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Pay or no play! Soca Warriors threaten strike for Copa America play off

The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team have delivered a stark, public message to the new administration of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA): Pay or we won’t play!

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago players (from left) Mekeil Williams, Ataulla Guerra, Joevin Jones, Sheldon Bateau and Radanfah Abu Bakr look on during their penalty shoot out with Panama at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago players (from left) Mekeil Williams, Ataulla Guerra, Joevin Jones, Sheldon Bateau and Radanfah Abu Bakr look on during their penalty shoot out with Panama at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

In a press release, delivered by national captain Kenwyne Jones’ publicist, Tenille Clarke, the “Soca Warriors” have threatened to withdraw their services for next month’s Copa América Centenario Play Off against Haiti unless the TTFA satisfies its debt to the players.

Trinidad and Tobago are due to face Haiti on 8 January 2016 at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, Panama with the winner advancing to the 2016 Copa América competition.

However, the Warriors are still owed match fees for last month’s Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala and the United States and for a friendly against Nicaragua in October.

Jones, who said he was speaking on behalf of his “distressed teammates”, said it was a collective stance.

“We were promised months ago that a payment would be made to the boys after the last game (against the United States on November 17),” said Jones, via press release. “To date, unfortunately that arrangement has not been honoured, and based on recent discussions with the TTFA, there is no indication as to when these financial matters will be settled.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones (centre) holds off Nicaragua midfielder Elvis Figueroa during international friendly action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones (centre) holds off Nicaragua midfielder Elvis Figueroa during international friendly action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The stance is a significant broadside to new TTFA president David John-Williams, who was only elected on 29 November 2015.

Williams, who relinquished his role as W Connection president after the elections, was the employer of two national senior team players—Daneil Cyrus and Mekeil Williams, who are both out on loan—up until a month ago. And another five Warriors including the national captain are former Connection players.

His history with the national players now appears unlikely to be an asset during his presidency.

A Soca Warriors player, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the press release was a group decision that the players agreed to today via What’s App messages.

He said the squad felt slighted by the pace at which the debt was being settled, particularly as they had done everything they could get a bumper crowd for the November 17 World Cup qualifier against the United States. But, with Christmas looming, they hope an agreement can be reached soon.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Joevin Jones (centre) terrorises United States players DeAndre Yedlin (right) and Michael Orozco during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Joevin Jones (centre) terrorises United States players DeAndre Yedlin (right) and Michael Orozco during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

However, Williams insisted that Jones has not contacted him since he became TTFA president and the debt to the players is an inherited issue, which, after less than two weeks on the job, he is still coming to grips with.

Former TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee, who is also the Port of Spain mayor and PNM treasurer, and his estranged general secretary Sheldon Phillips oversaw the deal with the Warriors. But, although there were over 20,000 spectators at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, the TTFA did not honour its arrangement with the Warriors.

Phillips was fired before the United States match and was replaced by acting general secretary Paula Chester-Cumberbatch.

“The players were promised their money (on) the Friday after the USA game,” Williams told Wired868. “To the best of my knowledge, that would have been the 19th. I came into the office two weeks after that.

“What I met was that we were still collecting the money from the ticket outlets and some of that was post-dated cheques.

“I was not contacted by Kenwyne Jones on this.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (centre) presents Naparima College attacker Jarred Dass with his 2015 National Intercol medal. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (centre) presents Naparima College attacker Jarred Dass with his 2015 National Intercol medal.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart, who is with his family in Canada at present, said he was surprised by the players’ release and hoped the matter is resolved quickly.

“I only just got (the press release) myself and I am in no position to comment about that,” Hart told Wired868. “As a coach, I am not usually involved with any financial dealings with the players. (But) I think it is a misunderstanding.

“A new person comes in (as TTFA president) and is unsure about what negotiations went on before him. So I think it might be hasty.

“But the players need to be paid and it was agreed upon beforehand…”

Jones described the situation as “as an unfortunate development on all fronts” but pointed out that the players had sacrificed their personal and professional schedules for the national team and produced commendable results with limited resources.

Now, they want the TTFA to respect its agreement with the players.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football captain Kenwyne Jones (background) hugs international teammate and goalkeeper Marvin Phillip after their penalty shootout loss to Panama in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal. (Copyright Jewel Samad/AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football captain Kenwyne Jones (background) hugs international teammate and goalkeeper Marvin Phillip after their penalty shootout loss to Panama in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal.
(Copyright Jewel Samad/AFP 2015)

“Of course, we want to play,” said the Cardiff City forward. “We want to represent our country to the best of our abilities. We have a talented squad that is eager to give their all.

“But this is also our livelihood. The conditions must change for our national athletes.”

Williams said the players’ stance will be addressed formally at the new TTFA’s first board meeting on Wednesday December 16. The new president will also speak to Hart, via Skype, on Saturday morning in a meeting that was arranged before the players’ stance.

The TTFA president did not suggest that he would try to speak to the Warriors or the national team captain before then.

“The first board meeting is next Wednesday,” said Williams, “at which time all those matters would be raised.

“It is unfortunate that a press release was put out today with regards to that (financial issue).”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (left) rolls the ball through the legs of United Staes captain Michael Bradley during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (left) rolls the ball through the legs of United Staes captain Michael Bradley during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Williams subsequently amended this position, as he arranged an emergency meeting with his executive for tomorrow to discuss the players’ press release.

The Warriors’ stance is a notable shift in their relationship with the TTFA, as they often hinted at a need for change or asked for improved administration but rarely chose open confrontation.

Jones asked the Trinidad and Tobago public to understand their decision and expressed hope that a resolution would be swift.

“The support that we’ve seen from supporters has only made the decision not to play even more difficult and disappointing for the team,” said the Warriors captain. “Above all else, we never want to disappoint our fans, and we hope that they understand our decision.”

 

Editor’s note: TTFA president David John-Williams confirmed that he will hold an emergency executive meeting tomorrow with his vice-presidents to discuss the players’ stance.

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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114 comments

  1. Every time I read these stories of striking I just laugh….we are a nation of talkers. Even previous commenters on this very post express the notion that all will be well. If the players (men or women) are striking then, for God’s sake strike!!! Until then it’s just white noise….every administration seems to be operating under the assumption that it will just take some minor negotiation to alleviate the situation….and so it continues

  2. And I just checked a calendar. Today is four weeks to the day until that Jan 8th match. I would say the players are giving the TTFA a very reasonable amount of time to work this out.
    Clearly they want to play.

  3. This kinda thing will NEVER stop, despite who in charge! Past jokers, present jokers and future jokers! Is decades now this issue keep arising. Eternal problem……..

  4. There’s a long line of entities trying to collect dollars from the TTFA – an organization severely strapped for funds. Just recently we heard that if a certain former coach isn’t paid by a deadline now expired, the country would be banned from World Cup 2022 qualifications. I imagine there are many others quietly trying to collect debts from the TTFA. Now the players have up the ante – threatening to withhold their services. I guess they’re using their leverage in an attempt to jump to the head of that debt collection line. Good luck to Mr Williams in managing this inherited crisis. I suggest he invest in some good lawyers and go after Jack W. and OLIVER Scamps to recover the millions stolen from the TTFA.

    • I wish I had more thumbs to give you there! So far, DJW has been saying the past is the past. But the past is affecting our future. So I disagree. And there will be more on that in the future for sure.

  5. The players are already professional and paid for their job in the respective clubs ,be a national player and represent you country is a different story and actually give them the exposure that they can only dream if they play for central or connection or somebody else,so are we should pay the youth national team to?They put the same efforts (maybe more) and sometime they don’t even have water to drink on training… I don’t talk only about Trinidad and Tobago but the all system,,wear a national jersey have to be a honour not a business

  6. I understand what our Warriors are saying about being promised compensation for outstanding fees but I would warn them about history possible coming back to haunt the very thing that they have so work hard to achieve,otherwise all that would happen is if the President cannot find the money in a timely manner,he would be left with no other choice but to replace the Senior team with the younger youthful players or other senior players waiting for the opportunity to represent our country at this possible job fair for the others that are not willing to attend ?

  7. True…it will all work out…lets be positive

  8. I am all for the players, i am a players man but do not kill the goose that lay the golden egg!!! Especially when there was so much good feeling from fans and a fresh admin in place!!! Lets c how it goes and hope aint live to regret bc i done have real bets we going world cup! lol

  9. Generally, when changing administrations, the responsible thing to do is complete a full audit before settling outsanding debts. It is even more important in a cash strapped entity. The issue is trust. Do the parties owed trust that their matters will be settled, or settled in a timely manner. I think the new President should reach out to the players and other creditors as soon as possible to assuage any ill feelings and to ensure a plan of repayment is communicated and agreed to…

  10. The players are putting on the pressure. …the played the need to get paid…so let the bosses organize them. …but always negotiate with integrity everything must be clear…lets sort the players out…

  11. Its professional sports…i always believe everyone in the professional game should be paid…the presidency should be a full time job….general sec, players and all everyone puts in the time and effort should be paid…anything to do with amateur will give the same amateurish results. ..its a professional game and a billion dollar industry. .. let everyone go work for their monies… The problem is money and how we handle the game professionally. ..good administration. ..so lets move on…players will do what they have to on and off the field…

  12. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME where are all the TT sports people?????????? where are your voices….

  13. In light of the quote than Brian posted, this action is even less surprising.
    And who says the players aren’t willing to negotiate? All they’ve said is that we won’t play unless we get paid. The TTFA has to come now with a counter proposal. That is how negotiating happens.
    I don’t understand this expectation that the players should go to the TTFA to ask for their money. If you get a new boss and the new boss knows about a long standing pressing issue, good employee-boss relations dictate that the boss comes to you and has a meeting to hear if you have anything else to add to the matter and to explain what he/she thinks is the way forward. Especially when the new boss has previously employed several of you.
    Two weeks is a long time to be silent on money. The same way the executive “has only” been in office for two weeks and know to call up all the vendors to collect the outstanding money from the USA match, is the same way they should know to pick up the phone and call the players to discuss the outstanding payment from said match and previous matches. One phone call from DJW to Kenwyne and this situation would be different today.
    And I’m really not into putting all this weight on the players’ shoulders about damaging the brand and the impact on sponsors etc. they do their job. It’s other people who can’t raise the money who aren’t doing theirs and should forego their salaries and perks if salaries don’t apply.
    I am eager to see what the compensation package of the new general secretary looks like and how often he/she will be paid. Since apparently service to your country through football means that you should sporadically receive a pittance-type pay.

  14. Chabeth Haynes no one is expecting them not to get paid!All ppl are saying is better negotiating should take place, if a new administration is in the players representative should at least meet with them to chart the way forward!! Money in sport comes from advertising which depends on branding most sponsors will be saying here we go again if they was thinking about investing in TT football affecting these same players future!! In the real world ppl would sit around a table and work things out before going into the public domain!! Even debt collectors and bailiffs have to warn u before they go public!!!! Come on man!

  15. Just to be clear Chabeth, I never said that they shouldn’t be paid. I’m just wondering why take this stance now without any discussion with the new TTFA Executive. It seems precipitous.

    • You think it would be wise of them to play for new bosses in January without pay?

    • I think it would have been wise to have a conversation with new Executive in December before making a public strike threat for a game in January.

    • Both good points. I agree they should be paid. Of course. But I also feel they should have tried dialogue first.

    • Player initiated dialogue would have just drawn out the process. There would have been no emergency meeting just a set of platitudes and smiles.
      If DJW wanted this issue addressed with urgency he would have addressed it.
      Kenwyne going to him would have resulted in talk until the end of the year and then what position would the players have been in?
      All national footballers in this country have been taking disrespect and maltreatment for far too long. And if this is what it takes for things to change then kudos to Kenwyne for leading this charge.
      Way to captain your team, KJ!

  16. I do not understand why these footballers are expected to continue to work without being paid. For our entertainment?
    Who works without being paid? If they had a union they would have been on strike a long time ago.

  17. There is a quote from Jan Michael Williams in today’s Express that is concerning.. it says in part..”The information we got through the manager (William. Wallace) from the president (John Williams) is that he has a problem with the amount we are being paid…”

    • That is a hell of a quote is all I will say. When things like that are leaked so early, it is difficult to see an amicable resolution.
      It’s astounding that things have gotten off to this kind of start.

  18. Kendall Tull u took the words out my mouth!! Being a former insider and having seen this happen before my only question is what is going
    through the players mind? What good can come out from this for brand TT football and the players in the long run!! Is this how we negotiate in 2015 come on man!!

  19. I find it very odd that players would adopt this stance with a brand new administration without so much as a by your leave. The fact that the Women Warriors were contemplating the same thing at damn near the same time cannot be a coincidence.

  20. He better get his act in order and get off his a$$ and deal with this… Fed up with the management in tt destroying our sports

  21. But reality is the new gimme gimme generation has decided that we must pay for their services. That being the case we need to find a way to consistently pay these ballers match day fees. I’m tired of having our players threaten to strike. I suggest going forward we implement a “players tax” on all tickets for home matches involving our national senior teams (men and women). Funds accumulated from the “players tax” will be restricted in terms of how it can be used and will be solely for covering match fees for players and staff. A 15% “players tax” is a likely good starting point. Assuming we get approximately 20,000 paid spectators at a home game and an average ticket price of $150, the “players tax” would generate an average of $450,000 per game. This should easily cover the players home game match day fees and provide excess funds for away game fees.

    • That is a good idea. As it is right now, the TTFA seems to think that the players’ match fees are only to be considered after everyone else associated with the game from the DJ to the clean-up crew is paid. That can’t be right.
      If we hired Bunji Garlin to sing in an event, he would be the first person to be paid. And rightly so.

  22. Lol – yes Stefano Monti. I agree 100%.

  23. Earl Mango Pierre I agree 100%. Players does just talk and as you say “sweet talk” does draw them back. I red and ready to fulfill a role with the Association. My brother advised me well many years ago….

  24. Look I am really tired of the Players eh, and always threatening to quit then some doh doh head will give them some sweet talk and it is back to square one like the last time when Ahkeela Mollon spoke out against the madness eh and then Mr lyrics Sheldon Phillips gave them some sweet talk as usual eh and they , continue playing eh , but now that I am finally retired and I am returning to our sweet country eh they all will find out where barley grows is me and them this madness against our players really needs to stop eh the Players Association will be up and running soon but I will need some help and sound advice eh, anyone wishing to be part of the Players Association because I can’t do this alone . Them really good yes

  25. Earl Mango Pierre let’s expose them.

  26. Once you assume the new role of president, you are now responsible for all prior agreements, contract and negotiations. The new president she be briefed on all pending issues, PERIOD!! I’m watching the TT Women play on ESPN and it’s so embarrassing to hear the condition so these women are playing games under. The coach had to pay the bus fare for a young lady to join the team from a local community college in the Texas area. Players threatening to quit and all this nonsense.

  27. In my romantic view of football I still think that you should play for your Nation for free and be proud of it

  28. Yes its important to pay the players. ..but there should have been the courtesy call or message to the president. ..thats what leadership is about…but its time to resolve the problem and move things forward. …

  29. Saw this on the news, it’s a bit disconcerting. I hope the new president will be able to alleviate their concerns

  30. They taking any thing at the going rate TT

  31. Look alluh better dont play up me and my posse done have we tics for VINCY next year so RUN D BREAD IS $$$$$$$$$ BIG MONEY WINE

  32. Las – them fellas crazy yes. I wonder if the central bank governor could tell me how much US $$$ is owed to each of them? Hope they know they’re gonna have to get paid in TT currency.

  33. Nice the fire has worked never mind the timing it achieved its purpose so lets do this give the players their XMAS bonus worked for

  34. The TTFA is in a transition phase. The situation obviously requires some discussion…..good communication resolves 90% of problems..

  35. That means they are going to settle.

  36. Update: A Soca Warriors player, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the press release was a group decision that the players agreed to today via What’s App messages.
    He said the squad felt slighted by the pace at which the debt was being settled, particularly as they had done everything they could get a bumper crowd for the November 17 World Cup qualifier against the United States. But, with Christmas looming, they hope an agreement can be reached soon…
    TTFA president David John-Williams confirmed that he will hold an emergency executive meeting tomorrow with his vice-presidents to discuss the players’ stance.

  37. I see both sides here and pray that good sense prevails starting with a conciliatory phone call between the skipper and DJW.

  38. Well well like is the politics in every thing in TNT football to its like another PNM VS PP you had all the plan and solutions while in opposition with all due respect JOHN WILLIAMS was aware of players payment issues before he won players did not make no threats before elections so they now hit us a CENTRAL BANK GOVENOR now ready for their $$$$$$ owed to them as a dedicated passionate fan ah fed up of this shit yes but i am confident in the new minister and TTFA president and SPORTS COMPANY getting it right especially now that a fire has been lit under all of them omg alluh please do the right thing fix it now pay the players what they have already worked for lets continue this good run we are now on FIXING TTFA FOOTBALL NOW

  39. I’m quite disappointed with Kenwyne and the boys over this release. The team is finally starting to play well again. Finally starting to get corporate Tnt to look their way and more importantly, finally getting fans to start showing interest in the national team again. And what do they do with this new goodwill? Destroy it – throw it all out the door. Greed is a killer. You would swear these players are all broke and desperate. A new administration is at the helm. The President’s seat is still warm from being sat on by his predecessor – give the man and his new EB an opportunity to deal with you at a professional level. Why the need to release this harsh letter? Smh

  40. Have KJ and team raised the topic with David Willams and team, or was this action happening regardless of which candidates were elected to the TTFA executive?

  41. Country in recession!. Carnival fete and costume to pay off!.

  42. David John Williams just spoke on I-95.5fm and said an emergency Board meeting will be held tomorrow, Friday 11th to discuss this matter.

  43. Christmas is looming. I think I have to agree with Chabeth in so much as the TTFA should have moved quickly on this.
    One thing we can all agree upon: We don’t want to send a B team out and hope for the best!
    Brazil kinda showed up the kinks with that one.

    • Bakes

      How could they have “moved quickly”? The match was three weeks ago, proceeds from ticket sales are still being reconciled (as is customary); the TTFA was functioning with an interim General Secretary, herself only a few weeks on the job; the organization was in turmoil, with preparations for (and controversy surrounding) the upcoming elections; and after November 29, which was only eleven days ago, it has been in transition. I fail to see how much more “quickly” the old OR new administration could have moved.

  44. Well, the issue is that the TTFA hasn’t honoured its contract. And I suppose Christmas is looming too.

  45. No problem with that!. Give them incentives to play and play well.

  46. This nonsense again?. How much they asking for?.

  47. But didn’t DJW say he wasn’t approached? This is more like an ultimatum. Jones played at the club, why was it so difficult to call him and discuss?

  48. I don’t think the timing is odd. I think it is reflective of human nature. People approach those who they consider approachable. Approaching Tim Kee was pointless. Apart from which if they play a match for no pay under the new administration, they will establish a precedent that they do not want to set.

  49. Interestingly Savitri Maharaj and Chabeth Haynes, this debt was owed to the players since November 19. The TTFA election was November 29.
    If they took this stance in any of the 10 days leading up to the election, Tim Kee–who they had this arrangement with–would have been dead in the water. But they didn’t.
    I hope that is just a coincidence.
    Like I said, they deserve their money. But the timing seems odd if they didn’t try to talk with the new TTFA executive first.

  50. In my mind the TTFA is similar the GORTT, people are prepared the give the new GORTT a bligh although most of them have been around a long time, in and out of govt and know the ropes but not give DJW and his team any leeway to get settled in? Looks like arm-twisting to me. Jones & Co should’ve stood up when they were being treated badly by the last admin.

  51. This seems rushed , this is a fantastic opportunity to qualify for a solid tournament and play against some top top teams… I really hope the players reconsider and allow the new admin the necessary time to sort out the issue that the previous administration couldn’t do.

  52. Ironically, Kenwyne cannot play in the Copa America Play Off anyway. It is not a FIFA match date and there is almost no chance he would be allowed to play by his club.
    But he was anxious to qualify for the tournament before when they lost on penalties to Jamaica last year.

  53. But I don’t think newness in office is any excuse. Everybody knows that outstanding payment to these players and coaches was an issue. The TTFA should have contacted the players and coaches about this instead of waiting for the players to reach out to them. Who sits down knowing that they owe somebody money and waits for the person to come hound them for the money?

  54. Kenwyne’s publicist can put out a release on behalf of the entire team?

    • Well, we just have to take their word for it there eh. But good point. Again, a reason why we need a players association.
      I sympathise with Kenwyne Jones in that, theoretically, he has to take time off his professional schedule to handle matters on behalf of his teammates.
      Of course I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here. Because we only know his feelings for sure.

    • When Central players didn’t want Sancho to return all the players who felt that way signed a document to that effect. I don’t know how one person’s publicist can speak on behalf of the entire team. Does everybody on the team even know her? Lol.

    • In this case, the players are in many different countries though. Central FC case was different. But fair point all the same.

    • Jan Michael Williams speaking on Andre Baptiste I.95 show right now said all players had input in drafting PR.

  55. No doubt they do, but they deserved it a long time ago…why put the new Prez under this pressure, where is RTK now? The coach also deserves a new contract and overdue payment

  56. I am all for the players doing this. I just don’t think it’s the right game. If we get into copa, it can kick start some of their careers.

  57. Copa America can help many of these players get big contracts in Europe or Mexico.

  58. Yes, I thought the timing a bit off, especially if the players hadn’t spoken to the new president yet. And the president said Kenwyne Jones had not contacted him.
    At the same time, contracts mean something and the players deserve their money.

  59. Credible but hasty, and somewhat illogical.

  60. They should’ve made the last Prez sweat it. Bad timing

  61. Or I thought it was sign, seal and delivered that they were not going.