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John-Williams: I’m a victim of W Connection’s success; TTFA candidate speaks out

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) presidential candidate, David John-Williams, has launched a passionate defence about his motivation and management style, after concerns that he might use the football body to further his own business interests.

Photo: DIRECTV W Connection president and CEO David John-Williams.
Photo: DIRECTV W Connection president and CEO David John-Williams.

John-Williams hopes to unseat incumbent, Raymond Tim Kee, at the TTFA’s AGM on November 29. The other three presidential candidates are Clynt Taylor, Ramesh Ramdhan and Selby Browne and it is felt to be a fairly open race.

As president and CEO of the DIRECTV W Connection Football Club, John-Williams’ bellowing support for his team from the stands and penchant for making public cases for his players to be selected on international teams are well-known within the football community.

So would his possible election as TTFA president merge the green and white strip of W Connection with the red, white and black of the “Soca Warriors?” And will the temptation to manipulate his office for personal gain be too much?

John-Williams moaned that it was the perfect “Catch 22” situation, since it was his success at Connection which made him a frontrunner for the post in the first place.

“The reason why I am in this position (as a TTFA candidate) is because I head an organisation that has been successful in football and that has catapulted me to the nomination,” said John-Williams. “But at the same time, my success has been perceived to be working against me because people are seeing a conflict of interest. If you look at the other candidates, they all have a different business.

Photo: W Connection chairman David John Williams (left) hugs goalkeeper Julani Archibald after the 2015 Pro Bowl Cup final. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection chairman David John Williams (left) hugs goalkeeper Julani Archibald after the 2015 Pro Bowl Cup final.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“(Raymond) Tim Kee runs insurance, Selby (Browne) runs sporting television rights and so on. It is fortunate or unfortunate that my second job is as W Connection president.

“Nothing I say to the public, whether I resign as W Connection president and CEO or promise them faithfully that there will be no conflict of interest, Trinidad and Tobago will not believe me.

“If I am elected and I operate faithfully, they will believe me. That is the only way. History will absolve me.”

So, is “elect me first and find out” the Connection president’s best line of defence?

John-Williams took a slightly different tact. He argued that the Trinidad and Tobago national football teams will be stuffed with W Connection players whether he becomes TTFA president or not.

And that, according to the presidential candidate, is because they already are.

Two of Warriors coach Stephen Hart’s starting XI against the United States, Daneil Cyrus and Mekeil Williams, are fully owned by W Connection, although they are on loan to United States and Guatemala top flight clubs respectively.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Daneil Cyrus controls the ball during 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup action against Cuba. (Courtesy: Arianna Grainey)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Daneil Cyrus controls the ball during 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup action against Cuba.
(Courtesy: Arianna Grainey)

However, John-Williams listed a further five current players—captain Kenwyne Jones, winger Joevin Jones, playmaker Keron “Ball Pest” Cummings, full back Aubrey David and goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams—who he claimed Connection still had a stake in or would be due solidarity payments if they changed clubs for a transfer fee, due to their time with the “Savonetta Boys” as youth players.

He then went through the various national youth teams and counted nine Connection players on the recent Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 Team, 10 on the Under-20s and nine on the Under-17s.

“Whether I am the president of the TTFA or not, W Connection players will get on to the national team,” John-Williams told Wired868. “The evidence is there already. I didn’t pick the (national football teams)… The natural progression is that you replace your senior players with players from your national under-23 team. So what happens if I become president and five Connection players advance to the senior team?

“It is a no win for me. Do we want Connection players to fall off the radar? Because my programme is successful, they want to kill me for that?!

“I am a real victim of my organisation’s success.”

Hart has clearly warmed to some Connection players more than others and striker Shahdon Winchester has been regularly overlooked, much to John-Williams’ public chagrin.

Photo: W Connection attacker Shahdon Winchester (right) evades a tackle from Santos Laguna defender Jesus Molina during CONCACAF Champions League action last night. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection attacker Shahdon Winchester (right) evades a tackle from Santos Laguna defender Jesus Molina during CONCACAF Champions League action last night.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Should John-Williams be elected as TTFA president, would his mere presence put pressure on the Trinidad and Tobago coach on subjects that he has already been vocal on as Connection boss?

What will safeguard the integrity of the selection process for the national teams?

John-Williams pointed to the manifesto as his defence. Whereas, under Tim Kee, the TTFA’s committees were all either dormant or overlooked; and the president and then general secretary Sheldon Phillips made unilateral decisions, the Connection boss insisted that properly functioning committees will be the backbone of the organisation under his watch.

It would mean decisions over the hiring and firing of coaches would reside with the technical committee rather than the president and general secretary.

“(My manifesto) is going to be the framework and road map for Trinidad and Tobago football under my instruction and you can hold me to it,” he said. “If that wasn’t my intention, I would never have made it public and so comprehensive.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart (left) enjoys a light moment with assistant coach Derek King before kick off against Nicaragua in Port of Spain. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart (left) enjoys a light moment with assistant coach Derek King before kick off against Nicaragua in Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

John-Williams defended his right to criticise Hart over team selection, although he conceded that it would be improper to do so as president. And he insisted that his occasional disagreement with Hart did not mean he wasn’t impressed overall by the success of the Warriors coach.

“As a stakeholder in Trinidad and Tobago football, I am entitled to an opinion,” said John-Williams. “Just as you would question why they’re using Joevin Jones as a left back, why is it wrong for me to voice an opinion as a club owner? All club owners questioned various national coaches and I voiced a footballing opinion.

“But, in the office of the president, I may have to keep my mouth shut because it would not make for good governance. As president of Trinidad and Tobago football, I have to treat things differently, as they will perceive I have a level of authority (that I didn’t have as a stakeholder).”

John-Williams used his history at Connection as a shield against people who feel he might interfere with team selection.

“I never got involved in team selection at W Connection at any level,” he said. “And you can ask Leonson Lewis, Brian Williams, Stuart Charles-Fevrier or any single coach there or who has left my programme. I could have been doing that because W is run by David John-Williams but it never crossed my mind.

Photo: W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“Any coach who is worth his salt will not function under a process like that… The coach is responsible for the results of the team, so how can I go in the dressing room and tell the coach who to pick when he is responsible for the result?”

John-Williams admitted that he was a regular face inside the Connection dressing room and would often join the players for the pre-game prayer. But he said he would not request similar access to the squad as TTFA president and his presence around the players would depend on the respective coaches.

“At W Connection, we have developed a routine over 17 years where I stand in the dressing room when we pray and give everybody a high five or a hug before the game,” he said. “That is traditional at the club because we have developed that over the years. Some coaches would not like that and would feel violated by a president that does that…

“It may not be the same for a Stephen Hart or Leo Beenhakker or Francisco Maturana, so that is totally up to the coach… I won’t impose myself on Stephen Hart or any other coach. For sure, I won’t.”

The Connection president insisted that his only motivation for the TTFA job is to make a contribution and help play a role in turning Trinidad and Tobago’s football around.

Photo: TTFA president and Port of Spain Mayor Raymond Tim Kee (centre) gestures to an Ecuador player while former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) has a word to her grandson before kick off of the FIFA Women's World Cup Play Off second leg on 2 December 2014. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: TTFA president and Port of Spain Mayor Raymond Tim Kee (centre) gestures to an Ecuador player while former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) has a word to her grandson before kick off of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Play Off second leg on 2 December 2014.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“I have been asked and turned down the opportunity three times,” he said, “and I feel I would be letting down the people who asked me to serve.

“And I feel I can make a contribution.”

Those people, according to John-Williams, asked him to run for office because of his success at Connection. So how, he argued, can people now use that same success against him?

“If people see me as the best candidate and the only thing they can find on me is a conflict of interest,” said the Connection boss, “then look at the scenario and tell me how I can get away from it. Because if I resign, they will say they don’t believe me and it is a smoke screen. If I stay, it will be the same story.

“The only way I can remove that stigma is through my performance as president of the TTFA. That is the reality.

“The future must absolve me from this… When I leave office, somebody will say the man wasn’t biased towards W Connection.”

Photo: W Connection owner David John Williams (second from left), coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier (centre) and defender Joel Russell (far left) say a prayer of thanks after securing the 2013/14 Pro League trophy at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection owner David John Williams (second from left), coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier (centre) and defender Joel Russell (far left) say a prayer of thanks after securing the 2013/14 Pro League trophy at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Just three days before the TTFA elections, there is still no clear favourite with Ramdhan, Taylor and Tim Kee—in particular—all receiving support from various quarters.

John-Williams said he is excited to be a part of a historic race.

“I wish the other candidates best of luck,” he said. “It is the first time in over 20 years that there is an election with five candidates. Ollie Camps reigned for 25 years unopposed.

“It makes for good democratic process.”

 

Editor’s note: Click HERE to read and listen to presentations from all five TTFA candidates and HERE to learn a bit more about the challengers.

AboutLasana 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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42 comments

  1. Carry on Shawn…yuh done already

  2. BTW I hate connection and Manchester…. But that is the type of unbias thinking we need in this country…..sad place

    • Sir Alex never tried to be president of the English FA while managing ManU though. Did he?

    • Never said he was…just drawing a comparison. Trinbagonians criticize because we can, the basis on which it is done is usually self serving especially when power is at stake. I say give him a chance. The worse that can happen is he do the same think as Tim Kee, the best well we see how successful WC has been under his management

    • Chabeth Haynes Interestingly though a man by the name of David Gill was English FA vice-president and United CEO when Sir Alex was at United & there was never a question of conflict of interest

    • Well can we all even name the people running for VP in the TTFA elections? Clearly the posts come with differing degrees of scrutiny.
      But my original point was that for the mess that the TTFA currently is, it needs more than just a gen sec dedicated to it full time and alterations should be made to allow for that.
      I do think conflict of interest is a valid concern though.

    • Trinidad and Tobago small….there is conflict of interest in everything…it is not the conflict you should be worried about but the integrity

    • Well no. Because as DJW himself points out none of the other candidates have the same supposed conflict of interest issue that he has. So it is possible to find people even in this small country.
      Re: the integrity issue though, international norm is that where a conflict or potential conflict of interest may arise or arises, persons should choose to recuse themselves one way or the other. I’m still not understanding how somebody resigns from owning a club.
      My statements though are in no way an indictment of DJW. Idk the man and I cast no aspersions on him nor am I in a position to vouch for his integrity.
      But this is an election and candidates will use whatever they can to make their opponents look like the less desirable choice. That’s just politics.
      Conflict of interest as an issue has always been and will always be a justifiable concern. Especially in a region where corruption seems to be found in everything.
      And I don’t recall reading anything that would suggest that any of the other candidates have less integrity than DJW.

    • Well yes DJW can’t resign from owning the W Connection. Resigning as president is suffice if he wins presidency in this scenario.

  3. D man has the best model for nurturing football talent in the country…..talk dun

  4. What jackassness I hearing……if connection producing talent they producing talent….you gonna tell sir Alex don’t be president because he will favour man u players….y di ass we so small minded…..Lasana Liburd dem get Meh vex

  5. One of the things I love the most about Wired868 readers is they are prepared to vigorously test any idea or position. Whether from me or anyone else. 😉
    I always trust it is in good faith too and believe it to be so. As much as there are different nuances that people outside the football community won’t always know instinctively, I always learn a lot from the questions and statements.

  6. In the article though, DJW referred to himself as the club owner? How do you resign as club owner? Sancho wasn’t a club owner in his previous association with Central was he?
    Is my understanding of the term “club owner” misconstrued?

    • You and me don’t understand Henglish eh. First we had Colin Benjamin earlier in the week now Renee JW

    • Hey, I gotta speak up…I have opinions, thoughts and concerns just like everybody else…I try not to get caught up in commenting on blogs and social media where my organization or father is concerned because people will always have a thought or opinion to express be it positive or negative and are not always equipped with 100% of the information but sometimes you need to have your voice heard

    • And rightfully so. As we all should. And seek answers and clarity as we see fit.

    • Ha big sis ya see how my name getting call in this Renee John-Williams – otherwise as the discussion about mr DWJ is going, I think people especially here on the erudite wired forum have asked fair questions.

      And Birdman’s article here with DWJ has cleared up most of the cob-webs i think

  7. It comes down to the devil you know vs the devil you think you know. NOTA is the best candidate since he eh running heaven help us.

  8. ..The football electorate will have to decide if they want a new president who has old ties or a NEW president with a clean slate. Simple..

    • In response to Mr. LookLoy for whom I have the utmost respect, we know that’s why the democratic process exists which we all have a right to enjoy. There are 49 voters who will make the decision as to whom they feel is best to run the Federation for the next x amount of years and newly slated execs and board that will determine the future of TT Football…IMO we are a small nation with an even smaller Football fraternity…there will never be anyone with a “Clean Slate” everyone that is eligible to run must have operated within football for the last 3 years or so

  9. ..Let’s keep it 100. The issue here is not position or resignation but character and ethics. Formal resignation from leadership of his club won’t end his family, emotional, and even practical ties. Sancho resigned from Central and went straight back. The true litmus test would be a test of character and ethics. And the results of that would only be apparent – gradually so – after his proposed election..

  10. The TTFA president needs to just have one job… the TTFA president. There is more than enough work to be done to occupy the day.

    • We don’t have executive presidents so that isn’t possible.
      The TTFA president is a voluntary post and it is actually the general secretary who runs the show, guided by the executive committee.
      For the last three years, the executive committee has complained to be ignored by an autocratic leader.
      And tim Kee actually said he makes no apology for his leadership style. So there you go.

    • Oh well therein lies the problem. Football is a multibillion dollar industry and the TTFA can be a multimillion dollar organisation. How many multimillion organisations are run by volunteers?
      Are the most successful FAs around the world headed by volunteers? Cause the FIFA president is paid, right? Through the front office and the back door?
      And if DJW’s only other job is president/CEO of Connection and therefore a job he can’t leave, then I really can’t see that as the best arrangement…

    • The FIFA is president is paid through the front door. But via a secret courier. Nobody knows how much his salary was.
      I won’t disagree with us having an executive president. But the case now is you have to always scrutinise the general secretary. The general secretary has a huge role to play in whether or not your body is a success.

    • Chabeth, DJW’s first and foremost job is as Managing Director of his family owned Construction Company FYI ?

    • So if he’s TTFA president, he’ll have three jobs?

    • As he stated in his TV6 interview when Fazeer asked, I’m not sure if you viewed it… if need be, the organization WCFC is run by a competent staff, management team and board that can operate in his absence as he seeks to fulfill his duties to the FA office if elected.

    • But as Lasana righty stated, the GS is charged with the daily responsibility of the FA operations and guided by the executive committee

    • The GC is charfged wuth the responsibility but the Prez calls the shots…I agree with you Chabeth…3 jobs…we are used to it, why change the habit of a lifetime, its been serving us well so far

    • Well to be fair Savitri, I think the ex-co is really supposed to call the shots. Also didn’t RTK have four jobs? Maybe one less makes a big difference?
      But yes, I think there are very few people in the world who can lead an organisation from where the TTFA is to where it should be with the distractions of other jobs. Especially when those other jobs are the ones actually paying the bills.
      Apple didn’t become Apple because Steve Jobs had side gigs. Did it?

    • Oh yeah sorry he does have 3 paying and one non-paying job…and people still justifying this arrangement for future development

    • Renee John-Williams you apparently just joined the convo on this election…please search thru this group for other comments. I noticed DJW has a big fan club now and the campaigning is rather heavy in the last week…but anyway…may the best man win.

    • I may have just joined, but i follow quite closely

    • I hope you also read all the comments on the other stories.

    • To reply to Savitri, that’s what happens when the Execs, Board and Pres are not all on the same page…The TTFA Elections will see new VP’s, a newly elected BOD and possibly a new President…this democratic process gives TT Football the opportunity to breathe new air. There are 5 candidates running for the Presidency and additional candidates vying for other positions. DJW has not won the elections he is merely contesting as is everyone else. All the other candidates hold various positions yet his involvement in Football which was the catalyst by which his candidacy came about is what people are making “THE ISSUE”? I dont see anyone questioning the other candidates positions which can benefit from them being the next President . And this is me being practical and viewing it objectively…others may see it differently

  11. Well, coaches were pressured during Jack Warner’s reign. Raymond Tim Kee has been hands off. But I feel it was a legitimate question that needed a response.

  12. how many Defense Force players were on Strike Squad?
    how many T&T players on the WI team?
    these kinds of arguments doh really hold water down here in the colonies….