On Monday, attorney Matthew Gayle wrote to Fifa and requested mediation on behalf of his clients, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace and vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Sam Phillip, as an alternative to a High Court battle.
The TTFA’s request, which had a deadline of 2pm today, was despatched to Fifa before the Law Office of Dr Claude Denbow announced that it was representing the world governing body in the matter; and Gayle subsequently repeated the offer to the local firm.
Today, Emily Devlin, senior legal counsel for Fifa’s Legal and Compliance department, responded. And the message was, essentially, the time for talk has passed:
“I refer to your letter of 25 May 2020. Fifa has instructed Dr Claude H Denbow SC to act for it in relation to the above claim. All correspondence should be sent to Dr Denbow.”
Thus far, the Denbow firm has said even less. Up until this evening, four hours after the TTFA’s deadline, the legal team of Dr Claude Denbow SC, Donna Denbow and Jerome Rajcoomar had not even acknowledged the request—according to the local football body—let alone replied to it.
Rajcoomar told Wired868 that he had no comment on the matter.
Two months after Fifa’s attempt to remove the TTFA’s elected officers—just four months into their four year term—neither the world governing body’s president Gianni Infantino nor secretary general Fatma Samoura have shared the report from the ‘fact-finding mission’ that supposedly provoked their actions, or explained why they did not try to work with Wallace before pointing him to the door.
Wallace said Fifa officials have been nothing but consistent since the Fifa Bureau of the Council appointed a normalisation committee to run its affairs in Trinidad and Tobago on 17 March.
“Well, we await Denbow’s response now,” Wallace told Wired868. “It is unfortunate and probably consistent with how we were treated from day one. I, as president, am a member of Fifa and [think of it] like we are in a family; I would think if there was an issue there must be some sort of dialogue.
“Instead, they just sent in a normalisation committee. Something is not right there and it goes against everything that natural justice represents. We never got a chance to discuss anything, including our suggestions for dealing with the debt—nothing!”
Wallace, who is also the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) president, said he is aware that some local stakeholders are concerned about the potential ramifications of the TTFA’s fight with Fifa. And he suggested there are also persons who are trying to capitalise on this unease for their own political agendas.
“Everybody will have different perspectives but what is important is my vice presidents and myself are looking through the same lens,” he said, “and we are fighting something that we think is totally unjust—it is almost disrespectful. For me, this is a fight that is necessary and if at the end of the day we lose in the courts, then I will respect that and move on with my life.
“For all the people who say we are affecting the youths, for the last four years we were going backwards and teams were being disbanded or not being treated as they should and nobody said anything. [A Fifa suspension] is something that might happen; but the last four years actually happened and yet no one was talking out.
“We are prepared to live or die by our decision.”
Once more, Wallace suggested that the TTFA’s elected officials have the moral high ground and tried to frame the battle as such.
“We are fighting for justice and fair play and the future of our football,” said the besieged administrator. “The game is supposed to teach our young men and women lessons on and off the field of play, and definitely this is a lesson off the field of play that I think is extremely important for them to learn.”
Despite the consistency of Fifa’s cold message to local football officials, Wallace said he still has not given up hope for an amicable settlement.
“I am still optimistic that, even in their last correspondence, they said to contact their lawyer and perhaps that avenue might give us an opportunity to be heard,” he said. “Although I am disappointed with their response, I am still optimistic that we can get a positive response out of the Fifa.”