Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura has asked ‘new’ Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) boss Robert Hadad—the head of its normalisation committee in the twin island republic—to tell ‘former’ TTFA president William Wallace to ignore the order of High Court Judge Carol Gobin and move its dispute with Fifa to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
And, Samoura stressed, the ‘former’ TTFA must not liaise directly with Fifa; but instead through the ‘new’ TTFA.
The missive was sent to Hadad this afternoon by the world governing body, although it was arguably the sort of exchange one might expect of two bickering form three students.
At present, Hadad has control over the TTFA office because it was essentially relinquished to him by Wallace. Otherwise, Hadad is not recognised as the head of the local football body by any legal entity in the country including the High Court. Samoura would be aware of this too, since she acknowledged Gobin’s judgment.
In effect, Fifa is asking Wallace to ignore an order by the Trinidad and Tobago High Court and, instead, face the Switzerland-based body at CAS instead. Fifa is headquartered in Zurich, CAS is based in Lausanne.
And Samoura is trying to lure Wallace into Switzerland while arguably ridiculing his standing within the TTFA, and by threatening to unleash wrath on the local game if he does not act as instructed.
“As you are aware, Fifa is extremely concerned regarding the decision of the claim and the arguments used to dismiss Fifa’s application,” stated Samoura’s dispatch. “In this context, we draw your attention to article 59 of the Fifa Statutes, which expressly contains the prohibition of recourse to ordinary courts of law unless specifically provided for.
“Fifa takes such a principle with the utmost seriousness and therefore considers that it is the responsibility of its member associations to ensure that this principle is implemented.
“We further wish to underline that the failure to meet these obligations may, according to article 14 par 4 of the Fifa Statutes, lead to sanctions as provided for in the Fifa Statutes, including a possible suspension.”
The Fifa Statutes, according to the Fifa website, was last updated in June 2019—and it does not include an ‘article 14 par 4’. However, article 13.3 reads:
“Violations of par 1 (i) may also lead to sanctions, even if the third-party influence was not the fault of the member association concerned. Each member association is responsible towards Fifa for any and all acts of the members of their bodies caused by the gross negligence or wilful misconduct of such members.”
So, Samoura intends to hold Hadad responsible for ‘any and all acts of the members of their bodies’. The problem with applying that to Wallace is, if Fifa does not recognise him as TTFA president, then how does it apply to him?
Wallace resigned as Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) president last month and, as such, his only link to the TTFA is as president. If Fifa does not recognise him as TTFA president, then how can the local football body be responsible for his behaviour?
Of course, the High Court does view Wallace—and not Hadad—as the legitimate head of Trinidad and Tobago football. And, earlier today, Wallace used the TTFA letterhead to email Fifa president Gianni Infantino with a request for a meeting.
Wallace’s letter, which is supposedly the seventh such overture to the world governing body, was also forwarded to the local and international media.
It appeared to prompt Samoura’s letter, which opened with: “On 13 August 2020, it has come to our attention the decision of ‘the claim between the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and the Federation Internationale of Football Association (Fifa)’ at the Trinidad and Tobago High Court…”
Justice Gobin’s judgment has ‘come to Fifa’s attention’? About a week after Fifa formally appealed the decision?
Infantino and Samoura ought to have already read Gobin’s ruling, which stated that:
“[…] This case goes well beyond TTFA’s alleged governance issues and the justifiability of Fifa’s purported action in appointing the Normalisation Committee. This is about the legitimacy of powers exercised under Article 8(2) of the FIFA Statutes and its consistency with a law passed by legislators in this country.
“This is a matter which falls squarely within the jurisdiction of the High Court of this country. This is not a matter for the Court of Arbitration for Sport…”
Fifa is then asking its appointee, Hadad, to persuade Wallace to ignore a High Court ruling—and threatening action if he doesn’t—while simultaneously appealing the said decision with the local Court of Appeal.
Wallace was given a deadline of 16 September to withdraw the case, which is 48 hours prior to the 2020 Fifa Congress. The fate of the TTFA is likely to be raised at that online Fifa meeting.
“We firmly request the TTFA to ask the TTFA former leadership for an immediate withdrawal of the claim at the Trinidad and Tobago High Court by 16 September 2020, at the latest,” stated Samoura. “In view of the above, we deem that that a failure to comply with this directive would result in the commencement of suspension proceedings via the relevant Fifa bodies.
“Finally, we kindly request that you communicate the foregoing to the relevant persons and keep us closely informed on further developments regarding the matter.”
Hadad had his assistant Amiel Mohammed forward the Fifa missive to Wallace by email, rather than contact the administrator himself. But then the HadCo Limited co-CEO has consistently taken a detached approach to his management of the TTFA.
Yesterday, over a dozen technical staff members turned up at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva to deliver their letters of appointment to the normalisation committee. Instead, the unpaid coaches—who included iconic past national footballers like Angus Eve, Clayton Morris and Stern John—found themselves locked out of the stadium for over an hour.
Hadad, even as he made Fifa’s threat public, did not offer an explanation for his treatment of the national coaches or address their grievances.
Fifa and Hadad, though, are trying to pin potential sanctions against the TTFA on Wallace, while simultaneously saying that Wallace has no position within the local game whatsoever.
It is a lingering bout of cognitive dissonance by Fifa that Justice Gobin addressed in her ruling on 13 August.
“There is an inherent contradiction in the Fifa’s purported appointment of a normalisation committee, the purpose of which has been to usurp the powers and functions of the executive of the TTFA on the one hand,” stated the High Court judge, “and its insistence on holding the TTFA to the arbitration agreement on the other. The claimant properly asks the question: ‘whom does FIFA hold to that agreement?’
“In other words, if Fifa disputes the authority of Mr Wallace and others to act on behalf of TTFA, and TTFA is under the control of the normalisation committee—how does it reconcile that with its insistence that these very persons who have no authority to file these court should commence arbitration proceedings in Switzerland.
“The [CAS] arbitration process cannot be triggered if there is a dispute as to the capacity of one of the parties to invoke the process and to bind TTFA to any outcome.
“[…] By its challenge to the authority of persons to bring this action, in which proceedings were signed by the President, Mr Wallace and the board of directors named in the arbitration proceedings, the arbitration was rendered inoperable.”