The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) Disciplinary Committee is expected to meet on April 7 to rule on a TTFA FA Trophy protest lodged by 2015 runners-up, DIRECTV W Connection.
Connection lost on penalty kicks to North East Stars in the March 29 final at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. However, Connection chairman David John Williams was livid that Gorean “Ratty” Highley, who was a Malabar FC player in the Super League up until February 25, was allowed to play for Stars.
Williams declared before the opening whistle that Connection were “playing under protest” and he officially lodged his objection to the TTFA yesterday.
“The rule clearly says that Gorean Highley was registered outside of the transfer window as a senior player only to play reserve team football,” said Williams, after the final. “When I saw the name on the team list, I went to the Director of Competitions who is Neville Ferguson. I spoke to Sharon (O’Brien) about it and the Match Commissioner and they still allowed the game to play.
“I think that is bringing the game into disrepute. I will take it all the way…”
Stars general manager Maurice Eligon insisted the Sangre Grande-based club followed the rules and that they clarified Highley’s eligibility before the final. He acknowledged that Highley cannot play in the Pro League but suggested Stars took advantage of a loophole to use the former Connection player in the FA competition.
“I respect John (Williams) a lot but we checked the rules before,” Eligon told Wired868. “There is a loophole… What John was quoting was a rule from the TT Pro League while the FA rules were a little different.”
The Connection protest did quote a TTFA rule as well, though.
“It should be noted that under the competition rule #6 effectively means that a player participating in the FA Trophy 2015 should be registered prior to Monday 26 January 2015,” stated Williams. “As noted, Gorean Highley was registered two days before the FA Trophy semi final. This effectively is bringing the game into disrepute and I trust that a proper investigation will be launched in this matter by the disciplinary committee of the TTFA and the necessary actions taken.”
The TTFA Disciplinary Committee is chaired by Newton George.
But the biggest post-final surprise is that the TTFA has promised to pay prize money to not just the 2015 FA winner and runners-up but also vowed to pay the 2014 FA competitors and the the top four 2014/15 Super League teams.
TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips, who is in El Salvador at present, said the football body will make the handouts next week.
TTFA Tournament and Competition chairman Neville Ferguson told Wired868 that he was “working on processing the payments as we speak.” He confirmed that the local football body had not found a sponsor but would pay the teams from its own coffers.
TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee, who is also the Port of Spain mayor and PNM treasurer, intends to stand for re-election this year after running unopposed in the football body’s election in November 2012. According to the constitution, Tim Kee should have faced the polls in November 2014 but, with FIFA’s help, the TTFA was allowed to postpone the elections until June 2015.
Bizarrely, the TTFA did not mention prize money for the 2015 FA tournament until after the competition.
Williams said he was pleasantly surprised by the news although this silver lining came with a cloud. Connection, who were unaware of the possibility of prize money, had used mostly reserve team players for the competition.
“The first time I heard about (FA Trophy prize money) was this morning,” said Williams. “I was not aware there was any prize money. I am pleasantly surprised.
“The disappointment is why they didn’t say that before.”
Eligon had not even heard the good news yet.
“Nobody (from the TTFA) called us,” said Eligon. “I plan to call (TTFA official) Sharon (O’Brien) to find out.”
At present, it is uncertain whether Connection’s protest will delay the payment of prize money to the 2015 FA finalists.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read the 2015 TTFA FA Trophy final match report.