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Cudjoe silent as TTFA row rages on, Govt mum as Home of Football scandal continues on state land

Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe remains deafeningly silent as the furore surrounding Trinidad and Tobago’s football continues to intensify in the courts, the board room and, ultimately, the fields of play.

In the past six months alone, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) President David John-Williams lost legal cases to ex-General Secretary Sheldon Phillips, Board Member Keith Look Loy, the Normandie Hotel and the entire National Futsal Team.

Photo: Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe (right) and TTFA president David John-Williams inspect the Home of Football project in Couva on 20 August 2018.
(Courtesy Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)

On 5 May, John-Williams will also take the TTFA back to the High Court to face current Technical Director Anton Corneal, who is suing for breach of contract. And the scandal of the Home of Football project is now an international talking point throughout the region.

Yet, so far, Wired868 has been unable to penetrate Cudjoe’s cloak of communications officers for comment. The Sport Minister has not returned calls or emails on the subject.

The TTFA is formed by an act of Parliament and is headquartered on government property at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. John-Williams’ controversial Home of Football is also built on land leased by the state while the only notable sponsorship deal secured during his tenure is a TT$8 million boon from the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB)—which the football body still benefits from, despite not satisfying the terms of the agreement.

Not to mention the fact that the TTFA fulfils a public service to taxpaying football fans and players on the twin island republic.

In Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh’s ruling against the John-Williams-led body for its unmistakable lack of transparency, the High Court Judge stated that ‘public organisations cannot be run like private fiefdoms’.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (centre) is flanked by Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat (left) and then SPORTT chairman Dinanath Ramnarine during a press conference on 29 September 2017.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Remarkably, Cudjoe has so far chosen to be neither proactive nor reactive. At present, local football is in a state of paralysis, as the decision of Pro League and Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) clubs to move under the direct care of the TTFA saw the country’s top two tiers of football indefinitely postpone the start of their respective seasons—to the chagrin of hundreds of footballers.

The Trinidad and Tobago government’s apparent blind eye towards the TTFA comes at a time when Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi claims to be narrowing in on financial crime through the Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Bill.

And it follows closely on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s outspoken criticism of the supposedly dictatorial and murky management style of former Cricket West Indies President Dave Cameron.

In sharp contrast, the Republic of Ireland’s entire football board served notice of its impending resignation yesterday after the Irish government opened an investigation into the FAI (Football Association of Ireland) through its Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

Irish Sport Minister Shane Ross made it clear that the FAI will receive ‘no further government funding’ until the ruling party sees ‘real change and reform in the Association’s corporate governance, and until we have credible answers’.

Photo: FIFA president Gianni Infantino (centre) and TTFA president David John-Williams (left) turn the sod at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 April 2017 while then Sport Minister Darryl Smith pretends to help.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar went further, as he assured Irish football fans that his government shared the ‘anger of football fans and concerns of taxpayers about how the FAI has been run’.

“The objective must be to restore confidence in how the FAI is being run and make sure that we can get back to do what we should be doing,” Mr Varadkar said. “That is promoting this sport, funding it at grassroots level for participation by young people and women in particular, and making sure that this really popular sport across the country is able to focus on what it does best.”

The FAI row began after a Parliamentary committee flagged a curious €100,000 (TT$766,111) loan between the football body and its vice-president John Delaney. Delaney offered to step down today.

In contrast, Look Loy found TT$16 million unaccounted for in John-Williams’ Home of Football project, built on state land.

“When I added up the quantum of what was stated in the contracts, the grand total was TT$3.189 million; but the grand total of the FIFA contribution for the Home of Football was US$2.75 million or TT$19.25 million,” said Look Loy. “So I don’t know how they plan to explain that shortfall; but the gap is over TT$16 million!”

Photo: Prime Minister Keith Rowley (centre) is introduced to former Brazil World Cup captain Cafu (second from left) and Jamaica World Cup player Ricardo Gardner (left) before an exhibition match at Soogrim Trace Grounds, Laventille on 31 July 2017.
At right is TTFA president David John-Williams.
(Courtesy Matthew Lee Kong/CA-images/Wired868)

John-Williams refused comment on the financial discrepancy while his General Secretary Camara David’s attempt to explain should also have caught Al Rawi’s attention.

“I was told by Camara David there are service providers who had workers [on the Home of Football project] on a daily paid basis and they had no contracts,” said Look Loy, “and they were just paid in cash, which they then paid their workers with—so there was no record…”

Millions of dollars allegedly handed out in cash on a project run by a national body on state-owned land?

The current PNM government has spoken repeatedly on its desire for transparent governance and sound financial conduct. If that applies anywhere, there is certainly little sign of its application in Cudjoe’s neck of the woods.

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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19 comments

  1. Lasana, is GORTT allowed to come down on TTFA or does FIFA maintain that non governmental interference? Government should have the right to ask for how their funds were spent in my opinion but …

    • Christian FIFA policy doesn’t supersede international criminal law. If the Govt suspects foul play, it can investigate.
      Just look at the FBI investigation or the situation in Ireland.
      Of course Jack Warner would have wanted us to think the Govt can’t get involved. That suited him.
      We have to think for ourselves.

    • Lasana Liburd This would mean our authorities actually charging and convicting

    • It starts with an investigation anyhow. There are a million reasons why the Govt should care about this.
      How can the courts be so keyed in and the Govt so disinterested?

    • Lasana Liburd This goes back to a conversation we were having before. Is the government the body that formed and has oversight of the TTFA? Has evidence of any criminal activities been presented to the state? Civil matters are one thing, criminal matters are another. Who is to be the person to be whistleblowing? Is Mr. Look Loy going to be the sacrificial lamb?. Trinbago like to grandcharge but when it gets down to the substance, everyone runs imo. I am sure the Government is aware but can they go at TTFA hard and not have the American run concacaf repay us for knocking them out of the worldcup?

  2. If this article don’t rattle some birds nest nothing will..

  3. Hmmm so what would like the ministry do, since we all know FIFA believe in non interference, especially since he is their blue eye boy. FIFA is happy with him. So why complain. concacaf happy with him. BTW did he use taxpayers money for it. If no what grounds is the Minister of Sports coming under. Last I understand TTFA is technically a private company/organization. Even if it was taxpayers money being use, what is the Minister to do if I gave you your allocation of money and you saying you building a box that will improve your organization. An your international people come and agree your box good and give you money for your box. What then must be done?

    • Marcus Alexander Clarke did you read the story and understand what the Irish government did?

    • Marcus Alexander Clarke Money is coming from somewhere for the seemingly never ending unsuccessful legal actions that could have been quite easily avoided with good leadership and effective communication.

    • Marcus the US Govt threw a dozen Fifa members in jail and issued warrants for two dozen more. The US wasn’t kicked out of Fifa.
      This article has more recent examples of positive Govt intervention too.
      Fifa is entitled to bluff. And when they find a people foolish enough to believe that being a football administrator somehow grants you immunity from prosecution for financial misbehavior…
      Well, when you find a jackass, you ride it.

    • Lasana Liburd size and money is the key factor check and see fiifa keeps and who they throw out? Look very carefully, if you right how come JW still with us ?

    • Marcus Alexander Clarke guess it’s because hes never been convicted of any wrongdoing

    • Marcus, not sure how JW being here changes anything.
      But you should consider that the person you heard bleat on about Government’s being unable to investigate football bodies… and you heard it so often that it stuck in your head… that was from Jack Warner.
      Maybe we should ask Jack to prove it.
      Isn’t it obvious why he wanted us to think that for so long?

  4. But she smiles, dresses pretty and is well presented when she occasionally hands out a big novelty cheque from taxpayers funds.