Representatives for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s (TTFA) national technical staff members have reported progress in discussions with the Fifa-appointed normalisation committee, with a settlement believed to be imminent.
The coaches and assortment of support staff, who were all hired under the William Wallace-led administration, have not been paid since they took up duties between December 2019 and January 2020.
Initially, Wallace said he did not have the funds to cover their remuneration, due to Fifa’s refusal to send Forward Programme money for the cash-strapped body. Then, normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad reneged on a promise on 29 April to meet with each team to review contracts and facilitate payment.
On Tuesday 25 August, the technical staff members took matters into their own hands by marching to the TTFA’s office at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva—in the glare of the media—to personally drop off contracts and letters of appointment and demand talks.
After initially meeting a locked gate, a release today suggested a thawing of relations following virtual meetings with not only Hadad but committee members Judy Daniel and Nigel Romano.
“The normalisation committee has met with the Trinidad and Tobago national senior staff and youth team coaches on the 9th September as promised,” stated the release. “In the meeting (which was facilitated virtually), the normalisation committee outlined proposals for the settlement of outstanding payments to technical staff members. The proposal was generally satisfactory however nuances in some individual contracts require further engagement.
“The commitment was given by the normalisation committee to return to our group with a final proposal for settlement in a couple days.”
Staff members praised the cordial response by the committee, which they have taken in good faith. Outside of the Men’s National Senior Team technical staff, the majority of their group saw their contracts end last month.
Although only the Women’s National Under-20 Team saw competitive action—they finished as quarterfinalists at the 2020 Concacaf competition—all the teams were activated and trained until Covid-19 forced a shut down in March.
Wired868 understands that the normalisation committee initially tried to renegotiate contracts during the recent meetings. This was rejected by coaches who were open to that idea in April, while they were still employed, but found it unacceptable to do so at the end of their deals.
With the novel coronavirus ensuring a freeze on competitive football within Concacaf in 2020, the normalisation committee—which was arguably ceded control of the secretariat by Wallace and his elected officers—is not expected to rehire any technical staff members this year. However, the payment of coaches would arguably represent a minor victory for Hadad and his team in their new roles.
“We believe there is good reason to be optimistic of this process being completed within the time frame suggested by the normalisation committee,” stated the technical staff members. “This optimism is borne out of the productive and transparent nature of the meetings between both parties thus far.”
The normalisation committee has also scheduled an Extraordinary General Meeting on 15 September, which is meant to give members the opportunity to distance themselves from Wallace’s legal case with Fifa, and/or compel the TTFA’s elected officers to abandon its courtroom fight.
Wallace refused to attend since he does not recognise the normalisation committee’s authority to be involved in the process, while Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (TTFRA) vice-president Osmond Downer, one of the framers of the TTFA constitution, also challenged the validity of the EGM.
The coaches are not part of the larger debate in the local game, although that may change soon. The TTFA’s technical staff members also started the formation of a coaches association within recent weeks and intend to see it through.
Men’s National Under-17 Team head coach and Under-20 Team assistant coach Angus Eve, who also heads the Naparima College and Club Sando football programmes, said the group has spoken not only to the 35-odd TTFA employees, but also coaches like Cornell Glen and Travis Mulraine, who are ‘enthusiastic about it’.
“We believe this week we will have the registration documents done and Mr Downer is helping us with the constitution and gave us a timetable of next week to finish it,” Eve told Wired868. “[…] This action shows when you come together how more effective you are than as individuals. We have been able to make far more inroads as a group [with the normalisation committee] than as individuals.”
Men’s National Under-15 Team assistant coach Wayne Sheppard, who is also Arima North Secondary technical director and QPCC assistant coach, said the coaches association could be a blessing for all stakeholders of the game.
“We don’t just see this as an association to deal with monies owed; we see this as a plan to elevate the standard of coaching by improving the opportunities for coaching education and certification,” said Sheppard. “We have some ideas about how to improve that. We also want, as one of the main stakeholders whose voice has been absent, to help those who are in power in making decisions to help the game go forward.
“It is not about confrontation. We feel we have a unique oversight about things that administrators don’t have which affect our chances for success. The same would go for the players [and an active players association] as well.”