Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad has scheduled an extraordinary general meeting on 15 September for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s (TTFA) 47 member delegates, in the first significant response by local stakeholders to the impasse between the TTFA’s elected officers and Fifa.
Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura vowed, last month, to initiate the process for sanctions against the TTFA, if besieged president William Wallace—who Fifa insists was replaced by its normalisation committee in March—does not withdraw a High Court case against his removal by 16 September.
On 13 August, High Court Judge Carol Gobin ruled that Wallace remains the recognised head of the TTFA and dismissed Fifa’s request for his case to be dismissed or moved to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Fifa is challenging Justice Gobin’s decision, with the appeal date set for 19 October. However, the global football body, headed by president Gianni Infantino, wants Wallace to fall on his own sword, despite the High Court ruling, and threatened action against the TTFA in the interim—even as the two bodies remain locked in court.
The EGM appears to be a last ditch effort by some local football delegates to convince Wallace to respect Infantino’s wishes.
The TTFA Constitution allows for members to suspend its president via an accord by two-thirds of its members at an EGM, convened by its board of directors. Fifa replaced the TTFA board with a normalisation committee in March, although it is a decision without legal effect outside of Zurich, Switzerland.
Either way, an EGM for the purpose of suspending or expelling the TTFA’s elected officers requires at least 30 days’ notice. So, members opposed to the court action decided to use the only option was available to them within the time frame.
“There is a specific time frame to remove a president using an EGM,” said Eastern Football Association (EFA) president Kieron Edwards, “but with this course of action, a meeting can be held within 10 days.”
The delay in the request for an EGM, according to one football delegate, was supposedly due to a misunderstanding over what was at stake in the court case.
“The membership only had an issue when, after the court ruling they realised the matter could lead to the TTFA being banned,” said one delegate, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “[…] All the time William Wallace was saying the matter was between him and Fifa and he would stand the consequences; and now we are understanding it is the TTFA versus Fifa and it is the country that will stand the consequences.
“And that is when we [decided to] act.”
Nine of the 10 Pro League Clubs, the largest voting bloc within the TTFA, supported the EGM, with Point Fortin Civic as the only absentee. There was support from all three representatives from the EFA and Eastern Counties bodies too, along with the T&T Beach Soccer Association and Veterans Football Foundation.
However, there were no signatures from the Tobago Football Association (TFA), Northern Football Association (NFA), T&T Football Referees Association (TTFRA), Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), Primary Schools Association or TTAYSO.
From nine Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) delegates, there were three signatures: RSSR FC, Club Sando FC and QPCC.
TTSL president Keith Look Loy, who is a member of the United TTFA slate that successfully contested the last election and is behind the Fifa court case, said neither he nor his club, FC Santa Rosa, will attend an ‘illegal event’.
“Under the constitution of the TTFA, which has not been suspended, Hadad and the normalisation committee do not exist and Hadad has no authority to call any meeting in TTFA,” Look Loy told Wired868. “Moreover, they called on the normalisation committee to call a meeting to recognise the normalisation committee. Does that make sense?
“Additionally, at least one signatory to that petition was unauthorised. I speak for FC Santa Rosa when I say that the club will not legalise this illegal event by participating.”
Look Loy said he was informed that Christine Rose was not authorised to vote on behalf of WoLF, while QPCC’s signatory, Matthew Leach, did not understand what he signed. That was partially correct, at best.
WoLF president Susan Joseph-Warrick, who is a TTFA vice-president and party to the legal matter against Fifa, said Rose was authorised to sign on behalf of the body. However, she criticised Rose, the WoLF treasurer, for failing to ‘consult’ with her colleagues.
“We need to consult with our membership for serious matters like this,” said Joseph-Warrick. “And this is something I am hearing through the back door. As far as I know, this was not discussed at membership or executive level.”
Leach’s view is that QPCC does not consider itself to be against Wallace. However, the ‘Parkites’ are certainly against the risk of Fifa suspension.
“Queen’s Park’s only position is that we would like to discontinue any litigation against Fifa,” said Leach. “And if the only way is to have an EGM to facilitate a conversation with the United TTFA, then that is our course of action.”
Wired868 asked Look Loy if he would still boycott the EGM, if the signatures were deemed valid. He said he would.
“FC Santa Rosa and others who will speak for themselves will not attend this illegal event,” said Look Loy.
Wallace is keeping his own options open.
“I have no issue with membership exercising their right as per the constitution,” said Wallace. “Whether I attend or not would be decided in due course.”
On 27 August, Wallace failed to show at a stakeholders meeting chaired by Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe and, a day after the meeting, informed the Ministry of Sport that: ‘based on legal advice, unfortunately, it would be inappropriate for us to meet with the minister at this point in time to have any discussions pertaining to a matter presently before our honourable courts’.
It is uncertain whether Wallace would use the same reasoning to skip the EGM, although the court case carries obvious ramifications for the football body that he still heads; or how members will respond to his next move.
The TTFA Constitution lists the president as its ‘legal officer’, which allows Wallace—like his predecessors—to unilaterally represent the football body. However, it is a controversial clause that provoked ire when used by Wallace’s predecessors without the knowledge of the board.
Of course, Wallace and his team point out that, unlike previous administrations, they are not using TTFA funds for their battle which is simply about making a principled stance against their unjust removals.
Since the 15 September EGM cannot legally remove Wallace, the only hope from concerned stakeholders is that he can be swayed through moral persuasion, magnified by their numbers.
Edwards, who said a normalisation committee is long overdue in local football to ‘fix the wrongs’ of the past, said the onus ought to be on Wallace now to show what the TTFA has to gain from the legal fight with Fifa.
“They need to state what happens next if we are banned and they are in charge,” said Edwards. “How are coaches going to be paid? How is football going to be run? How are programmes going to happen?
“The normal entry back into football after you are banned is through a normalisation committee: will we accept one then?”