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Sharks tale: Bankers Insurance CEO restores Sancho and Harrison to Central posts

Central FC is set for familiar new owners after Bankers Insurance CEO Vance Gabriel introduced himself to the “Couva Sharks” as their new boss on Saturday morning at the Kampo Vibes Restaurant on Ramsaran Street, Chaguanas.

And, at Gabriel’s side, were the controversial duo of former Central chairman Brent Sancho and operations director Kevin Harrison, who were the former Sport Minister and Advisor to the Sport Minister respectively.

Photo: Then Central FC chairman Brent Sancho welcomes Bankers Insurance CEO Vance Gabriel into the club's fold as a sponsor in January 2015. Gabriel is set to return the favour and restore Sancho to the helm of the Pro League club.
Photo: Then Central FC chairman Brent Sancho welcomes Bankers Insurance CEO Vance Gabriel into the club’s fold as a sponsor in January 2015.
Gabriel is set to return the favour and restore Sancho to the helm of the Pro League club.

The announcement followed weeks of speculation about the future of the Pro League club, which is co-owned by SIS directors Daren Mohamdally and Ronald Ramlogan.

The club ownership is believed to have switched hands on paper today, although neither Mohamdally nor Ramlogan have communicated with the Pro League club’s players or staff.

Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene said that he had not been informed of a change in ownership at Central either. However, Pro League rules do not give the board any say over change of ownership.

“The Pro League board is a limited liability company,” Skeene told Wired868, “and there is nothing in our company’s act hindering any change in ownership in the case of anyone purchasing the club or a change of shareholders.

“The Pro League doesn’t have any jurisdiction as far as clubs changing owners.”

Gabriel’s decision to take the reins with Sancho and Harrison in tow has caused feverish discussions between players and staff.

Photo: Central FC players (from left) Elton John, Darren Mitchell, Kaydion Gabriel, Uriah Bentick, Jason Marcano, Leston Paul, Ataulla Guerra and Akeem Benjamin celebrate during their penalty shoot out win over Montego Bay United in the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship semifinal. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC players (from left) Elton John, Darren Mitchell, Kaydion Gabriel, Uriah Bentick, Jason Marcano, Leston Paul, Ataulla Guerra and Akeem Benjamin celebrate during their penalty shoot out win over Montego Bay United in the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship semifinal.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The move follows exclusive Wired868 reports on the behaviour of both men, which includes the commingling of personal and Central FC funds and a request for a personal payment during transfer negotiations.

Sancho and Harrison are being probed by the the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) on: their conduct with regards to the transfers of Central forward Rundell Winchester, the signing of then 16-year-old winger Levi Garcia, the alleged misappropriation of CONCACAF funds and non-payment of bonuses to Central players.

And, last Wednesday, 24 of Central’s 29 first team players signed a petition that urged the club’s board of directors not to bring Sancho and Harrison around the team while so many allegations hung over their heads.

Gabriel spoke of the duo’s return as a glorious homecoming, though.

“Brent and Kevin were the original owners,” Gabriel told Wired868, “but SIS was doing most of the running of the club rather than the other way around. So what I am doing is restoring Brent and Kevin to their rightful place…

“We will run it like a business… With Brent and Kevin, we will put all the plans we had initially into place.”

Photo: Central FC goal scorer Jean-Luc Rochford (front) and his teammates celebrate with the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship trophy. Looking on is then Central FC operations director Kevin Harrison (top left) and Bankers Insurance CEO Vance Gabriel (top centre). (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC goal scorer Jean-Luc Rochford (front) and his teammates celebrate with the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship trophy.
Looking on is then Central FC operations director Kevin Harrison (top left) and Bankers Insurance CEO Vance Gabriel (top centre).
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

In fact, Sancho and Harrison never owned Central, although they were co-founders. SIS always held on to the reins of power but allowed the then Chairman and Operations Director to run the business end of of the club.

Their tenure saw, among other things, requests from Harrison—a British native—to Belgium lower division club, CS Visé, and CONCACAF to send money due to Central to the pair through Western Union or Sancho’s personal bank account.

But Gabriel said he is pleased to play a role in returning the duo to the administrative helm of the Pro League club.

Gabriel’s own relationship with Central started in January 2015 when Bankers Insurance was brought on board as a sponsor.

Wired868 attempted to get further information from Gabriel on the financial details of their Central take-over.

Photo: Former Sport Minister and Central FC chairman Brent Sancho. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Sport Minister and Central FC chairman Brent Sancho.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Will either Gabriel, Sancho or Harrison invest any of their own money into Central? Or will Bankers Insurance foot the tab while the three men enter the arrangement risk free?

Will Bankers Insurance have any formal stake in the team as SIS did? Or will the company be merely an advertiser while the trio runs the club and reaps the rewards?

Would Bankers Insurance now inject more sponsorship money into the club to run its affairs? Or would Gabriel, Sancho and Harrison look elsewhere to make up for the financial shortcoming?

The details remain scarce and Gabriel did not make himself available to answer more questions today.

On Saturday, the Bankers Insurance CEO was unmoved by the Central players’ petition against the return of Sancho and Harrison.

“I believe the players may have done that because they don’t know the whole truth,” said Gabriel.

Photo: Central FC scorer Willis Plaza (third from right) and teammates congratulate Nathaniel Garcia (second from left) on his assist against Inter in the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Central FC)
Photo: Central FC scorer Willis Plaza (third from right) and teammates congratulate Nathaniel Garcia (second from left) on his assist against Inter in the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Central FC)

Did Central’s prospective new owner speak to the players themselves to determine whether their concerns were valid or not?

“No,” said Gabriel, “we had a meeting (on Saturday) but we never asked (about) that.”

Sancho and Harrison were both present at the Saturday meeting with the players. Wired868 was informed that the Sharks requested a private meeting with Gabriel to raise their misgivings but none has yet been scheduled.

Central’s new three-man board potentially faces an even tougher time from the TTFA, which is probing Sancho and Harrison for four possible offences.

CONCACAF is being kept abreast too, and the football confederation has already contradicted Gabriel’s business partners on how a Champions League disbursement ended up in Sancho’s bank account.

Photo: Comunicaciones midfielder Jorge Aparacio (left) grapples with Central FC star Marvin Oliver during CONCACAF Champions League action. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Comunicaciones midfielder Jorge Aparacio (left) grapples with Central FC star Marvin Oliver during CONCACAF Champions League action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Was Gabriel concerned that he was taking over a football cub with two men who could potentially be banned from all football-related activities, according to the findings of an ongoing TTFA investigation?

“I am not too concerned (about the TTFA probe),” said Gabriel. “I know of some of the explanations (from Sancho and Harrison).”

On Friday, Sancho and Harrison replied to the TTFA’s request for information on their conduct at Central with questions of their own.

Rather than respond to the charges, Sancho and Harrison, through their mutual attorney, Vincent Charles, instead asked the TTFA to produce evidence and statements to support its allegations.

“Their lawyer sent a correspondence to us on Friday but the correspondence was not a response,” said TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips, who holds a law degree from Stamford University in the United States. “It didn’t answer the allegations, instead it made requests for us to produce evidence and statements behind the allegations.”

Photo: TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee (centre), ex-2006 World Cup player Brent Sancho (right) and TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips address the media in 2013. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee (centre), ex-2006 World Cup player Brent Sancho (right) and TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips address the media in 2013.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Phillips said he will forward a file on the case, inclusive of the Central duo’s response, to the TTFA executive next week as well as to the local football body’s attorney, Mervyn Campbell, and the head of CONCACAF’s Legal Department, Marco Leal.

“The file is now being sent up to the (TTFA) executive committee and they will determine what the next step will be,” said Phillips. “At this point in time, my role was to alert the two gentlemen and to be the point of receipt for their response or their attorney’s response.

“Once that is done, I present the file to the executive and they decide the best course of action on the matter.”

Sancho and Harrison, thanks to Gabriel and Bankers Insurance, will have their old jobs back and might be shareholders too by the time the TTFA decides on its next step.

Up to the time of publication, neither Sancho nor Harrison had respond to requests for an interview on the changes at Central.

Incidentally, Skeene said the Pro League board does plan to discuss a “fit and proper test” for club owners at its next meeting. He stressed that this was totally unrelated to any happenings at Central but was merely a way for the local top flight competition to protect is reputation.

Photo: Kevin Harrison, the former Advisor to the Sport Minister, is set to return to the administrative helm of Pro League club, Central FC. (Copyright Lime.TT)
Photo: Kevin Harrison, the former Advisor to the Sport Minister, is set to return to the administrative helm of Pro League club, Central FC.
(Copyright Lime.TT)

The fit and proper test is done by several international boards, including the England Premier League, as a means of protecting its reputation from unsavoury would-be business partners.

Interestingly, the England Football League might not have been as dismissive as Gabriel to the TTFA’s probe into Harrison and Sancho.

According to the Owners’ and Directors’ Test in Appendix Three, the disqualification conditions for would-be club owners or directors in England includes:

(c) Being subject to a suspension or ban, whether directly (for example a sanction against the individual in particular) or indirectly (for example a direction to persons subject to the jurisdiction of the Sports Governing Body that they should not employ, contract with or otherwise engage or retain the services of, any individual), from involvement in the administration of a sport by a Sports Governing Body or such other similar forms of disqualification as may operate from time to time;

(d) Being found to have breached (irrespective of any sentence actually imposed), or having admitted breaching (irrespective of whether disciplinary proceedings were brought or not) at any time.

Photo: Central FC striker Willis Plaza (centre) charges through the centre of the Comunicaciones defence during CONCACAF Champions League action. (Courtesy: Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC striker Willis Plaza (centre) charges through the centre of the Comunicaciones defence during CONCACAF Champions League action.
(Courtesy: Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The Couva Sharks close their 2015 CONCACAF Champions League adventure on Wednesday night when they face LA Galaxy from 8 pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.

 

Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read England Football League’s Owners’ and Directors’ Test.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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72 comments

  1. the same thing over and over, jus changing face at the helm. we like is so in this country

  2. Condoning misconduct, probably in the same corrupted boat.

  3. Good.

    When will the TTFA crawl back into the hole they came from?

  4. All these big thieves !!!!!!!!!!!! sadddddddddd

  5. Any reputable management will not hire anyone with stuff like this hanging over their heads , but it’s Trinidad what do we expect .

    • Ah. That word….reputable. Maybe we should check on Bankers reputation or reputability (if that’s a word). Especially since their major clients include SIS, along with WASA and the CDA. Could it be a case of himself selling to himself, Lasana? Yuh t’ink?

  6. The players are generally short term employees of a company. It is as difficult for them to take action as anyone else who doesn’t like their boss.
    There is no players union either.

  7. I’m waiting to see if the players grow a pair and take action

  8. Ah. That word….reputable. Maybe we should check on Bankers reputation or reputability (if that’s a word). Especially since their major clients include SIS, along with WASA and the CDA. Could it be a case of himself selling to himself, Lasana? Yuh t’ink?

  9. Two skull men. But their scorched earth policy regarding the TTFA has failed and they will hopefully fall and be subjected to bans from football worldwide. Damn crroks Imagine putting the foxes in charge of the henhouse.

  10. Idk about ppl not wanting to face truths, Linda. Sometimes ppl just disagree.
    This is a group with thousands of people. Unanimous consensus on most, if not every issue, would be unnatural.

  11. Chabeth – all your good points will be ignored by those who don’t want to face truths. Pity.

  12. Controversies happen in every sphere across the world. The difference between the first world and the third world is how we treat with these controversies.
    When a British parliamentarian was caught with hookers and drugs that was then end of him.
    When Donald Sterling offended his employees, the employees, as well as players, coaches and owners across the league came out swiftly and harshly against him.
    In the case of Central FC, 24 players have come out against Sancho and Harrison. Sancho and Harrison are now their bosses. Before the players have publicly withdrawn their petition. ?

  13. Chabeth. I’m making a point controversies happen in any sport where money and sponsors are involved. Worldwide. Ask all the FIFA executives that are facing charges some of which only know about the Third World from the news

  14. Nicole, those weren’t instances of bosses claiming to distance themselves from the association during which time they are accused of not paying employees bonuses and then said bosses return to positions of authority over aggrieved employees.
    Of the examples you’ve given, only the Donald Sterling one bares any similarity as that was the only one where the boss offended the employees. And in that case the owners were overwhelming in their support to get rid of Sterling and the NBA banned him for life.

  15. CHECKOUT BANKERS INSURANCE,,,THE SIBLING TO BOUNCE AND LOSE INSURANCE,,,B&L

  16. Hahahaaaa. Anybody here ever heard of deflategate? A-Rod? Donald Sterling?! None of which happened in the “Third World”

  17. Geezan. Kendall, why I would want to discuss that case here? I just noted that part that I felt might be relevant. I don’t know that he was suspended from school. But he was suspended from the team.
    I don’t want to discuss the actual story. I posted the entire story in the other group.

  18. I’m not sure about the Third World bit. But my Spidey sense is tingling here for sure.

  19. You read that article and that’s what struck you Lasana? Good grief. That entire incident is a travesty. It happened in the US a few months ago as well.

  20. Yes as on the record you have a pending matter.That matter of itself says something. The TTPS is hiring recruits and the criterion is that you must have a certificate of good character and you produce one with a pending matter. …can they refuse you? ??yes they can as you do not have a certificate of good character.Why would a coach want to go to a club where the players do not want him?

  21. Suspended from playing or suspended ftom the school?

  22. I note again that I don’t agree that a football club is any different from another company in need of special protection. Clubs come and go like any other business.

  23. Just reading a matter with a student who was charged for an incident. He was suspended by his College. If that can happen in the US, then why can’t a body suspend someone from taking over until he is cleared of all charges? (If charges are eventually laid of course)
    “The young man was also named in the media and suffered a suspension as quarterback of his high school football team while the case was being resolved.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/20/teen-prosecuted-naked-images-himself-phone-selfies

    • “[W]hy can’t a body suspend someone from taking over until he is cleared of all charges?”

      It’s called ‘due process’ and it has to do with the presumption of innocence. In the case of the student he hasn’t been found guilty, but at least there’s been an investigation. The investigation as apparently yielded evidence sufficient to support a preliminary finding of wrongdoing by the student, hence the charges.

      In this case the investigation has only just begun and so it would be inappropriate to suspend Sancho and Harrison went out and investigation even haven’t started, let alone completed. Additionally, the TTFA has to tread carefully, given the past animosities with the ex-Minister and his advisor, lest they should be seen as pursuing a personal and vindictive campaign as is already being alleged.

      • Lasana Liburd

        Granted. But there are many cases of people being suspended while they are facing charges. Is it just that all those persons chose not to contest their suspensions?

        • it all depends on the context, every situation is different. First we need to be careful not to conflate “charges” with “allegations.” In the case of the student you cite in the above example, there was a police investigation before “charges” or later and it’s at that point that the student was suspended.

          Most of the time when we see disciplinary action while “charges” are pending, it’s in the realm of labor relations in the US. This is much different from anywhere else in the world, Isley due to the relatively weak labor protections they are for employees in the United States.

          The default relationship, and certainly that which is most prevalent is an “at will” relationship. This means that either party can walk away from the relationship at any time, for good cause or no cause. So it’s much easier for a company to suspend an employee and avoid negative PR because there is no penalty. Obviously if a company can terminate for no reason, then it can suspend where they are allegations, that might prove “reason” enough. Needless to say, the situation is much different here in the case of Harrison and Sancho… The TTFA has much to lose if they preemptively suspend the pair and get it wrong, not the least of which being “losing face” on top of exposing themselves to civil liability.

  24. Strictly speaking Lasana, neither Yeung nor Cellino should have passed based on the current tests.

  25. Well well well…I continue to watch on in interest as folks who professed to have the best interest of football and players at heart, really appear to be interested only in their own.

  26. Exactly Fulton. We are failed by our institutions and the willingness of our leaders to act in the best interests of the country above party.

  27. Only in the f*@$ing third world.

  28. It’s a risk to hire someone who has question marks over their head notwithstanding the fact that they are innocent until proven guilty. It is akin to hiring someone who is suspected of being a child molester as a teacher. The same applies here. He is not accused of doing something that has absolutely nothing to do with football. Anil Roberts has not been charged with any offence so maybe if the PP got back in KPB would have been free to make him a Minister again.

  29. This is caused for concern. How can the new owner reinstate these two with all those questions about their dealings with regards to the team. He has already shown the team that he doesn’t care about their concerns by this action. Why would anyone want to have in their management persons allegedly accused of profiting from the team illegally? More in this mortar than the pestle. Something is surely amiss

  30. Okay, I read on the bill and its current form and it doesn’t offer much while it is still being debated:
    Summary of the Football Governance (No. 2) Bill 2013-14

    A Bill to require professional and semi-professional football clubs in England to disclose the identity of their owners; to give the Football Association powers to block the ownership of a club by anyone whom they consider is not a fit and proper person; to require all creditors of a football club to be compensated equally should the club go into administration; to facilitate the raising by supporters’ organisations of the finance required to acquire a controlling stake in a football club; and for connected purposes.

  31. Kendall Tull, I would have to read as to whether this bill was passed and is successful:

    “Conservative MP Damian Collins’ Football Governance Bill would let the Football Association block potential club owners it considered unsuitable.
    Currently, new owners only have to pass an objective test based on company law.
    Collins’ move has been welcomed by fans of clubs who have endured hard times under corrupt or incompetent owners.
    “We represent fans that in some way have been victims of the fact the (existing) test is a failure,” said a joint statement from the supporters’ trusts of Birmingham City, Coventry City and Hereford United.
    “We know the excuses; that the rules would be against the law. Yet, we know that isn’t true.
    “Other organisations can ban people it believes are unfit, so why can’t football make proper decisions to protect itself and clubs?”
    Supporters united in tales of ownership woe
    Birmingham City – The Championship club is still controlled by Carson Yeung despite his imprisonment in Hong Kong for money-laundering
    Coventry City – The secretive hedge fund that owns the League One side moved them to Northampton, 34 miles away, last season in a row over rent
    Hereford United – While owners failed to pass league checks, the Bulls were demoted to football’s seventh tier for failing to pay their debts and rent
    The football authorities have struggled to protect clubs from crooks and speculators for decades, repeatedly claiming that UK law prevented them from excluding people simply because they did not like “the cut of their jib”.
    In 2004, the Football League and Premier League introduced fit and proper person tests, a light-touch approach that barred convicted fraudsters but remained short of the more subjective ownership tests common in sport in the United States.
    The tests, however, failed to stop Thaksin Shinawatra, a man on the run from Thai justice, buying Manchester City, or Portsmouth pass through the hands of four owners in one season on the way to bankruptcy.
    The embarrassment of those episodes, and others, led the leagues to beef up their rules, rebranding them as owners and directors tests in 2011.
    This move has not prevented the likes of convicted money-launderer Carson Yeung slipping through the net at Birmingham City, or twice-convicted fraudster Massimo Cellino from buying Leeds United…”

  32. What do you think legally Fulton Wilson? Or anyone else with a legal background?

  33. Will check Nigel. Btw, Hart said Barnet manager told Hoyte that he would call and explain his reason for keeping him in England. And he never did.
    But the TTFA won’t respond for now so as not to make things too awkward for the player.

  34. Lasana, since you brought up the Owners’ and Directors’ test, do you know if any Pro League clubs conform to the CONCACAF Club Licensing system?

  35. Considering known incident(s) of co-mingling of funds, I wouldn’t put them in charge of a cookie jar….

  36. But I don’t want to sidetrack from the substantive issue anyway. Which is the takeover of Central FC and the decision by Vance Gabriel to put Brent Sancho and Harrison in charge of the business end of the club.

  37. “Legality, alone, cannot be the talisman of moral people.”
    ~Walter E. William

    While he may not have been found guilty of anything yet, allegations abound and I think, the better thing to do was find other talent to appoint. Banko and his assistant need to clear their names… Just my opinion.

  38. Paging Ian Ian Brooks. Lol. It is an interesting point.
    Kendall Tull and I were discussing, for instance, if a private school can refuse to hire a teacher who is under investigation for molesting children.

  39. I fully agree that ownership guidelines are needed to safeguard the league. Interesting discussion as usual.

    Do note that my comments are not intended to express support for anyone nor do they represent a belief in the innocence or guilt of any party. This is strictly a matter of understanding the rules as they currently exist. I would invite any lawyer to read the Appendice and opine accordingly.

  40. I did Lasana. They have NOT been found guilty of anything as yet and as such would not have been disqualified.

    As we discussed, I am not saying that you said they would be disqualified. I am saying that the way the article is written, it implies that they would be under the EPL rules.

    I have reread the rules and stand by my original statement which was that you must be found guilty in order to be disqualified.

  41. I suspect you didn’t read the excerpt from the fit and proper test Kendall Tull. Read it first and let me know.

  42. You make it seem as though they would have failed the ownership test when in fact, nobody has yet been found in breach of anything Lasana. An investigation is not the same as being charged and a charge is not the same as having been found to be in breach of the rules.

  43. I figured two cats with pooled heads were bound to land on their feet

  44. cant say I’m surprised really…sponsorship of a football club was a means to an end for SIS..the need is no longer there…so time to bail

  45. red jacket /yellow jacket check the tails!!!

  46. …This is “Sweet Trini”. Money always has its way…

  47. But pay attention to the excerpts from Britain’s fit and proper test eh

  48. The players are contracted to show up for work and perform. They have already made their feelings clear. There is no union. I’m not sure what else they can do but play and try to win matches.

  49. Guess the power is now in players’ boots. Looking on with interest…

  50. you keep refering to the UK’s fit and proper rule ,but is this not Trinidad ? or do you think every organisation should model themselves on the uk ???

    • Lasana Liburd

      The Pro League is a young organisation so it is natural that it would look to see what has worked elsewhere in the football world and take note of it. That is not to say that they will or should necessarily copy anything wholesale from anywhere.

  51. Hannibal Najjar

    Recipe for disaster – club will go sown the chute! Petitions and internal strife suggest so. It also appears to be a poor managerial decision and one that shall hurt the Bankers’ Insurance branding and image unless, there is more to what the eye is seeing. How far do those two now, “outcasts” believe they could go with this?