Current Covid-19 restrictions make it difficult for Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace to be removed by the local body’s general membership, according to Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (TTFRA) vice-president Osmond Downer.
Downer, one of the framers of the TTFA Constitution, explained that a request by Eastern Football Association (EFATT) president Kieron Edwards for the dismissal of Wallace, vice-presidents Clynt Taylor and Sam Phillip, and the rest of the 12 member board was a moot point.
Article 38.4 states: ‘the motion for dismissal shall be decided by means of secret ballot’. And, as the Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)] (No. 8) Regulations forbids gatherings of over 10 persons, Downer suggested that it is impossible to remove Wallace without violating the TTFA Constitution—at least until Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley relaxes the current restrictions.
“There is no way yet devised for persons to hold a meeting with secret ballot virtually,” said Downer, who blamed the public health ordinance on the postponement of the TTFRA’s elections, which were due in September. “I don’t think even the United States has developed a mechanism that allows for secret ballot virtually.”
It was not a point that went unchallenged. Edwards countered that members can amend the constitution to allow an online ballot according to article 38.3, which states: ‘For a vote on an amendment to the constitution to be valid, a majority (more than 50%) of the Members eligible to vote must be present’.
“As usual, Mr Downer has adopted a myopic, prejudicial and narrowed minded interpretation of the TTFA Constitution,” said Edwards. “So the process would be to alter the constitution first to wave secret balloting and then proceed with the implementation of article 38.4.
“[…] In addition, Mr Downer has also conveniently omitted the fact that the TTFA constitution does not allow a virtual extraordinary general meeting under article 29 of the constitution; and yet one has been called in a manner not allowed by the constitution and Mr Downer has not raised any alarms. Why is that?”
Article 29.3 states: ‘The members shall be notified of the place, date and agenda at least 10 days before the date of an extraordinary general meeting’. Edwards interpreted this to mean that all meetings must be conducted in person.
At 11.10am on Thursday, general secretary Ramesh Ramdhan emailed TTFA Board members ‘requesting board approval for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), to be convened virtually at 9.00am on Sunday 25th October 2020’.
The proposed agenda was: ‘Discussions re: the way forward — Fifa suspension’.
Members were asked to respond immediately, due to the constitutional requirement of 10 days notice before convening such a meeting.
The 13 board members at the time were: Wallace (president), Taylor (C), Phillip (vice-presidents), Rayshawn Mars (Northern FA), Richard Quan Chan (Southern FA), Joseph Taylor (Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association), Jamilya Mohammed (Women’s League Football), Brent Sancho (TT Pro League), Dwayne Thomas (Central Football Association), Phillip Fraser (SSFL), Desmond Alfred (Tobago), Keith Look Loy (TTSL), and Edwards (EFA).
(Look Loy resigned the following day.)
Wallace needed six votes, along with his, to formalise the EGM. He claimed to get eight: Taylor (C), Phillip, Quan Chan, Mohammed, Mars, Look Loy, Alfred and Thomas.
Sancho, Fraser and Taylor (J) did not give consent, with the TTFRA president insisting on a meeting to discuss the agenda. Edwards said he was in favour of the EGM, but with a proviso. He wanted amendments to the agenda.
“My addition to the agenda includes: Discussion on instructing the TTFA legal team to remove any and all matters that are or will be before the court by the day of the EGM,” stated Edwards’ email, “to remove the current TTFA executive which includes the president, vice president and the other board members; and to recognise the normalisation committee as the board charged with the football affairs of TTFA.”
Edwards said he did not get a response to his request on Thursday, which formed part of an email round-robin. So, on Friday, he emailed Wallace directly and asked that he put his future as president on the line at the upcoming EGM.
Wallace responded that it was too late to alter the agenda, since it went out to the general membership on Thursday night.
An incensed Edwards said he believes his constitutional right to add to the agenda, as a board member, was infringed.
The constitution does not permit each board member to add items to the agenda. However, article 37.2 says the board ‘shall reach decisions by a majority (more than 50%) of the valid votes cast’ with the president holding a casting vote.
Edwards did not demonstrate that he had the required support to compel the TTFA president to alter his agenda. But, at the same time, he said neither Wallace nor Ramdhan polled members on his request, or explained why it would not be accommodated.
“I highlighted the points that I wanted added to the agenda but they just forwarded the same [agenda] to the [membership],” Edwards told Wired868. “If we are talking about fighting for democracy and transparency and principle, I have a right to add to the agenda and they should put it to a vote.
“They didn’t gauge any support [from the other board members] to my suggestion. Once I put an addition, you should say why it cannot be added or put it to a vote. But if not, you should put it as an agenda item. To just leave it out is wrong!”
Wallace said the decision not to add Edwards’ proposed amendment was based on time, and because he felt the current agenda was broad enough to include his suggestions anyway.
“We indicated that we will have a EGM in the shortest possible time after the judgement,” said Wallace. “The approach was to get the board or directors’ approval as soon as possible. The proposed agenda is an open one, giving members an opportunity to state their positions.”
At present, the TTFA is suspended from Fifa and, according to the Bureau of the Fifa Council: ‘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’.
The local football body must meet those stipulations by 18 December or risk missing out on the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying series and 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
Joseph Taylor’s request for a board meeting to discuss the agenda would have taken close to two weeks out of the remaining time, since the constitution states that 10 days notice are required before a meeting.
If the TTFA accommodated a board meeting first, it would then be unable to convene an EGM until Wednesday 4 November at the earliest.
And what of Edwards’ requests?
Downer said Edwards simply did not have the required support for his suggested amendments. He disagreed that Wallace or Ramdhan were obliged to do any more to facilitate the EFATT president.
“Any member of the board can put forward any item to go on the agenda, but the board is a democratic body and, at the end of it, the agenda must be made by the majority [of the members],” said Downer. “What I understand is they sent out the time, the date and the venue—which is virtual—and the item for the agenda, asking the members to agree or disagree.
“The majority agreed with the agenda that was sent out. From the time seven responses came back saying ‘I agree with the agenda’, that’s it.
“You don’t have to poll the others to see if they agreed with anything else. And the nine members saw what [Edwards] put forward; but the nine agreed with the agenda suggested by the president.”
Edwards criticised the wording of Wallace’s agenda: ‘Discussions re: the way forward — Fifa suspension’.
“The agenda is so broad for such a serious matter,” said Edwards. “You already know persons’ opinion on this; we need to narrow down things on it. This is why [TTFA] meetings are a heap of talk and no decisions. That is wrong.”
Edwards said he is eager to dismantle the ‘damage’ done by the TTFA’s legal battles with Fifa. Last Tuesday, the High Court ruled that Fifa’s attempt to replace Wallace and his board with a normalisation committee on 17 March was ‘illegal, null and void and of no effect’.
“On the evidence, I find that the decision to activate the normalisation was improper and made in bad faith,” stated Madame Justice Carol Gobin. “The conclusion that it was a contrivance to subvert the outcome of the November 24th elections is, in my view, inescapable. In the end, it defeated the will of the persons who had elected the new board into office.”
Fifa’s appeal against the Trinidad and Tobago High Court’s jurisdiction to hear the matter will be conducted by the Court of Appeal on Monday, while the TTFA also turned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in an attempt to reverse its current international suspension.
Edwards’ wish is to have the TTFA immediately cease all court cases and instead allow Fifa to determine the fate of the twin island republic. And he intends to request a board meeting, which would compel Wallace to make that decision.
However with a 10 day wait before a board meeting can be convened, even if Edwards can get six board members to agree with him, he cannot have his meeting before 28 October anyway—which is three days after the EGM.
In theory, the TTFA’s emergency committee could make such a demand of the president, though, since there is no stipulated waiting period before one can be held.
The current emergency committee comprises of Wallace, Taylor (C), Thomas, Quan Chan, and Taylor (J). Look Loy was also a member of that committee but resigned all his football posts on Friday.
Wallace, Taylor (C) and Look Loy were all members of the United TTFA slate that successfully contested the football body’s elections last November. It would have been impossible to outvote them.
Look Loy’s resignation potentially changes the dynamic of that committee—although there is no suggestion that Thomas, Quan Chan and Taylor (J) necessarily hold the same view as Edwards.
Wallace and Look Loy have had their share of disagreements, particularly over the president’s undeclared contract offered to controversial English marketing man, Peter Miller. However, they pulled in the same direction for the court case, and Wallace thanked his former technical committee chairman for his ‘commitment and support’ to local football.
“Keith [Look Loy] had indicated that once this matter was over, he is resigning from all football,” said Wallace. “For him, the judgement of Justice Gobin meant that the matter was over. He shared some personal issues and deep inside he felt disappointed that more people did not see the bigger picture.
“He has served well and I thank him for his commitment and support.”
If Wallace is also to leave soon, it may have to be by his choosing. Unless Dr Rowley changes the public health ordinance, or someone either changes the TTFA constitution or suggests an appropriate manner of virtual secret voting that satisfies the membership.
Editor’s Note: The initial story was amended to include Kieron Edwards’ retort to Osmond Downer on the point of online voting.