Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace and his United TTFA slate launched a remarkable attack on Fifa today, as they changed their proposed battlefield with the world governing body from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to the local High Court.
This morning, Wallace, supported by TTFA vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Joseph Sam Phillip and United TTFA members Anthony Harford and Keith Look Loy, instructed attorneys Matthew Gayle and Dr Emir Crowne to file an injunction in the High Court.
The legal action asks the court to declare Fifa’s decision to implement a normalisation committee in the twin island republic as ‘null, void and of no legal and/or binding effect’ and to place a permanent injunction against Fifa and its normalisation committee from ‘attempting removing (sic) the [TTFA’s] duly elected executive from office’ and ‘interfering in the day-to-day management of the [TTFA], including the [TTFA’s] bank accounts and real property’.
On 17 March, the Bureau of the Fifa Council, which is headed by Fifa president Gianni Infantino, declared that the TTFA’s officials—elected on 24 November 2019—were removed with immediate effect due to ‘extremely low overall financial management methods, combined with a massive debt, [which] have resulted in the TTFA facing a very real risk of insolvency and illiquidity’.
Ten days later, Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura installed Robert Hadad as head of its normalisation committee with authority to manage the TTFA. Hadad is aided in that task by deputy chairperson Judy Daniel and ordinary member Nigel Romano.
Wallace immediately rejected Fifa’s decisions and, in a statement today, he accused the governing body of attempting to ‘cover up the financial mismanagement and illegal actions of the last administration’.
“United TTFA states for the public record that the real reason for Fifa’s unwarranted and illegal interference in TTFA’s internal business is its desire to cover up the financial mismanagement and illegal actions of the last administration,” stated Wallace, “including the failure to provide contracts for the expenditure of TT$16 million on the Home of Football, the issuance of dozens of cheques against TTFA accounts that had insufficient funds (‘bounced cheques’), and failure to pay to relevant statutory authorities the sum of TT$4 million deducted from employees’ salaries.
“The fact is that Fifa—in the person of Veron Mosengo-Omba, Chief of Member Associations—repeatedly ignored efforts by TTFA Board members to bring said financial issues to its attention.
“The fact is that Fifa conducts an annual audit of TTFA finances and ignored these issues. The fact is that Fifa turned a blind eye and ear to all evidence of mismanagement and wrongdoing and is complicit in the creation of the financial quagmire that today plagues the association.”
The TTFA’s legal move today will almost certainly be seen as a violation of article 59.2 of the Fifa Statutes, which states:
- “Recourse to ordinary courts of law is prohibited unless specifically provided for in the Fifa regulations. Recourse to ordinary courts of law for all types of provisional measures is also prohibited.”
Fifa recognises only one judicial body, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland. Fifa itself is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.
Article 4 of the Fifa Statutes states:
- “The association’s legally valid statutes shall be enclosed with the application for membership and shall contain the following mandatory provisions:
- a) always to comply with the Statutes, regulations and decisions of FIFA and of the relevant confederation;
- b) to comply with the Laws of the Game in force;
- c) to recognise the Court of Arbitration for Sport, as specified in these Statutes.”
- Fifa article 58.1: “Appeals against final decisions passed by Fifa’s legal bodies and against decisions passed by confederations, member associations or leagues shall be lodged with CAS within 21 days of receipt of the decision in question.”
- Fifa article 59.1: “The confederations, member associations and leagues shall agree to recognise CAS as an independent judicial authority and to ensure that their members, affiliated players and officials comply with the decisions passed by CAS.”
The TTFA formally withdraw its matter from CAS this evening. In a statement today, Wallace reiterated his distrust of the Swiss arbitration body.
“In short order, it became clear that CAS was prepared to ignore its own regulations to facilitate Fifa in its handling of TTFA vs Fifa,” stated Wallace. “Specifically, CAS directed the democratically elected TTFA officers to pay 40,000 Swiss francs (TT$278,000) to cover the entire cost of the proceedings, when its regulations require the two parties to a matter to pay half each.
“It was only in response to the TTFA’s officers’ objection to this glaring denial of its own regulations that CAS called on Fifa to pay its half (20,000 Swiss francs or TT$139,000), which Fifa has since refused to do.
“As a consequence of Fifa’s refusal and based on some other institutional behaviour of CAS, we along with our legal team have serious doubts that we would be afforded a fair hearing at CAS—even if we decided to pay Fifa’s part of the cost.”
Thus far, Wallace has based his defiance on article 38 of the TTFA constitution, which states that ‘the general meeting may dismiss a person or a member of a body’ and ‘the board of directors may place the dismissal of a person or a member of a body on the agenda for the general meeting’.
The person proposed for removal ‘has the right to defend him or herself’ and ‘the motion for dismissal shall be decided by means of secret ballot [with] a majority of three quarters of the valid votes’.
Article 1.1 of the TTFA Constitution defines the local football body as ‘a private organisation of an associative nature in compliance with the relevant legislation of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and incorporated by Act of Parliament (#17 of 1982)’.
However, article 60.1 of the Fifa Statutes states:
- “The confederations, member associations and leagues shall agree to comply fully with any decisions passed by the relevant Fifa bodies which, according to these Statutes, are final and not subject to appeal.”
Fifa Statutes, as already shown, leave provision for an appeal to CAS.
Article 2.1 of the TTFA Constitution also suggests some defence to Fifa when it gives the objectives of the local football body as:
- “… To respect and prevent any infringement of the Statutes, regulations, directives and decisions of Fifa, Concacaf, CFU and TTFA as well as the Laws of the Game, and to ensure that these are also respected by its members…”
Trinidad and Tobago’s High Court must now decide which constitution supersedes the other.
In the meantime, the Congress of the world governing body—which comprises of all 211 member associations—can suspend or expel the TTFA for violating Fifa’s Statutes.
Article 10 of Fifa’s Statutes states:
- “The Congress shall decide whether to admit, suspend or expel a member association solely upon the recommendation of the Council.”
The Council is headed by Infantino and includes Fifa’s eight vice-presidents and 28 members from its six confederations. Concacaf’s five members on the Council are president Victor Montagliani (Canada), female member Sonia Fulford (Turks and Caicos), Central America member Pedro Chaluja (Panama), North America member Sunil Gulati (USA) and Caribbean member Luis Hernandez (Cuba).
Although the Caribbean accounts for 25 of Concacaf’s 35 Fifa-recognised member associations (71 percent), it has just two of the confederation’s five representatives (40 percent) on the Fifa Council.
More likely than not, the decision on the TTFA’s immediate fate will be made by the seven member Bureau of the Fifa Council, which is also headed by Infantino and includes one representative from each confederation. Any declaration by the Bureau must be ratified at the next Council meeting.
If the TTFA is suspended, no member association within Fifa will be allowed to ‘exercise any sporting contact’ with the local football body.
Article 16 of the Fifa Statutes states:
- “The Congress may suspend a member association solely at the request of the Council. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Council may, without a vote of the Congress, temporarily suspend with immediate effect a member association that seriously violates its obligations.
- “[…] A suspension of a member association by the Congress requires a three-quarter (3/4) majority of the member associations present and eligible to vote. A suspension of a member association by the Congress or the Council shall be confirmed at the next Congress by a three-quarter majority of the member associations present and eligible to vote.
- “If it is not confirmed, such suspension shall be automatically lifted.”
It is a risk that Wallace appears to be ready to take, and the retired Carapichaima East Secondary school vice-president reiterated his view that the TTFA holds the moral high ground.
“Within four months of entering office, this very issue [of the TTFA’s inadequate financial structure and rising debt] was discovered by the new administration and a report generated and handed to Fifa, outlining how we intended to deal with what we identified,” said Wallace. “Ironically, our discovery is one of the two reasons Fifa used to remove us from office. Even more ironically Fifa conducts an annual audit at the TTFA and would have done so for the previous four years and never discovered this issue—or, if it was discovered, never demanded that it be fixed.
“The democratically elected TTFA officers immediately rejected and continue to reject this move by Fifa… It was Martin Luther King who said that one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
Wallace further accused the Infantino-led body of bullying small associations for his own political objectives and using its annual subvention—which United TTFA described as ‘dividends’ due to all its stakeholders or member associations from the sale of World Cup television rights—to force compliance.
Infantino was an unabashed supporter of controversial former TTFA president David John-Williams—under whose tenure the local body’s debt skyrocketed from TT$18 million (US$2.6) to over TT$50 million (US$7 million) in just four years, despite the fact that the TTFA’s subvention from Fifa tripled since 2017.
“The truth is that over the years, and certainly the David John-Williams years (2015-2019), Fifa showed no interest in good governance and proper financial management for the Association, nor in its ballooning debt,” said Wallace. “What is also clear is that there are high Fifa officials who are prepared to use the Fifa dependency of small member associations—members with little if any alternative income streams—to manipulate them to their political agenda and to use them for their vote, in return for which Fifa turns a blind eye and ear to internal shenanigans.
“The democratically elected TTFA officers reject this Fifa game and reject the concept of Fifa dependency. Indeed, it has come to our attention that Fifa has instructed its so-called normalisation committee to abandon the deals already signed by TTFA and those that are imminent.
“It’s almost as if the dependency on funding from Fifa must be maintained at all cost.”
Even before Fifa implemented a normalisation committee in March, the governing body stalled on releasing its annual subvention to the TTFA since January and never provided any funding to the Wallace-led body.
Hadad did not respond to the TTFA’s injunction up until the time of publication. In truth, the operations of the local football body were already at a virtual standstill.
In two months as Fifa’s supposed man of business on the island, Hadad is yet to meet his unpaid office staff—whether virtually or otherwise—or discuss contracts with coaches, owed match fees to players or debts to creditors.
Wired868 was informed that requests for meetings with the normalisation committee chairman from the aforementioned parties were invariably met with promises of a get-together at an unspecified date.
At present, technical director Dion La Foucade seems to be the only person capable of regularly getting Hadad at the other end of the phone.
The TTFA’s website and email addresses were taken offline last month after the relevant UK tech firm complained that Hadad routinely snubbed its messages.
Things are likely to get far worse for the TTFA before they get better.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read the full statement from the United TTFA slate on the decision to take FIFA to the Trinidad and Tobago High Court.