Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis has accused Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) general secretary Sheldon Phillips of discourtesy and disrespect over the football body’s handling of a match fee dispute with its National Under-23 Team.
The young “Soca Warriors” threatened to boycott their final Toronto 2015 Pan American Games fixture against Mexico today over unpaid match fees and stipends and the TTFA’s failure to guarantee payment.
The Warriors eventually softened their position and took a surprise two goal lead over Mexico before surrendering to a 4-2 loss. However, Phillips never officially informed the TTOC of the potential crisis.
“One would have foreseen that the general secretary would have seen it as a matter of courtesy, if not respect,” Lewis told Wired868, “to have alerted the TTOC on such a matter, since it is a TTOC event, to help alleviate the situation…
“Instead, there is credible information which suggests the general secretary of the TTFA would have had notice and made interventions without calling and notifying the TTOC.
“When there is the potential for issues, it is the normal course of action—and I can speak without fear of contradiction—where phone calls would be made. In all organisations and businesses, there are protocols to follow and conversations that are had to resolve situations before they explode.”
Phillips confirmed that he did not officially inform the TTOC of the threatened strike, even though he wrote to the the Ministry of Sport for a comfort letter to show the players.
Incidentally, Phillips claimed that the Ministry of Sport never responded to the TTFA.
However, the TTFA general secretary said he did not contact the TTOC because the football body was “still in discussion with the players who had not made a final decision.”
“It was an internal issue that we wanted to resolve and at the end of the day we were able to resolve it,” said Phillips. “We assured (the players) that we were making every effort to secure their funding that we had been told was available to us.
“Based on that information, from what I was told, the players decided to play.”
But Lewis insisted that the Under-23 football team was under the auspices of the TTOC in Toronto and, if they boycotted, it is the local olympic committee that would have been held responsible.
“He continues to defend the indefensible,” said Lewis. “You have a situation where a TTOC team is threatening to withdraw and he says it is an internal matter. That is not what the TTOC is accustomed to and it is disrespectful and discourteous.”
Lewis said the TTOC is likely to seek a meeting with the TTFA after the Pan Am Games and will share their disappointment with the football body.
“This has been a very distracting Toronto 2015 games,” said Lewis. “When the entire delegation should be forcing on what is important, which is performing at our best to win medals and we have the track and field delegate go into action and having a good day at the office.
“For us to be dealing with these issues caused by the football group is unprecedented. It is deeply disappointing… Even down to the very end, we continue to face deficiencies.”
Lewis said the TTOC is focused on being “athlete driven” and, as a result, has bent over backwards to ensure that the footballers did not suffer, even as the TTFA routinely missed deadlines.
He revealed that the “Women Soca Warriors” were allowed to remain in Toronto, despite their elimination, so they can prepare for next month’s 2016 Olympic qualifying campaign and receive free medical attention.
Captain Maylee Attin-Johnson and star attacker Kennya “Yaya” Cordner both have worrying injuries and their participation in the Caribbean leg of the Olympic campaign is doubtful.
“The (Women Warriors) have finished their Pan American campaign (but) they wanted to embrace the opportunity to train (in this environment) and that was facilitated,” said Lewis. “So you have a situation where players are having their injuries appropriately treated and they the chance to use excellent facilities with their meals and accommodations and so on handled at no cost to the TTFA…
“The TTOC has always attempted to assist and support the TTFA in whatever way it can… It is disappointing to see them act in this way given the relationship that the TTOC has always had with the TTFA.”
The TTOC president was a member of the Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC), whose work led to a new TTFA constitution that was accepted by FIFA and local football stakeholders. It paved the way for a November election for the football body.
And he said his relationship with football will not be coloured by events surrounding the 2015 Pan American Games.
“I am comforted by the fact that the TTOC continues to have a strong, productive and cordial relationship with football and the president of Trinidad and Tobago football (Raymond Tim Kee),” said Lewis. “I am confident that the approach of the TTFA general secretary is not one that is shared with other stakeholders in football.”