kee. Gulati is listed as a reference on Phillips’ CV and recommended him to his current position.
“I have known Sheldon for over 20 years when we first worked together on US Cup ’92,” said Gulati, in Phillips’ CV. “He is resourceful and results driven. As the general secretary, the TTFF will certainly benefit from his experience in the game.”
In June, Gulati also cooed about the perceived successes of Tim Kee and Phillips.
“I’ve known Sheldon Phillips for a long time and I met Raymond Tim Kee a couple years ago,” said Gulati, during the 2014 World Cup. “I think the Association is in good hands and it’s (an) exciting time for Concacaf and the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and the US…
“T&T is making progress… And, clearly with Raymond and Sheldon there, I think you will see a lot of positive changes.”
At the time, the TTFA’s staff was owed salaries while the football body’s headquarters was without a telephone line after being disconnected for non-payment, Tim Kee was in breach of a court order to pay the 2006 “Soca Warriors” and current national players and coaches were grumbling about unpaid match fees.
And, during Tim Kee’s two-year term, he and Phillips stumbled through a series of high-profile gaffes including the Native Spirit Akeem Adams fundraiser, Trinidad and Tobago’s non-participation at the inaugural MLS Caribbean draft, failure to honour agreements with the 2006 World Cup players and former coach Russell Latapy and their decision to send the national women’s team to the ongoing CONCACAF Championship in the United States without accompanying officials and even money to get from the airport to the hotel.
In Tim Kee’s correspondence with Zurich, though, he portrayed himself as an antidote to the controversial era of ex-FIFA vice president Jack Warner. The TTFA president said he was “charged with the awesome and serious task of bringing true reform” to the TTFA and addressing “a multitude of abuses committed by the previous regime.”
Valcke appeared to warm to that theme.
“We are keenly aware of the dire situation and various difficulties faced by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF),” wrote Valcke, “and emanating from the mismanagement of previous administrations.”
In fact, Tim Kee was a vice-president for over a decade under the Warner-led executive while he was voted into power by the same officials that he criticised to FIFA.
During the 2012 football elections, Tim Kee denied that his candidacy was supported by Warner or that the then senior Cabinet member played any role in the sudden and mysterious withdrawal of Colin Murray’s competing bid for the top job. He also later denied rumours that he double-crossed Warner by snubbing the latter’s friend and Eastern Football Association (EFA) official Neville Ferguson and installing Phillips as TTFA general secretary instead.
And, despite his stated mission of ushering football into an era of transparency, the TTFA’s finance committee, which is ostensibly chaired by Tim Kee, has not met once in almost two years while he did not keep his election promise to conduct an immediate financial audit of the body.
Although the TTFA elections has been postponed, the zonal elections will proceed as normal and should be conducted next month. At present, the constitution dictates that the zonal bodies will select the football president although the IRC recommended a “one club, one vote” system.
Either way, Tim Kee, who is also the Port of Spain mayor and treasurer for the Opposition political party, the PNM, will have until 30 June 2015 to find a way to win the favour of a distrusting football public.
Incidentally, Trinidad and Tobago’s general election is constitutionally due in May 2015 although the People’s Partnership government suggested it could be pushed back to September.