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A TTFA coup? Tempers flare as 70 percent of membership excluded from AGM

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) appears destined for a constitutional crisis of its own making, after general secretary Justin Latapy-George snubbed nearly 70 percent of the local football body’s membership in the matter of the organisation’s AGM, scheduled for 25 November 2017.

The TTFA comprises 49 delegates but, in a remarkable development, just 16 were invited for the upcoming AGM, the agenda for which includes the vetting of the body’s audited financial statement for 2016.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (centre), media officer Shaun Fuentes (left) and new Soca Warriors coach Dennis Lawrence at the TTFA headquarters on 30 January 2017.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/TTFA)

The invited bodies were the Southern, Northern and Tobago Football Associations (each with three delegates) and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (two delegates) as well as Pro League outfits W Connection, Club Sando, St Ann’s Rangers and North East Stars and Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) club, FC Santa Rosa (each with one delegate).

Latapy-George, who is instructed by the David John-Williams-led board of directors, confirmed that compliance was the criterion used for deciding which bodies are to be allowed to participate in the AGM.

According to Article 10.2 (k) of the TTFA Constitution—which was passed in July 2015—all members must meet several criteria for admittance into the football body, including “a copy of the minutes of its last General Meeting or constitutional meeting and a copy of its audited financial statements for the previous financial year.

However, more than two years later, over three-quarters of the local football membership remains non-compliant, as far as the football body’s general secretariat is concerned.

Last month, when the TTFA warned its membership about their compliance status, Latapy-George assured Wired868 that—despite concerns from football stakeholders—there was no move afoot to disenfranchise members.

Photo: TTFA general secretary Justin Latapy-George (left) chats with TTSL general secretary Camara David at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 10 April 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Article 14.1 of the constitution states that “the General Meeting is responsible for suspending a Member. The Board of Directors may, however, suspend a Member that seriously violates its obligations as a Member with immediate effect. In this case, the suspension shall last until the next General Meeting…

The TTFA general secretary insisted, then, that no such suspension had been discussed by the board of directors.

“The authority to suspend cannot be done by the general secretariat [and] any suggestion of suspension is misplaced at this current juncture,” Latapy-George told Wired868 last month. “There are tons of steps before we get to that point.”

Latapy-George said the TTFA’s warning about compliance, at the time, was merely an update to its membership, which would be further discussed at the upcoming AGM.

“I know emotions are high and there are suspicions,”he said. “I understand and respect that. But […] I am merely telling them where we are and looking at what we can do now [to help members become compliant].

“[…] The general secretariat cannot and does not have the authority to suspend members in this scenario.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (centre) gets in the face of Mexican referee Fernando Guerro as he prepares to send off Alvin Jones (far right) during World Cup 2018 qualifying action against Honduras at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 1 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

According to Article 12.1, all members have the right to “take part in the General Meeting, to receive its agenda in advance, to be called to the General Meeting within the prescribed time and to exercise their voting rights…

However, the TTFA secretariat has not given 68 percent of its members the ability to exercise that right.

On Friday afternoon, Latapy-George said the members had not been suspended while at the same time acknowledging that they had been deprived of a fundamental privilege.

“I stand by the position that the general secretariat does not have the power to sanction anyone,” said Latapy-George. “There was no sanction but I will prefer not to discuss this because it is a very sensitive topic.”

The TTFA decision provoked a furious response by some members with Veteran Footballers Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago (VFFOTT) president Selby Browne describing the action as an attempted coup by the John-Williams-led board.

“They cannot take away anybody’s rights,” Browne told Wired868. “They have no authority to compromise or sanction the rights of any members… The motion [for members to become compliant] did not include a penalty or sanction.”

Photo: VFFOTT president Selby Browne.

TTSL president Keith Look Loy, whose FC Santa Rosa club were deemed compliant, agreed with Browne in that only the general membership should decide the fate of members.

“Any issue about non-compliance will be decided by the general members, not John-Williams or the board,” said Look Loy. “To send notice of the General Meeting only to seven or nine members—including FC Santa Rosa who they say are compliant—is a subversion of the constitution.

“I and other people are very fearful that elected officers will like to use the issue of compliance and non-compliance to subvert the general membership and run the TTFA via the board or the elected members [of the board].

“That is a constitutional concern; the general membership must run the TTFA and not the board.”

The issue of compliance has tied local football in knots right from the moment the clause was passed.

In July 2015, FIFA gave four months to the TTFA electoral committee—which was led by current SPORTT chairman Dinanath Ramnarine and included attorney Mervyn Campbell and TTOC president Brian Lewis (who was subsequently replaced by Elton Prescott, SC)—to get all members compliant and ready to vote in the 29 November 2015 election.

Photo: SPORTT chairman and ex-WIPA president Dinanath Ramnarine.
(Courtesy RJRNewsonline)

On 20 October 2015, FIFA acting general secretary Markus Kattner warned the local football body that “All members as listed in the TTFA Constitution must comply with Article 10.2 in order to take part in the elections; and those failing to do so will still have 18 months from the date of the adoption to complete the process or lose definitively their membership.”

The penalty for remaining non-compliant, as Browne noted, was not explicitly stated in the TTFA Constitution. But the governing body was clear as to how seriously it took the issue.

However, despite voiced concerns from FIFA and local stakeholders—including then presidential candidate, John-Williams—Ramnarine ignored the instructions and told candidates that they could vote even if they were not compliant.

And, in November 2015, John-Williams was elected to replace Raymond Tim Kee as president with anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of the votes cast by non-compliant members.

John-Williams did not set up a compliance committee to assist the TTFA’s membership until a year into his term. And, by then, according to FIFA, at least 70 percent of local delegates had two months to act before their status potentially expired at the end of January 2017.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (right) performs a duet with former Calypso Monarch Cro Cro, at the launch of the National Elite Youth Development Program at the Trinidad Hilton on 14 October 2016.

Incidentally, the TTFA’s deadline for compliance was 30 March 2017, which was two months after the time given by FIFA.

The delegates who spoke to Wired868 said they were not warned by Latapy-George or the compliance committee of Michelle Lynch and Sharon O’Brien as to what was at stake.

Eastern Football Association of Trinidad and Tobago (EFATT) president Linus Sanchez, whose body was declared non-compliant, accused the TTFA of botching the process and frustrating rather than assisting members.

“We submitted our compliance documents long before the compliance deadline in March,” said Sanchez. “But we were only told we were non-compliant about a month ago in an email from Sharon [O’Brien]. It was not specific and, when we asked for more information, they never responded. We are real upset about this.

“I called someone I know on the board and he said he would check and he came back and told me that they said our audited statement was really an audited budget. Our audited statement was done by a financial director and when I called the person and told them that, they just laughed.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) vice-president Joanne Salazar (right) sits alongside TTFA deputy general secretary Michelle Lynch at a joint Shanghai Group of Companies/TTFA media conference in May 2016.
(Courtesy Wired868)

“As far as I am concerned, we are compliant and the real issue is the incompetence of the people spearheading the ComplianceCcommittee, who have been no help whatsoever.”

Central Football Association (CFA) general secretary Clynt Taylor also criticised the TTFA’s Compliance Committee.

“The deadline was March 30 and we should have heard from the TTFA via the individuals who were in charge of ensuring members were compliant, said Taylor, “[but] we did not get that. I called the TTFA a number of times to find out if they received our documents and if everything was acceptable and they said they didn’t get our documents. So I personally delivered a copy to them.

“Then in August, they told me they still didn’t receive it and I sent it again. Only then, they said it lacked the audited accounts. We sent the accounting information but it was not audited and [they only told us this] after the deadline, when we didn’t have time to rectify it.”

Taylor said the CFA is cash-strapped but will urge its creditors to bear with them so they can become compliant. But other delegates claimed that they could not raise the money or were uncertain of the benefits of paying for an audit.

Photo: Central Football Association (CFA) general secretary Clynt Taylor.

“If the TTFA isn’t giving us any money,” said one delegate, who asked not to be named, “then why do we have to pay an auditor to account to the TTFA for what we did with the money we raised for ourselves?

“It is not like the TTFA is asking us to account for money they gave us, which is different.”

Look Loy, like Taylor and Sanchez, said they recognised the importance of being compliant. Their issue is with the process for getting it done.

“We all recognise the value and the necessity of having members of the TTFA being compliant,” said Look Loy, “because compliance places organisational and structural demands on the various members, which adds strength and the ability to function on members [and] that is a good thing.

“But my point and the point of others is the TTFA has not done enough to assist in that regard. The TTFA was formed in 1908 and suddenly, since November 2015, people have been asked to become compliant and given a to-do list.

“That is like a teacher telling a student ‘You have an exam to pass so look the syllabus; I hope you pass.’”

The TTSL president said the issue of audited financial statements, in particular, needed some level of proactive thinking by the local football body.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president Keith Look Loy.
(Courtesy TTSL)

“It is a costly business [and], in the last meeting, Central FC stated openly that they didn’t have the money to pay for audited statements,” said Look Loy. “[…] My personal view is we should extend the moratorium to 31 December and help pull people up by their bootstraps and give them the concrete assistance to do that.

“[…] Why not get three or four auditing firms and give them six members each and get a group price? Let us try to assist the membership and not just sit back and say you are not compliant; that is not leadership.”

Sanchez suggested that the TTFA owed it to members to help pay for their audits.

“They have to understand that there are members out there with no income,” he said, “and I am sure the TTFA gets funding to disperse to members and they don’t.”

Despite the heat regarding the issue of non-compliance now, an extraordinary general meeting to tackle the matter on 11 November was aborted owing to the lack of a quorum. That meeting will now be reconvened, according to the provisions of the TTFA Constitution, on the very morning of the AGM.

Photo: WASA FC captain Cleveland Cambridge (third from left) and Kevon Henry (centre) lead the complaints to referee CJ O’ Brien after he awarded a penalty to FC Santa Rosa during TTSL One action in St Joseph on 9 July 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Latapy-George defended the football body’s handling of the compliance process and suggested that the EGM represented an opportunity for members to help settle any problems.

“I think generally we can do better but we did as best as we could do,” said Latapy-George. “There are probably things we can look at to make things better [but] that was the primary reason for calling that EGM: to decide how to treat with this very serious matter.”

Regardless, Browne has no intention of sitting out the AGM and insisted that, since John-Williams was voted into office by non-compliant members, then if they were now illegitimate, so is his presidency.

“Dinanath Ramnarine gave a concession to have non-compliant members vote in the election of 29 November,” said Browne. “I have not seen in the minutes any motion moved to have Ramnarine’s concession accepted. If it was not in there, non-compliant people would not have been allowed to vote and the election is illegal.

“If it was in there, that compliance period ended on 17 January [and] all meetings thereafter must be illegal. It is check and mate; you decide which one it is.”

Photo: FIFA president Gianni Infantino (right) and TTFA president David John-Williams at a press conference at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 April 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Sanchez, who alleged that John-Williams promised TT$80,000 to the EFA for the 2017 season but failed to keep his word, said the current compliance issue was an indictment on the President’s leadership.

“Arrogance is not a trait of any good leader,” said the EFATT boss, “even King David and King Solomon accepted counsel. Humility has evaded David John-Williams for all of his life and that is why he always gets in trouble with people. We have to rectify this situation.

“The first thing they have to do is apologise for their incompetence and tardiness in handling this.”

For now, the TTFA has other ideas. And, according to Latapy-George, the AGM will proceed with just 16 invitees from among a total of 49 delegates.

Once a quorum of nine delegates is reached, the range of decisions that can be made in the weekend AGM include suspension or expulsion of Members, approval of the TTFA’s financial statements, approval of the TTFA’s budget, amendments to the TTFA Constitution, appointment of members to various committees, and admission for membership.

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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43 comments

  1. DJW is solely responsible for the demise of TnT football. Hope that bastard could sleep at night.

  2. They all need to show whether they’re invited or not to show up that fat f*** and call for an emergency vote to vote his ass put

  3. Why is it that this Media Briefing informing the affiliated member Clubs of the necessary requirements of complients to ligitimate their attendance could nit have been held before this meeting in an effort to avoid this allso common fiasco that plagues our sporting diciplines across the country? ????

  4. ALL Members of the TTFA,

    I here call on All Members of the TTFA to ensure their delegates attend the TTFA AGM to be held on Saturday 25th November 2017 at 10.00am.

    This call is in keeping with Articles 12 and 28 of the TTFA Constitution.

    No other Authority is vested in or given by the Membership of the TTFA at any General Meeting (the highest forum of the TTFA) to permit the removal, sanction or forfeit of the rights of the Membership under the guise of Non-Compliance.

    In fact, it is the mandate of this Administration to ensure all members are made Compliant.

    Selby I. A. Browne
    President
    VFFOTT

    PS:
    It has come to my attention that a Media Briefing has been called by the TTFA for 11.00am today with respect to TTFA Membership Compliance, prior to the TTFA scheduled EOGM of its Membership on Compliance.

  5. The autocratic rule continues from Eric James,Jack Warner,now DJW

  6. Quoting from the article:
    all members must meet several criteria for admittance into the football body, including “a copy of the minutes of its last General Meeting or constitutional meeting and a copy of its audited financial statements for the previous financial year.”

    This is for admittance to the body, of which they are already a part. This should not be used to determine admittance to an AGM…nor does the article state what criteria must be met to warrant suspension or expulsion from the body.

    • The Constitution actually doesn’t specify but just says it must be for serious cause. Thing is the general secretary confirmed that nobody was suspended.
      So their rights simply vanished. The TTFA has called a press conference to try and clarify and we will give their explanation.

  7. A German guy who loves Trinidad once told me with a chuckle and a shake head, ‘Trinis are not responsible.’ Brilliant double entendre.

  8. Yea that’s because you all let a cricketer change the constitution hahahah

  9. Why is it that some people seem determined to be remembered so horribly? And when you feel the bar has been set too low, they still manage to limbo and cockroach-slide under the barest minimums?

    I guess DJW really has imperial aspirations; all hail King David!!!

  10. in italy today the federation president has resigned and the national coach fired…..

  11. I would like to hear what he has to say.

  12. This whole town is a CABAL!

  13. The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association will host a Media Briefing regarding the compliance of members on Tuesday 21 November 2017 at the Association’s Board Room Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva commencing promptly at 11:00 am.
    President David John-Williams and General Secretary Justin Latapy-George will be in attendance.

  14. O gosh man killing football in Trinidad and Tobago

  15. The Robert Mugabe of local football…President for life

  16. “If the TTFA isn’t giving us any money,” said one delegate, who asked not to be named, “then why do we have to pay an auditor to account to the TTFA for what we did with the money we raised for ourselves?

  17. And nobody wanted to heed the warning I mentioned a long time about this idiot, David John Williams.

  18. Honestly, this hiccup was inevitable because unlike more developed football nations, our clubs and so on just aren’t set up to the same standards. The TTFA needed to provide more assistance if they really wanted to have as many compliant members as possible.

    • Lasana, this matter is not a “hiccup”. It was a foreseeable event that was specifically brought to the attention of the former president, Mr. Ramnarine, Mr. Lewis, CONCACAF, and FIFA via written memorandum, report, and numerous emalls in 2015. In fact, the concern and “confusion” over Article 10.2 of the TTFA constitution arose as a result of reports that various TTFA members were being misled by Ramnarine and Lewis about membership compliance and AGM participation in the run up to the 2015 elections. When the misinformation was exposed and FIFA reiterated the proper position, all parties involved in the embarrassing event decided to ignore the issue and allowed the election to take place; even the FIFA delegate chose to look the other way rather than correct the problem. This was a cover up that has now been reanimated like Frankenstein’s monster.

      • Lasana Liburd

        I agree with you. But once FIFA allowed the November 2015 election to continue with non-compliant members, this clash became almost inevitable.
        It was certainly foreseeable.

  19. So is the TTFA leading by example and has updated audited financial statements?
    It’ll be interesting if this matter of excluding delegates from the AGM ends up in court.
    If I’m correct, the current DJW-led board has so far racked up a 100 percent record in court – it has lost every single case! Lol

  20. Do people expect anything else

  21. I try reading thru this and just end up friggin steupsing. If is not one thing is the next.

  22. Why does ‘bachanaal’ seem to be the major characteristic of so many associations particularly football? Is it that in the ‘good old days’ the administrators were cut from a different cloth? What’s the real reason? Wasn’t there recently a seminar on ‘administration in sport’? Did the relevant people go? Or don’t they want to follow what they heard? SMH SMH

  23. It’s way passed the time to dismiss David-John Williams. Time to stop the foolishness.

  24. All who voted for DJW last TT FA election I have to say thanks on behalf of TT our football in shambles administration and on the field