The Northern Football Association (NFA) board of directors has accused Eastern Football Association (EFATT) president Kieron Edwards of violating the constitution of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and the NFA, by seeking to interfere in its electoral process.
Edwards, who is also a director in the Ascension Football Tournament and a UNC alderman in the Arima Borough Corporation, claimed earlier this week that his only interest in the north zone is as a sponsor, and he is responding to requests for support from NFA member clubs.
However, a leaked email showed that Edwards wrote to Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad, on Saturday 28 November, requesting a TTFA observer for an NFA extraordinary general meeting on 12 December.
“[…] The North Zone is having a meeting tomorrow and because we know time is of the essence I am hoping that a written response can be done in time for the meeting tomorrow,” stated Edwards, “so that the EGM could stay on 12 December 2020. Thank you in advance for your quick response.”
Edwards’ email included a petition from Trendsetter Hawks head coach Anthony ‘Dada’ Wickham. At this point, NFA clubs did not know the proposed date for the EGM, as that was revealed formally on Monday 30 November.
On Tuesday 1 December, Amiel Mohammed, whose job title on his email reads ‘assistant – Robert Hadad’, responded on behalf of the normalisation committee. And, just as remarkably, the normalisation committee proceeded to inform the EFATT president of its intentions for the NFA’s election, without so much as copying in the actual board members of the Northern zone.
“Dear Kieron, pursuant to the correspondence sent on 28 November 2020 by Anthony Wickham of Trendsetter Hawks Football Academy on behalf of the members of the Northern Football Association,” stated Mohammed, “the normalisation committee of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association can confirm that it will appoint an observer for the Northern Football Association elections.”
NFA general secretary Rayshawn Mars said Edwards’ email was beyond the pale.
“We are seeing third party interference here without a doubt,” said Mars, who said he was speaking on behalf of the NFA Board. “He is a sitting president of anther zone, and even if he was acting as a sponsor, a sponsor should not be this involved in the elections of a zone.”
Edwards, who was elected as EFATT president in 2019, declined comment on the accusation.
Ascension is a sponsor of the NFA and lists its two directors as Edwards and Richard Ferguson, who is also the managing director of Terminix La Horquetta Rangers.
Rangers goalkeeper coach, Ross Russell, is bidding to succeed incumbent Anthony Harford as NFA president. His challenger is Richard Piper, who previously worked as Harford’s employee at the event management company, All Sport Promotion.
Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (TTFRA) vice-president Osmond Downer, one of the framers of the TTFA Constitution, said Edwards may be in breach of articles 17.1 and 13.1(a).
- Article 17.1: ‘each member shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties.’
- Article 13.1: ‘members have the following obligations: (a) to comply fully with the Statutes, regulations, directives and decisions of Fifa, Concacaf, CFU and TTFA at all times and to ensure that these are also respected by its members.’
It was, Downer suggested, only the tip of the iceberg as far as the issues surrounding the move to push the current NFA board out of business.
At 10am tomorrow, NFA clubs will attempt to hold their own election of officers, based on a request made by Wickham—on 27 September—for the zonal body to call elections.
The NFA board countered that the request was hasty and unjustified and did not oblige the member clubs. So, on 30 November, Wickham set an election date for the dissatisfied clubs on 12 December, in accordance with article 29.2 which states:
‘The [board of management of the NFA] shall convene an extraordinary general meeting if a majority (more than 50%) of the members make such a request in writing. The request shall specify the items for the Agenda.
‘An extraordinary general meeting shall be held within 21 days of receipt of the request, unless the agenda includes the election of members of the BoM, in which case the extraordinary general meeting shall be held within 30 days of receipt of the request.
‘If an extraordinary general meeting is not convened within the indicated time, the members who requested it may convene the extraordinary general meeting.’
Russell and Wickham confirmed to Wired868 that the EGM will go ahead as planned at the Cascadia Hotel in St Ann’s. The lone agenda item is the elections of officers.
However, Downer said tomorrow’s meeting is flawed for multiple reasons. First, he noted that Wickham’s request for an EGM is dated 27 September, while the signatures by clubs on the same document are between 30 September and 3 October.
“Any legal document could be discarded just because of that,” said Downer, who also noted that the letter referenced election for the ‘board of members’ rather than ‘board of management’.“It means when you submitted that letter, people hadn’t signed anything yet. If even the letter was prepared on the 27th and they then had to go and get the signatures, which they got by the 3rd of October—well, change the date on the letter.
“When you are dealing with something as important as the election of officers of an association, you have to be meticulous. Before sending out a letter like that, check. If you don’t know, find out … It is too serious a business.”
Worse, Downer suggested that Wickham and company got their dates wrong for the EGM. Article 29.5 of the NFA Constitution states:
‘If one of the items in the agenda of the extraordinary general meeting includes the election of members of the [board of management], the BoM shall notify the members at least 21 days before the date of the extraordinary general meeting about the upcoming elections.’
(The TTFA’s Constitution gives a minimum notice of 55 days.)
Wickham’s invitation for the EGM was dispatched on 30 November, which was 12 days before the meeting.
“The constitution [in article 29.2] says they have 30 days notice and we give them more than 30 days,” said Wickham. “They are just trying to delay so they can continue to encourage teams to come across by their side by the 28th [when the NFA board holds its own AGM]!”
The coach, who is contesting the post of vice-president on Russell’s slate, was referring to his 27 September request for an EGM. Downer believes Wickham misinterpreted the constitution.
“Suppose the board waited until the 29th day after receipt of the letter from the clubs and then decided to hold an EGM—could they hold it the next day?” asked Downer, rhetorically. “No, not at all! They would have to give 21 days notice. You have to distinguish between the request for the meeting, and the notice convening the meeting. Those are two different things.
“That letter [on 27 September] cannot count as a notice for a meeting, that is a letter requesting the board to call a meeting. The board did not call a meeting within the 30 days, so now you are now calling your own meeting and you have to give 21 days. Simple!”
If Wickham was to request another meeting date, based on Downer’s interpretation of the constitution, the earliest possible date is 3 January 2021—a week after the NFA’s proposed date for the AGM and elections. The Trendsetter Hawks coach said he will not back down.
“It would be embarrassing for us to wait until the 28th [of December] after all the work we put in,” said Wickham, the 2017 Alexander B Chapman Award recipient for his support for youth and community development in marginalised communities through football. “All we need is nine clubs to come out to have an election; so once we get nine, we go ahead with everything. We are not backing down from the stance we take.
“If we don’t get the nine well okay, then so be it—but that it why we had a meeting yesterday to make sure everyone comes out [on Saturday]. And eight clubs attended the meeting…”
Any decision taken by NFA clubs tomorrow is likely to be challenged, since the board and Russell’s challenger, Piper, insist that the EGM was improperly called.
Incidentally, the NFA has 19 member clubs with voting rights, and article 24.1 states: ‘decisions passed by the general meeting shall only be valid if a majority (more than 50%) of the delegates representing the members eligible to vote are present.’
Nine clubs will not represent a quorum, as Wickham suggested. He needs 10.
There is another potential issue. The agenda for Wickham’s EGM states: ‘to conduct elections for the board of members (sic) of the Northern Football Association which includes president, vice-presidents, assistant secretaries and ordinary members of the BoM.’
Downer said Wickham left out some vital information in his missive.
“I have attended hundreds of annual general meetings and I have never heard of people being called for a meeting involving elections and the letter doesn’t state who are the candidates for all the posts,” said Downer. “So they are going there to vote blindly? You must let people know who they are coming to vote for. Again, that is not procedure.”
Editor’s Note: Six clubs with voting rights attended the 12 December EGM at the Cascadia, according to Trendsetter Hawks head coach Anthony ‘Dada’ Wickham. He said the meeting was called off due to a lack of a quorum. The NFA has 19 clubs with voting rights.
Wickham announced that he will attempt to hold the meeting in two weeks time on 26 December. The NFA Board contends that the meeting was unconstitutional to begin with and has its own AGM scheduled for 28 December.