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Wallace: ‘We won’t bow to Fifa fear play’; TTFA president explains return to CAS and resumption of case

“[…] I believe that the recent punitive action taken by Fifa against the TTFA because the TTFA is engaged in a legitimate action before the Trinidad and Tobago High Court—even after the TTFA filed documents to discontinue the action before the Court—is high-handed, unreasonable, and does not accord with the principle of ‘fair play’ which lies at the heart of the sport of football; but instead is consistent with ‘fear play’…”

In the following press statement, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace explains why he has taken Fifa to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and resumed his case before the local High Court:

Photo: Then SSFL president William Wallace (centre) greets players before kick off between Shiva Boys Hindu College and Naparima College at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 8 September 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

On Wednesday 23 September 2020, I instructed the TTFA attorneys to file the necessary documents to withdraw the claim between the TTFA and Fifa before the High Court of Justice in Trinidad and Tobago.

This followed an informal meeting held with the TTFA membership on the evening of Tuesday 22 September 2020. Many of our members were of the view that although they supported the court case in principle, the threats by Fifa on at least two occasions to take punitive action against the TTFA was too high a cost to pay for continuing with what is a legitimate action before the Trinidad and Tobago High Court of Justice.

As a result, the majority of our members indicated that they were of the opinion that the matter should be withdrawn from our court.

To this end and in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules in Trinidad and Tobago, a Notice of Application for permission to withdraw and discontinue the claim was in fact filed on the 23rd September 2020 and was supported by my affidavit and a draft order.

However, on the 24th September 2020, as Trinidad and Tobago commemorated Republic Day, the Bureau of the Fifa Council suspended the TTFA with immediate effect and indicated that the 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’.

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino raises his arm in celebration after his reelection in Zurich, Switzerland on Friday 26 February 2016.
(Copyright AP Photo/Michael Probst)

It is unfortunate that, notwithstanding the TTFA having taken steps to withdraw the claim before our High Court, Fifa seemingly found it fit, fair and/or proper to not only take punitive steps against the TTFA but to introduce a new and further condition—requiring the TTFA to ‘bring its own statutes into line with the Fifa Statutes’.

With the shifting of the goal post, we don’t know exactly whether this new and further condition declared to us on our nation’s Republic Day 2020 is meant to dictate to the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament, since the TTFA is an organisation created by an Act of Parliament. This remains to be seen.

It is now clear however, that Fifa intended to take punitive action against the TTFA regardless of whether or not steps were taken by the TTFA to withdraw and discontinue the claim before our High Court of Justice on the 23rd September 2020.

It is also now clear that the decision to suspend the TTFA amidst the upcoming draw for the Gold Cup 2021 is meant to, amongst other things, provoke public furore against the properly and democratically elected executive of the TTFA.

It is for this reason that last night I gave instructions to the TTFA attorneys to file an emergency appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), challenging the sole issue of the suspension of TTFA in the face of illegal threats and coercive acts by Fifa. 

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino struts at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva during an exhibition match on 10 April 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

The attorneys were also asked to make an application for Injunctive Relief so that, if successful, this would allow Trinidad and Tobago to participate in the Gold Cup draw carded for Monday 28th September 2020.

Concacaf’s announcement this afternoon that Trinidad and Tobago will remain in the draw was welcoming news and I have since instructed the attorneys to inform CAS that we are withdrawing the application for injunctive relief. But our appeal against Fifa’s decision to suspend Trinidad and Tobago will remain before CAS.

This morning and on my further instructions, the TTFA attorneys also filed the relevant documents to continue with the claim before the High Court of Justice since this is the only way that we can legitimise our application to CAS. 

The obvious question would be, why CAS?  The answer is that the action taken against the TTFA is a disciplinary one and CAS is charged with dealing with such matters. It must also be noted that our only financial obligation in this matter is the filing fees. 

I believe that the recent punitive action taken by Fifa against the TTFA because the TTFA is engaged in a legitimate action before the Trinidad and Tobago High Court—even after the TTFA filed documents to discontinue the action before the court—is high-handed, unreasonable, and does not accord with the principle of ‘fair play’ which lies at the heart of the sport of football; but instead is consistent with ‘fear play’.

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino waits for kick off between Denmark and Australia at the 2018 World Cup in Samara, Russia on 21 June 2018.
(Copyright AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Further, I do not believe that this punitive action of Fifa against the TTFA and the people of Trinidad and Tobago will withstand objective scrutiny before any competent tribunal.

I have committed my life to the development of the youth in Trinidad and Tobago as a member of the teaching service for over 30 years. I have served as president of Secondary Schools Cricket League and Secondary Schools Football League and in many other areas where the focus was on the development of our youth. 

For those who do not know, these many years of service to young people in Trinidad and Tobago was all voluntary, so for those who indicate that I don’t care about our young people you need to speak to what you know.

What I do care about though is that we must stand up against injustice and as Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse would not appreciate your neutrality.”

The duly elected executive of the TTFA now calls on all right-thinking, principled and patriotic citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to let you voices be heard as resounding as Reverend Dr Iva Gloudon’s and all the others that have spoken out against Fifa’s action. 

We might be a small nation, but we are a very proud people.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago supporters pose for a photograph during a break in Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 11 November 2016.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

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  1. Consider two teams in our FA knockout competition have a problem over eligibility of a player used Should they take this matter to our courts which will hear it when it can?
    For this reason you agree not to go to local courts but use the procedures/arbitration to avoid untenable situations