Eleven clubs from the Eastern Football Association of Trinidad and Tobago (EFATT) made a show of strength last night at the Tunapuna Government Secondary, as they removed president Linus Sanchez from his role, after a successful no confidence motion.
The motion, which was moved by Malabar FC president Julius Edwards and seconded by FC Maloney coach Shurland David, listed six reasons for their loss of confidence in Sanchez:
- Failing to activate standing committees—including disciplinary, appeals and tournament committees—to “effectively support management of activity conducted by the association”, despite two and a half years in office;
- Deficiencies in “exercising protocol and understanding constitutional and organisational procedures”;
- Lack of transparency in communication with member clubs;
- Manipulation of process to replace existing executive members against constitutional guidelines;
- The departure of long standing East Zone member clubs due to claims of unfair treatment;
- Failure to properly pass information on to member clubs regarding Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) business and training and development programmes.
“We believe the present EFATT president Mr Linus Sanchez is a liability to the Association,” stated the motion, “and his continued stewardship will not only erode the status and recognition of our Association but deplete competitiveness in our competitions.”
EFATT general secretary Royette Williams was more blunt.
“The only thing he cares about is meeting the TTFA president [David John-Williams] to drink Bacardi or whatever he does be sipping on,” Williams told Wired868.
Sanchez did not attend the extraordinary general meeting and insisted that it was invalid.
“That meeting for a no confidence motion can’t go anyway because there is no proof that those people paid money,” said Sanchez. “Membership is only valid with proof of membership. Malabar FC never paid any money, so how can they move a motion?
“[…] All those clubs are is a group of interested entities with a common cause.”
Williams disputed Sanchez’s claim though, and, at the Tunapuna Government Secondary, the representatives were asked to show up with receipts for their 2018 membership fees. Several of the officials, including the Malabar president, showed those receipts to Wired868.
Sanchez is believed to be an ally of TTFA president David John-Williams and the clubs said they were not naive enough to believe it was a done deal. First vice-president Bandele Kamau, who is also a TTFA match commissioner, chaired the meeting at painstaking pace, out of an abundance of caution.
It took close to an hour of testimonies from the various officials, on each of the six points listed in the no confidence motion, before Kamau called for a vote by secret ballot.
The 11 clubs at the school represented 78 percent of the EFATT’s electorate—Williams said there were 14 paid members. Edwards and David needed eight votes for their motion to succeed. But they got all 11.
The teams that voted were: Red Hill FC, Malabar FC, La Horquetta XF, Pinto United Sports Club, Trinity Rangers FC, Creek SCC, Terminix Lighting, WASA FC, FC Maloney, Hearts of Maloney and Bon Air FC. Hearts of Maloney and Bon Air are both new to the league.
Malabar Superstars, Barataria Ball Players and Zion Gates were all absent, while Knights FC were said to be “not financial.”
Immediately, WASA FC official Lennon Jones moved a motion to remove Sanchez as president, which was seconded by La Horquetta XF representative Dave Quamina. And a month after Edwards and David drew up their petition and began approaching fellow clubs for support, Sanchez was out—in accordance with article 38 in the EFATT constitution, which mirrors the TTFA’s guiding document.
It appears to be a sharp fall from grace for Sanchez, who looked to be a breath of fresh air when he replaced Wayne Cunningham as president in 2015.
“I inherited the most corrupt association in zonal football,” said Sanchez, of the organisation that ran under the direct patronage of disgraced ex-FIFA vice-president Jack Warner with his minion, Neville Ferguson, as general secretary.
Yet, Sanchez opted to keep the ousted Cunningham as the EFATT’s representative on the TTFA board. And he soon irked clubs by refusing to honour the zone’s debts for unpaid prize money during the Cunningham/Ferguson era.
“Edwards came telling me Neville Ferguson owing him prize money and because of that I should allow Malabar to play without paying [an annual registration fee of TT$3,500],” said Sanchez. “Shurland David said the same thing. I said I am here to correct the mistakes of Neville Ferguson; and nobody is coming to the EFA again to play for free under my watch.”
Within a year, the cracks were beginning to show between the EFATT president and the membership.
“This motion is down to the misrepresentation of the grassroots,” said Edwards. “We are the first step in the ladder from amateur to semi-pro to pro. But Linus Sanchez is very weak when it comes to listening to the concerns of the clubs.
“[…] Last season, he didn’t even attend a single game. There is nothing from him about making the league better. We have been trying to work with him but we are not getting anywhere.”
In 2017, the clubs called a meeting with John-Williams to voice their displeasure. It had been five seasons without any prize money or end of season function—a barren run started under Cunningham and Ferguson—and they were frustrated with their direction under Sanchez.
The TTFA president, according to Edwards, Sanchez and Williams, promised to pay the membership fees for all 14 clubs for the season as well as prize money for the competition itself.
However, John-Williams did not live up to the financial commitment.
“Since then, we are calling [John-Williams] and he is not answering his phone,” said Edwards.
Sanchez said the EFATT clubs had to understand and appreciate the TTFA’s financial woes.
“The president of TTFA promised to pay all registration fees and never paid a cent,” said Sanchez. “But the reason the promise was never kept was because of minimal funding available. He never said he wasn’t going to pay. He said when the funding is there, the money will be paid.”
The clubs saw Sanchez’s perceived unwillingness to chase the TTFA debt as further evidence of his detachment from their hardships and concerns.
Edwards pointed to the EFATT’s stance on grounds. Sanchez insisted that all games must start at 6:30pm. However, since most community venues do not have adequate lighting, the league now plays the majority of its fixtures in Maloney, Five Rivers and the Arima Old Road.
Malabar FC, according to Edwards, has an agreement with the Larry Gomes Stadium management, which allows the club to use the 10,000-seater venue as their home ground in any TTFA-affiliated competition. However, the state-owned stadium does not have lights.
“As a community team, our community helps us raise funds to buy uniforms and thing with barbecues and raffles,” said Edwards, who claimed Malabar are owed TT$55,000 in prize money. “But then when the season starts, that same community can’t see us play because we have to play all our home games outside.
“This is a problem for us and we want to have regular meetings [with the EFATT] to share ideas on things like this. But as it is, we meet once a season and nobody is addressing our concerns.”
Sanchez explained that the zonal divisions are less attractive to referees than the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), Pro League and Super League (TTSL) competitions, which all have weekend fixtures. This forces the EFATT to play during the week, so as to be sure that match officials will turn up.
And, while some Pro League and TTSL matches, have early kick offs on weekdays. Sanchez dismissed the notion out of hand.
“We are not playing any 4.30pm game, because 4pm is when people now finish work and you will playing in an empty ground,” said Sanchez. “We don’t play at venues that don’t have lights; we want to use community grounds with lights. That is our vision.”
Edwards pointed to another issue last season when Malabar FC lodged a protest against Beatnix, who won the EFATT competition by one point and went on to play in the TTFA’s Champion of Champions competition—which offers promotion to the TTSL.
“We paid TT$1,000 to appeal,” said the Malabar coach, “and then they tell us there is no [TTFA] appeals committee. We never even got our money back. So where our TT$1,000 gone?!”
Neither the TTFA nor the EFATT has an appeals committee. But Sanchez said he followed up on the protest himself. Six Beatnix players represented an unnamed club in the Central Football Association last year and Edwards did not believe they were properly transferred.
But Sanchez said CFA general secretary Clynt Taylor assured him that the players’ transfers were legitimate. Case closed?
Sanchez thought so. But Edwards, like other EFATT clubs, has grown unconvinced by his president.
“I believe the East Zone executive, in collaboration with the TTFA, have no respect for what we are doing at grassroots level to keep youths off the street,” said Edwards. “The North Zone league almost finish, the Central league almost finish but East Zone ent even start yet. [Sanchez] never even comes to any of our games to see what’s going on and to see what clubs are complaining about.
“So I heard the cries of the clubs and I put in this motion. Enough is enough. Somebody has to stand up.”
As Edwards’ motion began to gain momentum—supported by Quamina—Sanchez confronted his general secretary, Williams, who is also Quamina’s wife, about a supposed financial discrepancy and tried to sack her.
“There were no checks and balances for our audited statement in 2016,” said Sanchez, who pointed to a cheque drawn by his general secretary. “So I was looking for 2017 to be an improvement on that; and it was the same thing. I told her to show me the books and that caused a very unpleasant end to our last executive meeting.
“[…] It was hard for me to do but I read the constitution that gave me the authority as president to revoke the appointment. It is not something I wanted to do but when I meet that kind of adversarial position from someone who can do better but chose not to; I have to take action.”
Sanchez said the EFATT missed its compliance deadline for 2017 and placed the blame squarely on Williams, whose appointment he revoked by email.
“Good evening mr vice president, my apologies on the timing of this correspondence,” Sanchez wrote to Kamau at 10:01pm on 30 August. “However I must inform you that henceforth the general secretary of EFATT is Ms Ingrid Bernard. Please be guided accordingly.”
Article 39.3 of the EFATT constitution states: “Only the president may propose the appointment or dismissal of the general secretary.” While article 36 (f) says the EFATT board “shall appoint or dismiss the general secretary on the proposal of the President.”
Kamau interpreted those clauses differently to Sanchez.
“No Mr President, you do not have that authority,” Kamau replied. “According to the constitution you can recommend removal or appointment of a general secretary. You cannot solely make such decision. Therefore that decision to remove the general secretary is null and void according to the constitution.”
Williams denied Sanchez’s accusation of dishonesty. Her position as EFATT general secretary is an unpaid one and the zonal body does not have an office. So, Williams does much of her duties at her regular job and has club officials meet her there.
It is scenario that, according to Williams, does not always lend itself to best practices.
“From since I took over, I have a good relationship with [East Zone referees representative Kurt] Harry,” she said. “[The EFATT] has a chequing account but the referees don’t want a cheque. So I would withdraw cash from my funds and then the East Zone would have to refund me.
“So a lot of the cheques [from EFATT] were made out in my name. Sanchez told me before that it was not a problem… I could account for every dollar. I am one to one who spends my money on the East Zone, every time I print a transfer form or make a phone call. Not the other way around!”
TTFA general secretary Justin Latapy-George disputed Sanchez’s claim that the EFATT was non-compliant or that the FA had any issue with the zone.
“I can only speak for 2016 and they are compliant,” said Latapy-George. “There was an agreed deadline for 2017 but that has not reached yet. The date set for the S2017 submission is 30 September 2018.”
Kamau, Williams and board member Dharia Nelson-Seales insisted that the EFATT general secretary slammed an envelope on the table with the body’s accounts when Sanchez challenged her at their last executive meeting. Sanchez denied this.
“I have my documents in the back of my car all the time,” Williams told Wired868. “He is a compulsive liar. I was going to leave because this thing does not pay me and Mr Sanchez is not a nice person. But everyone begged me to stay until they can sort things out in the zone.
“The general secretary is a paid position and I should have office and office space. But I have been running this thing for three years out of a box, and I have never gotten a dollar. And nobody has even offered, whether for gas, or my phone calls or my printouts or whatever.
“I really think I have had enough now.”
Williams was at the Tunapuna Government Secondary last night, though, as 11 clubs voted that they had enough of Sanchez.
Kamau will serve as interim president until the EFATT can put an electoral committee in place to hold its elections.
His first order of business, he told Wired868, is to get the league running so that one of their representative clubs will have a chance at promotion to the TTSL. But he also wants to help usher in a new philosophy at administrative level.
“We want to have buy in from the clubs so they can have a leading role, rather than the executive dictate what takes place,” said Kamau, a retiree and former WASA FC chairman. “We will seek to have all the judicial bodies and so appointed, so we can have a good support base in administrating football.”
It is left to be seen whether Sanchez will seek the assistance of the TTFA—and, in particular, John-Williams—to thwart the EFATT revolution and hang on to power.