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Fifa triumphs! Court of appeal orders TTFA to pay legal costs as Gobin’s rulings set aside

In roughly four minutes, Chief Justice Ivor Archie brought Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace’s legal jaunt to a crashing halt, as the court of appeal ruled in favour of Fifa today, and set aside high court Judge Carol Gobin’s verdicts on 13 August and 13 October.

The TTFA was also ordered to pay legal costs for the high court and court of appeal to the tune of one senior counsel and one junior. Archie noted that he and fellow Justice of Appeal Nolan Bereaux concurred with the final ruling in every respect.

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino.

The TTFA was represented by Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle, Jason Jones and Crystal Paul, while Fifa was represented by Christopher Hamel-Smith SC, Jonathan Walker and Cherie Gopie.

Wallace and his vice-presidents, Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Sam Phillip, were removed, according to Fifa, on 13 March 2020, when the Bureau of the Fifa Council—headed by president Gianni Infantino—ordered that the local body would henceforth be run by a Fifa-appointed normalisation committee, due to its parlous financial state.

Wallace initially turned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for adjudication; but, after complaining of bias by the Swiss-based body, changed course and filed at the Port of Spain high court instead in May. Gobin subsequently declared that Wallace was entitled to justice from the local courts due to the behaviour of CAS and Fifa and because the TTFA is formed by an act of parliament.

Archie and Bereaux took a decidedly different view today.

“The filing of these proceedings was a breach of article 67 of the TTFA’s Constitution of which the TTFA is bound,” stated the chief justice. “We are of the view that section 67 is unambiguous … The filings of these proceedings were, therefore, ultra vires, null and void and of no effect and will be struck out.”

Photo: TTFA president William Wallace poses during at a photoshoot on 9 January 2020.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/TTFA Media/CA-images)

Article 67, which deals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, states:

‘In accordance with the relevant provisions of the FIFA Statutes, any appeal against a final and binding decision passed by Fifa, Concacaf or the leagues shall be heard by the CAS, unless another arbitration tribunal has jurisdiction in accordance with art 69.

‘[…] TTFA shall ensure its full compliance and that of all those subject to its jurisdiction with any final decision passed by a Fifa body, by a Concacaf body, by the arbitration tribunal recognised by TTFA or by the CAS.’

Archie declared that Gobin was ‘plainly wrong in refusing to stay these proceedings’. The court of appeal also found the TTFA’s attorneys to be in breach of the laws of Switzerland and the local Civil Proceedings Rules (CPR) by serving Fifa via email.

“There was no reason why the matter should not have been referred to arbitration,” said Archie. “Fifa was ready, willing and able to conduct the arbitration … The decisions of Madame Justice Gobin, dated 13 August 2020 and 13 October 2020, are set aside; and the order granting the declarations dated 13 October 2020 is squashed.”

Photo: Chief Justice and JLSC chairman Ivor Archie.

Wallace revealed earlier that the New City Chambers attorneys were working pro bono, with the TTFA only asked to pay for the necessary filings. The legal costs so far were all borne by the elected officials and their supporters.

However, as a parting gift, Archie and Bereaux made a substantial addition to their tab.

“TTFA will therefore pay Fifa costs for the application in high court as well as this appeal,” said the chief justice, “with the cost of this appeal to be two-thirds of the costs assessed below. In both instances, costs are certified fit for one senior [attorney] and one junior.”

The court of appeal did not accept Fifa’s argument that Wallace and his vice-presidents were not authorised to launch the legal proceedings against Fifa in the first place.

“There is no evidence before us to indicate it was not filed in accordance with the constitution of the TTFA,” said Archie.

As a result, the legal bill incurred by today’s crushing defeat could theoretically be passed on the TTFA. Whether it is Wallace and his United TTFA slate or the local football body, the bill would be daunting for either party.

Photo: TTFA general secretary Ramesh Ramdhan (centre) accompanies president William Wallace (far right), office staff Sharon O’Brien (far left) and technical director Dion La Foucade (second from left) during a Women’s National U-20 Team practice session at the Ato Boldon Stadium training field in Couva on 7 February 2020.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/Wired868)

Wallace, Taylor and Phillip are due to meet with the TTFA’s member delegates on Sunday in an extraordinary general meeting to decide the way forward for the local body, which is on a provisional suspension from Fifa at present.

Wallace, in an interview with the Trinidad Newsday yesterday, did not rule out a trip to the privy council if they lost at the court of appeal—although that is likely to be something that TTFA member delegates will have some say on this weekend.

Editor’s Note: Click HERE for a detailed recap of how Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace and Madame Justice Carol Gobin were undone at the court of appeal.

Click HERE to read the response from Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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12 comments

  1. It’s Sunday October 25, and as the TTFA and Football’s stakeholders meet to discuss the FUTURE of the game in T&T and the region, here’s the opinion of a respected, retired Attorney and friend, on the Court of Appeal’s ruling against William Wallace and the legally elected TTFA, whom/which FIFA had imposed a Normalisation Committee’s takeover and for no legitimate/stated reason, other than the known protection of Infantino’s ‘teammate’, the former TTFA President, David John-Williams.

    “I am totally disappointed that after 58 years of Independence we still have people in this country with a colonial mindset who make bold to say ” …due respect and regard must be paid, as a matter of comity for the laws of other nations…”
    “Even if FIFA were a nation state (which it is not), nobody can oust the jurisdiction of the Courts of Trinidad and Tobago in matters brought by or against nationals of Trinidad and Tobago (and this includes corporate bodies) who seek redress for justice involving their rights”.
    “It’s a sad day for justice in this country and for Trinidad and Tobago jurisprudence as a whole”.

    Thank you my friend for your continued service and for sharing your learned opinion.

  2. So now that the Court of Appeal has given credence to the saying the law is an ass. How they arrived at this decision is rather astounding, if not asinine. They are upholding FIFA’s right to set aside democracy in any of its affiliates sop that FIFA can do as it pleases. If this decision is appealed at the Privy Council, this decision will of course be overturned.
    What gets me is their ruling that TTFA breached Swiss law by serving FIFA via email. How were Crowne and Gayle supposed to serve them, by taking a flight to Switzerland and serving them at their offices? Borders were closed at that time, am I right? Additionally, FIFA broke our laws, but remain unpunished. I guess any outside country can breach our laws and that’s okay, because we need foreign aide, of course?
    If I were Wallace I’d appeal to the Privy Council and make FIFA and the Appeal Court suffer the embarrassment they deserve. However, since the membership only cares about getting money from FIFA, I’d walk away, let them further destroy football and go to my grave in peace.

  3. Why do we constantly delude ourselves into believing that ‘Justice is blind’ when, in fact, the main arbiters are driven not by legal but political considerations far beyond the football field? And while you Fifa subservients rush to rebut, wrap your minds around the adaptation of C.L.R. James’ haunting question asked in another court of public opinion but yet pertinent to this imbroglio …
    “What do they know of football who only football know?”

  4. Corrupt TTFA fighting for a chance to keep stealing money from TTFA. They all know ,knew the rules of FIFA charter. This is not the first time corrupt local associations have taken FIFA to court and lost!! Stetups. Joe the fools will saddle TTFA with legal bills adding to the perennial indebtedness of said TTFA. I hope the government does not give that cesspool of corruption anymore public funds!!

    • Show me your namesake and I’ll tell you why you take the position you take.

      say hello to your cousin Peter fro me when you see him.

    • This decision reinforces the adage that ‘the Law is an Ass’. Here was an opportunity for the CJ and his band of brethren to make a statement against FIFAs dictatorial and corrupt practices but instead sided with them in their unfair treatment of the legitimately elected Wallace team. An opportunity for footballing countries around the world to follow TTs lead in confronting FIFA to bring about transparency and fairness in their governance practices has been lost
      But should come as no surprise because the legal fraternity in TT is bankrupt of integrity and transparency itself.

  5. You don’t have to have been a lawyer to predict which way this was likely to go; the lawyers writing here on Wired868 create more than a little doubt that Justice Gobin was on the ball.

    And even if you just thought about the politics without the law, you might have been expecting the Court to lean the FIFA way. I for one can hardly wait to hear from Wired868 what is on the Prime Minister’s Facebook page.

    I see this as a major setback not just for United TTFA but for Trinidad and Tobago. I hope and pray we find some way to be able to afford to take this case to the Privy Council.

    • David Christopher Benjamin

      Ha ! Earl Best you see this as a setback for Trinidad and Tobago ? Can you imagine this as a precedent quotable across the world ? The complete power in the hands of the FIFA power brokers who initiated this in the first place ? End of story for any recourse against anything FIFA does.

    • Why appeal to the Privy Council though? The Trinidadian Courts finality should be accepted, especially since sovereignty was at the centre of the case.

      The issues at hand have always been more in the realm of politics than law and that is where the Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago and TTFA were at a disadvantage.

      FIFA prepared well by sowing the seeds of disunity long ago. They used Jack Warner’s failures among other things to keep the Caribbean divided and so removed any voice that a Caribbean Member Association would have had in FIFA. Infantino, though under inquiry, just had to ensure that TTFA was more divided than FIFA to prevail.

      Advancement of any idea (even Justice) through FIFA requires unity built by consensus and Wallace could never achieve that while FIFA deployed its massive resources to insurgents in Trinidad. They removed any chance of him building a unified position in the Caribbean and Wallace must take some blame there too, for consensus was not high on his agenda initially.

      So it is now the insurgents time to cheer, this is their victory and it is another blow to a disenfranchised Trinidad & Tobago but the people are resilient, so those who believe in TTFA as an equal member of FIFA should concede this battle and get on with the work that needs to be done to make it so.

      The Fifa President’s war to suppress all dissent continues…and his day of reckoning is yet to come.

      • “Why appeal to the Privy Council though?”

        Easy. Because is it the only available superior jurisdiction. And although the legal issues carry much less weight for me personally, I feel that there is at least a tinge of politics involved here, which may have prevented justice from being served.

        “…consensus was not high on [Wallace’s] agenda initially.”

        My sense is that he was 100% certain that the injustice of the FIFA normalisation move would be deemed repulsive by all and sundry. He clearly has a strong sense of his own rightness, spawned, I think, by his essential honesty. If I think it’s wrong, right-thinking people will think the same.

        Not condoning, merely trying to fathom.

    • At no point did I hear them say that FIFA’s action was just and correct, simply that the matter should be directed to CAS.

      • How do you think it will be PERCEIVED?

        Having heard it scores of times from me, my COSTAATT students will tell you that meaning is made at the RECEIVING end.