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.
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’.
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’.
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!”
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.