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Dr Gloudon: TTFA-Fifa: an inconvenient truth that won’t be deciphered with one-dimensional thinking

“[…] The TTFA has undoubtedly been in a mess for a long time; and so has Fifa. Indeed, we may have learned how to be corrupt in football from Fifa. No one in a local or regional body can carry on sustained defrauding of Fifa without the assistance of someone inside of Fifa.

“[…] Nevertheless, in the case of Fifa, they are the international umbrella for the sport and do have a right, as given to them by their membership, to execute according to their rules and regulations. The point, however, is that this should be done equitably…”

The following Letter to the Editor on the legal battle between Fifa and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) was submitted to Wired868 by Reverend Dr Iva Gloudon—a former Trinidad and Tobago international athlete, sport administrator, university director of sport and former ambassador to Jamaica:

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino (right) and then TTFA president David John-Williams at a press conference at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 April 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

It is my opinion that the matter of the TTFA-Fifa controversy has been mostly dissected through the lens of one-dimensional thinking, which has seen this important instance in the terms of a single linear factor and scale. It seems that most are of the opinion that we cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.

As far as I am concerned, this is not merely an issue of right and wrong. The TTFA, like most other sporting organisations in the world who want to participate in the ‘big leagues’, often sign on the bottom line without the full knowledge of the significance of the terms, or in the belief that the clauses which produce a niggling feeling in their stomachs will never happen to them. 

And before you even think that this only happens with sportsmen and sportswomen who are really not too smart; let me remind you of the insurance policy that you signed when you were 21 years old, only to find that, when you turned 60, the outcome was a far cry from what you expected. Or the numerous applications that you downloaded on your smart phone, without knowing the serious consequences of doing so.

The TTFA has undoubtedly been in a mess for a long time; and so has Fifa. Indeed, we may have learned how to be corrupt in football from Fifa. No one in a local or regional body can carry on sustained defrauding of Fifa, without the assistance of someone inside of Fifa.

Photo: Then TTFA president David John-Williams (left) embraces FIFA chief members association officer Veron Mosengo-Omba during the opening of the TTFA Home of Football on 18 November 2019.
Mosengo-Omba had direct responsibility to supervise the TTFA’s controversial Home of Football project.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

Just as no one can defraud our Ministry of Sport without someone on the inside knowing or not executing their oversight. Nevertheless, in the case of Fifa, they are the international umbrella body for the sport and do have a right, as given to them by their membership, to execute according to their rules and regulations.

The point, however, is that this should be done equitably. No one can convince me that Fifa would have moved on any one of the first world countries in Europe or North America—who, by the way, have also had their challenges with corruption—in the same manner that they did with Trinidad and Tobago.

There are so many other respectful ways in which this could have been executed.

What has been fascinating and unprecedented is the manner in which we as a country have capitulated to them. From the highest level, during the ongoing court matter, the president of the TTFA was publicly ridiculed after he won the first case.

The person with responsibility for our Ministry of Sport found it prudent to shout across the land and all the way to Zürich that the TTFA President had won the battle, but lost the war. The head of the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago, which is responsible for funding sport, made it openly clear that there would be a sharp reduction in funding to the TTFA if the association got suspended.

Photo: (From left) Former TTFA president David John-Williams, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Fifa president Gianni Infantino and then Minister of Sport Darryl Smith.

Most of the TTFA membership unceremoniously tossed out their president and then moved, cap and apology in hand with almost complete acquiescence, to implore Fifa and the normalising committee to return with no strings attached; completely defeated.

It is understandable why the membership of the TTFA would have done what they did. Sporting organisations have been at the mercy of all of our governments and mostly riddled with incompetent leadership.

There are many coaches and other technical persons who have worked assiduously and have not received their remuneration for months and, in some cases, for years.

But in the face of it all, why did they not have any demand for respect from Fifa or some input in the process? They just simply opened the door to our sovereign space.

It all speaks to the way that we have been indoctrinated for generations. Our court of appeal looked at the Fifa regulations and decided that we were a legitimate party to it, and therefore we now have to play by the rules.  Nowhere did the court of appeal say that Madame Justice Carol Gobin’s statements on the case were untrue. And that is because she singlehandedly got to the heart of the matter.

Photo: Madame Justice Carol Gobin.

The court of appeal, however, ruled that in law, Justice Gobin did not have jurisdiction over the case. I do not agree with this linear thinking, but then I know my limitations, as I am no lawyer.

Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven (27) years in prison because the apartheid laws were legitimately on the South African books. Those in charge make the laws to suit themselves and those disadvantaged by the laws often have an uphill battle for justice.

Slavery for hundreds of years was legitimately on the law books. We black people were once considered mere chattel; but downtrodden men and women with the help of powerful allies fought for it to be taken off the law books.

The Windrush Exposé, a 2018 British political scandal which included Caribbean people of colour who were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation and in many cases illegally deported by the British Home Office, is a recent example.

These included the first group of Caribbean persons who went to the UK in 1948 on the invitation of the British government, who needed their services at that time. Now, after all of these years, the British government wants to deport them.

Photo: Iconic late Trinidad and Tobago writer CLR James was part of the Windrush generation.
(Courtesy Thefamouspeople.com)

These are all such devastating and overwhelming instances that today our minds are still mired by slavery, colonialism and elitism. We have not, in the words of Robert Nesta Marley, been able to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery.

It is time for us to be liberated. It is time for us to pivot. It is time for our successive governments to stop merely using sport as political patronage. It is time for us to not only assess where we are with the administration of sport, but to also delve into how it is executed and what it takes for us to improve on what we are doing.

It is time for our corporate community to come on board with sport—not just at the back end but at the front end. It is time that our universities educate persons who can administrate sport, coach sport, and research sport, and not merely produce persons who are certified in sport.

It is also time that persons in sport, at every level, take hold of their skill and their craft with the determination to shape it into what it ought to be.

To the former TTFA president, Mr Wallace, I say that not many understand or can withstand that integrity comes before creature comforts, but you obviously do. That politicians are not always those who stand on principle, but you do. That the judiciary works under the constraints of the narrow law, but you do not, as you also understand the inconvenient truth.

Photo: TTFA president William Wallace.
(Courtesy TTFA Media/Allan V Crane)

You too, like all of us, have made mistakes, but I support you in what you were trying to achieve and thank you for your 30 years of service to sport.

Some of us know that sport is everything, as it teaches everything. It may yet be the way out of our national quagmire in determining who we really are as a people and as a nation.

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5 comments

  1. Dr.Gloudon comments could not have been expressed in any more significant way and Anthony Gafoor(former judge)? his contributions are so valid, but whether we speak with the correct mindset or voice our concern “As the world turns” mere words cannot change what is to be, Corrupt practices breeds corrupt behavior. Was Justice Gobin’s attempt to bring resolution to an unjust court action
    dismissed because she didn’t consulted the Chief Justice for advise? it is an embarrassment to see time, money and effort all dwindled by one court decision, Fifa made their move the TTFA members succumb and are caught in a web of normalization and cap in hand for the sake of the nation’s sovereignty and integrity.

  2. Well said, Doc. I am in agreement with your commentary, but I fear that yours may be just another voice in a wilderness that is littered by fifth columnists, backstabbers and government enablers. We have squandered a golden opportunity to demonstrate independent thinking in exchange for maintenance of the status quo of financial dependency. Indeed, an ode to mental slavery.

  3. 1) Dr Gloudon attempts to compare a system that we volunteering take part in (we chose to join FIFA) with a system forced upon a people (apartheid was not voluntary) – false equivalence
    2) Mr Wallace is no shining beacon of integrity. Please take note of the issues leading up to the dissatisfaction by the general body. United TTFA, against the will of the membership and the board, entered into contracts, on behalf of TTFA, with several entities to an amount in xcess of what was approved by the board and the general membership. I don’t know if this is nepotism of some sort, but it certainly reeks of it!
    3) The TTFA has a long record of alleged corruption.

    I’m not saying FIFA is innocent of corruption, but trying to make us out to be the hapless victims of colonialism and slavery in this particular case is disingenuous!

  4. At last someone with stature in sport and who has walked the walk with courage has spoken truth to the people of Trinidad and Tobago fearlessly about the farce that paraded as international football administration and the overwhelming power of big money in sport. The shameful capitulation to FIFA by local football administrators, not footballers, mind you, demonstrates how personal ambition trumps principle everytime. For what they perceive as strutting on the world stage, as much good as that has done for us,they are prepared to subordinate ourselves to the maladministration of FIFA, which is as guilty of incompetence and corruption as anyone else and has been doing this from time immemorial. Let now those who are willing to kowtow to that kind of dishonesty take charge and live with their consciences.

  5. The narrow legal basis upon which this particular legal battle turned was essentially on the basis that the TTFA had historically signed an agreement to subscribe to the rules and regulations of FIFA which, inter alia, imposed a requirement that disputes between them were to be resolved by arbitration and not litigation and which appears to have been the thrust of the appellate decision, a trend that is also increasingly recognised in giving effect to party autonomy in arbitral agreements to determine the process by which disputes are resolved. However, such a clause was unlikely to have given rise to bipartisan discussions but was more in the form of a take it or leave it deal if TTFA was to benefit from its membership of FIFA. However, the first instance decision highlighted the absence of consultation in the appointment of the normalisation committee as well as the fact that the TTFA had in fact initially sought to access the services of the Swiss Arbitral Court, a process which was in fact stymied by FIFA itself by its refusal to pay its share of the deposit for costs and which was most unfortunate since it seemed to suggest that it had decided to play hardball rather than approach the arbitration in good faith. Notwithstanding the eventual outcome and the decision by the membership to capitulate and even apologise to FIFA, one is constrained to question whether in fact neo-colonialism is not still alive and well despite our much vaunted claim to have progressed as a nation and region. The other lesson which perhaps the former TTFA Executive has now had to learn the hard way is the absence of regional support. It is understandable that the Government and various members of TTFA are concerned about ensuring that T & T is not marginalised in this global sport. But it is also important for FIFA to recognise that there were many issues which, from all accounts, the former TTFA executive inherited from its predecessor and which it was given neither a realistic opportunity nor the resources to effectively address. I fully agree with the insightful remarks of H.E. Dr. Glouden.