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Fifa vows to bring TTFA ‘in line’, lodges appeal against High Court ruling

Fifa, the world governing football body, has vowed to bring the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) ‘in line’ and warned of ‘potential further action’ against the member association, as a result of High Court action taken by the TTFA’s elected officials.

Last week, TTFA president William Wallace and vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph Warrick and Sam Phillip secured a potentially seismic legal triumph over Fifa, when High Court Judge Carol Gobin ruled that the local officials were not bound by an arbitration clause with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and could take Fifa to court here.

Photo: Naparima College attacker Mark Ramdeen (centre) poses with his 2018 SSFL MVP trophy between SSFL president William Wallace (right) and ambassador Shaka Hislop.
(Copyright Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

Fifa, which is headed by president Gianni Infantino, declared this afternoon that it will appeal Justice Gobin’s ruling.

“Fifa is today lodging an appeal against the decision of the Trinidad and Tobago High Court issued last week,” stated a Fifa release, “to proceed with a claim from the former leadership of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) against the decision of the Bureau of the Fifa Council in March 2020 to appoint a normalisation committee for the TTFA.

“This appeal is a formal step, and as football’s world governing body, Fifa further insists that the only recognised path to resolve such a dispute is the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

“The recognition of the CAS as the correct forum in which to hear the dispute is in accordance with the Fifa Statutes that all 211 Fifa member associations have agreed to, as well as in agreement with TTFA’s own statutes on this matter.”

Fifa warned too of potential action against the TTFA, after Wallace and his vice-presidents’ refusal to abide by its ruling.

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino.

“The insistence of the TTFA former leadership to bring this matter to a local court instead of the established dispute resolution forum at CAS greatly endangers the overall football structure in the country,” stated Fifa, “and endangers the position of Trinidad and Tobago football internationally.

“The absence of a resolution that is in line with the statutes of both Fifa and TTFA will result in the matter being brought to the attention of the relevant Fifa bodies for consideration and potential further action.”

The TTFA is represented legally by Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle, Jason Jones and Crystal Paul while Fifa is represented in this action by local attorneys: Christopher Hamel-Smith SC, Jonathan Walker and Cherie Gopie.

Last week, Justice Gobin noted Fifa’s repeated threats to the local game and the respective TTFA officials in particular and warned the Zurich-based body to be mindful of its own lofty humanitarian goals.

“As for the concerns about irreparable fallout or adverse consequences to TTFA and Trinidad and Tobago, I am encouraged by the lofty objectives identified in Fifa statutes,” stated Justice Gobin, “and particularly articles (3) and (4) of Fifa’s commitment to respecting internationally recognised human rights, non-discrimination of any kind against a country for any reason and its commitment to promoting friendly relations in society for humanitarian objectives all of which are underpinned by an appreciation for the rule of law.

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino (left) presents Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley with a personalised football jersey during the opening of the TTFA Home of Football in Couva on 18 November 2019.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

“I do not expect Fifa to walk off the field or to take its ball and go home if after full ventilation of the issues, this court were to confirm the primacy of an Act of the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago over the Fifa Statutes.”

Fifa will hold its 70th Congress online on Friday 18 September and its fourth agenda item is the ‘suspension or expulsion of a member’. However, Fifa’s appeal against Justice Gobin’s judgment is unlikely to have been heard by then.

It is left to be seen if Fifa would initiate such drastic action against the TTFA in the midst of a court case with the latter’s officials.

The Soca Warriors are scheduled to open their Qatar 2020 World Cup qualifying campaign on Thursday 8 October with a home game against Guyana. Were Fifa to suspend the TTFA, such action would automatically expel the Men’s National Senior Team from the competition outright.

Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read the main points of contention that will be put before the Court of Appeal.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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