Walkes opens negotiations: TTFA asked for TT$2.5 million to lift garnishee order

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace and former technical director Kendall Walkes have opened discussions regarding a garnishee order that led to a freeze on the local body’s bank accounts. But that is where the good news starts and ends.

The TTFA’s bank accounts have been frozen since 13 February, due to an apparent breakdown in talks between the organisation and its former employee, who was hired under then president Raymond Tim Kee and unceremoniously dismissed by Wallace’s predecessor, David John-Williams.

Photo: Former TTFA technical director and National Senior Team player Kendall Walkes.

And, on Carnival Friday, Walkes informed the TTFA of the figure he wants to be paid before he lifts the garnishee order. Wired868 was reliably informed that the former national player asked for TT$2.5 million, which represents almost half of the US$783,000 (TT$5.4 million) settlement that he was awarded by the High Court for breach of contract.

“We are trying to get a temporary something for Kendall [Walkes] to unfreeze the accounts,” Wallace told Wired868, “but the offer put on the table by his attorney is not within our grasp. So we will continue to work on that over the next week.”

Walkes’ attorney, Melissa Roberts-John, confirmed that her client gave a figure to the TTFA last week and are awaiting an official response. She blamed the current impasse on poor communication from the football body, which they are now trying to address.

“We are willing to reach an amicable decision in light of the garnishee order and we are amenable to discussion,” said Roberts-John. “It is a lack of communication that took us here but we are open to a negotiation. Since sending this correspondence, I haven’t heard anything back from them but this is the start of the negotiation.

“At least we are having direct discussion with [the TTFA officials] now.”

Photo: TTFA president William Wallace (far right), general secretary Ramesh Ramdhan (second from right) and technical director Dion La Foucade (second from left) talk to Women’s U-20 Team manager Maylee Attin-Johnson during practice at the Ato Boldon Stadium training field in Couva on 7 February 2020.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/Wired868)

While the two parties try to reach an understanding, the hardship will be felt primarily by the TTFA’s office staff and coaches.

“I cannot say whether they will be paid at the end of the month at present,” said Wallace. “We would like to pay our salaries on time because we are striving not to run up any additional bills. So definitely that is an issue. We are looking for a contingency measure so it doesn’t go far beyond the end of the month and hopefully we will at least deal with the office staff.”

The local football body has enough drinking water and equipment to ensure that the national teams can continue training, regardless of the impasse. And, fortunately, the accommodation, flights and meals for the Women’s National Under-20 Team were taken care of before the garnishee order was executed.

However, the TTFA now finds itself unable to provide stipends to the coaches on duty at the Concacaf Under-20 Championship in the Dominican Republic. The Women Soca Warriors qualified for the Round of 16 on Tuesday afternoon and will try to win Group F tomorrow when they face Haiti.

“Ideally we would like to provide a stipend for our coaches and players,” said Wallace. “But they have all the basic things they need to continue, just like our teams training here.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Chrissy Mitchell (right) goes for goal while defender Tsai-Anne Fernandez looks on during a Women’s U-20 training session at UWI, St Augustine on 6 February 2020.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/Wired868)

The TTFA is due an annual Fifa subvention of US$1.5 million (TT$10 million) but, thus far, the governing body has stalled on paying. At present, a mixed delegation from Concacaf and Fifa is in the country to examine the local body’s financial healthy, which is allegedly the first step towards releasing the aforementioned funds.

Former TTFA board member Selby Browne, who unsuccessfully contested the post of first vice-president at last November’s election, has urged Fifa to send in a normalisation committee, which would have the effect of voiding the last election and preparing the member association for fresh leadership.

In such cases, Fifa usually invokes article 14.1(a) and 8.2, which states:

‘Member associations have the following obligations: to comply fully with the Statutes, regulations, directives and decisions of Fifa bodies at any time as well as the decisions of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) passed on appeal on the basis of article 57 paragraph 1 of the FIFA Statutes’;

And, ‘Executive bodies of member associations may under exceptional circumstances
be removed from office by the Council in consultation with the relevant confederation and replaced by a normalisation committee for a specific period of time’.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (centre) shows FIFA president Gianni Infantino (left) and T&T Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley around an executive suite at the opening of the TTFA’s Home of Football in Couva on 18 November 2019.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

Outside of unproven claims that disgraced ex-Fifa vice-president Jack Warner was involved in Wallace’s campaign—article 14.1(i) obliges FA to ‘manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties’—it is difficult to see any legal ground for Fifa to instil a normalisation committee in Trinidad and Tobago, particularly when president Gianni Infantino was a regular visitor to Trinidad during John-Williams’ tenure even as the TTFA’s debt soared.

Wallace, who announced a TT$25 million kit deal with English sport apparel company Avec Sport today, vowed that he could erase the TTFA’s estimated TT$50 million debt within three years.

“[…] Even with the constraints, this FA is going to rise and do well,” said Wallace. “We are going to take ourselves out of the hole we are in. We didn’t come in here without a plan; and that plan is going to unfold as we go forward.

“We came in with a debt of 50 million [TT dollars]. Within three years that debt will be no longer a TTFA debt; I promise Trinidad and Tobago that.”

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About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief 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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