The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has mandated a three-member committee to resolve a threat from the “Soca Warriors” to boycott their Copa America play off match against Haiti on 8 January 2016.
However, crucially, there is still no date set to pay the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Football Team players and staff, just 10 days before they are set to enter camp to prepare for their January assignment.
The players and staff are owed match fees for last month’s Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala and United States as well as for an exhibition match against Nicaragua on October 13.
Yesterday, the new TTFA board, which is led by president David John-Williams, held its first board meeting. According to a release issued by the local football body, the board focused on issues related to its poor financial health.
The TTFA identified the delay in match fees as its most critical issue. But the football body did not set a date to pay off that debt.
Instead, a three-member committee, which comprised of John-Williams’ vice-presidents, Joanne Salazar, Ewing Davis and board member Samuel Saunders, was created to meet with the players’ representatives—captain Kenwyne Jones and vice-captain Jan-Michael Williams—to “negotiate a way forward.”
The release referred to the TTFA’s existing contract with its senior players and staff, which was negotiated by former president Raymond Tim Kee, as a ‘gentleman’s agreement’, as the promise was made orally and not supported by written documentation.
The TTFA’s stance attempts to force the players to the bargaining table earlier than they might have hoped. The Warriors simply want their contract to be honoured and the football body is believed to have the roughly TT$1.2 million necessary to settle their debt, after a packed venue against the United States on November 17 in Port of Spain.
It is uncertain whether the football body intends to convince them that they must wait in line until other debts are settled. Or if the John-Williams administration intends to use its supposed position of strength to force through a new arrangement for smaller match fees.
The delay could conceivably impact on the Warriors’ Copa America preparation, as it leaves coach Stephen Hart unable to select a squad to begin training on December 27 or book plane tickets to get requested overseas-based players back to Trinidad.
However, the TTFA might argue that its action is the most responsible one possible as the football body pursues its own formula in terms of debt settlement.
With just one week before Christmas, it is uncertain when the TTFA’s three-member committee will meet the players’ representatives, Jones and Williams (JM). The meeting is expected to happen before the end of the week, though.
Thus far, the Trinidad and Tobago players and staff have declined comment on the TTFA’s stance and are said to be curious as to the need for a meeting.
The following is the full press release issued by the TTFA:
The new administration of the Trinidad & Tobago Football Association held its first Board meeting yesterday. The Board had to address many pressing issues arising from the poor financial health of the Association, as mentioned previously, and lack of documentation.
The most critical issue the Board focused on was the stance taken by the National Senior Team (Men). The players, frustrated by the delay in receiving match fees that they were promised under a ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ by the previous administration, announced that they will not participate in the COPA America qualifying match scheduled for January 8, 2016 in Panama City.
In recognition of the urgency of this matter the Board has mandated a three-person committee comprising of board members (Ms Joanne Salazar, Mr Samuel Saunders and Mr Ewing Davis), to meet with the players’ representatives and negotiate a way forward.
The Board has given the committee a clear mandate with instructions to resolve the matter as soon as possible. To this end we communicated with the identified players’ representatives (team captain Kenwyne Jones and vice captain Jan-Michael Williams) last evening.