The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) today issued a stinging broadside aimed at the head of the football body’s main sponsor, Sport Minister Brent Sancho, as the tit for tat between the two parties was surprisingly restarted.
The TTFA release, which was authorised by president Raymond Tim Kee and general secretary Sheldon Phillips, rebutted suggestions by the Sport Ministry that it had been less than forthright about funding received by CONCACAF.
However, the football body raised the ante by blaming Sancho, a former 2006 World Cup player and litigant against the TTFA, for putting politics over patriotism and creating a poisonous environment.
“Since Minister (Brent) Sancho’s appointment, recent incidents, including what can only be described as a coercive action where the ministry threatened at the last minute to withhold funding for our March friendly against Panama,” stated the TTFA release, “unless the TTFA accepted responsibility for a $625,000 travel bill authorized by the Ministry in 2014, have created an environment that is not conducive to working together on behalf of our national footballers and technical staff.”
The TTFA’s statements, whether accurate or not, are oddly timed with the National Senior Men’s Team, which is competing in the the CONCACAF Gold Cup, soon to be due match fee along with the National Under-23 Men’s Team and Senior Women’s Teams at the Pan American Games.
The Sport Ministry virtually bankrolls the TTFA at present while the Women’s National Under-17 and Under-20 Teams are due for competitive action soon and the senior “Soca Warriors” start their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign in October.
Of course, Trinidad and Tobago will hold its general election on September 7 and Tim Kee, who is treasurer of the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Port of Spain Mayor, might expect to have a new Government in place in two months time.
It might be interpreted in some quarters as a calculated political gamble then, which would mock the TTFA’s assertion that: “patriotism above politics will win out.”
Although the football body would probably retort that it is merely speaking up for itself in the face of alleged character assassination by the Sport Minister.
The following is the full TTFA release:
The TTFA wishes to emphatically rebut recent assertions made by Minister of Sport, Brent Sancho, claiming our organization has not been forthcoming regarding supporting funds received from CONCACAF.
By way of written communication and via meetings between representatives of the Ministry and TTFA, the Ministry was alerted to funds available to TTFA from CONCACAF. It is clear, however, that the Ministry has not taken into consideration CONCACAF funds received would be shared among several of our national teams and not solely preserved for the Senior Men’s National Team.
The TTFA has received $71,000 USD from CONCACAF for use by our national teams currently in training and competition.
Of the $71,000 received, $25,161.14 USD has been used to support the travel-related expenses of our senior men’s team, U23 men’s team, U17 women’s team, and U20 women’s team. In anticipation of the disbursement from the Cabinet note that was specifically earmarked for the Senior Men’s National, the TTFA sought to provide funding for other lower profile, but equally important national teams.
These expenses include US visa payments, lodging, excess baggage fees, medical supplies for travel, and insurance. Therefore and contrary to a building narrative pushed, the TTFA was successful in sourcing alternative funding to support its teams in an effort to reduce dependency on the Ministry.
Despite our best efforts, communication with the Ministry continues to be an issue. We have worked with members of the Ministry who have, at heart, the best interests of T&T football and the TTFA will continue to work assiduously with the Ministry to achieve these common objectives.
However, it is vital for the two entities to work together on behalf of the national team players and technical staff who represent our twin island republic.
We have engaged in successful collaboration with the Ministry of Sports in the past and recently received tremendous support from the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of National Security in obtaining duties waivers for our national team kit.
However, since Minister Sancho’s appointment, recent incidents, including what can only be described as a coercive action where the ministry threatened at the last minute to withhold funding for our March friendly against Panama unless the TTFA accepted responsibility for a $625,000 travel bill authorized by the Ministry in 2014, have created an environment that is not conducive to working together on behalf of our national footballers and technical staff.
Since the new TTFA administration took office, we have confronted numerous fiscal challenges inherited from the previous TTFF administrations with a solid plan to address the financial health of the organization.
We have managed to successfully engage in an aggressive debt reduction effort that has seen TTFA debt reduced from the $36 million that was met to currently $13 million in the space of 18 months.
We have engaged KPMG to restart their efforts in organizing TTFF audit reports; which were discontinued in 2008 and have authorized our audit partners to publish the completed reports from 2008 – 2014, which will be a first for the organization.
At the end of July, the TTFA will unveil its new brand, Socawarriors, to the public and the purpose will be utilize the revenue stream developed from Socawarriors gear sales to support national team players and technical staff in an effort to further reduce our dependence on government to compensate the two most vital pillars of the football family.
The TTFA has continuously stated its desire to work with the Ministry of Sport as a partner in advancing our football on the international level. We are hopeful the Minister can recall his days as a national footballer pushing to solicit support from the government, private sector, and the governing body for the benefit of his teammates.
Minister Sancho is now in the position to assist the TTFA in providing the same benefits and opportunities to current national team players he sought in his playing days.
It is our hope that patriotism above politics will win out and the spirit of cooperation will prevail for the advancement of football, the game we all love, in Trinidad and Tobago.
TTFA’s Use of CONCACAF Travel Fund and Gold Cup Advance (USD)
Match fees: $33,000.00
Baggage Charges: $1,493.74
Visa Payments: $4,192.50
Ground Transportation: $2,546.87
Medical Supplies: $5,950.31
Travel Kit: $2,851.25