Stakeholders of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) must wait another 30 days at least for answers about the spending of the David John-Williams-led administration, after the local football body’s reconvened AGM on Tuesday 20 February again ended without any clarity on the TTFA’s financial statement for 2016.
For the second successive AGM, John-Williams was a no-show. On 23 December 2017, the TTFA president said he was sick. On Tuesday, TTFA vice-president Ewing Davis—who chaired the meeting in John-Williams’ absence—said the administrator was abroad on FIFA business.
John-Williams’ excuse for skipping the meeting as well as the timing of the AGM itself was not universally accepted in good faith.
“That meeting was to be called within 60 days,” said one TTFA member, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There were so many weekends that it could have been called, yet it was called on a Tuesday night—a working day—and the President was not there.”
The most crucial item outstanding for TTFA members remains the approval of the football body’s financial statement.
On 19 December, 2016, John-Williams became the first football president to publish the TTFA’s annual financial statement—a move that earned him plaudits in the media and from the public. But there was a catch. The figures shared publicly represented the financial activity of the football body in the year ending in December 2015. However, John-Williams only became president on 30 November 2015.
And, thus far, local football’s commander-in-chief has not been as open about his own spending.
At an extraordinary general meeting on Wednesday 5 July 2017, the TTFA made its first attempt to have its financial statement approved, which is a prerequisite for FIFA funding.
However, general secretary Justin Latapy-George did not forward the document to the membership, as mandated by the TTFA Constitution. Instead, the John-Williams-led Administration attempted to simply read out several pages of financial data to bemused listeners for their approval.
“There were no print-outs available,” said Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (TTFRA) vice-president Osmond Downer at the time. “One man read that this book was examined, etc but nothing was in front of members to look at. So it was decided that [the TTFA’s Audit Report] could not be considered.”
The postponement of the Audit Report began what, to a cynical observer, might look like a cat-and-mouse game.
At the following AGM on 25 November 2017, Latapy-George, acting on instructions from John-Williams, gave financial documents to less than a third of the membership on the supposed grounds that the others were not fully compliant. Once more, the membership successfully resisted, as Downer pointed convincingly to the constitution.
Once John-Williams’ attempt to disenfranchise some members was overruled, the membership was back to where they had started, with most members not having copies of the financial statements or sufficient time to peruse the documents while some argued that the meeting itself was unconstitutional. So, the AGM was postponed to a date within 30 days.
The John-Williams-led TTFA board chose two days before Christmas to stage its AGM. And, this time, the President called in sick and didn’t show. In his absence, Davis presided over the meeting but neither he, Latapy-George nor board member Wayne Cunningham was able to answer questions about the football body’s finances.
“What came across clearly was either [financial] decisions are being taken that the Board knows nothing about,” said TTSL president Keith Look Loy, “or the board members know about it and are not prepared to talk.”
The TTFA had another 30 days to reconvene the AGM. And, on Tuesday 20 February, John-Williams was again absent.
“The general feeling of the people present was the absence of the president meant he didn’t think this was important to him,” Veteran Footballers Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago (VFOTT) president Selby Browne told Wired868, “because he had 60 days to pick a date he could be present.
“Saying he was on FIFA business is nonsense. It is not as if FIFA told him on Monday, ‘find yourself in Zurich tomorrow.’ FIFA’s business is scheduled well in advance.”
Once more, Davis, Latapy-George and Cunningham had no answers for the meeting while the TTFA’s financial officer, Tyril Patrick, was absent. Despite being cash-strapped, the local football body still has not formed a financial committee—although John-Williams is already halfway through his term as president.
“We asked why the financial officer was not there to answer our questions,” said Look Loy, “and the response from the chair, Davis, was that the financial officer changed recently and the new person couldn’t answer questions on the previous period. But that is ludicrous. He has been there for several months and he should be up to speed with what is happening.”
For the third time in the last four meetings, Latapy-George failed to forward necessary documents to the members. On this occasion, the general secretary did not pass on the TTFA’s activity report, which was meant to list the going-ons at the football body in 2016.
“[Latapy-George] got up and started reading and we are there trying to jot down points but it was impossible,” said the anonymous TTFA member. “By the time we were four or five pages in, Osmond got up on a point of order and asked for it to be deferred to the same meeting where we will be considering the financial statement.
“When the secretary called the AGM, all these documents should have been circulated so people will have time and opportunity to study them and make valuable contributions.”
TTFA board meetings are usually poorly attended and, at a reconvened meeting, any turn-out would constitute a quorum. Yet, according to Browne, such was the interest in the football body’s financial statement that at least 35 persons showed up.
“The financial statement says TT$1.26 million was spent on legal fees,” said Browne. “Well, I want to know about the television rights dispute [with Telemundo]. That entire business [of refusing to allow them to exercise their contract] was the action of a lunatic.
“There were also no-brainers like going to court with [former general secretary] Sheldon Phillips. There is no defence for that because you can’t win those things in court. All you are doing is pushing up your legal fees!”
The anonymous member pointed to a line item called “Technical expenses” on the financial statement, which mushroomed from roughly TT$15 million in 2015 to just under TT$32 million in John-Williams’ first year in office.
“Professional fees”—which the members interpret as meaning coaching salaries—is a sub-section of Technical expenses, which has shot up from TT$6 million under Tim Kee to over TT$15 million under the current president.
“The statement says some TT$15 million were spent on Technical expenses but there are no details,” said the member. “Nobody knows all the people who were employed and who was paid what. And nobody was there to answer.”
The payment of coaches is a particularly touchy area for members since the current administration has hired more than a half-dozen persons linked to Pro League club, W Connection, which is owned by the president.
The National Under-14 boy’s team, which is fully funded by the NLCB, is almost entirely made up of Connection staff with Stuart Charles-Fevrier (head coach), Leonson Lewis, Clyde Leon (both assistant coaches), Aquelius Sylvester (goalkeeper coach), Troy Boodoosingh (medic) and Gary St Rose (general manager) all linked to the president’s club. The team manager, Wesley Webb, remains the most expensive signing in Connection’s history.
“Are these people getting double salaries?” asked the anonymous TTFA member. “Are they getting money from W Connection? Or TTFA? Or both?
“Is the TTFA paying W Connection’s coaching salaries?”
Cunningham told Wired868 that the postponement of the meeting did not necessarily mean that the board members present were unable to answer questions.
“The members wanted to hear from the President direct so everybody agreed to that,” said Cunningham. “They said they don’t want second-hand information. And also there was a report that wasn’t circulated and they wanted to see it themselves.”
Browne suggested that Cunningham’s version was not entirely accurate.
“Cunningham said [Latapy-George] can answer for financial matters,” said Browne, “and the General Secretary said no.”
Wired868 asked Cunningham if he could answer the financial queries of the membership.
“That is not my thing,” said Cunningham. “I see my role on the board as looking out for the interests of the zonal bodies.”
According to the TTFA’s Constitution, Latapy-George is supposed to handle the day-to-day operation of the football body on the say-so of the Board. However, stakeholders do not believe this is happening.
“The secretary should know everything that goes on but that doesn’t seem to be the case here,” said the source. “Some people are even feeling sorry for the secretary because he is being kept in the dark about many things. Or, at least, that is the impression we get.”
“Neither the board nor directors nor the general secretary are, on a daily basis, au courant with what is transpiring in the TTFA,” said Browne, “because you have two meetings without the president and nobody on the board can say what is the position on ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’.”
Look Loy was not as sympathetic towards the supposed bystanders.
“Whatever problems anyone might have, the point is it is not [John-Williams and his slate] who are supposed to govern but the Board,” said the TTSL president. “And they have not been exercising due diligence in the running of the organisation. They have been letting things slide and by that I mean slide into the abyss.
“Good governance by the Board is essential in rescuing the TTFA from itself. The Board has to exercise leadership. I think the governance of the Association is the problem.”
Look Loy was recently nominated to the Board and attended his first board meeting this year. He will get his chance to impose himself soon enough.
Look Loy and Browne both submitted detailed lists of questions about the running of the football body to the TTFA president, general secretary and Board last year. The former said he is not satisfied that his queries were properly answered while the latter got no more than an acknowledgement.
“The general secretary acknowledged receipt [of my list of questions] but there has been no attempt whatsoever to reply,” said Browne. “It tells me you are not prepared to answer questions of accountability, management of the finances and your fiduciary stewardship.
“[…] Anybody who is not prepared to answer that runs the risk of having people believe you have something to hide.”
Look Loy pointed out that the issues at the AGM went beyond unanswered questions.
“They told us the AGM would be held at the Couva Cycling Centre first, then, without notice, they changed it to the Media Room in the Ato Boldon Stadium,” he said, “So all during the meeting, people are calling me and asking if the meeting is still on because they are at the Cycling Centre and they are not seeing anybody there.
“I made the comment in closing the agenda that the performance of the Board and the Executive was particularly shoddy and woeful. I mean, they can’t even stage a meeting?”