It has been seven weeks since Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams assured stakeholders at an extraordinary general meeting that, although he had not handed over documents related to the US$2.25 million FIFA-funded project, members were free to drop in at the local football body’s headquarters to review the information at any time.
TTFA board member and Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president Keith Look Loy is the only known person to have attempted to take John-Williams up on the offer so far. And, even then, it took a pre-action protocol letter—issued on 10 July—before John-Williams, the chairman of the TTFA board, even acknowledged the request from a fellow board member.
Still, even at the risk of another court case, the TTFA president continues to resist the call to immediately open up the football books to stakeholders.
Instead, John-Williams, through the TTFA’s attorney, Annand Misir, suggested that he was only willing to allow Look Loy to peruse the football body’s spending after 10 August 2018. There was a caveat too, as Misir twice hinted at FIFA intervention regarding the request for transparency.
On 24 July—the deadline given by Look Loy’s pre-action protocol letter—Misir suggested that he was confused as to whether the board member was representing himself legally, since he continued to email John-Williams after his lawyer’s missive.
“Can you confirm whether you are still representing Mr Look Loy and whether your said pre-action letter does still obtain?” stated Misir. “Or is Mr Look Loy now representing himself? We will need to notify the FIFA accordingly…”
Misir then said John-Williams was only willing to allow Look Loy access to the TTFA’s financial documents after 10 August.
“Notwithstanding the need for clarification, my client has agreed to allow Mr Look Loy to view the documentation requested,” stated Misir, “and I have been instructed to ask for proposed dates when the process can be undertaken—we are looking at dates from the 10 August 2018 onwards…”
Look Loy’s legal team of Matthew Gayle, Sheriza Khan and Dr Emir Crowne were unimpressed by what they saw as an attempt to stall by John-Williams and his general secretary Justin Latapy-George.
“[…] As a board member my client has sought this information and is entitled to continue requesting the information,” stated Gayle, “until it has been provided in the proper ongoing performance of his duty as a director. This is an aspect which, in my client’s respectful view, the TTFA’s president and general secretary fall woefully short.
“[…] It is somewhat surprising that you have written at the eleventh-hour seeking, in effect, an extension of time within which to comply with Mr Look Loy’s demands. This is particularly concerning since the information and/or documents sought ought properly to be readily available at a moments notice; and you have given no reason for the extended time period for compliance or for the restrictions you seek to place on my client’s access.”
Remarkably, Misir suggested that—notwithstanding John-Williams’ promise to the football body, almost two months ago—it was Look Loy who owed it to the football president to explain his desire to see the books so promptly.
“In terms of your demand of the 25 July 2018 (at 2:49pm) for your client to access the documents the next morning,” stated Misir, “my client was unable [to] facilitate this at such short notice—you have failed to offer any reason whatsoever for the urgency of your client’s request.
“[…] I am instructed to reiterate the invitation to your client that he proposes dates after the 10 August 2018 (at his convenience) when this process can be undertaken.”
However, once more, Misir mentioned FIFA.
“[John-Williams] has confirmed that this matter is now being investigated by the FIFA,” he said, “and accordingly this correspondence, like my previous letter, remains a privileged document.”
What does FIFA have to do with Look Loy’s request for financial information, which is in keeping with the TTFA’s FIFA-approved constitution?
Wired868 asked John-Williams to explain FIFA’s involvement in the matter and his delay in showing the requested data. Was FIFA really investigating? Or was it a ruse to ask for a further delay in the future?
The TTFA president’s only response was that Wired868 should contact his lawyer.
At present, the local courts are on vacation; and will remain closed until September. It is unlikely that Look Loy’s legal team will ask a judge to break his or her vacation to hear the case, which means John-Williams could feasibly stall until then and still avoid another court matter.
Thus far, Look Loy’s request for financial transparency has been supported in writing by Central Football Association (CFA) general secretary Clynt Taylor, Northern Football Association (NFA) president Anthony Harford and Veteran Footballers Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago (VFFOTT) president Selby Browne.
However, CFA official, Collin Partap, is the only board member to openly support the TTSL president’s appeal.
At present, the TTFA board comprises of: John-Williams (president), Joanne Salazar and Ewing Davis (vice-presidents), Karanjabari Williams (NFA), Richard Quan Chan (Southern FA), Anthony Moore (Tobago FA), Joseph Taylor (Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association), Sharon Warrick (Women’s League Football), Julia Baptiste (TT Pro League), Partap (CFA) and Look Loy (TTSL).
TTFA vice-president Allan Warner is suspended for repeated absences, Sherwyn Dyer is sidelined due to the non-compliance of the Eastern Counties Football Union (ECFU) and the Eastern Football Association (EFA) is yet to replace its representative, Wayne Cunningham, who was blocked from serving on the board due to his dual role as a TTFA press officer.
An official from another sporting field, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested that Look Loy’s inability to win the support of the TTFA board was important, as it allowed John-Williams to use the football body’s resources to defy internal calls for transparency.
“No matter how repugnant [John-Williams’] behaviour might be, he is acting in his capacity as the president of the organisation and chairman of the board,” said the official, “and, as such, has a right to use the TTFA’s lawyer for legal advice, unless he is defending a position that is so negligent as to breach fiducial responsibility.
“It is only if [John-Williams] is acting in defiance of the board will his use of the TTFA’s attorney to defend his position become debatable.
“So, if there is a board decision on this, which person is it that is not prepared to accept the collective decision? […] Usually when one has such a fundamental difference with a head of organisation, that person would step down; because it can become untenable.”
Look Loy was defiant, though, and insisted that he would not give up the fight for transparency.
“That anonymous official could not possibly be serious,” he retorted. “I fight for my right and the right of every TTFA member to know our money us spent, the TTFA president continuously denies this right, and I am the one who should resign?!
“Is there any doubt why administrative rot is to be found everywhere in Trinidad and Tobago sport?”
For his part, Gayle suggested, perhaps predictably, that Look Loy was on the right side of this battle—legally and morally.
“I think it is extremely regrettable that it has come to the point of my client having to send a letter from his lawyer,” Gayle told Wired868, “to see the documents he has a right to see; and even more regrettable is the fact they didn’t make the documents immediately available as soon as they received the letter.
“It is particularly worrying for us because we are left to wonder what the reason for the delay might be.”