Fifa announced today that it has withdrawn from proposed mediation talks with the ‘United TTFA’ and blamed its decision on the ‘failure’ of the latter’s attorneys ‘to keep the matter confidential’.
Yesterday, Fifa, for the first time since 17 March, suggested that it was ready to talk to besieged TTFA president William Wallace and his vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Sam Philip.
The move followed repeated requests for mediation from Wallace’s team and a recent public appeal for the same by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
Within hours, TTFA attorney Dr Emir Crowne was on TV6 to share the update with the public. And, barely a day later, Fifa said it was again walking away from the negotiating table.
“This mediation will not go ahead now in any event,” stated a release from Fifa, “owing to the failure of the lawyers of ‘United TTFA’ to keep the matter confidential—in line with their professional and ethical obligations.”
The TTFA is represented legally by Matthew Gayle, Crystal Paul and Crowne of the New City Chambers while Fifa retained attorneys Christopher Hamel-Smith SC, Jonathan Walker and Cherie Gopie from M Hamel-Smith and Co.
Fifa is headed by president Gianni Infantino, who also leads the Bureau of the Fifa Council. On 17 March, the Bureau voted to replace Wallace and other elected officials with a normalisation committee, led by businessman Robert Hadad.
Wallace and his vice-presidents have resisted Infantino in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and, subsequently, in the local High Court.
Wired868 did not receive a response from Crowne or Gayle on Fifa’s decision to scupper talks up to the time of publication.
A Trinidad Newsday article last night quoted United TTFA member Keith Look Loy as suggesting that Fifa’s agreement to talk ‘implicitly offers recognition by Fifa of the democratically elected TTFA leadership, and it potentially opens the way for productive talk between equals’.
However, the Fifa statement today, which was unsigned, insisted that the governing body still does not recognise Wallace as TTFA president and had no intention of disbanding its own normalisation committee.
“For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that the mediation Fifa previously agreed to with ‘United TTFA’ would never have dealt with the legality of the appointment of the normalisation committee,” stated Fifa, “and would only have covered some costs related issues.”
Look Loy, who is a member of the TTFA Board and president of the Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL), fired back that if Fifa really wanted to talk about costs, then the United TTFA is happy not to have wasted its time.
“If that is their approach, then Fifa is just playing a game and they are saving us time and additional expense,” Look Loy told Wired868. “When our lawyers wrote to them, we thought we were discussing mediation on the substantiative issue, which is the appointment of the normalisation committee. We were willing to compromise and find a way to work with them, once they recognised our jurisdiction.
“But in their usual arrogant, high handed manner, they are saying they were only ever going to talk about costs. So onward to the court!”
Had the leaking of Fifa’s inclination to talk to Wallace and his vice-presidents embarrassed the governing body and put its own normalisation committee, headed by businessman Robert Hadad, in an awkward position?
Was Fifa indulging in time wasting? Or did Fifa believe that Wallace’s resolve had weakened and he would be willing to drop the case and walk—once there was no financial loss attached to doing so?
Wired868 can confirm that Crowne reached out to the Fifa attorneys for help in ‘resolving the matter through mediation’. At no time did either party suggest that discussions would be limited to costs or anything else.
There was also an informal agreement that both sides would request an adjournment to their legal case so as to further pursue mediation, once necessary.
The two parties are due to meet in the High Court on 29 July, when Fifa will push for the case to be moved from Trinidad and back to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Fifa itself is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.
Look Loy said Fifa is terrified of their court date, which he feels can strike a blow at the governing body’s ability to unilaterally unseat properly elected officials.
“I believe Fifa is petrified about the possibility of the local court upholding this case, which will undermine the Fifa/CAS normalisation committee system and culture,” said Look Loy. “Every national association across the globe would be taking note of that decision and it will undermine Fifa’s untrammelled power to implement a committee with no set guidelines, which allows it to do whatever Fifa wants for how long it wants; that is an arbitrary use of power.
“At the moment, there are no definite conditions under which a normalisation committee could and should be imposed, or time limits on its exercise of authority. But onwards to the court—no problem.”
Fifa, the largest single sport body in the world, insisted that, although the TTFA is formed by an Act of Parliament, it would not accept the direction of the Trinidad and Tobago courts in its handling of the local association.
“Fifa does not, and will never, accept the jurisdiction of a local court in Trinidad and Tobago to decide on the legality of the appointment of the normalisation committee currently appointed to run football in the territory,” stated the Fifa statement. “For the avoidance of doubt, Fifa only recognises the authority and jurisdiction of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in these matters.
“Any dispute regarding the appointment of a normalisation committee falls squarely within the jurisdiction of the CAS—and CAS alone. ‘United TTFA’ itself previously went to CAS and then unilaterally withdrew from the CAS process.”
Fifa’s insistence on referring to its case as a matter against the ‘United TTFA’ rather than the TTFA was itself pointed.
Once more, the tussle between Wallace and Infantino is heading for court.