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TTFA handles expenses for I95.5FM reporters to cover UAE game; Latapy-George in the dark

More than five months after the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s (TTFA) membership demanded details on a secret deal hammered out between president David John-Williams and I95.5FM, the station’s sport trio of Andre Baptiste and brothers Tony Lee and Wayne Lee continue to privately enjoy the patronage of the local football body.

This morning, Baptiste and the Lee brothers left for Girona in Spain, via Miami and Barcelona, where they will watch and report on the Soca Warriors’ international friendly against the United Arab Emirates.

Photo: I95.5FM reporters Andre Baptiste (centre) and Tony Lee (right) speak to Trinidad and Tobago’s 200m Commonwealth Games gold medalist Jereem Richards at the Gold Coast in Australia on 13 April 2018.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

All expenses for their trip were allegedly taken care of by the local football body. Sources informed Wired868 that a TTFA official included the cost of airfare and accommodation for the I95.5FM trio in the expenses for the National Senior Team, which was then forwarded to the UAE match agent.

However, TTFA general secretary Justin Latapy-George said he is in the dark about the mysterious arrangement with the radio station—which often covers and comments on issues related to the local football body.

“I am not familiar with [anything to do with the I95.5FM trio’s trip to Spain],” Latapy-George told Wired868. “I can tell you anything about the team and the management. But anything outside of that falls outside my purview and you would have to speak directly to the president.”

According to the TTFA constitution, Latapy is the Chief Executive Officer of the local football body and has direct responsibility for the general secretariat.

The general secretariat, according to article 58, is “responsible for carrying out all the administrative work of TTFA under the direction of the general secretary.” The constitution does not allow John-Williams to directly instruct local football staff, as would an executive president.

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 against Police FC in the TTFA FA Trophy final at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 8 December 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Yet, although the TTFA has paid for Baptiste and Lee to travel to more than a half dozen matches on foreign soil over the last year, Latapy-George said none of the details for those trips passed through him. And, although the general secretary was familiar with the arrangement between the TTFA and the UAE’s match agent, he never saw any mention of the I95.5FM employees.

Last week, the TTFA released a list of 20 players and 11 technical staff members for the UAE affair but there was no mention of Baptiste and the Lees. And while the Soca Warriors left for Spain on Sunday—barring W Connection forward Marcus Joseph, who traveled separately as he does not have a US visa—the three reporters were put on a different flight, which left Piarco two days later.

At a general meeting on 31 March 2018, TTFA members ordered John-Williams to produce a copy of the contract with I95.5FM, reveal the figure paid to the radio station and prove that the “sweetheart deal” had Board approval.

Almost six months later, John-Williams still has not disclosed what he promised to I95.5FM and/or Baptiste and the Lee brothers; and what he and/or the local football body get in return.

Latapy-George said he has never see any such contract.

“That arrangement [with I95.5FM] was put in place before I came on board,” said Latapy-George. “I don’t know anything about it.”

Photo: TTFA general secretary Justin Latapy-George (right) poses with Panama ambassador Luis Cigarruista Vargas.
(Copyright TTFA Media)

A rough estimate of the value of the trip for Baptiste and the Lees is TT$50,000.

Ironically, the TTFA opted not to include its veteran press officer, Shaun Fuentes, in the travelling contingent to Spain. Fuentes, a former Trinidad Guardian journalist, was a member of the Warriors staff at the Germany 2006 World Cup and has worked as a press officer for FIFA and Concacaf.

Not for the first time, Fuentes’ place in the technical staff went to board member and Eastern Football Association representative, Wayne Cunningham.

Four months ago, the TTFA membership ordered that Cunningham choose between duties as a board member and a press officer, since they felt the two roles created the potential for a conflict of interest. However, Cunningham continues to resist the membership’s directive, on the grounds that he does not consider himself an employee of the football body.

As with his secret arrangement with I95.5FM, John-Williams, who is the chairman of the TTFA board, has consistently denied fellow board members the chance to review spending of the football body and contracts related to the controversial US$2.25 million Home of Football project.

Last week, board member and Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president Keith Look Loy filed with the Port of Spain High Court, in an effort to force John-Williams to open up the TTFA’s accounting books.

Photo: (From right) FIFA official Veron Mosengo-Omba, Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe and TTFA president David John-Williams inspect the TTFA’s Home of Football in Couva on 20 August 2018.
(Courtesy Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)

Wired868 tried unsuccessfully to reach John-Williams by telephone, while the website sent him the following question on the I95.5FM issue:

“Can you tell me why the TTFA has had plane tickets issued to Andre Baptiste, Anthony Lee Aping and Wayne Lee Aping by the UAE match agent for the upcoming international friendly?

“And can you explain the nature of the relationship between the TTFA and I95.5FM; and why details have not been provided of such to your board and members?”

Up until the time of publication, John-Williams had not responded.

Baptiste and the Lee brothers—despite speaking frequently on local football issues—have been tightlipped about their own secret deal with the TTFA.

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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