We’re obliged to ‘disobey unjust laws’! TTFA explains decision to take Fifa to court

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“[…] 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:

“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 following statement on the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s decision to take Fifa to the local High Court was issued today by the United TTFA slate of William Wallace, Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick, Joseph Sam Phillip, Anthony Harford and Keith Look Loy:

Photo: TTFA president William Wallace.
(Courtesy TTFA Media/Allan V Crane)

In the founding Constitution of the Republic (1 August 1976), the people of Trinidad and Tobago assert ‘their belief in a democratic society in which all persons may, to the extent of their capacity, play some part in the institutions of the national life and thus develop and maintain due respect for lawfully constituted authority’.

The Republican Constitution continues ‘(we) recognise that men and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law’.

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We, the people of Trinidad and Tobago are a free and sovereign people.

Duty of care

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association is an independent body established by the sovereign Parliament of our nation under Act 17 of 1982. In Article 2(d) the TTFA Constitution places a duty of care on the elected officials of the Association to ‘protect the interests of its members’.

TTFA is a free and sovereign institution under the Law of Trinidad and Tobago. On 24 November 2019 a new TTFA executive headed by my good-self was democratically elected by the football community in an election supervised by Fifa and Concacaf.

Less than four months later, on 17 March 2020, Fifa declared its removal of the democratically elected TTFA leadership and its appointment of a so-called normalisation committee. As one of its two rationale for this high handed and illegal move FIFA offered ‘the extremely low or non-existent financial management and governance at the TTFA’ and ‘the real risk of insolvency and illiquidity if corrective measures are not applied’.

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino (left) and secretary general Fatma Samoura.

Within four months of entering office this very issue was discovered by the new administration and a report generated and handed to Fifa, outlining how we intended to deal with what we identified.

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.

United TTFA, which comprises the democratically elected TTFA officers (William Wallace, Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick, and Joseph Sam Taylor), plus Anthony Harford and Keith Look Loy, considered the options available to the group to resist Fifa and initially decided to resort to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as allowed under Fifa Statutes.

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. 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.

Photo: The entrance to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland.
(via Inside The Games)

It was based on this that the United TTFA after long and hard deliberations decided to lodge a brief with the sovereign High court of Trinidad and Tobago, requesting:

  1. A declaration that the purported decision of the Defendant (Fifa) dated the 17th March 2020, purporting to remove the Claimant’s (TTFA’s) duly elected executive is null, void and of no legal and/or binding effect;
  2. A permanent injunction preventing [Fifa] from interfering in, and/or seeking to override the fair and transparent democratic processes of the [TTFA] and/or from attempting removing the [TTFA’s] duly elected executive from office;
  3. A permanent injunction preventing [Fifa] and/or its agents and/or assigns and/or servants from interfering in the day-to-day management of the [TTFA], including the [TTFA’s] bank accounts and real property.

It was Martin Luther King who said that one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

Real reason for FIFA intervention

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, 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.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (left) embraces FIFA chief members association officer Veron Mosengo-Omba during the opening of the TTFA Home of Football on 18 November 2019.
Mosengo-Omba, a DR Congo national, was the FIFA official with line responsibility over the construction of the Home of Football.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

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 fact is since 2004/05 FIFA has placed 33 member associations under a Normalisation Committee—of those 33 T&T is the only national association where the removed executive was not culpable for the infractions that led to normalisation.

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.

Fifa rights vs Fifa dependency

United TTFA rejects the arguments of some that ‘Fifa has the right to intervene because they fund TTFA’. Let us be clear. The annual funding provided by Fifa to each of its 211 members is the right of each member as decided by the Fifa Congress. It is not a favour handed down to members by any Fifa president. That funding is generated mainly by the sale of broadcast rights for the Fifa (Men’s) World Cup.

All members of Fifa, including TTFA, participate in the World Cup and enjoy an annual dividend as shareholders of Fifa.

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.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (centre) is flanked by FIFA president Gianni Infantino (right) and TTFA president David John-Williams during the opening of the TTFA Home of Football in Couva on 18 November 2019.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

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.

Upon return to office the work of recruiting sponsors, equipment and finance, which was successfully underway and which Fifa has interrupted, will continue.

Historic struggle

United TTFA assures the football community and the people of Trinidad and Tobago that we have carefully considered the options, the potential risks and the beneficial outcomes of this struggle to defend the sovereignty of our country and our football.

We are guided by the principles of Freedom and Democracy enshrined in the supreme and governing law of Trinidad and Tobago—the Constitution—under which TTFA is established.

We shall prevail.

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  1. I humbly share the sentiments of the constitutionally elected body led by Mr William Wallace and his team to take this fight against Fifa to the very end. I believe they are being provided with the best advice in championing this cause, I believe that justice shall be served and the high and mighty shall be humbled. Trusting that the T.T.F.A. fight is a legitimate stance for justice let this be a lesson learnt that should their tenure in office is upheld, their services is dedicated at all times to provide good governance for Football, amongst all member Associations and stakeholders in our country.

  2. Oh boy, I was hoping it never came to this. This is not a case of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ because even if TTFA win in court the court cannot force the FIFA to fund them and the courts would not be able to prevent any FIFA suspension. This battle will have one loser for sure and that is Trinidad and Tobago football. Sometimes you have to take your loss and go home even if you feel you were wronged and other times you have to choose to fight. Well this time I think the ‘head strong’ position is being taken. We may all have different opinions as to whether if this is the time to fight or to run away, but ‘only time will tell’ if Trinidad and Tobago football will benefit from such action. It will be very interesting to see how they prove their case concerning the ‘culpability’ of the previous administration. Now do not get me wrong, there are things that need explaining and questions need to be asked and answered. But in the right forum. You cannot think because the FIFA gets their major funding from World Cup TV Rights and you participate in the World Cup means that you have the right to violate the laws of the FIFA. People of T&T turn to cricket for a while because when COVID-19 take a break, you would not be having any International Football for a while until this is settled. And Mr. Veron, if you really went too far this time, well you would have a lot of ‘credibility’ issues to deal with after this is over.

    • Forget Trinidad and Tobago FOOTBALL. Do TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO a favour and STFU with this spineless rubbish!
      What doth it profit a man, I ask you, to gain the world wide…?

  3. Listen! I couldn’t be prouder of my people that they STAND for justice. TTFA has already won. Never sell yourself out for any reason. Will be praying for truth and victory.

  4. The United TTFA has proffered a rather compelling argument in support of its position and it is now left to be seen whether our High Court will agree. Will Wallace and his team emerge victorious in this proverbial war between the TTFA as David and FIFA as Goliath? I don’t know, but I do respect the actions that are being taken by the “current” TTFA to challenge what it clearly believes to be the wrong that was committed against it.

  5. Stay the course Mr. Wallace. Some people are to quick to submit even when they are right. Stand up for your rights, don’t fall for their wrongs.

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