Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams skipped the football body’s extraordinary general meeting in Couva yesterday while, according to a doctor’s note, he also declared himself too unwell to travel to the Port-of-Spain Industrial Court for a trial date on 4 July in a football-related matter.
Yet, on 9 June, John-Williams is apparently booked to fly to Moscow—an at least 17-hour excursion—to attend a FIFA Congress and, possibly, the opening of the Russia 2018 World Cup Finals tournament.
The W Connection owner has not confirmed yet whether he will be on that flight—along with vice-president Ewing Davis and general secretary Justin Latapy-George—but Davis allegedly told members yesterday that the football president will travel “subject to medical clearance.”
John-Williams’ stance provoked outrage by some TTFA members, who spent the last seven months trying to prise from the official answers about his stewardship of the football body and, in particular, spending relating to the controversial Home of Football project.
“If you’re in your third year of operation and you can’t pass your financial statement from your first year of operation,” Veteran Footballers Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago (VFFOTT) president Selby Browne told Wired868, “that tells you you’re in a rut; […] the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association is in a sad state of affairs right now.
“[…] Imagine if you are prime minister and you’re flying out while your country is in a state of crisis. Clearly you would have to take the decision to defer your trip—but I know that ent happening now around World Cup time.”
TTFA board member and Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president Keith Look Loy suggested that the John-Williams faction has exhausted its goodwill and committed a fatal misjudgment.
Because the next meeting is a reconvened one, a quorum will be declared no matter who shows up. And, with John-Williams and his trusted deputy, Davis, both likely to be abroad, there is the possibility that rivals would use the opportunity to move motions damaging to his hold on the football body.
“Today signals the end of the John-Williams administration because that next meeting will see a whole series of things [moved against him],” said Look Loy. “[…] Because they could put the next meeting at midnight on the moon, we are coming!
“And it is clear from the mood of the 21 delegates [yesterday] that people are absolutely fed up with the financial mismanagement, lack of leadership, the lack of transparency in the TTFA’s operations and their inability to provide answers to legitimate questions that people have been asking for over a year.”
Yesterday, the EGM failed to make a quorum by 9:30am and was promptly called off by acting chair, Davis. The failure to get numbers out was not altogether a surprise, as it was held on a public holiday and the football president—in an uncharacteristic move for him—told members a day in advance that he would not be attending owing to medical reasons.
John-Williams was injured in a mysterious “accident” on 29 April and has kept a low profile ever since. The official and his family have refused to give details about the incident. However, a medical source told Wired868 that the administrator was allegedly hurt after a fall at the Home of Football construction site.
If John-Williams was indeed hurt there, it again raises questions about his involvement in the FIFA-funded project, since the TTFA Board voted last month to take control away from the president and, at the same meeting on 31 March, John-Williams vowed to completely distance himself from the works. Yet, just last week, on 28 May, two videos on the Home of Football project were uploaded on John-Williams’ personal YouTube channel.
Despite repeated requests from the TTFA membership and Board, neither John-Williams nor Latapy-George has presented contracts for works at the Home of Football project.
Northern Football Association (NFA) president and All Sport Promotion director Anthony Harford said he was confounded by the football president’s apparent refusal to accept the instructions of his membership.
“You are sending out video after video and even bypassing the TTFA’s normal channels,” said Harford. “So clearly it is a project that he continues to [play a role in] although the last meeting ordered that the president not be involved.
“[…] There is no submission in any board minutes of a company being awarded any contract at the Home of Football and yet work is going on.”
Look Loy also condemned John-Williams’ behaviour.
“The man is using TTFA resources and publishing on his official YouTube channel [and] I understand he was told it is wrong and yet he continues,” said the TTFA board member. “He is refusing to comply with the directive of the Board and the directive of the general membership, which is to produce the contracts and an official report on the Home of Football to the general membership.
“He has not done either but he is sending out nonsense on YouTube.”
Yesterday marked the TTFA membership’s fifth attempt in seven months to get answers on the financial stewardship of the John-Williams-led administration. The football president was absent for two of those meetings—yesterday was his third no-show—while another failed to reach a quorum.
Davis acted within the scope of the constitution when he called off yesterday’s meeting as they were one person short of a quorum at the designated time. Although some eyewitnesses argued that he could have shown some flexibility, it being a public holiday and the required number having been achieved before 9:35am.
“At the stroke of half-past, he called off the meeting,” said one source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “[Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association vice-president] Osmond Downer told him: ‘You ever heard about a chairman’s watch?’ A decent chairman, who wanted the meeting to go on in the interest of everybody would say, ‘According to my watch I have five minutes remaining, so let’s wait to see.’
“As they were arguing, a man walked in and Downer said, ‘Mr Chairman, look we have a quorum and it is only three minutes past’. But Ewing said no, no.
“By the time, they had finished arguing, three more people had walked in. It is clear that [Davis] came there to not have the meeting. Constitutionally, he was right but [he could have used] discretion.”
Harford said Davis might have waited a few minutes for the meeting to achieve a quorum yesterday. However, he insisted that the blame lay solely with delegates, who were unwilling to make the necessary sacrifice to see about the business of football—to the detriment of the bodies they represent.
“We have people who are demanding change but are showing an indifference to attending meetings,” said Harford. “Yes, there has been a pattern of [John-Williams] choosing difficult days […] but if something is important enough, then let us come out and just get this over with it.
“We gave David [John-Williams] 60 days to produce the documents [on the Home of Football] and it was clear to me that the documents were not available [yesterday]. There was almost a glee for Ewing Davis to say there was no quorum so we could not continue.
“Had we had a quorum, it would have been a red-letter day for Trinidad and Tobago’s football. Because people who came came prepared to ask hard questions about those [missing] documents.”
Among the absentees yesterday were board members Joanne Salazar (vice-president), Karanjabari Williams (NFA), Anthony Moore (Tobago FA) and Joseph Taylor (TTFRA), as well as Eastern Football Association (EFA) president Linus Sanchez and the Tobago Football Association’s (TFA) representatives.
Wired868 understands the Tobago members claimed they could not get tickets to Trinidad owing to the spike in inter-island travel as a result of the holidays.
Notably, the TTFA’s 14-member board has haemorrhaged full members over the past two years and now has just eight members with voting rights, as the Eastern Counties Football Union (ECFU) was suspended for non-compliance, vice-president Allan Warner was suspended for missing over five consecutive meetings while the Women’s League of Football (WOLF), Central Football Association (CFA), EFA and Pro League changed representatives and must wait until the next AGM to have their full authority restored.
“It is a lame duck, hamstrung board and a joke,” said Look Loy. “Half the people who come to meetings can’t vote… It is a further indication of an institution in disarray.”
At yesterday’s EGM, Browne suggested that the Fraud Squad could be brought in to investigate the Home of Football project.
“It was clear that those documents [relating to the Home of Football project] don’t exist from what we are hearing at board level,” said Browne. “Failing that, [John-Williams] will be operating without the due permission of the Board and disbursing funds and entering into contracts without the due permission of the Board.
“In normal business, we would have the Fraud Squad for that.”
Would the VFFOTT president move a motion to pass the matter on to the Fraud Squad?
“It must be actively considered because that is what happens in private enterprise,” said Browne. “That can only happen once the next meeting is convened so we will see on the 13th.”
Harford suggested that the current impasse is bad for the image of football, no matter the eventual outcome.
“Football is right on the very edge of the cliff,” said Harford. “And at the next meeting, things can turn for the worse for John-Williams and for the game. If we are not provided with the documents and this ends up with an [police] investigation, then who will suffer? Not football?
“This is what democracy is about and democracy is working. I am fine with that. But these things affect our ability to get people to invest in football.
“[…] It might be seen [as] a purge and investors who look at it that way may want to come in. But [companies] are very particular about their reputation and might be afraid to suffer reputational damage by getting involved in the football now.”
Look Loy insisted there is no turning back now for the John-Williams faction.
“It is clear from the mood of the unofficial talks [yesterday] that people are fed up and will be coming [on 13 June] to make hard decisions on the future of the John-Williams administration,” he said. “They have lost all legitimacy. All! They are in a dilemma because it might have been in their interest to have the meeting [yesterday].
“Now they have to choose between the trips they love to make and their political future in the TTFA… Calling the EGM on Indian Arrival Day is consistent with their policy of calling meetings on difficult days and borders on being disrespectful and even racist.
“The 60-day [deadline to have the EGM] expires on Corpus Christi and they could have called it then or last weekend. These people are just too contemptuous of the membership of the TTFA and we will make a decision on their future.”
Harford suggested that the responsible thing for John-Williams to do, would be to skip the free trip to Russia.
“I think he has been on the verge of a no confidence motion for a while and people have been sparing him for a while,” said Harford. “Selby Browne made the statement [yesterday] that it is like they are seeing a coup happening in front of their faces but they are insisting on going to Russia.”
The TTFA’s members will not be the only ones interested in John-Williams’ travel plans.
The Industrial Court may also want to know why the football president believes he cannot withstand a half-hour drive to Port-of-Spain—to answer questions in a TT$2 million legal dispute with former TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips—when he is willing to fly halfway across the world and through several time zones to meet his FIFA colleagues and, potentially, watch a high-profile football match.
Given the current mutinous mood, it could prove to be his last trip as TTFA president.