Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura gave the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) a deadline of 3pm on Wednesday 23 September to withdraw all cases against the Switzerland-based global sport body.
However, TTFA president William Wallace’s affidavit in support of the withdrawal did not go in until 3:02pm while the application to discontinue the case was not processed until 8pm.
By then, the High Court Civil Registry was closed and, since today is the Republic Day holiday, Fifa did not have official confirmation of the withdrawal by the time that president Gianni Infantino called his seven member Bureau of the Fifa Council to order.
The Bureau responded by suspending the TTFA’s rights as a member association and even raised the stakes for re-entry.
“This suspension will only be lifted when the TTFA fully complies with its obligations as a member of Fifa,” stated the Fifa missive, “including recognising the legitimacy of the appointed normalisation committee and bringing its own statutes into line with the Fifa Statutes.”
On Monday 28 September, four days from today, Concacaf holds its draw for the 2021 Gold Cup. However, the TTFA Constitution requires 10 days notice before an extraordinary general meeting can be convened.
The Soca Warriors will almost certainly have to miss the tournament now.
The Men’s National Senior Team are in a qualifying round for the competition, due to their low Fifa ranking, and had to defeat the winners of a playoff between Guyana and Barbados to qualify. But it might be a moot point now.
Ironically, it was the United TTFA’s desire to ensure Trinidad and Tobago did not miss out on the Gold Cup which saw them agree to withdraw the case in the first place—after an informal meeting with member delegates on Tuesday night, at which approximately 70 per cent of attendees begged them to lay down arms.
So if the TTFA decided to fold on Tuesday night, why didn’t they meet the deadline?
“The lawyers would have to answer that,” Wallace told Wired868. “The filing was done by them.”
Wired868 asked Wallace to confirm at what time were their attorneys given written instructions to discontinue the case. However, he declined response.
“My apologies but [my] instructions are that all questions be directed to the attorneys at this time,” said Wallace.
The TTFA is represented legally by Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle, Jason Jones and Crystal Paul.
Gayle said he could not respond until so directed by his client.
Apart from missing the deadline, the TTFA also did not directly reach out to Fifa’s legal team or the normalisation committee. Fifa is represented in this action by local attorneys Christopher Hamel-Smith SC, Jonathan Walker and Cherie Gopie, while its normalisation committee comprises of chairman Robert Hadad, vice-chair Judy Daniel and ordinary member Nigel Romano.
Fifa and its normalisation committee have repeatedly issued demands to Wallace via press statements, rather than through direct communication. The besieged TTFA officers appeared to have returned the favour on Wednesday, as they publicly announced their withdrawal at 1pm—but did not so inform the governing body.
In the end, the Infantino-led Bureau made local football pay the price.
Look Loy described Fifa’s move as ‘vindictive’.
“Now you can’t get more vindictive than that,” stated Look Loy, in a social media post. “Most important of all is Fifa’s clear statement that TTFA is threatening its entire global governance (read ‘domination’) system—something United TTFA has said from the start.
“In other words, this case is an existential problem for Fifa. And people want to lynch United TTFA, not Fifa, for that?”
Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) chairman Douglas Camacho said the suspension was ‘expected’ and described the TTFA’s attempt to withdraw the High Court case as ‘too little, too late’.
Camacho and Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe warned earlier this month that they will cut funding for the TTFA if the local football body is suspended. The SporTT chairman said the TTFA must now focus on rebuilding.
“Perhaps [this is] an opportunity to focus on community football and rebuild,” Camacho told Wired868. “They may be able to save a lot of cost as there will be no need for national coaches et al. Hopefully they have a plan on how they will payoff their debts.”