Dear Editor: Phillips: Arrogant, shifty John-Williams-led TTFA is steering T&T football to ruin

“The [TTFA’s] handling of former coaches Stephen Hart and Randy Waldrum were nothing short of embarrassingly unprofessional and mean. [And the] TTFA leadership persists in acting in a manner that may very well push creditors to seek legal redress and have the TTFA placed in court-appointed administration.

“There simply seems to be no evidence of desire on the part of the current TTFA president and its board to pay debt unless creditors go through arduous litigation, win a judgment—at greater expense to the TTFA, I may add—and collect on said judgment.”

Former Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) general secretary Sheldon Phillips, who won a $.2 million High Court case against his former employers earlier this year, gives his view on the current direction of the local football body, headed by president David John-Williams:

Photo: TTFA president and W Connection owner David John-Williams (centre) greets players (from right) Hughtun Hector, Alvin Jones and Maurice Forde before kick-off of their TTFA FA Trophy final against Police FC at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 8 December 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

The David John-Williams-led TTFA has failed in serving both Trinidad and Tobago football and its members in every way.

Before accepting the position of General Secretary of the TTFA, which I held from  2013 to 2015, I sought assurances from the former TTFA president, Raymond Tim Kee, to place three matters as high priority items:

  1. Reformation of the TTFA Constitution
  2. The coaching selection process of the senior men’s and women’s national team programmes.
  3. Substantive effort to reduce TTFA debt.

An accord was reached, assurances were given, and my tenure as General Secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation began on 9 May, 2013.

Upon my arrival at the TTFA office on Ana St in Woodbrook, Mr Tim Kee was waiting at the top of the stairs holding a large pile of manila folders which contained invoices, contracts, and correspondence connected to what would end up being over $35 million dollars in debt incurred by the organisation.

Photo: Ex-Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee (right) and his then general secretary Sheldon Phillips.
(Courtesy Wired868)

I knew the organisation was in debt but, until I reviewed the files, I did not know the actual breadth and depth of the problem. In a gallows humour moment after locating and verifying an additional set of claims, I told Tim Kee that for the next two years we will be acting more like a claims department than a football association.

All manner of service providers—large and small, corporate and sole trader enterprises—had legitimate claims for goods and services provided. Of even greater concern were unpaid invoices for coaches, players, and other service providers who had performed in the context of the TTFA’s national team programmes.

It was heartbreaking to see the evidence and even worse to hear the stories of dismissiveness and even hostility meted out by prior TTFA administrators to respectfully made inquiries about payment for services sought by the TTFA and professionally rendered.

Our commitment to reducing the debt was real and sincere. Among the over 100 claims, the largest and most visible was the one by 13 senior national team 2006 World Cup players who had won a High Court judgment against the TTFA for breach of contract; and, though the determination of damages by the Court had not yet been reached, all signs pointed to an award eclipsing $20 million.

These events had taken place before Tim Kee was elected president and I assumed the GS position.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago national football team poses before kick-off against England at the 2006 World Cup.

I was convinced a debt-reduction strategy was indeed going to be a priority while attending a meeting held at CONCACAF offices between the then CONCACAF President and General Secretary, Jeffrey Webb and Enrique Sanz respectively, and Mr Tim Kee and myself. The question of how a recently discovered sum of US$1.5 million belonging to the TTFF should be used was posed by Webb to Tim Kee.

Having already discussed the matter prior to the meeting, Tim Kee and I looked at each other and he then turned to Webb and said  “We will use it to pay the players.'”

“All of it?” asked Webb.

“Every red penny,” Tim Kee replied, enunciating each syllable to ensure no chance of ambiguity.

Sharing these events is not an attempt to reminisce or offer self-praise but to present the fact that,

while our debt to income ratio was 4:1, the earnest steps we took to address the debt saved the organisation from becoming ripe for creditors petitioning the court to wind up the TTFA.

It is not lost upon myself that the current administration has demonstrated an acute level of proficiency in tarnishing each of the three areas of greatest concern—constitution, senior team relevance, and debt management—I shared with Tim Kee and pledged to give priority care.

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.

In the area of constitutional reform, the current administration was elected in a flawed and constitutionally illegal election. The vast majority of members were not in compliance with the new constitution nor were proper steps taken in the General Meeting to offer and pass a motion to waive the statutes, which outlined the steps for a properly assembled Annual General Meeting (AGM) and election.

As a result, the legitimacy of the current TTFA administration is as shifty and murky as the Pitch Lake.

In regard to the football product, from the very moment Williams assumed power, the gradual deterioration and string of poor results from each national team programme became apparent. Our youth national teams were losing by scores of 15-0 and 8-2 in tournaments and coaches responded by saying such abominations were “good experiences” for the players.

The Senior Men’s team’s leadership was undermined to the point where the players knew their coach was no longer the leader and authority of the team. The administration’s handling of former coaches Stephen Hart and Randy Waldrum was nothing short of embarrassingly unprofessional and mean.

However, it is the current administration’s overall approach to the debt that most clearly demonstrates a wanton disregard of the most basic duties of care and loyalty officers and directors of any company must uphold.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart (left) and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoy each other’s company during a media conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port-of-Spain on 19 May 2016.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Based on reports from various creditors, Williams’ approach to legitimate financial obligations isn’t based on empathy but rather on frivolous defences, hostility, misrepresentation of facts, and overall disrespect towards other parties involved in disputes that can be easily and amicably settled.

(Full disclosure, I have a current matter pending in the Industrial Court against the TTFA and won a High Court decision earlier this year to recover money lent to the TTFA that Williams refused to pay back). 

Instead of humbling themselves and acknowledging claims from people who have shown great patience, the TTFA faces the very real threat of a creditor-led wind-up effort and its officers, directors, and members face the possibility of personal liability.

Here is what may very well happen. The Companies Act of Trinidad and Tobago (81:01) presents various circumstances where a company may be wound up should the Court find reason that the organisation is insolvent and unable to properly meet its obligations:

Winding Up By The Court

  • Section 355. A company may be wound up by the Court if— 
  •  (a) the company has by special resolution resolved that the company be wound up by the Court; 
  • (b) the company does not commence its business within a year from its incorporation, or suspends its business for a whole year; 
  • (c) the company is unable to pay its debts;
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (second from left) welcomes new National Senior Team coach Tom Saintfiet (second from right) during a media conference at the Marriott Hotel on 7 December 2016.
Looking on is new general secretary Justin Latapy-George (far left) and technical director Muhammad Isa.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Liability of Members 

  • Section 349. 
  • (1) Subject to this section, in the event of a company being wound up every present or past member is liable to contribute to the assets of the company to an amount sufficient for payment of its debts and liabilities, and the costs, charges and expenses of among themselves. 

Liability of Directors and Officers

  • In re CLICO Investment Bank – in Compulsory Liquidation. In re The Companies Act, Chap. 81:01

In the above-cited hearing decision, the Court considered and subsequently denied a defence motion to prohibit the liquidator’s use of company shares from another company owned by the defendant for the purposes of satisfying creditors of CLICO in which the defendant was a director.

The Court surmised the liquidator was well within his rights to apply the value of the shares so long as doing so represented an element of fairness in the carrying out of the liquidator’s duty to the creditors.

Based on the cases I have reviewed and the statute itself, the powers given to the Court to protect the interest of creditors under the Companies Act are vast and the Court as well as its representatives is free to consider a number of variables to determine whether a petition for wind up and the ensuing actions will be granted or denied.

In short, the TTFA and its actions, attitude, and overall disposition toward creditors can be considered. Any steps taken by an organisation targeted for wind up or even its failure to take basic steps to mitigate damage to the organisation can be considered by the court and its appointed representatives.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (second from right) poses with Women’s National Senior Team coaches (from left) Nicola Williams, Carolina Morace and Elisabetta Bavagnoli at a media conference in the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 1 February 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

In my view, Williams and his board have greatly diminished any objective claim of taking serious steps to manage the organisation’s debts.

No organisation can operate properly when it is undercapitalised and saddled with debt. However, based upon their own 2016 audit statement, the TTFA paid over TT$15 million in professional fees. So, while capital does not seem to be as severe an issue as it was during my tenure, it would be reasonable for the Court to review the purpose of the professional fees and ask why couldn’t a portion of the increased revenue be used to address debt.

Additionally, the court can seek minutes of Board meetings and General Council meetings to review how much time and discussion was dedicated to addressing the organisation’s debt.

From a structural standpoint, it can be argued that the inactivity of the Finance Committee—the official entity responsible for recommending fiscal policy for an organisation—is another illustration of the organisation’s negligent and apathetic approach to debt management.

In this era of “wrong and strong,” TTFA leadership persists in acting in a manner that may very well push creditors to seek legal redress and have the TTFA placed in court-appointed administration. There simply seems to be no evidence of desire on the part of the current TTFA president and its board to pay debt unless creditors go through arduous litigation, win a judgment—at greater expense to the TTFA, I may add—and collect on said judgment.

Photo: TTFA president and W Connection owner David John-Williams (left) presents the winning cheque to his daughter and Connection director Renee John-Williams after their FA Trophy final win over Police FC at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 8 December 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

This is not a prudent or honourable manner of stewardship of the game; in fact, it marks a further deterioration in the relevance of the sport and general goodwill towards it.

Should TTFA members further entrust to Mr Williams and the Board of Directors the levers of policy making on their behalf, such an indulgence could be reasonably judged as negligent and hasten an existential threat to the organisation and perhaps place members as well as TTFA officials and directors themselves within the line of legal liability.

The TTFA Constitution provides that the TTFA is a member-centered organisation. It is neither owned by the president nor controlled by the Board. As Article 12 of the TTFA Constitution, Members can insist upon being informed of the affairs of the TTFA. Members also have the ability to remove officers and directors who are not performing in the best interests of the organisation should members choose such a route.

If TTFA members are unable to convince current TTFA leadership to properly and earnestly address the organisation’s debts, it is obliged to remove the current leadership—if not for the best interests of the game in Trinidad and Tobago, then to protect themselves in the event of a company wind up and liquidation.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper and captain Jan-Michael Williams (right) asks questions of his defence during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
Costa Rica won 2-1.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

In closing, it important to note that football does not begin or end with the TTFA leadership. Though the TTFA leadership and their sycophants may attempt to convince the public they are indispensable, the truth is the game will go on without them.

Leagues and clubs will still operate, coaches will still pass along their knowledge and ply their trade, and the general business of football will still continue should the TTFA find itself freed from the grasp of its current leadership—whether through member action or through Court involvement.

However, it is preferable that the creditors work with the TTFA and its members to create a debt restructure plan that would make the TTFA a better and stronger organisation led by an administration that embraces transparency and based on sound business acumen.

And one that understands it must use its power to properly serve the players, coaches, referees, administrators and fans in order for Trinidad and Tobago football to reach its maximum potential at all levels of play and for us to present ourselves well on the global stage.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football fans enjoy the show during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
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  1. I never believe mr Phillip says any more

  2. This was the TTFA board last time I checked: David John-Williams (president), Joanne Salazar, Ewing Davis and Allan Warner (vice-presidents), Sherwyn Dyer (Eastern Counties Football Union), Karanjabari Williams (Northern FA), Richard Quan Chan (Southern FA), Anthony Moore (Tobago FA), Joseph Taylor (Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association), Sharon O’Brien (Women’s League Football), Wayne Cunningham (Eastern FA) and Sam Phillip (TT Pro League).

  3. The previous administration had their own issues as well. One thing though, based on the questions they were asking, the Executive Committee seemed to have more balls then.

  4. Malik: “Article 38 Dismissal of a person or body

    1 The General Meeting may dismiss a person or a member of a body. The Board of Directors may place the dismissal of a person or a member of a body on the agenda for the General Meeting. The Board of Directors may also dismiss a person or a member of a body provisionally. Any Board of Directors Member may submit a proposal to place such a motion for dismissal on the agenda of the Board of Directors or General Meeting.

    2 The motion for dismissal must be justified. It will be sent to the Members of the Board of Directors and/or to the Members along with the agenda.

    3 The person or body in question has the right to defend him- or herself.

    4 The motion for dismissal shall be decided by means of secret ballot. For the motion to be passed, a majority of three quarters of the valid votes is required.

    5 The person or body dismissed (provisionally) is relieved of his or its functions with immediate effect.”

  5. All this talk about what was done ….and what DJW currently does is meaningless. DJW MUST BE REMOVED! WHAT PROCESS IS IN PLACE TO DO SO AND WHO HAS THE POWER TO DO SO!!!

  6. All the TTFA has to do to pay off their debts is to invest in a good lawyer and go after Jack, OLIVER Camps, and the other bandits. Would have loved to have Sheldon list the debts paid off to those owed money during his time in office. And what criteria was used to decide the priority order of payments.

  7. Sorry to say but the membership are bending themselves over to lick DJW ‘s ass so no help there.

  8. The TTFA membership does not Kno their power and if they do…they are afraid to use it…if the TTFA is run by d membership then it is d duty of the membership to demand answers and if not satisfied then exercise their power and right to remove d existing leadership….but I guess…..they like it so

    • Precisely. Much of this falls squarely on the membership. There is a clear dereliction of duty by leadership, starting with the President and GS, as well as the Board. Membership bears significant responsibility as well because proper exercise of their powers and responsibilities would prevent the negligent running of the organization under DJW.

  9. Nope before.. youth world cup from before bro

  10. Thanks for the letter Sheldon, can’t disagree with your analysis nor the results achieved during your and Tim Kee tenure. However, did experience some of the arrogance then of which you now critique.

  11. Know a few maxi men who asking for their monies from youth world cup bro.

  12. They reduced the debt quite a bit Brian

  13. Not sure the previous administration was any different when it came to paying bills but thanks for sharing..

  14. Whaaat? doing the same thing over and over in T&T in every institution is a norm, so what’s new. people talk , talk, no one is listening, because the same foolish, power hungry inept people are appointed or elected, and guess by whom? Ask Cameron? how long FOOTBALL in this country is in a mess, decades? and what? Money running people spending , No transparency or accountability for the public purse and friends scampering as ADMINISTRATORS, CEO’s MANAGERS, etc and what? let’s move on and then do the same things, because they are ALL aware, Trinis just talk and nothing comes out of it.

  15. Well said Sheldon everybody can see he is a idiot

  16. In addition to what’s contained therein.. there’s so much novel fundraiser events that could have been undertaken to service and I dare say clear these debts.. but one eye dog in a klim pan would always rule egos in

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