The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has been suspended by Fifa with immediate effect, for ‘grave violations of the Fifa Statutes’.
The decision, which was taken today by the Bureau of the Fifa Council, means that Trinidad and Tobago clubs and national teams are now forbidden from taking part in international competition or reaping any benefits of membership to the Swiss-based body. It is an unprecedented move in the 112-year history of the local game.
A missive by Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura said the decision was made in accordance with article 16 of the Fifa Statutes. Samoura spelt out the cost to the Soca Warriors and warned the global body’s other 209 active member associations to steer clear of Trinidad and Tobago.
“Consequently, the TTFA loses all its membership rights, as defined in article 13 of the Fifa Statutes, with immediate effect,” stated Samoura. “TTFA representative and club teams are therefore no longer entitled to take part in international competitions until the suspension is lifted.
“This also means that, as of 24 September 2020, neither the TTFA nor any of its members or officials may benefit from any developmental programmes, course or training from Fifa or the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf).
“Moreover, we remind [Fifa member associations] and your affiliates not to enter into any sporting contact with the TTFA and/or its teams while the association is suspended.”
The Bureau of the Fifa Council is a seven member committee, headed by president Gianni Infantino, which includes a representation from each of the international body’s six confederations including Concacaf.
The Bureau, in a press statement, said the decision—made on Republic Day in the twin island republic—was ‘prompted by the former leadership of the TTFA lodging a claim before a local court in Trinidad and Tobago in order to contest the decision of the Fifa Council to appoint a normalisation committee for the TTFA’.
The TTFA’s legal action was taken by president William Wallace and vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Sam Phillip and supported by fellow United TTFA members Anthony Harford and Keith Look Loy.
Fifa gave the TTFA two deadlines to withdraw the case: on 16 September and then 23 September.
Yesterday, Wallace confirmed that he had withdrawn the case, after consultation with his colleagues and the TTFA’s member delegates. However, Fifa’s legal team said the withdrawal was not officially confirmed to them; and, up to this afternoon, there had been no correspondence from the High Court.
The Infantino-led committee accused the local administrators of failing to respect its timeline.
“In the circumstances, the Bureau of the Fifa Council has decided to suspend the TTFA,” stated the Fifa bulletin. “This suspension will only be lifted when the TTFA fully complies with its obligations as a member of Fifa, including recognising the legitimacy of the appointed normalisation committee and bringing its own statutes into line with the Fifa Statutes.”
At present, the TTFA Constitution does not expressly allow its elected members to be removed by any mechanism but a vote from its own delegates. And, ironically, High Court Judge Carol Gobin ruled that even the spirit of the Fifa Statutes appeared to be at odds with its normalisation clause.
Fifa has made it clear that it does not recognise the authority of the Trinidad and Tobago courts.
Notably, Fifa’s decision not to impose a timeframe to its ban means the suspension can be lifted at any time, once the TTFA’s withdrawal is confirmed and the local body recognises the ‘legitimacy of the appointed normalisation committee’ and brings its statutes ‘into line with the Fifa Statutes’.
“The Bureau of the Fifa Council or the Fifa Council may lift this suspension at any time before the next Fifa Congress takes place,” stated Samoura, “and we will inform you accordingly.”
Decisions of the seven member Bureau of the Fifa Council must be ratified by its 37-member Council, while a suspension must be voted on by its 211 member associations. However, at the same time, all verdicts by the Bureau are effective immediately.
It means Trinidad and Tobago can be suspended and re-instated without the matter ever being debated by its general members.
Notably, Fifa’s first deadline was passed on the eve of a meeting of its Council and two days before its annual Congress. However, Infantino declined the chance to raise Trinidad and Tobago with either body and gave the TTFA a second deadline before sending the matter to the seven member committee that he heads instead.
Wallace, in his affidavit yesterday, made it clear that he was only withdrawing the TTFA’s case against Fifa under duress; and, under those circumstances, High Court Judge Carol Gobin still has to confirm the dissolution of the case.
Infantino decided to take the opportunity to flex his own muscles.
Notably, TTFA’s withdrawal from the High Court may no longer be enough, as Fifa also demanded that the TTFA statutes be brought ‘into line with the Fifa Statutes’ before re-admittance. The latter condition is potentially more problematic than the first.
On 24 March, Fifa mandated its normalisation committee of Robert Hadad, Judy Daniel and Nigel Romano to start the job of amending the TTFA’s Constitution. They are not believed to have even started the task.
Will the TTFA also pay the cost for the doziness of Fifa’s own appointees? Or is the idea to force the local body to accept whatever changes the governing body would like to make, in quick time?
According to the TTFA Constitution, amendments must be agreed by 75 per cent of members which can prove especially tricky if, as suggested before, Fifa intends to marginalise the Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (TTFRA), which is often guided on constitutional matters by its formidable vice-president Osmond Downer.
Wired868 was unable to reach Wallace for comment on the Fifa decision up until the time of publication.
(Full Fifa statement)
The Bureau of the Fifa Council today suspended the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) with immediate effect due to grave violations of the Fifa Statutes.
The suspension was prompted by the former leadership of the TTFA lodging a claim before a local court in Trinidad and Tobago in order to contest the decision of the Fifa Council to appoint a normalisation committee for the TTFA.
This course of action was in direct breach of article 59 of the Fifa Statutes, which expressly prohibits recourse to ordinary courts unless specifically provided for in the Fifa regulations.
A normalisation committee was installed by the Fifa Council after it was established that the former leadership of the TTFA had engaged in various acts of serious mismanagement.
The decision of the former leadership to go to a local court to contest the appointment of the normalisation committee jeopardises not only the future of football in Trinidad and Tobago but also endangers the overall global football governance structure, which relies on the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as the exclusive forum for resolving disputes of this nature.
The relevant parties were initially given until 16 September to withdraw the case but failed to do so. This deadline was then extended until 23 September, which was not respected either.
In the circumstances, the Bureau of the Fifa Council has decided to suspend the TTFA.
This suspension will only be lifted when the TTFA fully complies with its obligations as a member of Fifa, including recognising the legitimacy of the appointed normalisation committee and bringing its own statutes into line with the Fifa Statutes.