Sacked Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical director Kendall Walkes has blasted football president David John-Williams for his supposed autocratic, vindictive and narcissistic style, as he opened up about the last four months at his post.
Walkes, a former Trinidad and Tobago national midfielder and US Virgin Islands technical director, accepted a three year contract from the TTFA in March 2015 and returned home a month later. Raymond Tim Kee was TTFA president then while Sheldon Phillips was general secretary.
Walkes, who spent 23 seasons as head coach of the West Chester University men’s football team in the United States, went unpaid for two of his nine months under Tim Kee. But, he claimed, that was nothing compared to the treatment he received under John-Williams.
“Without any provocation, he just decided to take this stance against me, almost from day one,” Walkes told Wired868. “I would talk to my wife after (our) meetings and she is aware of the ridicule and cynicism I have had to deal with, as he tries to feed his narcissistic needs and ego.
“He even ridiculed my decision to come here. He has brought the entire situation into something personal.
“I can’t tell you how vindictive his actions were in a lot of instances.”
Walkes, who has a USSF A licence, NSCAA advanced national diploma, England FA preliminary and FIFA youth academy certification, said he has not been paid once by John-Williams who has refused to acknowledge his contract.
The TTFA president declined comment on the issue.
“I have no comment to make on that,” John-Williams told Wired868, “because the matter is being addressed by both party’s attorneys.”
In his termination letter, John-Williams stated that the TTFA would “honour any arrears accrued under that arrangement and are prepared to meet with you to settle any outstanding salary due to you.”
However, Walkes alleged that the TTFA president offered him a cheque with less than his monthly salary as an “unprejudiced pay off.” He has refused to touch it on legal advice.
“He put a clause with the voucher attached to the cheque saying it was an unprejudiced pay off,” said Walkes. “But I was advised that it could mean he didn’t have to pay me any more money.
“He promised to pay me for all debts accrued. But instead he is trying to starve me out.”
Ironically, Walkes accepted the TTFA job after former technical director, Anton Corneal, quit in acrimonious circumstances.
After two years, Corneal claimed he did not receive a dollar from the duo of Tim Kee and Phillips.
“I have gotten eight half salaries from the government in two and a half years,” Corneal told Wired868, on 2 April 2014. “But at least I am getting something. I have not been paid by one dollar by the TTFA and I think that is not just disrespectful; it is gravely disrespectful.
“They didn’t even say ‘instead of 10 dollars, take three dollars’. I have bills and a family like everybody else. I did it for as long as I could…
“They cannot honour my contract financially and I couldn’t do it anymore.”
A year later, Walkes succeeded him. He admitted to being nervous about being paid but said he received assurances.
“(The certainty about being paid at the end of the month) was always my first concern,” said Walkes. “I have been asked to come back to Trinidad and give back since the Jack Warner era in the 1990s and I have always declined respectfully.
“I have always watched coaches come from foreign countries for big contracts and, within a few months, you are fighting to be paid or have to take them to court. So you get a big contract and two months later you are fighting to get a dime.
“So, I have always said I would not to work under that kind of administration.”
Despite Corneal’s obvious issues, Walkes—who has a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Public Health from Davis & Elkins College and a Master’s in Exercise Physiology from West Chester—thought it would be different under Tim Kee and Phillips, who he met at a convention in the United States before either had ascended to the top TTFA posts.
“Two things convinced me to come,” said Walkes. “One, I was working under a different administration… And then it was the Sports Company. I emailed a SPORTT official and said a little birdie told me the Sports Company will pick up part of my salary and he confirmed it.
“And when I calculated I said even if the TTFA didn’t pay me, I would be okay. But then when I came (to Trinidad) he said they give money to the TTFA and they did with it as they chose.
“And the TTFA said there was nothing stipulating that money was to be used to pay the technical director.”
By May, Walkes was already in trouble, as he worked for roughly two months without a pay cheque. But things quickly improved—probably helped by a CONCACAF 2015 Gold Cup quarterfinal final finish by the “Soca Warriors” in July—although the TTFA only honoured its agreement to pay for his housing and vehicle for two months.
On 29 November 2015, the local football community voted for change, as John-Williams was elected to office on the back of a manifesto entitled “Imperatives for Change.”
John-Williams’ manifesto promised that his board of directors—rather than he and his vice-presidents—would be the policy makers, there would be an immediate appointment of the necessary sub-committees, the general secretary would run the administration and operation of the football body and there would be greater transparency all round.
However, Walkes described the new football president as autocratic and claimed that interim general secretary Azaad Khan was rarely present at their meetings, although Khan, in theory, is in charge of the football body’s operations.
John-Williams suggested that he met certain contracts in place that, arguably, seemed to reflect an autocratic style.
“If Kendall Walkes has made that statement, it is up to you to believe him,” said John-Williams. “I would not even make a comment on that. The only comment I will make on that is if the head coach’s contract calls for him to report directly with the president and I meet that (stipulation).
“So I have no other comment.”
The TTFA president also responded in an obscure manner to Walkes’ claim that the general secretary was rarely included in important meetings.
“Ask him when he has met with the president whether the general secretary was always present,” said John-Williams. “I want you to ask him that.”
But Walkes was adamant that John-Williams regularly conducts meetings on the running of the local body without even the token presence of his general secretary.
“At the first meeting, the president was there with (vice-presidents) Joanne Salazar and Ewing Davis,” said Walkes. “The next three meetings were with DJW alone. Then maybe a couple more with Joanne present.
“Then the meeting with the legal representatives for both me and the FA. This is the only meeting in which Mr Khan was present. I am 99.9 percent certain.”
John-Williams and Walkes did not meet in 2015, as the latter was whisked off to Brazil with the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team for an international tournament in Natal, which ran from December 9 to 20, 2015.
Walkes then spent Christmas with his family in Philadelphia before returning to Trinidad on December 31, before the TTFA office re-opened on January 4.
The technical director was surprised and a bit put off when he was told that John-Williams refused to sign his cheque for the month of December.
“When DJW came into office, the staff drew up my salary cheque for December,” said Walkes, “and I was told that his reaction was: ‘Oh guud! Is all that money that man come down here and making?! I not honouring that you know’.
“And he never did. I just thought that was so unprofessional from him.”
Walkes’ jaw really hit the floor in his first meeting with the TTFA president, as the technical director was abused of abandoning his job.
“Sharon O’Brien who was the manager on the (national women’s team) tour,” said Walkes. “I said I was never here for the end of the year before and I asked her when did the office close. She said the office closes on the 21st or the 22nd. Because she said two dates, I called the office to be sure and they told me it closed on the 22nd and reopened on the 4th.
“I said okay and I actually came back on the 31st (of December).”
John-Williams was inconsolable.
“From that first meeting, he came in with this mindset,” said Walkes. “He went on about how many days in industrial law that I can be ruled to have abandoned the job if I don’t show up. I had followed proper procedure and he was telling me I abandoned my job.
“And saying: ‘Imagine we had a national team in training and my technical director is not here.’ But the National Senior Team is the one team that I was not responsible for as technical director.
“Then he started making really sarcastic comments about my contract and saying things like: ‘You come on a contract like this? You bring your family on a contact like this? You see all the mistakes in this?
“It was ridicule. It was almost as if he wanted me to walk out.”
For the next two months, Walkes said the TTFA president made a point of ignoring him.
“There was one situation where he spoke to the National Under-17 team for the first time and I stood there,” said Walkes. “And he introduced Muhammad Isa and Stuart Charles as technical committee members who will be there from time to time.
“And then he named other members who the kids knew nothing of like Dexter Skeene and Dr Alvin Henderson. And he refused to name me or acknowledge me who was standing right there.”
Walkes, who lives in Trinidad with his wife Sylvia and son Kendall Junior, said he tried to keep his work problems hidden from his family for as long as he could. But a confrontation was inevitable.
“He never said anything to me,” said the technical director. “He didn’t even say when they got money they would pay me.
“So I asked him: ‘Do I have a job here?’ He said: ‘I don’t know, it depends on (your contract). I asked him: ‘Are you going to pay me?’ He said: ‘I don’t know, it depends on this.
“The old regime was always promising to pay for stuff and it was just cash strapped. The difference is David promised not to pay. I had the same deal as Stephen (Hart) and what I got everywhere I stayed as TD, which was housing and car.”
In the end, it was John-Williams who announced their parting of ways. The TTFA president claimed that Walkes’ contract was invalid and bizarrely said the former president, Tim Kee, “does not recall the document ever being formally executed”—although he received a technical director’s salary for seven months plus had a car and apartment paid by the former administration.
John-Williams claimed his stance was supported and actively encouraged by FIFA.
“We have now also been notified by the acting Secretary General of FIFA that this alleged arrangement under which you were employed by the previous administration of the TTFA does not meet with the standards and requirements of FIFA for the appointment of a Director of Football of its member associations,” stated John-Williams. “Please note that the copy of the purported contract of employment you provided to us was also reviewed by FIFA and they have rejected it as containing errors, misleading information, and also missing information.
“As a consequence of their findings the TTFA have now been mandated by FIFA to ‘redo and review the aforementioned contract’…
“In light of the findings of FIFA and in the absence of a properly executed and valid contract of employment, we are forced to consider your engagement with the TTFA as a month to month rolling contract.
“In those circumstances we hereby formally give you one month’s notice of termination of your employment with the TTFA.”
Walkes accused John-Williams of misrepresenting FIFA and the former local football administration and said he took his contract to several lawyers who confirmed that it was valid.
“John-Williams said I didn’t have a contract,” he said. “FIFA didn’t say that. FIFA says it doesn’t meddle with the internal business of member associations. That says they could not have annulled it.
“If I don’t have a contract, he can pay me and I will be on my way. But I do have a contract. And then he is saying that he didn’t recognise my contract and it was never executed but then is asking me back for my vehicle.”
The FIFA press office, under new management since the election of president Gianni Infantino, was unusually curt.
“We are in contact with (the) TTFA in order to ensure compliance with the FIFA Development Regulations,” said a spokesman from the FIFA Media Office. “We have no further comment at this stage.”
Phillips, who is also pursuing legal action against Tim Kee, declined comment while Tim Kee could not be reached.
Their unwillingness to get involved has left Walkes isolated, without a source of income and facing a lengthy legal battle.
“I don’t know what I ever did the man,” said Walkes. “He came in with an agenda. I can respect that, I understand that. But you don’t discredit me and, worse, not want to pay me.
“I think I should be paid for the life of my contract because it is a breach of contract. But at least the work I did I should be paid for…
“He hasn’t made a single offer to me. All he has done is stopped me from making a living.”
Walkes thought he was joining a football association that was moving in the right direction after Warner’s disgraceful exit.
“The motivation for me is you are talking about a country that has been to a World Cup final and it is your own country,” he said. “And you get the chance to shape the curriculum for youth football, which is the future of the game, as well as run coaching education courses…
“I wanted to help lay a foundation in Trinidad and see the fruits of my contribution. Potentially it should have been great.
“You are doing it for Trinidad and Tobago. What could be better than that?”
And, despite a shaky start, he felt he was off to a good start.
From Monday to Friday, Walkes, with Isa in tow, would hold grassroots clinics in each of Trinidad’s five zones—he claimed issues over training locations and training times scuppered their attempts to start in Tobago—while, on the weekends, they did zonal and national coaching certifications.
“Before, there were grassroots festivals and you might have two in an entire year,” he said. “But we had a continuous programme with courses for every week and every day… We certified about 130 coaches at both levels combined.
“The zonal level means you can coach grassroots (football) up to under-15 and the national level means you can coach up to under-20.”
His work ground to an almost immediate stop upon John-Williams’ appointment.
“When he came in, everything shut down immediately,” said Walkes. “He didn’t just stop paying me but he also cut off every income stream that was available to me. And, to this day, everything is frozen.”
Walkes deduced that his former assistant, Isa, had the ear of the new president and he was annoyed that the veteran coach and Club Sando technical director did not stand up for him.
His annoyance grew considerably when he realised that Isa was earmarked to replace him. He insisted that his potential successor was unqualified and had built up a portfolio for himself by taking jobs for free or ones that nobody wanted.
“(On April 27) in a board meeting, they gave Isa a one year contract and he accepted,” said Walkes. “And that it itself is an indictment of his understanding of the job of technical director. If you want to transition a country’s football, you are not going to accept a one year deal when you have to implement the five pillars like grassroots, coach certification, coach education and so on.
“When he takes a one-year contract, it shows he doesn’t understand the perimeters and depth of the job and what he is getting into. He is happy to get a title I guess.
“I find it insulting, to be honest, to the office of a technical director and me personally that they would give him my job.”
Again, the TTFA president declined comment on whether Isa was his new technical director and if he was suitably qualified for the post.
“The board is going to make an announcement in the next 24 to 48 hours,” said John-Williams. “We will make our announcements in due course.”
Walkes has accepted that his time with Trinidad and Tobago football has come to an end. But he said he refuses to be bullied by John-Williams.
“If that is the way they want to do it then fine, pay me,” Walkes told Wired868. “Don’t think I will walk away for free. We can agree to disagree, once he pays me and I walk my merry way.”
Walkes is the first high profile sacking under the current administration—former “Women Soca Warriors” coach Randy Waldrum did not have a contract and was merely released.
The TTFA, which is still in debt to Corneal, can feasibly end up paying the salaries of three technical directors at the same time, if Walkes is proven right.
(TTFA’s termination letter)
18 March 2016
Mr Kendall Walkes Present
Re: Your Employment status
I refer to the matter at caption and to the ongoing discussions between yourself and the TTFA.
After considerable deliberation we have come to the conclusion that the TTFA has no alternative but to terminate your employment with them.
I ask that you note that we did make every effort to locate an original contract of employment between yourself and the TTFA, but notwithstanding extensive searches we were unable to locate this document – you also confirmed at our meeting on the 1st March 2016 that you did not have an original duplicate of your contract and would be relying on the photocopied document hereto attached.
It is our considered view that this document is not only incomplete, but has also not been properly executed.
We have been guided by the former President of the TTFA that he does not recall the document ever being formally executed.
In our attempt to clarify this matter, and move forward we sought advice from FIFA. We have now also been notified by the Acting Secretary General of FIFA that this alleged arrangement under which you were employed by the previous administration of the TTFA does not meet with the standards and requirements of FIFA for the appointment of a Director of Football of its member associations.
Please note that the copy of the purported contract of employment you provided to us was also reviewed by FIFA and they have rejected it as containing errors, misleading information, and also missing information.
As a consequence of their findings the TTFA have now been mandated by FIFA to ‘redo and review the aforementioned contract’.
You will no doubt be aware that the secure tenure of this position is critical to the continued relationship between the TTFA and FIFA.
In light of the findings of FIFA and in the absence of a properly executed and valid contract of employment, we are forced to consider your engagement with the TTFA as a month to month rolling contract.
In those circumstances we hereby formally give you one month’s notice of termination of your employment with the TTFA.
Without prejudice to our position re the invalidity of this alleged contract we are however prepared to honour any arrears accrued under that arrangement and are prepared to meet with you to settle any outstanding salary due to you.
Please note that we will re advertise the position and you are invited to resubmit your application for our consideration.