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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.