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T-League on verge of collapse as Gillette accuses DJW and Camara of betrayal

The much-vaunted T-League, a FIFA-approved and TTFA-run football league involving Trinidad and Tobago’s two top domestic competitions, appears to be on the verge of collapse before a ball is kicked, with leaked correspondence suggesting an about-turn by Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams.

Today, Commission chairman Lindsay Gillette, who is also president of the Amateur Swimming Association of Trinidad and Tobago (ASATT), gave John-Williams and TTFA general secretary Camara David 10 days to produce the promised funding for the competition—which was informally christened the T-League—before he recommends the dissolution of the body entrusted with ushering in the competition.

Photo: Point Fortin Civic defender and captain Andre Ettienne (left) forces Defence Force midfielder Curtis Gonzales (centre) to take evasive action during the 2013/2014 Pro League season.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

But that was not before David gave Gillette ‘a deadline of 7 days upon receipt of this letter’ to respond to a request for information by the TTFA Board.

David’s email, which he claimed culminated from a TTFA Board meeting on Monday 29 July, informed Gillette that his report ‘should include but not [be] limited to the following items’:

  1. Structure of League(s) including number of teams etc.
  2. Start date and end date of League
  3. Update on Interviews
  4. Any other relevant information.

Incidentally, the John-Williams-led body already has a seat on the board of the Commission while three TTFA Board members—Anthony Moore, Julia Baptiste and Keith Look Loy—serve on both bodies. David is also a regular attendee at gatherings for both parties.

Gillette appeared to suspect a betrayal was underway.

“It bewilders me that a letter of this nature is forthcoming from the TTFA, [when] you personally have attended the last three meetings and prior to this Mr Anthony Moore who represented the TTFA,” stated Gillette. “Hence I would have rightfully concluded that all decisions made by the Commission would have been communicated to the TTFA. If this was not done then I ask, what is the purpose and relevance of TTFA’s representatives on the Board of the Commission?

“[…] Clearly the General Secretary is complicit in his actions in trying to involve the Commission in the TTFA’s politics. We shall not be part of this. You are the CEO of the organisation and should act accordingly to ensure the success of football and not be part of the nonsense that is plaguing the sport.”

Photo: League Commission chairman Lindsay Gillette (second from left) shakes hands with TTFA general secretary Camara David (far left) while members Anthony Harford (second from right) and Julia Baptiste look on on 21 May 2019.
(Copyright TTFA Media)

Wired868 tried unsuccessfully to reach Gillette and David for comment.

At present, the only domestic top flight competition played in the country this year is the Ascension Invitational Tournament, which kicked off last month and involves six Pro League and 18 Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) clubs. The tournament, dubbed a pre-season competition, is due to conclude on 21 September with TT$650,000 in prize money at stake.

The apparent collapse of the T-League comes seven months after details for the new competition were unveiled at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain by One Concacaf and Caribbean Projects senior manager Howard McIntosh, the UEFA trio of international relations head Eva Pasquier, football operations specialist Robert Pongracz and international relations project specialist Chris Milnes, and local football boss, John-Williams.

The proposal presented then was that the TTFA would be allowed to divert part of its annual FIFA and Concacaf subventions into the new competition. However, nearly half of the funding for the T-League—TT$6.3 million of the competition’s estimated TT$13.5 million budget—would come from money already promised by the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago to Pro League clubs.

It meant that, in financial terms, the Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) clubs have more to gain from the T-League than their Pro League counterparts—even if the expected excitement generated by promotion and relegation as well as access to the larger fan bases of some TTSL outfits would potentially benefit the top flight teams as well.

Photo: Prison Service winger Ricardo Alleyne (right) tries to get his shot past the Defence Force backline during Ascension Invitational action at the Larry Gomes Stadium on 20 July 2019.
(Copyright Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

Gillette, to his credit, got Pro League clubs to sign a letter of commitment in which they promised to inject their subventions into the communal coffers of the T-League. But even as Central FC managing director and Commission official Brent Sancho publicly pressed Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe to release funds to Pro League clubs, there were already doubts about whether teams would be true to their word or simply keep the money themselves. And SPORTT chairman Douglas Camacho confessed there was no stipulation from their end that clubs deliver their subvention to the T-League.

In the interim, a few TTSL clubs—emboldened by the promise of financial security by the local governing body—attempted unsuccessfully to remove their president, Look Loy, from the TTFA Board. And Gillette was publicly touted as a potential presidential candidate for the upcoming TTFA elections, tentatively scheduled for November 2019.

It is uncertain whether either occurrence contributed to an apparent cooling of interest by John-Williams in the T-League. Or perhaps the Pro League clubs never intended to keep their word in the first place.

Gillette expressed his dismay with John-Williams’ supposed backroom dealings with Pro League clubs. John-Williams is the president of the W Connection Football Club, which is now run by his daughter Renee John-Williams.

“What is even more disconcerting is I am hearing now that your President wishes to bypass the Commission and pay the Pro League directly,” Gillette told David. “What is really going on? Is this true? Do you have the money for the commencement of the League?”

Photo: TTFA president and W Connection owner David John-Williams (left) presents the winning cheque to his daughter and Connection director Renee John-Williams after their FA Trophy final win over Police FC at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 8 December 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Gillette was furious at David’s question on the start and end date of the T-League.

“This question sets the tone to draw the Commission into disrepute and endeavours to include the Commission into the TTFA’s politics,” stated Gillette. “You know very well that we have been continuously asking you for an update on the FIFA Forward monies. When is it going to arrive?

“I have asked this question of you at the Commission and over the many weeks on a regular basis only to be told, ‘Next week it’s coming’. ‘Next week it’s coming’.

“How can a League start without money?”

Gillette also relayed the concern of several clubs on the issue of compliance, which is a prerequisite for their involvement in any football under the TTFA’s umbrella.

The deadline for clubs to submit documentation for compliance was on 31 March 2019. Yet, five months later and with the new League supposedly imminent, the TTFA still has not told clubs whether or not they are eligible to play.

“You have promised the Commission to give us the clubs that are compliant,” said Gillette. “This has not been done despite numerous requests. Again, please do not spring this upon the clubs at the last moment for the benefit of personal agendas. This is not fair to all clubs concerned.”

Photo: Morvant Caledonia left back Richard Williams (left) tries to hold off Club Sando forward Shackiel Henry during Ascension Invitational action in Marabella on 21 July 2019.
(Copyright Nicholas Bhajan/CA-Images/Wired868)

Look Loy echoed Gillette’s call for transparency regarding compliance and warned that his body will not take it lightly if FIFA Forward monies are used for ‘the purpose of financing another project or league to the detriment of TTSL members’.

David replied: “As stated to you in a previous email, compliance information is still be (sic) gathered and compiled for a more updated and accurate report as advised at the last Board meeting to be presented at an Extraordinary General Meeting.

“With respect to the use of the FIFA Forward monies, the Board has approved the FIFA Forward monies for the use of the  league competition proposed and such budget has already been sent to FIFA for approval.”

Gillette, who revealed that the Commission has not hired any employees due to the TTFA’s failure to produce promised monies, accused David and John-Williams of playing games with the proposed T-League. He gave both football officials two weeks to walk the talk.

“I would like to say that the Commission is prepared to meet your President and your good self at any time—which actually should have occurred before—to discuss all the points mentioned above,” said Gillette. “Furthermore, if we do not receive funds by 16 August 2019, my recommendation is that the Commission be dissolved as clearly the TTFA is trying to blame an entity that it supported in the first instance, so as to camouflage and remove blame from itself.”

Photo: Matura ReUnited defender Timothy John (centre) clatters Police FC forward Jameel Perry during Ascension Invitational action at the Police Academy in St James on 3 August 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

(David letter to Gillette on Monday 5 August 2019)

SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR STATUS REPORT ON T- LEAGUE

Dear Mr Gillette,

As per subject, at a Board Meeting of the TTFA held on Monday 29th July at the TTFA Board Room, it was agreed that a formal request be made for a status report on the proposed T-League from League Commission.

Such report should include, but not limited to, the following items:

  1. Structure of League(s) including number of teams etc.
  2. Start date and end date of League
  3. Update on Interviews
  4. Any other relevant information.

Please note that the Board has given a deadline of 7 days upon receipt of this letter for submission of requested report.

Thank you and looking forward to the requested information.

Best Regards,

Camara David

General Secretary | CEO

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association

Photo: TTFA general secretary Camara David (left) chats with controversial TTGF president Andy Gomez-Burke during a tour of the Home of Football in 2018.
(Copyright Alan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

(Gillette letter to David on Tuesday 6 August 2019)

Dear Mr David,

I am in receipt of your letter dated Monday 5 August 2019. It bewilders me that a letter of this nature is forthcoming from the TTFA, [when] you personally have attended the last three meetings, and prior to this Mr Anthony Moore who represented the TTFA. Hence I would have rightfully concluded that all decisions made by the Commission would have been communicated to the TTFA. If this was not done then I ask what is the purpose and relevance of TTFA’s representatives on the Board of the Commission.

As I can recall, you even attended the press conference at my office on Tuesday 21 May 2019, which your president Mr David John-Williams organised but chose not to be present only one hour before the conference. It left both you and myself in an awkward situation. I verbally expressed my disappointment to you. It was to say the least embarrassing.

I will address the following:

  • Structure of League(s) including number of teams, etc

You were present when we agreed for the participation of 10 Pro League clubs and 14 Super League clubs. The agreement was signed on the 16th May 2019 at the Cascadia Hotel and all were present, including your President and your good self.

  • Start and End Dates of League

This question sets the tone to draw the Commission into disrepute and endeavours to include the Commission into the TTFA’s politics. You know very well that we have been continuously asking you for an update on the FIFA Forward monies. When is it going to arrive? I have asked this question of you at the Commission and over the many weeks on a regular basis only to be told, “Next week it’s coming.” “Next week it’s coming.”

Photo: TTFA general secretary Camara David shares a taste of Las Vegas with his Instagram followers.

How can a league start without money?

What is even more disconcerting is I am hearing now that your President wishes to bypass the Commission and pay the Pro League directly. What is really going on? Is this true? Do you have the money for the commencement of the league?

  • Update on interviews

We have met and interviewed all candidates, organised by the Secretary of the TTFA. As I have reiterated to you on many occasions, I am not prepared to go further without a commitment from the TTFA with regards to money. The Commission is not going to offer employment to anyone and cannot pay.

  • Any other relevant information

Clearly the General Secretary is complicit in his actions in trying to involve the Commission in the TTFA’s politics. We shall not be part of this. You are the CEO of the organisation and should act accordingly to ensure the success of football and not be part of the nonsense that is plaguing the sport.

  • Resignation

Please note, which you have known, Mr Anthony Harford resigned from the Commission on 17 July 2019.

  • Compliance

Furthermore, you have promised the Commission to give us the clubs that are compliant. This has not been done despite numerous requests. Again, please do not spring this upon the clubs at the last moment for the benefit of personal agendas. This is not fair to all clubs concerned.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Curtis Gonzales (left) sidesteps a challenge during Ascension Invitational action against QPCC on Serpentine Road on 4 August 2019.
(Copyright Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

In closing, I would like to say that the Commission is prepared to meet your President and your good self at any time, which actually should have occurred before, to discuss all the points mentioned above.

Furthermore, if we do not receive funds by 16 August 2019, my recommendation is that the Commission be dissolved as clearly the TTFA is trying to blame an entity that it supported in the first instance, so as to camouflage and remove blame from itself.

Please be guided accordingly,

Lindsay Gillette,

Chairman

League Commission

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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