The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) is due to receive US$500,000 (TT$3.4 million) from Fifa ‘in the coming days’ and a further US$2 million (TT$13.5 million) shortly thereafter—which represents their total annual entitlement—as the governing body aims to provide a ‘financial relief plan’ to its member associations, due to disruptions caused by Covid-19.
The projected outlay should be a godsend to TTFA technical and administrative staff who are owed salaries at present. However, when they will be paid and by whom remain burning questions.
At present, TTFA president William Wallace remains in charge of the local football body’s accounts at First Citizens Bank. Robert Hadad, head of Fifa’s normalisation committee on the twin island republic, has already approached the bank and attempted to take control of the account.
The bank generally requests minutes of an organisation’s last board meeting, signed by its secretary, authorising a change of signatory. Hadad, the co-CEO of Hadco Limited, could not possibly possess such a document and it is uncertain what he offered to First Citizens, outside of a letter from Fifa, to prove his status.
The TTFA is incorporated by an act of Parliament and its constitution does not permit its president to be removed by anyone but its membership. And Wallace, through attorneys Matthew Gayle and Dr Emir Crowne, threatened legal action if the bank if permits access to Hadad.
The bank’s legal department is considering Hadad’s claim at present.
The TTFA’s bank accounts, incidentally, are empty. The High Court gave former technical director Kendall Walkes permission to pocket the roughly TT$300,000 that was there on 16 March, with the accounts then returning to the control of the Wallace-led administration.
However, Fifa is obliged to wire all money due to the member association to that bank account, which makes it a crucial battle ground between the parties.
Fifa and the TTFA are due to meet at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the coming months.
Wallace will point to the TTFA’s constitution, which is approved by Fifa and does not permit the president to be removed by anyone but the local football membership. And the world governing body, led by Gianni Infantino, will argue that its statutes—which gives it authority to implement a normalisation committee under certain circumstances—trump the TTFA’s.
The Bureau of the Fifa Council’s decision to force Wallace out of office was based on the poor financial standing of the TTFA, which makes the current TT$16.9 million payment due to the member association a ticklish issue.
Essentially, Fifa is punishing Wallace for being virtually insolvent while, simultaneously, withholding roughly TT$17 million from the TTFA.
If Fifa pays into an account controlled by Wallace, then the besieged president can run local football comfortably while using revenue raised from sponsorship and—in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic—television rights and gates to pay creditors. Should that happen, the Bureau’s case to remove him may be weakened.
The annual budget for the technical staffs hired under this regime, according to technical committee chairman Keith Look Loy, stands at TT$4.9 million while the annual operating costs of the FA, based on a previous annual financial statement, is just shy of TT$6 million—inclusive of roughly TT$1.6 million for office staff.
It means that the TTFA can pay all of its employees and have TT$6 million remaining at the end of the year, along with an additional Fifa credit of US$200,000 (TT$1.35 million) for travel and accommodation and US$50,000 (TT$338k) for equipment.
(Remarkably, Wallace’s predecessor, David John-Williams, ended his term owing millions to his own coaching staff despite having the bulk of this funding available since 2016.)
If Hadad can wrest control of the TTFA’s accounts, it would further weaken Wallace’s claim to CAS that he is the legitimate head of the local football body.
Already, Wallace has lost the support of the Trinidad and Tobago government as Minister of National Security Stuart Young and Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Shamfa Cudjoe have both recognised Hadad as the local football boss. TTFA general secretary, Ramesh Ramdhan, also recognised the authority of the normalisation committee and has been working with the Fifa appointee.
Yesterday, Hadad, via technical director Dion La Foucade, invited all national coaches to join him for a Zoom chat on Wednesday night—a move that could potentially strip another layer of authority off the TTFA president.
At present, the TTFA has not paid office staff since February 2020 while technical staff members have not received a single pay cheque since Wallace was elected on 24 November 2019.
For national coaches, Hadad’s invitation is the first official contact they have had from anybody claiming to represent the TTFA since Fifa declared that Wallace’s reign was over on 17 March.
“This is the first reaching out that we’ve got so I’m waiting to see what they will say in the meeting,” said one coach, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I don’t think anybody is worried [about job security] because everyone has a contract. We just want to hear what he has to say and then they will know what comes next.
“All of the tournaments are virtually cancelled due to Covid-19, which we can’t do anything about. But we know that Fifa is paying all the member associations in full. So I know they have money [to pay us].”
The TTFA does not have the money yet, though.
Fifa should have wired TT$3.4 million into the TTFA’s bank account since January but has delayed that payment for four months now. On the surface, it is an odd stance by a governing body which claims to be concerned about the financial health of its member association.