Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) President Keith Look Loy has attempted to quell a revolt that threatened the completion of the competition’s 2017 fixtures, after offering an apology to the Tobago Referees’ Association (TRA) today.
The apology was demanded by TRA head Noel Bynoe after comments made by Look Loy on Facebook—in his capacity as FC Santa Rosa head coach—after Rosa’s 3-2 loss to 1976 FC Phoenix via kicks from the penalty mark in a FA Trophy Round of 16 fixture on 25 October.
Notably, the TRA’s request was forwarded to the TTSL after Tobago referees boycotted two league matches on Sunday between Bethel United and Siparia Spurs at Montgomery Recreation Ground and WASA FC and Phoenix in Canaan.
Look Loy deleted the Facebook post yesterday before offering an apology today.
“FC Santa Rosa and I, have an obvious interest in the TT Super League completing its excellent inaugural season without further disruption and public controversy about referees,” stated Look Loy’s letter to the TRA. “This does neither football nor the League any good. Therefore, both the club and I are willing to sacrifice our positions and principles, and to accede to the extraordinary demands of the Tobago Referees Association, in the broader interest of football and TTSL.
“I withdraw my comment considered offensive by TRA, regarding the belief of Trinidad teams traveling to Tobago to play that they have ‘little chance of winning’. My apologies to anyone else (referees or otherwise) so offended…”
Up until the time of publication, Bynoe had not yet formally recognised the apology and, when contacted for comment, he told Wired868 he was at a meeting and would consider the new turn of events later in the day.
It is the second time in a matter of days that the TTSL president was forced to apologise to a match official, after a similar concession to FIFA referee Cecile Hinds.
Look Loy and assistant coach Jovan Rochford were both ejected from the technical areas after criticising Hinds for her response to an injury suffered by Rosa attacker Rashad Griffith during their TTSL clash with Guaya United, which Guaya won 3-1.
Look Loy admitted to using obscenity while Hinds further alleged that the coach used sexist language as well. The matter is still set to be adjudicated by the TTSL Disciplinary Committee.
In the Tobago case, Look Loy’s post, following their FA Trophy defeat, read:
“While Santa Rosa’s Big Cannons still could have won in the final act of a match filled with drama and controversy, the most important actor on the day was the referee. One minute after the resumption a Phoenix shot entered the goal net through the side panel, for which the referee awarded a goal.
“Santa Rosa players protested and the referee showed the red card to two. The protest continued and, on the advice of the assistant referee who had seen the play, eventually the referee changed her call, awarded a corner to Phoenix and changed that call to a goal kick to Santa Rosa…
“FC Santa Rosa has forwarded a complaint to the Referees’ Association concerning the atrocious performance of the referee.”
Almost certainly, it was Look Loy’s comments made directly to the match official that caused the most offence. A TRA media statement alleged that the TTSL president and Rosa coach had “berated” referee Tricia Des Vignes and told her Trinidad clubs do not travel to the “Sister Isle” expecting a fair game—Look Loy strongly denied any suggestion that he berated Des Vignes.
The Tobago body described the statement that it attributed to Look Loy as “baseless and very dangerous.”
“Your claim that ‘Clubs from Trinidad view a match in Tobago with great distaste as they believe they have little chance of winning’ is a very inflammatory and demeaning statement to all Tobagonians,” stated Bynoe. “Until a letter of apology is sent to satisfy us, we will continue to boycott.
“We as Tobagonians are a decent people. We don’t leave our homes to come and cheat people…”
Owing to Sunday’s cancellation, there are still five Tobago fixtures left in the TTSL season—including a potential coronation on 3 December when Phoenix host leaders, Guaya.
Look Loy suggested that Sunday’s pull-out will be felt in the League’s coffers as well.
“As a consequence of this boycott by Tobago referees, with no prior warning to TTSL or FC Santa Rosa,” he said, “the league lost twelve thousand dollars in air fare, which it will now have to purchase a second time.”
TTSL general secretary Camara David lamented the fact that the TRA had not made its intentions or demands clear before the weekend fixtures.
“I don’t understand how you can boycott games and not communicate to the League,” said David, who learnt of the boycott plans approximately half an hour before the scheduled kick-off.
The Tobago refereeing body is not formally affiliated with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association.
“We at the TTFRA have not given any instructions to referees in Trinidad to boycott games,” said TTFRA third vice-president Osmond Downer.
Downer declined to express a view on the TRA’s action on Sunday but said that, generally, he had no problem with the standard of refereeing in Trinidad and Tobago.
“In my expert opinion, I would say the standard of refereeing in Trinidad is at a relatively good level,” he said. “The standard of refereeing is not terrible or horrible.”
Look Loy disagreed in recent correspondence to the TTFRA while the Central Football Association (CFA) has also requested urgent stakeholder dialogue to improve the level of local officiating.
“I assure you the verdict is unanimous across the board that the state of refereeing is terminally poor,” Look Loy said. “We need collectively to discuss rational solutions to the issue that arise therefrom…
“Some people have given up hope of an improvement in refereeing quality, most are afraid to speak out for fear of victimisation.”
Bynoe, who said improving the standard of local refereeing was a work in progress, suggested Look Loy was deflecting.
“Sir, it has become a very noticeable trend with you that when your club loses a match, someone else is always to blame and most times it is the referees,” stated the TRA’s correspondence read. “Your comments of the referee’s general performance is [sic] duly noted but I, like any fair minded person, would question your ability as the coach of one of the competing teams to objectively assess the referee.”
Look Loy insisted that his Facebook post ought to be protected as freedom of speech.
“FC Santa Rosa is a private organisation, with full entitlement to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago,” stated Look Loy. “The article in question, which was not opinion but which included a statement of certain match facts, broke no law of Trinidad and Tobago, was not libellous, nor in contravention of any football regulation.”
In the end though, for the sake of the TTSL, Look Loy did offer an apology.
The ball is now the court of the Tobago referees.
Look Loy’s letter to the Tobago Referees’ Association
I write following our telephone conversation this morning following the unprecedented boycott of TT Super League (TTSL) matches on the weekend, and regarding the demands of the Tobago Referees Association (TRA) for:
- The removal by FC Santa Rosa of a match report on the club’s FA Cup match against 1976 Phoenix Fc, and
- An apology from me for a statement made to the TTFA Referees Committee regarding the belief of Trinidad teams that they have “little chance” of winning in Tobago; the resumption of service to TTSL by Tobago referees being contingent on both demands being met.
As an important aside, I note that in its release to the public media regarding the demands above that the TRA states incorrectly that I “berated” the referee after said match. This is libellous. There are innumerable witnesses, including the TTSL Board member George Joseph of Bethel United FC and 1976 Phoenix FC coach, Terry Williams, who will verify that I had absolutely no contact or interaction with the referee during or after the match.
To the point at hand, in response to these demands, and as I stated to you this morning, FC Santa Rosa is a private organization, with full entitlement to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago. The article in question, which was not opinion but which included a statement of certain match facts, broke no law of Trinidad and Tobago, was not libelous, nor in contravention of any football regulation.
Further, my statement to the TTFA Referees Committee (regarding the specifically poor handling of the match by the referee, and the generally poor level of refereeing in both Tobago AND Trinidad) was expressed as coach of FC Santa Rosa in a private communication via the designated TTFA channel and not via any public medium, i.e. social and public media, etc.
I fully expected that it would be discussed within the appropriate football body/bodies (as advised by the Chairman of the TTFA Referees Committee) and following established protocols, with everyone free to agree or disagree. I am, therefore, astonished that TRA’s demand for an apology has reached the Tobago House of Assembly, the Ministry of Sport, and social and public media.
FC Santa Rosa and I, have an obvious interest in the TT Super League completing its excellent inaugural season without further disruption and public controversy about referees. This does neither Football nor the League any good. Therefore, both the club and I are willing to sacrifice our positions and principles, and to accede to the extraordinary demands of the Tobago Referees Association, in the broader interest of Football and TTSL.
First, FC Santa Rosa has removed from its facebook page (since Sunday 12 November) the article considered offensive by TRA.
Second, I withdraw my comment considered offensive by TRA, regarding the belief of Trinidad teams traveling to Tobago to play that they have “little chance of winning”. My apologies to anyone else (referees or otherwise) so offended.
Having now acceded to the demands of the Tobago Referees Association, I trust that all TTSL matches scheduled for Tobago between now and the end of the season on 10 December will be serviced by TRA officials.
I also very much anticipate the opportunity for all of Football to convene to discuss the controversial state of refereeing in Trinidad AND Tobago.
Keith Look Loy
FC Santa Rosa