Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) stakeholders have slammed Fifa’s decision to implement a normalisation committee on the island and effectively nullify the football body’s election last November.
Fifa, in a press release today, claimed that its fact-finding mission to Trinidad last month—done in conjunction with Concacaf—found ‘extremely low overall financial management methods, combined with a massive debt’ which puts the local football body in ‘a very real risk of insolvency and illiquidity’.
Supposedly on the back of that claim, the Fifa Bureau opted to set up a normalisation committee, since ‘corrective measures need to be applied urgently’.
TTFA president William Wallace expressed surprise at Fifa’s stance, since it was his administration who not only pointed out the flaws in the TTFA’s financial structure to the governing body but remedies to rectify them as well.
“We commissioned an audit into [the TTFA’s internal structure] by our finance people and they provided a report which we provided to [Fifa],” Wallace told Wired868. “Fifa didn’t come in and discover that—we gave it to them; and their response was that this is 50 percent of their job done.
“We went into an organisation with a total absence of financial structure and were working on developing one.”
Kendall Tull, a consultant with decades of financial management and audit experience, agreed to head the TTFA’s finance committee under Wallace and has spearheaded the governance reform of the local football body. He sat in on meetings with the Fifa/Concacaf mission during their visit.
The foreign contingent comprised of: Fifa finance coordinator Mehmet Dirlik, Concacaf finance manager Alejandro Kesende, Concacaf finance department Dally Fuentes and Valeria Yepes, an independent auditor. Their report was not shared with the TTFA.
Tull, a former Trinidad and Tobago Hockey Board (TTHB) official, described Fifa’s statement today as a misrepresentation.
“One of the things that was said by the Concacaf representation, Alejandro [Kesende], was it is the first time he has ever come [to Trinidad] and someone spoke his language in relation to the financial issues facing the organisation,” said Tull, “and in terms of the lack of internal controls and other issues that have been plaguing the organisation. They literally said that the report we gave to them that outlined what we found and had recommendations about how we would proceed going forward made their jobs a whole lot easier.
“They recognised that the new administration understood what the circumstances were and were taking steps to address it. All of that was actually said.
“So you would not have thought on the basis of what they said—we are not debating whether what Fifa said [about the weakness of the TTFA’s structure] is untrue—but to suggest we were not addressing it as a matter of urgency and priority is a misrepresentation. That absolutely is not the case.”
Tull said the finance committee has already completed a workshop with board members on their legal responsibilities under the Companies Act and is in the process of creating a delegation of financial authorities to govern how the local football body runs its financial affairs. Both exercises are believed to be unprecedented in local football.
“This would specify who had the ability to bind the organisation to a financial decision and in what context,” said Tull. “For instance, the football president couldn’t wake up one morning and be able to decide he wanted to build a swimming pool. Those decisions would have been bound by the board.
“All of those things we were putting in place and it would have required an upgrade of the financial reporting, so that every month there would have been different breakdowns of spending based on the source of funds.
“In fact, the audited accounts for 2019, which was substantially complete, was being changed to reflect that. This change came directly from our meeting with Fifa and Concacaf when we raised it and they said that was a good idea.
“[…] We even talked about the need for procurement policies, so that they could place reliance on the controls from the country’s end—which would reduce the need for due diligence on their side.”
Among a raft of internal issues raised, Tull pointed out that the TTFA was improperly registered and had apparently been making PAYE payments under the account name of a sole trader company, TTFF, set up by late former president Oliver Camps and wound up in 2011.
The fact that Wallace’s predecessor, David John-Williams, withheld TT$4 million in NIS, PAYE and health surcharge payments for employees from the relevant state bodies, Tull explained, was just the tip of the iceberg.
“There is currently a process being undertaken to regularise organisations that are non-profit and we were trying to take advantage of that to sort out our legal registration issues,” he said. “We literally had a meeting about that on Saturday and had already spoken to NIB and BIR people.
“[…] To suggest that this administration was lax in its responsibilities is nonsense.”
Remarkably, although Fifa posted notice of its action against the TTFA on its website, the governing football body, headed by president Gianni Infantino, is yet to officially inform the local organisation.
“Fifa put it out as a media release without even informing us,” said Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president and TTFA board member Keith Look Loy. “That is tremendously disrespectful.”
Wallace confirmed that he had not received any correspondence from Fifa.
“We have not officially been informed by Fifa—neither my general secretary [Ramesh Ramdhan] nor myself,” he said. “The only information I have is that document from the Fifa website. I have since asked my secretary to write to Fifa to get an official response from them.
“Thereafter I am looking to the statutes and I have been advised that we can appeal. I was surprised today that this position was taken, particularly since the reasons cited were the same things we dealt with and seemed to have satisfied the people who came in [from Fifa and Concacaf].
“I am surprised and disappointed.”
Although Wallace was caught unawares, he noted that former TTFA board and emergency committee member Selby Browne—who unsuccessfully contested the post of first vice-president for John-Williams’ slate last November—seemed to have forewarning.
In a post on the Wired868’s Volley Facebook group yesterday, Browne stated: “[…] It is my guess that this entire administration will have to be dragged and taken back to reality in the shortest possible time. Maybe as early as tomorrow to the benefit of football in Trinidad and Tobago.”
“It is passing strange that persons would have indicated on social media the day before that people are laughing today but tomorrow they will see what happens,” said Wallace. “And something did happen today. Yet even now I have not been officially informed. If we have to go forward that may be part of our evidence.”
Wallace was not the only person to hint at a potential conspiracy. A TTFA board member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, recalled a meeting with Fifa director for Africa and the Caribbean, Veron Mosengo-Omba, last year on issues related to the controversial Home of Football project.
Mosengo-Omba was Fifa’s point-man on the Home of Football and had direct oversight of the project, which is dormant at present due to insurance issues and allegedly shoddy construction work.
“I remember it was three of us who were pressing [Mosengo-Omba] on the fact that David called us on Wednesday for a Thursday meeting on the Home of Football,” said the anonymous board member, “so we wanted to know how could he have made that trip to Trinidad so fast. And he confessed that he knew about the meeting a week in advance.
“[…] So we continued talking and he said to us if we do not support John-Williams in the next election, Fifa will not help us get out of the debt. That was told to the three of us!
“I stand by what I heard but those fellahs are very powerful and I don’t want to make those kind of enemies… He was doing all the approval for this Fifa project where they couldn’t account for TT$26 million. So I knew where this was going…”
Look Loy, who was not one of those three board members, told Wired868 that he repeatedly urged Mosengo-Omba to investigate the potential misuse of funds at the Home of Football, only to be rebuffed. And he said Fifa should take some responsibility for the financial mismanagement of the last administration.
“I sought to bring to [Mosengo-Omba’s] attention the weaknesses in not only the Home of Football project but the financial management of the TTFA as a whole,” said Look Loy. “And the consistent response of this Veron guy was: ‘this is not Fifa business, this is internal TTFA business; and we have nothing to do with that’. He refused to listen.
“[…] The point is they presided over the creation of this debt and now they want to come and replace the people who inherited the mess. Financial management was not an issue for Fifa when John-Williams was in power.
“He was removed, despite the best efforts by Infantino who encouraged the TTFA electorate and the people of Trinidad and Tobago to support John-Williams, and now it is suddenly enough of an issue for them to overturn a democratically elected administration!”
Look Loy, the owner of FC Santa Rosa and a former high school teacher, slammed Fifa’s actions.
“This is an attempted coup by Fifa who are trying to overturn the result of a democratic election that expressed the will of Trinidad and Tobago football to remove the last administration,” he said. “Fifa comes across to me—as a good history student—as a colonial absentee landlord that has no respect for the independence and the will of the Caribbean people; and is just doing what it wants to suit its own purpose.”
Look Loy, a former Fifa development officer during the tenure of disgraced ex-Fifa vice-president Jack Warner, pledged, in recent years, that he would not allow another dictator to take the reigns of the local game.
John-Williams helped elect Infantino and Concacaf president Victor Montagliani to their current posts and Look Loy hinted that the high ranking officials were putting personal politics ahead of the development of Trinidad and Tobago’s football.
Look Loy urged fellow Caribbean Football Union (CFU) member associations to stand in solidarity with the twin island republic.
“This is a gross injustice and an undermining of the democratic process,” he said. “The people of Trinidad and Tobago legally elected an administration—and we had Fifa and Concacaf officials right there in the room—no outside force should be able to overturn it for their own whims and fancy. We are not going to take this sitting down.
“We are the legitimate representative of Trinidad and Tobago football and are trying to eradicate problems inherited from one of Fifa’s favourite sons. We are trying to resolve issues he created and you are punishing us when you didn’t punish him?!
“That is a travesty of logic and justice.”
Editor’s Note: Fifa has placed TTFA finance manager, Tyril Patrick, in charge of the TTFA until a normalisation committee can be appointed. Patrick was the target of a board investigation for alleged ‘failure to abide by his fiduciary duties’ during the financial mismanagement of the David John-Williams era.
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