Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace has asked the High Court to block the Fifa-appointed normalisation committee from holding an Extraordinary General Meeting on 15 September, as the two bodies continue to fight over the right to run the local game.
On 4 September, normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad announced that the ad hoc body would ‘convene’ an EGM, in keeping with the TTFA Constitution—after a request by 25 of the local football body’s 47 delegates. (There is some dispute whether three of the signatories were valid.)
The agenda of the meeting includes: ‘the recognition of the Fifa-installed normalisation committee’ and ‘consequences of initiating court matter against Fifa in local court’.
The member delegates’ request for an EGM came soon after Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura’s threat to ‘commence suspension proceedings’ against the TTFA, as a result of Wallace’s legal action against the the global body.
On 13 August, High Court Judge Carol Gobin ruled that Wallace and his vice-presidents can challenge Fifa’s attempt to remove them from their elected posts in the local courts. Fifa is appealing the decision.
Wallace and his vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Sam Phillip, via their attorneys, contend that the actions of Fifa and its local agent, Hadad, since then, are ‘wholly improper and/or contemptuous’ of Justice Gobin’s ruling.
Wallace and his vice-presidents, whose actions are filed as the TTFA, are represented by Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle, Jason Jones and Crystal Paul of the New City Chambers.
Fifa is represented by attorneys Christopher Hamel-Smith SC, Jonathan Walker and Cherie Gopie from M Hamel-Smith and Co.
Today, Wallace’s legal team asked the High Court for an interim injunction to prohibit Fifa and any of its agents and/or appointees, including the normalisation committee, from:
- Taking any further steps to convene and/or conduct any meeting, on the 15th September 2020 or any other date, which purports to be an Extraordinary General Meeting of the TTFA;
- Instructing and/or directing any person or persons to seek to withdraw the instant claim and/or in any way, manner of fashion from interfering with or seeking to undermine, the instant proceedings, except by way of lawful representations made by Fifa’s duly appointed attorneys-at-law or other lawful intervention;
- Making use of and/or publication of the TTFA’s official logo, letterhead, and stamp/seal.
Wallace, through an affidavit filed today, accused Fifa of trying to subvert the court.
“Notwithstanding the live proceedings before the High Court and the Court of Appeal,” stated Wallace, “Fifa has, since the ruling of the High Court on 13th August 2020, simultaneously sought to adopt and employ various unsavoury, collateral tactics seemingly aimed at subverting the adjudication of the [TTFA’s] claim before the Honourable Court.
“I am advised and I verily believe that Fifa’s conduct, since the Honourable Court’s ruling on 13th August 2020, amounts to a direct and/or indirect usurpation of the [TTFA’s] lawful authority and powers which form part of [TTFA’s] claim—yet to be fully ventilated and/or adjudicated upon, before the High Court of Justice.”
Wallace pointed to the ‘recalcitrance’ of Fifa’s public statements on 8 July and 20 July respectively, which stated that the Zurich-based body ‘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’; and ‘the only recognised path […] is CAS’.
“I am very concerned that if Fifa and/or its delegates and/or appointees are not restrained in the terms of this application,” stated Wallace’s application, “it will continue to take steps to: improperly and/or unlawfully interfere in the [TTFA’s] day-to-day management; misrepresent the [TTFA] through the improper and/or unlawful use of the [TTFA’s] official logo, letterhead and stamp/seal; misrepresent the [TTFA] by purporting to be acting pursuant to the [TTFA’s] powers and/or constitution; and take further steps to improperly undermine the [TTFA] proceeding with its claim before the Honourable Court.”
The TTFA’s claim noted that Hadad along with normalisation committee vice-chairperson July Daniel and ordinary member Nigel Romano, were served legal warnings of their conduct in relation to the convened AGM—but proceeded anyway.
Wallace also referenced ‘an unauthorised meeting […] convened and coordinated by the Ministry of Sport of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’.
“Coming out of this meeting which, I am informed and I verily believe was attended by Mr Hadad, the Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe, and the previous TTFA President, Mr David John-Williams as well as other persons,” stated Wallace, “is a letter dated the 28th August 2020 addressed to the FIFA appointed Mr Hadad as chairman of the ‘normalisation committee’, which purports to be a request to convene an Extraordinary General Meeting of the TTFA.”
Wallace repeated his previous claim that the Ministry of Sport’s invitation for him to attend the online meeting: ‘went to my junk mail’.
“Meetings of the TTFA and its affiliates are mandated by Article 17 of the constitution to take place free from external / third party influence,” stated Wallace. “This includes government involvement and/or pressure. Ironically, Article 15 of [Fifa’s Statutes] also prohibits political involvement in the operation of its members.”
Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe has made it clear that the government would drastically reduce funding to the TTFA if the local body is suspended by Fifa. However, it is uncertain if she or her ministry played any role in the call for an EGM.
Cudjoe not be reached for comment up to the time of publication.
According to article 29 of the TTFA Constitution, the board can call an EGM at any time while the board is also obliged to hold one at the written request of ‘a majority (more than 50%) of the accredited delegates to the General Meeting’.
The constitution further states that: ‘if an Extraordinary General Meeting is not convened within the indicated time, the delegates who requested it may convene the Extraordinary General Meeting themselves’.
Fifa insists that its normalisation committee has replaced the TTFA Board. However, if members insist on holding an EGM, they could feasibly redo their motion and, this time, send it to Wallace—as chairman of the TTFA board.
The TTFA president cannot lawfully refuse the will of the majority of the football body’s members. But the members cannot possibly convene such a meeting, in keeping with the time frame given by the constitution, before Fifa’s deadline for the withdrawal of the TTFA’s case from the High Court.
Ironically, Wallace’s request that the High Court block the normalisation committee from playing any role in the TTFA’s daily operations comes months after the Hadad-led party took control of the local body’s secretariat and offices.
At present, the normalisation committee is locked in talks with national football coaches regarding remuneration for contracts entered into by Wallace’s administration; and it has already paid staff salaries.
Thus far, there has been no comment from either Fifa or its normalisation committee to the football president’s latest legal manoeuvre.
Last night, CNC3 investigative journalist Mark Bassant did an hour long piece, which suggested that Fifa might have allowed—inadvertently or otherwise—former TTFA president David John-Williams to spirit away up to US$1.5 million in funding meant for the Couva Home of Football.
John-Williams’ behaviour might therefore have contributed significantly, in more ways than one, to Fifa’s attempt to remove Wallace, who was hell-bent on investigating the controversial venue.
Wallace is seeking to retain control of the local football body. And, today, he again complained to the High Court that Fifa is not fighting fair.
“Unfortunately, Fifa appears to have adopted an uncompromising posture and has resorted to a range of methods including direct threats of punitive action against the [TTFA] and/or the [TTFA’s] duly elected representatives,” stated Wallace’s affidavit, “to indirect and subversive tactics in the form of the Fifa’s Normalisation Committee’s improper efforts to convene an Extraordinary Ordinary Meeting in the name of the [TTFA].
“I believe that an injunction in the terms of this Application has become necessary to preserve the status quo, and most importantly to ensure that the instant claim can be determined meaningfully by the Honourable Court. If [Fifa] is not restrained, it has indicated an intention to attempt to unilaterally and improperly withdraw the claim from the Honourable Court.”