Fifa president Gianni Infantino has made a substitution. It will be Christopher Hamel-Smith SC and not Dr Claude Denbow SC who will represent the world governing body in its case against the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) at the Port of Spain High Court.
Fifa chief legal and compliance officer Dr Emilio Garcia officially confirmed the change today in correspondence sent to the High Court and three sets of attorneys—including the TTFA’s representatives of Matthew Gayle, Dr Emir Crowne and Crystal Paul.
“Take notice that the defendant, The Fédération Internationale De Football Association (Fifa) herein hereby appoints Messrs M Hamel-Smith and Co in place and instead of Donna Denbow of the Law Offices of Dr Claude H Denbow SC,” stated the legal correspondence, which was signed by Garcia and Cherie Gopie for Hamel-Smith and Co.
It means the legal team of the Denbows and Jerome Rajcoomar, who were appointed on 26 May, are now replaced by a fresh line-up of Hamel-Smith, Jonathan Walker and Gopie. There was no explanation offered by any party for the change.
Hamel-Smith and Walker successfully represented United States television giant Telemundo, three years ago, against the TTFA, during the term of local football president David John-Williams.
Williams tried to block Telemundo from exercising television rights for the Soca Warriors’ World Cup qualifying matches and tried to resell those rights. In the end, ‘DJW’ caved and the matter was settled out of court.
‘Team Hamel-Smith’ will try to repeat the trick against John-Williams’ successor, William Wallace. The case will hinge, in the first place, on whether the local High Court is the right forum to hear the grievance between Fifa and the TTFA, since both parties have arbitration clauses that point to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Wallace and vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Sam Phillip abandoned CAS after complaining of biased treatment by the sport arbitration body, which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Fifa has until 18 June to file its response to the TTFA’s injunction. And Hamel-Smith will spearhead their legal arguments.