Trinidad and Tobago national football team manager William Wallace and captain Kenwyne Jones have confirmed that the “Soca Warriors” will take to the field this evening to fight for the regional title against Jamaica in the 2014 Caribbean Cup final.
The Warriors and Jamaica will square off from 9 pm (TT time) in Montego Bay, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago is seeking its first Caribbean title in 13 years.
Today’s Trinidad Guardian front page screamed about the likelihood of a boycotted Caribbean Cup final as Jones complained about “near $10 million” in unpaid salaries and match fees owed to the players and coaches by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).
In fact, Wallace explained that the money owed to the players and staff, which is closer to $5 million, was finally approved yesterday evening by the Ministry of Sport and word was passed to the players in Jamaica at around 7 pm. This sum will wipe out the TTFA’s debt to its players and cover roughly half of the coaches’ arrears.
“The game is on and we are paying the players as promised,” Wallace told Wired868. “It took some work to get it done but we are getting it done and I spoke to Kenwyne (Jones) and (Stephen) Hart and told them we had gotten through yesterday evening.
“So all I am concerned with now is us taking back the title this evening.”
Jones, on his Facebook page, confirmed that the players would not go through with the boycott but mused over the presumed panicked response from the local football body, which he accused of a string of broken promises.
The Cardiff City forward also hinted that the friction between the players and the TTFA was still unresolved.
“It’s funny how the threat of embarrassment changes situations,” stated Jones. “We the team will always represent our country with all that we have but for far too long we always have to threaten or fight with the authorities for just due. We would not in our wildest dreams get to this point and not finish our jobs…
“Our game is on but the future of this team is in the balance…”
Jones confirmed to the TTFA Media that the situation was “dire.”
“I think we were in a dire situation,” said Jones. “As far as the team is concerned we had some discussions yesterday and we are all up for playing the game. We are definitely going to play tonight because I think for us as a team and a staff, it could be the first thing we win for Trinidad and Tobago and we want to achieve that.
“On the other hand, we’re not pleased with the situation regarding outstanding salaries for players and staff and it doesn’t spell anything good going forward for Trinidad and Tobago football.”
Richard Oliver, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport, confirmed that the funds have been released in quick time to quell a disturbance within the football body. He explained that the figure provided by the Government was not part of the TTFA’s budget.
“The (payment) process started yesterday and will be completed today,” said Oliver, who joined the Sport Ministry just last week. “This is a request for an emergency payment as this money was not initially budgeted… Altogether we are looking at approximately $3 million; and this covers match fees, bonuses, staff stipends and coach’s fees.”
Wired868 understands that the extent of the Government’s bail-out could reach up to $10 million, which would include funds for the Warriors’ 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup preparation and arrears for TTFA office staff.
Was the Government concerned about bailing out a body that, according to a letter from TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee, had not conducted an audit in eight years?
Oliver said the Ministry of Sport acted promptly so as to save Trinidad and Tobago from embarrassment. However, he suggested that the Government would not be an open kitty for the football body.
“As far as the accessing of funds from the ministry, when we are asked to intervene in this case it was an emergency situation where the reputation of the country is at stake,” Oliver told Wired868. “So it was a matter of giving support to the players and preserving the reputation of the country.
“Where there is need to access funds outside of this emergency situation, we will ask that they provide audited reports to ensure that their business is properly run and the money is accounted for.”
Tim Kee told the TTFA executive that Hart’s salary, which has not been paid in eight months, was now the business of the Ministry of Sport.
However, Oliver said the Ministry of Sport has only agreed to fund arrears and he is not aware of any other arrangement with the football body at the moment.
“I am not aware of that, I know we have agreed to take up arrears,” said the Permanent Secretary. “I think a formal request will need to be made if they want that to be carried forward. But I am unaware that any such arrangement has been made to date as I have not seen any information saying so.”
A Ministry of Sport release, published below, indicated that the Government would pay salaries for the entire technical staff up to June 2015.
Tim Kee left for Jamaica this morning to attend the Caribbean Cup final.
Ministry of Sport release:
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago via a 13 November Cabinet decision, has agreed, through the Ministry of Sport, to provide financial assistance in the amount of $9,964,368.00 to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA). The payment, which is expected to be processed today, will facilitate the clearing of a backlog of expenses related to the Senior Men’s National Team. These funds represent an unbudgeted addition to the annual subvention already allocated to the TTFA in the 2015 Budget.
The $9.964m is expected to cover the following:
- Arrears of Match Fees and Bonuses for Senior Men’s National Team and technical staff
- Arrears of Stipends for Senior Men’s National Team
- Arrears of Salaries for five (5) members of Senior Men’s National Team staff
- Senior Men’s National Team Participation in the 2015 Caribbean Cup Finals and associated Training Camps
- Projected Remuneration for Senior Men’s National Team technical staff for the period November 2014 – June 2015
In order to assure greater accountability and transparency, and to ease the financial burden faced by the entire team, this Cabinet-approved payment will be made directly to the players and technical staff. A similar arrangement was made when the Government allocated funding to settle the debt owed to members of the 2006 World Cup squad. Ministry of Sport officials are therefore working closely with technocrats from the Ministry of Finance to expedite the necessary procedures and protocols that will ensure the imminent release of monies to the players, technical team members and staff.
It should be noted that in the past two years, the TTFA has benefitted from several million dollars’ worth of support from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago through the Ministry of Sport and the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago. Further, the association benefits from rent-free office space at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, and pays no utility bills, as those expenses are covered under the stadium’s overall operational cost. The TTFA also enjoys free use of the Stadium for any and all TTFA-sanctioned games, tournaments and events.
The Ministry of Sport is and remains the single largest financial contributor to the TTFA and football in Trinidad and Tobago. Further, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago invests more state funds in sport per capita than any other country in the region.