Shawn Cooper will lead the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team into the next week’s Concacaf Championship, after his proposed selection was finally brought before the board of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) last night.
Faced with a choice of Cooper and American Randy Waldrum—with just six days left before the team’s opening fixture against Panama—members voted to stick with Cooper, who will hold the job until 30 October when there will be a reassessment of his position. He will be assisted by former midfielder Dernelle Mascall and current squad member Ayana Russell.
The appointment of the Women Soca Warriors coach was one of several contentious issues brought before the TTFA board last night, including: the state of the Men’s National Under-17 and Under-20 teams, Wayne Cunningham’s joint role as board member and press officer, the denial of voting rights to a quarter of the board, the secret resignation of vice-president Joanne Salazar, and president David John-Williams’ initial count of nine votes from eight recognised board members for Cooper.
On 11 September, Salazar resigned from the TTFA with immediate effect and informed John-Williams and general secretary Justin Latapy-George of such in writing. However, John-Williams ordered Latapy-George to keep her decision hidden from the board; and it took another 10 days before football stakeholders were informed—after Salazar told them herself.
Last night, the football president, according to board member Keith Look Loy, claimed the delay was because he had not yet accepted her resignation.
“He claimed that he took that time to talk to her about the resignation; and [fellow board member Anthony] Moore supported that,” Look Loy told Wired868. “I held to the view that he denied information to the board and that he lacked transparency; and that was supported by [another board member Collin] Partap.
“Partap made the point she resigned with immediate effect and advised the board ten days later that it was with immediate effect, so there was nothing to discuss. I asked if he didn’t accept her resignation, does that mean she remains a VP.
“But in the end, as chair, he closed the discussion with consensus acceptance of the resignation.”
At present, the TTFA board has 11 members who are: John-Williams (president), Ewing Davis (vice-president), Richard Quan Chan (Southern FA), Moore (Tobago FA), Cunningham (Eastern FA), Karanjabari Williams (Northern FA), Joseph Taylor (Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association), Look Loy (TTSL), Julia Baptiste (TT Pro League), Sharon Warrick (Women’s League Football) and Partap (Central Football Association).
John-Williams, according to Look Loy, can rely on support from Davis, Quan Chan, Moore and Cunningham before he has even voiced whatever motion he has in mind, which means he has a block of five votes.
So John-Williams fashioned his own majority by denying the right to vote to Baptiste, Warrick and Partap, on the grounds that they were provisional members. He has offered no proof from the constitution to suggest that provisional members—anyone nominated to the board between AGMs, due to death, sickness or unavailability of the stakeholder’s initial representative—do not have full rights.
Two months ago, TTFRA vice-president Osmond Downer, one of the framers of the TTFA constitution, told John-Williams in no uncertain terms that he was wrong. But the president remains unbowed.
“Every time you oppose John-Williams’ foolishness,” said Look Loy, “he says ‘well that is your opinion’ and simply ignores you; and he has the votes to back him up, which are himself, Davis, Moore, Quan Chan and Cunningham.”
Incidentally, the board also agreed to allow Cunningham to continue in the dual role of member and press officer, despite an order from the general membership that he chose one of the two positions—due to a perceived conflict of interest.
John-Williams and Cunningham defied the membership on the supposed grounds that the latter, who is paid a monthly wage by the football body, is a consultant. The issue is expected to be raised again at the TTFA’s AGM on 24 November; and, arguably, could be further viewed as evidence that the board has become a law on to itself.
Last night, Partap offered to get a legal opinion on John-Williams’ refusal to allow voting rights to provisional members; and the board promised to hear it at its reconvened meeting on 9 October. But it is likely that the general membership will have the final word on that point too.
There was an elephant in the room that was barely addressed. On 17 September, six days after Salazar’s resignation, John-Williams counted nine votes in Cooper’s appointment, via an illegal tally by e-mail.
“Of the nine eligible voting members on Board,” stated the football president, via a press statement, “five gave approval of the recommendation, one abstained and three did not approve of the round robin process. Mr Cooper has since been confirmed to the position.”
Three from 11 board members equals eight. So how could John-Williams get nine votes, unless he fraudulently counted Salazar?
Last night, Look Loy said the football president simply ignored that question.
“When he, as chairman, makes a ruling, he has enough votes to ram it through,” said Look Loy. “So unless you mash up the meeting what can you do?”
Even last night, despite two weeks of public protest, board members still had to read out article 37.2 from the TTFA constitution—which states “voting by proxy or by letter is not permitted”—to stress to the president why his previous appointment of Cooper was illegal.
John-Williams never admitted to violating the constitution and, arguably, it was academic in the end. With the tournament due to kick off in six days, the board voted to remain with Cooper. John-Williams, Davis, Quan Chan, Moore, Cunningham, Williams and Look Loy supported the incumbent, who is also the QPCC and Presentation College (San Fernando) head coach, while Taylor abstained.
Look Loy said Waldrum is the best long term choice; but he suggested that uncertainty over the coach’s alleged request for a stipend and permission to raise funding for the women’s programme “without TTFA interference” were potential stumbling blocks they did not have time to cross.
“For me, Randy is the best option we have now for the long term, which is the next World Cup cycle,” said Look Loy. “But for the short term, I thought it was best to go along with Cooper.”
Ironically, the TTFA’s sole representative for women’s football, Warrick, was not allowed to vote. And Warrick—whose daughter Jonelle Cato is a member of the current squad—made it clear that she would have voted for Waldrum, who she described as a consummate professional.
The Women Warriors are expected to leave for the United States on Saturday—four days later than initially scheduled—after the local football body finally submitted the necessary paperwork to the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs yesterday for government funding.
However, the national players will not receive outstanding monies for their retainer contracts before their departure while Cooper allegedly accepted a cheque, dated on 16 October, as a guarantee of payment for his work at the Caribbean Championship in Jamaica and for the upcoming Concacaf competition.
The situation is even more dire for the Men’s National Under-17 and Under-20 squads, which are both dormant at present. The Under-20 Team, coached by Russell Latapy, start their own Concacaf tournament in six weeks while the Under-17 outfit, which does not even have a technical staff, play next March.
John-Williams, according to Look Loy, told the board that there was no money to activate either side and he is trying to raise funds from Concacaf and the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) to restart the respective programmes.
“When you ask why and how we are in this position, you cannot get an answer for it,” said Look Loy. “And it is instructive for us to note that while we are building a home for football, the children are starving.
“[…] This is down to a lack of planning. We don’t plan for our national teams and we are always in crisis mode.”
Look Loy vowed to raise a motion for John-Williams’ dismissal prior to last night’s board meeting. However, with three potential allies denied the chance to vote, he decided it was pointless.
“I made a tactical withdrawal,” said Look Loy. “I decided not to move the motion in the meeting because the hardcore [members] who would support it were denied their [right to] vote. But I also did so in the knowledge that [the motion for John-Williams’ dismissal] must come up in the annual general meeting where it will get votes.”
Once again, John-Williams survived politically, although the upcoming AGM on 24 October will be key, if he is to make it to the end of his term in November 2019.
Still, Look Loy claimed a consolation victory in forcing the football president to acknowledge the authority of three quarter of his board.
“The forces standing up for the constitution prevailed today because they were forced to come to us to appoint Cooper,” he said. “And they agreed that no technical committee was appointed and that voting by email is expressly forbidden by the constitution.
“[…] Every time we force them to recognise that the constitution is supreme, it is a victory for us. So those are three small wins.”