Former Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) David John-Williams could already be the subject of a police probe, after CNC3 investigative reporter Mark Bassant alleged that at least US$1.5 million meant for the local game was diverted to a Panamanian bank account under his name.
John-Williams, however, is not the only local football administrator who saw fit to send millions of TTFA money overseas.
Current TTFA president William Wallace’s own record of dodgy deals is also unflattering and rose further over the past week, with claims of a contract for a English media consultant, Phil Mepham, that was also not approved by his board; and the bizarre background of the local body’s England-based website provider, SportsX Management.
The cost of both services is roughly TT$287,000 after just four months. Throw in too the secret US$25,000 per month deal handed to English salesman Peter Miller plus a contract offered to Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick that was US$2,500 above what the board agreed—exclusive of an array of eye-watering add-ons. (Fenwick, a former England World Cup defender, is a Trinidad and Tobago resident.)
And Wallace’s administration would have forked out TT$2.87 million to three British employees in 2020 alone, regardless of the Covid-19 pandemic, without the board and, apparently, his own United TTFA colleagues being any the wiser.
A financial breakdown of the TTFA’s expected expenditure for 2020 tells its own tale:
- Salaries for roughly a dozen office employees: TT$2 million;
- Salaries for roughly 40 technical staff members: TT$2.8 million;
- Salaries for Fenwick, Miller and Mepham: TT$4.3 million (inclusive of Fenwick’s full salary).
It is debatable whether those undeclared deals alone justifies comparisons between the former president and the current one, who is fighting—alongside vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Sam Phillip—to stave off a Fifa normalisation committee.
Wallace’s financial outlay was meant to cover professional services provided to the organisation; and there remains no suggestion that the president expected to benefit personally. John-Williams, on the other hand, is yet to explain how his own alleged offshore largesse was in the interest of the local game.
One common thread, though, seems to be a distinct aversion to transparency.
Last week, Mepham told Wired868 that the TTFA owes him 23,419 pounds (TT$205,388), which is calculated at 6,000 pounds per month from January to March plus 5,419 pounds for last December.
Mepham, unlike Miller, decided to bring his deal to an end as soon as Wallace was ‘removed’ from office and is not asking to be paid for his entire contract. However, neither contract went to the board.
Mepham said his contract was signed by Wallace with the direct knowledge of TTFA general secretary Ramesh Ramdhan and that Ramdhan apologised for the delay in payments at least once.
If a service provider is hired by the president of a company, would he not assume that he was properly retained?
Wallace and Ramdhan told Wired868 they both knew that Mepham was providing professional services to the local body. But they insist they did not hire him.
“I think he was on a retainer for 1,500 pounds,” Ramdhan told Wired868. “If I can recall, he had asked for 4,000 [pounds] but Peter [Miller] told me he got him to accept 1,500. Those arrangements were not made officially.”
Quizzed on what he meant by ‘not made officially’, Ramdhan said Mepham was Miller’s employee and not the TTFA’s.
“Peter [Miller] engaged personnel to assist with his role and he was responsible for their remuneration,” said Ramdhan.
“Peter [Miller] retained him to help in rebranding and enhancing the TTFA image internationally,” said Wallace. “His remuneration would have come from sponsorship funding.”
It was essentially the same line that Wallace and Ramdhan used to defend the US$25,000 per month contract given to Miller, to serve as TTFA marketing manager. Only the contract Wallace signed stipulated that the controversial salesman was to be paid a flat sum, with no mention of any conditions.
So, the TTFA would have been obliged to pay from its annual Fifa Forward programme subvention of US$1 million (TT$6.8 million)—meant for operating costs.
(Fifa sends additional money for travel, accommodation, equipment and as bonuses for having active teams, refereeing programmes, a player registration system, a competition management system, and domestic competition for all age groups and sexes for at least six months involving 10 teams each playing a minimum of 90 games.)
Mepham did not share his contract with the TTFA but insisted he has one. This website does have copies of invoices ostensibly sent to Ramdhan, though. The figures requested in the invoices do not reflect either of the sums mentioned by the general secretary.
Wired868 understands that Mepham subsequently forwarded his documents to Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad and to Fifa, which allegedly led to swift contact with the Englishman by Inside World Football website reporter Paul Nicholson.
Thus far, that site has not written on Mepham’s claims.
Mepham’s duties for the TTFA were described as interacting with media manager Shaun Fuentes on press releases and helping Wallace and United TTFA member Keith Look Loy on the announcement of deals and ‘general strategy’.
“I have done a genuine job for them for four months and I just want my money,” Mepham told Wired868. “Peter [Miller] recommended me, I discussed what I could offer and I then put the proposal to them which they accepted. Peter was aware of the financial deal but it was with the TTFA. I liaised with Peter but my job was with the TTFA.”
Mepham was head of media for the English FA 2018 World Cup bid team while his career also includes an eight year stint as head of media and communications for Premier League club, Aston Villa.
It was there Mepham first chanced across Miller, who briefly engaged the attention of Villa’s marketing staff as ‘a consultant of sorts’ before moving on. The two kept in touch, although they are not believed to have worked together before the TTFA deal.
Mepham travelled to Trinidad in January 2020 when he met the TTFA’s elected officers, along with Look Loy and Fuentes, and a few local football journalists including this one.
It was not his first visit here. On his last trip, Mepham accompanied iconic former England footballer David Beckham as part of an FA goodwill tour that the Brits hoped would help land them the Fifa 2018 World Cup.
Wired868 asked Wallace to confirm whether: Mepham’s contract was with the TTFA; why had the board not seen it; did it specifically state that it would only be paid from sponsorship money; and if he could explain why the TTFA had been been billed regularly since 22 December 2019.
Seven days later, Wallace still has not responded.
There is also the matter of the TTFA website. At present, visitors to the page are met with the following announcement:
“[…] This Website is currently offline until The Trinidad & Tobago Football Association Normalisation Committee settle their invoice with the Web Developers.
“The global pandemic has severely damaged economies and families across the world and while many great companies, institutions, and industries are standing up to support their workers, suppliers, and customers; there are others that do not share that same ethical compass…”
SportsX Management official Christopher Wykes told Wired868 that his company was instructed to create a website for the TTFA between December and January. Again, the deal was recommended to the local body by Miller.
“We were instructed in December/January to create a website that improved on the error-strewn site that the TTFA had at the time,” said Wykes, on 4 May, “so we offered to create a website that would be built in three stages. Each stage would add more depth to the site, with the end objective of having a website that would be able to live-stream games, sell merchandise, and international tickets among other things.
“We completed stage one at the end of February, and were due to start the next stage a couple of weeks ago. However, we have struggled to get any feedback from the TTFA.
“Currently, we are owed approximately $6,000 (USD) for stage one. This has been overdue for 60 days so far. Once stages two and three have been completed, a further $6,000 (USD) will become due—although we have not started these works yet.”
SportsX delivered a website to the TTFA, as promised. However, there were a few oddities about the company.
First, a check through the UK’s Companies House shows that SportsX was incorporated on 16 April 2020 by director Matthew McCarthy—roughly four months after it snagged the TTFA deal. Its address is listed as 1 City Road East, Manchester M15 4PN.
But, when the company invoiced the TTFA in March 2020, the address given was: Grosvenor House, Birmingham B3 1RB. The Grosvenor House coordinates match the address of another company named JellyBean Agency, which was incorporated on 31 July 2019 by Laura Hogan.
Why does that matter?
Well, when the United TTFA gave a powerpoint presentation chock full of mostly obscure foreign companies in its media launch last November, ‘Jelly Bean Media Agency’ was listed as a potential commercial partner which promised to ‘provide TT$100,000 in-kind assistance advising on growing its brand as well as introducing to their existing client portfolio’.
In a subsequent video presentation, Hogan described ‘Jelly Bean Agency’ as a women-owned UK-based digital marketing agency that supports ‘a lot of female-led business in the UK’ and aimed to boost the profile of the Women Soca Warriors.
“We are going to build them a wonderful, shiny new website and app, we are going to get them a media presence across Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and […] really get involved more from an online perspective,” said the 30-year-old Hogan, who described herself as a marketing director to the UK Companies House. “[…] We are really excited to take this step and to help the women and the team get that little bit more exposure and get a little more love that they really do deserve, because they are fantastic women. We can’t wait to start.”
They never did start. The Women’s National Under-20 Team went off to competitive action in February without a peep from Hogan or her company, and nothing was heard since about JellyBean or its director.
Despite Hogan’s offer to boost the Women Soca Warriors’ online presence,her company’s Linked-In page had just 172 followers, while social media pages named ‘JellyBean Advertising’ boasted of 343 Facebook ‘likes’, 28 Instagram ‘followers’ and seven Twitter ‘followers’—although it is uncertain if they all refer to the same company.
It is notable too that JellyBean’s LinkedIn page lists Wykes as ‘head of commercial and operations in sports, digital marketing and product’.
Wykes’ bio also reveals that he is a former director at Red Cow Media, which described itself as ‘an award winning online marketing agency’ in Manchester. And the founder of Sports X, McCarthy, is an active director at Red Cow.
Red Cow and Sports X have the same Manchester address and area code of M15 4PM. All three companies were listed as having between two to 10 employees.
So, JellyBean promised to provide TT$100,000 in services and/or a website to the TTFA. Instead, the local body promised to pay just shy of that figure for a website from Sports X, which was not incorporated at the time but shared a director with JellyBean and was started by that director’s former business partner.
Wired868 asked Wykes to confirm his role with both companies and explain why Sports X provided the website at a cost when JellyBean appeared to have initially offered it for free.
Wired868 also asked Ramdhan and Wallace: what happened to JellyBean’s promise to provide sponsorship to the TTFA and work with the women’s teams; why did they not deliver the TTFA’s website; and what did they know of the Sports X company that did build the site.
Neither Wykes, Ramdhan nor Wallace responded up to the time of publication.
Look Loy, whose official TTFA portfolio included only technical matters related to the national teams, also declined the chance to discuss Mepham, JellyBean or Sports X.
“I know nothing about Mepham’s business or contract, JellyBean didn’t assist the under-20s and I don’t know about website matters,” said Look Loy. “I have long stated my position on all contract matters. I recognise only those approved by the board.
“If we are successful, then the membership will address any issues in that regard—including any claim by Mepham. Right now, my only focus is on Fifa.”
Fifa promised to initiate the process to sanction the TTFA today, unless the United TTFA withdraws its case from the High Court. It is an ultimatum that Wallace described as contemptuous to the local courts.
On Monday, Justice Carol Gobin agreed with the TTFA president as she implemented an injunction that sought to ‘restrain’ the normalisation committee from masquerading as the caretakers of the local game or interfering with the active case.
The current elected officers maintain that Fifa’s attempted takeover of the TTFA is motivated by a desire to cover-up John-Williams’ alleged financial wrongdoings, which could potentially implicate Chief Member Associations Veron Mosengo-Omba.
Bassant’s explosive CNC3 report add meat to Wallace’s accusations. But, at the same time, there are questions about the besieged president’s own stewardship.
Whatever Fifa decides, eventually the TTFA delegates will also have to figure out what behaviour they are prepared to accept from their president. And, more to the point, how they intend to get it.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read the response to this article by Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace.