Finally, some good news. After two days and roughly nine hours of negotiating, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and the National Senior Team are allegedly within touching distance of a solution, which might bring an end to their impasse over outstanding match fees.
The “Soca Warriors” are owed fees for last month’s Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala and the United States as well as a friendly international against Nicaragua on October 13.
The Warriors, frustrated by the perceived sluggish pace of the new administration in settling their arrears, vowed that they would not play in the 8 January 2016 Copa America play off against Haiti unless they were paid for at least both World Cup qualifiers.
The TTFA, now headed by president David John-Williams, initially countered that it would pay as soon as practicable before drawing up a three-member committee—which comprised of vice-presidents Joanne Salazar and Ewing Davis and board member Samuel Saunders—to negotiate with the players.
Wired868 understands that the Warriors were subsequently offered match fees for one World Cup qualifying match, which was refused. Then, during the second day of negotiations, the TTFA supposedly suggested that it was willing to pay for the players’ outings against Guatemala and Nicaragua and defer other payments.
The difference in the figure due for the Nicaragua friendly and United States draw is said to be US$500 (TT$3,180) per player. And, since coach Stephen Hart had a 19-man squad squad to face Nicaragua and 22 players for the United States contest, the TTFA would save US$12,500 (TT$79,530) if the Warriors accept.
The players, who were represented by captain Kenwyne Jones—via Skype from Wales—and vice-captain Jan-Michael Williams and also had Yohance Marshall join the talks, are believed to be leaning towards the offered compromise, although they hope to get consensus from their teammates.
It is not altogether straightforward. The TTFA’s proposal would mean that teenaged midfielder Aikim Andrews, who played against Nicaragua but not in the subsequent qualifiers, will get one match fee.
And Lester Peltier, Carlyle Mitchell, Cordell Cato and Justin Hoyte, who all missed the Nicaragua game but were in the United States match squad, will lose out on a payment.
Wired868 was also reliably informed that Jones and Williams (JM) opted to negotiate the match fees themselves and declined an offer from former Football Players Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT) president Shaka Hislop to intervene.
Contrary to a report in the Trinidad Guardian, Hislop contacted the Warriors soon after the dispute started and offered to help. But his invitation was not accepted, as the players felt capable of representing themselves.
FPATT is non-functional at present but, again contrary to the Guardian report, the association ceased operating soon after its short-lived start in 2007, due to its failure to gain traction among local footballers and not because of the relative success of the 2006 World Cup bonus case.
Hislop and other former FPATT board members including Kelvin Jack and Brent Sancho were involved in the bonus dispute.
The current Warriors intend to use legal advice for any written agreement over fees with the TTFA but will represent themselves until that time.
Both parties are expected to find middle ground by early this week and have agreed in principle on a joint press release. It is uncertain whether payments due to the Soca Warriors’ technical staff members will fall under the proposed TTFA offer.
Salazar, a Phoenix Park Gas Processors vice-president, was credited as the driving force behind the TTFA’s talks. Although the players did not take a lawyer to the meetings, Saunders, who represented the local football body, is a practising attorney.
Once the TTFA and the Warriors agree on a figure for outstanding fees, both parties are expected to return to the negotiating table soon to discuss match fees for the Copa America play off against Haiti and for future international games under the current executive.