“If the same attitude persists and the president [David John-Williams] continues with the same ‘onemanship’,” said one football member, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Any board member can call for an extraordinary general meeting to move a vote of no confidence in the president.”
Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams faced a motion for dismissal at Sunday’s reconvened AGM at the Hasely Crawford Stadium’s VIP room in Port of Spain.
In the end, John-Williams faced a considerably tamer motion, which commended him for his efforts on the controversial Home of Football project in Couva but further declared that: ‘the President be strongly censured for not communicating matters to the board as demanded by the constitution; and that the President be made to realise that any reoccurrence of this non-communication of matters to the board shall result in a motion of no confidence’.
The motion was moved by Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (TTFRA) vice-president Osmond Downer and was a near replicate of his ‘warning’ to John-Williams at the last AGM.
On 13 June 2018, as members again tried to hold John-Williams accountable for several constitutional violations and a lack of transparency, Downer moved a motion to: ‘compliment the President for the yeomen effort he has given to advance our beloved game, but also censure the President for the way in which he approached the [Home of Football] project singlehandedly’.
TTFA board member and Trinidad and Tobago Super League president Keith Look Loy, whose FC Santa Rosa club tabled the motion to dismiss John-Williams, suggested the weaker motion that was passed effectively undid all his efforts.
“I will now have to consider if it is worth my time and effort to continue with what seems to be a futile action to bring good governance, clear vision and proper management to the TTFA,” Look Loy told Wired868. “It would seem that the majority of people are content to go ahead, despite their protestations about bad management.”
John-Williams’ term as president ends in November 2019, and, having faced his last AGM until then, he is favoured to survive now.
It is hard to remember a more unpopular sitting president. The W Connection owner is largely ignored by the private sector, openly criticised by national players and coaches, repeatedly rebuked by the TTFA board and abandoned by two of his three vice-presidents.
Yet, his ability to win an election remains undimmed.
Thirty-two of 47 eligible members showed up for Sunday’s AGM. Roughly 14 of those members—or 44 percent of the electorate present—were felt to be committed to moving the sitting president.
According to the constitution, Santa Rosa’s motion to dismiss John-Williams required 24 from those 34 members to declare they had enough. And that looked extremely unlikely from the start.
Northern Football Association (NFA) president Anthony Harford suggested that the average age of attendees at the AGM was 55; and many seemed disinterested in anything about football save for the cause they came to champion.
“Leaving the meeting my thoughts were that the people who are representing football in this country—the stakeholders—are completely out of touch,” said Harford. “People go to meetings and their partisan views are so entrenched that they don’t want to hear from other people. Nothing you say—even presenting them with facts—seems to sway them one way or the other.
“When someone says they are unhappy with something that is happening and want change, they call you a dissident and a rebel. But they sit there with their partisan views and do not contribute for the whole meeting.
“I think that is unfair to the youths of our country who are relying on us… Nobody in that room is going to kick another ball in their lives. Old people are sitting in meetings and not listening to the young people of Trinidad and Tobago.”
There was a way around the political mountain that Santa Rosa faced. The NFA proposed an amendment to the constitution, which suggested that the threshold to remove a president be shifted from 75 per cent to 51 per cent.
“The threshold for electing someone is a simple majority, so why should the threshold for removing someone be different to that?” said Harford, after tabling the motion. “But the argument is that it could become too flippant and as soon as somebody get you vex, you move them…”
With John-Williams’ supporters believed to be out in their numbers, it was clear that his critics were going to need some constitutional foreplay to succeed.
So when North East Stars official Michael Awai moved and passed a motion to suspend debate on all constitutional amendments—including a change in the threshold to move the president—until an unspecified date in January, John-Williams was almost home and dry.
“I didn’t think that the constitutional matter had anything to do with the removal of John-Williams,” said Harford. “My zone submitted the proposal for an amendment and I hope it is discussed and we come up with a good formula. I wouldn’t say we did to affect the motion for John-Williams; and I don’t think any of us seriously thought [the motion to dismiss the president] would work.
“We were hoping that people could speak [on the no confidence motion] and discuss their view on our leadership.”
There was more pointing at the constitution over the future of general secretary Justin Latapy-George, who the president advised to start job hunting since October. John-Williams’ apparent loss of faith in his general secretary coincided with Latapy-George’s revelation—barely two weeks earlier—that the president asked him to deceive the board regarding the status of his former vice-president Joanne Salazar.
“We asked about Latapy-George’s job situation and John-Williams said the [contract] discussions are ongoing,” said Harford. “It was suggested to David that he should align the secretary’s tenure with the president’s tenure; so if he has one year to go, he should only have a secretary for one year, so there are none of the issues like with [former general secretary] Sheldon Phillips—whose contract outlasted the tenure of the president who hired him, Raymond Tim Kee.
“We also informed David that it was his right to propose but not to hire, so we informed him of the correct procedure.”
John-Williams has appeared blissfully unaware of the TTFA constitution at times. But he seemed to have the jump of his interrogators on the weekend, regarding his general secretary.
The football president pointed to article 36(f) of the constitution which stated that the board of directors: “shall appoint or dismiss the General Secretary on the proposal of the President.”
Downer, one of the framers of the constitution, got flustered, according to observers.
“That is an error; it should be shall consider the appointment of dismissal of the General Secretary on the proposal of the President,” Downer told the meeting. “Otherwise why go to the board with it at all? It must be up to the board to make the final consideration for appointment or dismissal; otherwise the president can select anybody he wants—even members of his family—and it must be done because of the word ‘shall’.”
Downer passed a motion that John-Williams ‘takes into consideration the views expressed at the meeting concerning the efficiency of his secretary [Latapy-George]’ and the football president agreed.
But history would suggest that John-Williams is happy enough to enforce his will on far flimsier ground on that. But sources noted that former TTSL general secretary Camara David has been a regular presence around the football president; and was an observer at the AGM.
Look Loy also raised the future of National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence and John-Williams’ attempt to have the coach’s contract renewed via email, to fend off supposed interest from England National League club, Wrexham AFC.
“The point raised by Keith is that he wants see Lawrence’s contract, his terms of employment and be able to assess his performance before he can decide,” said Harford. “Dennis is a local boy and nobody wants to get rid of Dennis; but the right thing is the right thing. We told [NFA board representative] Rayshawn Mars to do all those things and we trust him to make the right decision; we told him he shouldn’t respond based on an email.”
John-Williams promised to address Lawrence’s potential renewal at a board meeting but, noticeably, still has not called one. It is already six days since the Welsh press suggested that Wrexham were interested in the Soca Warriors head coach.
If the TTFA president really was desperate to ensure he didn’t lose Lawrence’s services, he has a funny way of showing it.
Harford also raised the position of former TTFA official Delyse Joseph, who was due severance payment of TT$196,000 when she was retired last Christmas; but, to date, has received just TT$30,000.
Joseph, according to Harford, recently received an eviction notice from her landlord. However, John-Williams’ position was simply that the TTFA did not have the money to pay her.
“[Joseph’s situation] was brought to the TTFA’s attention, they promised to help and nothing happened,” said Harford. “This is a case of bad leadership and what irks me—and why I supported Keith’s motion—is it appears to me that honour, decency, fidelity and morality has left the TTFA. You can’t be doing this to people day in day out while putting all your energy into an inordinate object.
“We are not going to be penalised if we don’t finish the Home of Football in time. So why not take some money from that and keep people happy?”
It was time to deal with Santa Rosa’s motion to dismiss John-Williams; and to debate the football president’s leadership.
Look Loy and SSFL president William Wallace spoke about the lack of transparent leadership, the failure of the football teams and an array of missteps by the football president.
Board member Anthony Moore and Awai praised John-Williams’ work on the Home of Football and in supposedly addressing debt inherited from his predecessor, Tim Kee, while Eastern Football Association (EFA) representative Dharia Nelson-Seales wondered ‘who they would put’ if they moved him.
Anthony Clarke—a former W Connection goalkeeper and contractor who comments under the sobriquet ‘Cla Tones’ on Facebook—supposedly spoke for over 30 minutes with a long defence that was allegedly halted on a few occasions to deal with inaccuracies in his presentation.
“Clarke was talking about a representative board selected by the president,” said the anonymous source. “But our constitution is drawn up so members are assured of a say and representation on the board. He was making this long speech but it was clear that he didn’t even know the constitution.”
Downer followed up Clarke’s soliloquy with a subtle put-down.
“I was waiting for the President to answer the accusations,” said Downer. “But from the way the last speaker spoke, it was as if he were a lawyer representing the President.”
John-Williams, for his part, did a remix of his oft-repeated speech about the importance of a Home of Football and his work in cutting the debt left behind by Tim Kee—notwithstanding the number of successful lawsuits brought against the football body during his term.
Arguably, it did not matter much on the day. John-Williams was virtually assured of an electoral win.
Regardless, Look Loy wanted a referendum on the president’s leadership.
“Win, lose or draw, FC Santa Rosa wanted a vote on the motion to dismiss the president,” said Look Loy. “It was irrelevant if it succeeded or not, we wanted the members of the AGM to go on the record to give their view on the President.”
But Look Loy did not even get that much. Instead, as the meeting prepared to vote on the motion to dismiss John-Williams, Downer proposed a counter-motion to ‘censure’ the football president instead, which was seconded by Awai.
Downer’s full motion read:
“Whereas at the General Meeting of 13 June 2018, a motion was passed that the President be complimented on his valiant efforts to improve the state of football in the country, with a special reference to the creation of the Home of Football, and that in the same motion, the President was censured for not properly communicating with the Board, as he should do in all matters, according to the Constitution; and seeing that at present, the President should be again complimented on his continuing efforts as fore-mentioned.
“But, because of his continuing inadequate non-communication on all matters concerning these football projects, that the President be strongly reminded of the previous decision of censure and be made aware that any indication of such non-communication on the part of the President in the future will be treated as serious enough to engender a fulsome motion of no-confidence in the President.”
So, instead of deciding the future of the TTFA president, the AGM voted on whether it preferred Santa Rosa’s motion or Downer’s. And, by 24 votes to 7, Downer’s motion prevailed.
“Look Loy is passionate but he is not a strategist,” said the anonymous football member. “He would have lost that vote easily; and then ‘Mr Man’ would go out and say ‘the annual general meeting absolved me and gave me a vote of confidence’. So what Downer did was have the meeting’s dissatisfaction placed on record and gave members another chance to move on John-Williams if his behaviour did not improve.
“The President brought out all his sycophants and the politics just were not good for Look Loy.”
The Santa Rosa owner was inconsolable.
“This weak counter motion was tantamount to a vote against the motion to dismiss,” said Look Loy, “and a vote in favour of John-Williams!”
Harford conceded that John-Williams would have been the happiest person at the end of Sunday’s meeting.
“If people want to interpret that as a vote, then David is in firm control of the TTFA,” said the NFA president. “This is democracy; if the people want it then so be it. I am okay with that. At the end of the day, I am glad to offer some public service and do it to the best of my ability.”
Look Loy told Wired868 that he was not sure why he still bothered.
“I now have to consider whether I want to continue in football politics which I despise—which is why I declared I did not want to be the football president,” he said. “And I will go so far as to say I will even consider whether I chose to continue as Super League president or whether I should let the critics run the Super League.
“If after all that has transpired, people still want to leave it there with two raps on the knuckle, I have to consider whether it is worth my struggle. So no hard feelings; but I have other things I can do with my time.”
Harford complained that the array of agenda items for the AGM meant too much time was spent on mundane issues and it became a test of endurance to stay alert for the important stuff.
He noted that, yet again, John-Williams completed an AGM without addressing burning questions being asked by members for over a year.
“The major issues are still unresolved: we still don’t know who the contractors for the Home of Football are; and we still don’t know about the i95.5FM contract,” said Harford. “We have 41 radio stations in the country and 40 are being denied the chance to tender for what i95.5 has. We must be the only football jurisdiction in the entire world where we pay for journalists to travel, stay in hotels, eat with our teams and cover a game and then we don’t see a cent of their revenue.
“We have asked a multitude of times to see that contract and still can’t see it. I have no issue with Tony Lee and Andre Baptiste. I am just saying the other 40 media houses should be given a chance to tender too and if i95.5 are the best, then fine.
“But when I raise the issue, people look at you like ‘why you don’t hush and sit down’. I am not against John-Williams as a person; he might be a fine man. But I am totally against his leadership style.”
On the weekend, though, roughly 75 percent of the members present voted to give John-Williams another chance to ‘improve his communication’ on the job. There is unlikely to be another chance for a referendum on the football president before the 2019 TTFA election.