Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (TTFRA) vice-president Osmond Downer has criticised Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad for either ignoring the local body’s constitution or totally misunderstanding his role within the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).
Hadad and his three-member committee, which includes Judy Daniel and Nigel Romano, replaced the TTFA Board on 27 March 2020 with a specific mandate to: run the TTFA’s daily affairs, establish a debt repayment plan, review and amend the constitution (where necessary), and conduct elections for a new board.
However, whereas Fifa president Gianni Infantino sends press statements to inform stakeholders of his plans for the local body, Hadad has formally informed neither the TTFA’s member delegates nor the public of his operations.
Nine months since his appointment and nearly three months since for mer TTFA president William Wallace was removed by members, Hadad is yet to hold a general meeting or press conference to offer feedback or address concerns of the nation.
Downer, one of the framers of the TTFA Constitution, said former president David John-Williams was one of the worst communicators he ever saw in that role. Hadad, he suggested, was worse.
“The normalisation committee has not sought the opinion of anyone [and] consultation should be made with the membership,” Downer told Wired868. “In fact one of the biggest complaints against John-Williams was his lack of communication and failure to let the membership know what is going on. John-Williams had his faults there, but after nine months with this one (Hadad), communication is nil. Nil! There is nothing!
“The TTFA comprises the members, without the members there is no TTFA. So therefore the members have a right to know what is going on and to be kept up to date. But nobody is being told anything and that is not satisfactory.”
Does Hadad, the co-CEO of HadCo Limited, think he is more powerful than Infantino and can do whatever he feels like within football on the twin island republic?
Downer noted that even Infantino operates within a structure and has to answer for decisions made within Fifa.
“The very seven-man Bureau of the Fifa Council, with Infantino as its chairman, which made the decision to remove the TTFA executive—their every meeting has to be ratified by the Fifa Council made up of 30-something members,” said Downer. “And in some cases, like with the suspension of a member, their decisions have to be ratified by the congress, made up of all the membership.
“So why does the normalisation committee not seem to think it has to work within our structure?”
Downer said one particularly important blindspot for the Hadad-led normalisation committee appears to be its lack of regard for standing committees. The TTFA has just over a dozen standing committees and most were activated under the former executive.
Downer said the Fifa Statutes and TTFA Constitution both state that its standing committees ‘shall advise and assist the executive’ and must exist.
Article 40.2 of the TTFA Constitution states: ‘[…] the members of the standing committees shall be designated for a term of office of four years.’
And article 8.2 of the Fifa Statutes, which deals with ‘normalisation’ states: ‘executive bodies of member associations may under exceptional circumstances be removed from office by the Council, in consultation with the relevant confederation, and replaced by a normalisation committee for a specific period of time.’
“The constitution of the TTFA still exists and it is mandatory, otherwise there would be no TTFA for the normalisation committee to run,” said Downer. “The normalisation committee must follow the rules of the TTFA because Fifa has not suspended the rules of the TTFA, nor has it suspended or removed the standing committees. Fifa has removed one body alone, the board of directors.
“[…] The standing committees are entrenched in the constitution. Nobody can disband or remove a standing committee, unless it is done by a constitutional amendment.
“Not even Infantino can remove the standing committees—that is why they are called ‘standing’, they stand there.”
Since each committee, barring the audit and compliance committee, must be led by a member of the board, Hadad is entitled to place a normalisation committee member at the helm of each one.
Instead, Hadad and his assistant Amiel Mohammed implied—in meetings with stakeholders and in press statements—that the normalisation committee would decide on the appointment of national coaches, which national teams would be re-instated, and what the various standing committees would look like in the future.
The TTFA’s standing committees are: finance, audit and compliance, organising for TTFA competitions, technical and development, referees, legal, women’s football, youth football and development, sports medicine, players’ status, and marketing.
During the John-Williams-led administration, the number of active standing committees dropped to just one: the referees committee. Coincidentally, the TTFA plunged from 49th in the Fifa rankings to 104th during his four year term.
Downer tried to explain what the TTFA missed out on under John-Williams—a mistake that may now be repeated.
“No executive has all the in-house expertise necessary to run football,” said Downer, “because most of the members of the boards are administrators. They are not football experts or technical people, they are not doctors or lawyers, and that is why you would have expertise on your committees to advise the executive.
“Not even the Fifa executive, which has 38 members, has all the necessary expertise—and Fifa has standing committees from A to Z. The executive has to function using the advice of their standing committees.
“Take the selection of coaches and other technical staff for national teams. The board ultimately selects these people, but they do it on the advice of the people on the technical committee.”
The TTFA Board comprises of 15 people, all of whom are actively involved in local football at some level. The normalisation committee has just three persons—none of whom have any standing in the local game.
It is remarkable then that Hadad, Daniel and Romano apparently chose to operate without a single standing committee for close to a year already.
“They should rely on committees even more than a normal TTFA board, because there is nobody on the normalisation committee with any real football experience,” said Downer. “For instance, a member of the last board, [Keith] Look Loy, was very knowledgable on technical matters as a former player and a coach, and a technical advisory member for Concacaf. So the board could have depended on him for some guidance.
“But even then, the board still had to seek advice from the technical committee on technical matters. No board, not even the Fifa board, can exist without the standing committees.
“[…] Basically, if the board is the driver steering the association, and the players are the wheel on which the machine runs, then the standing committees would be the engine.”
Downer expressed concerns about reports that Hadad was pushing ahead with a new football league involving Pro League and Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) clubs, without consultation with the competitions committee.
The competitions committee comprises the general secretary of each zone as well as from the Women’s League of Football (WoLF).
“If the TTFA Board was still in existence and it wanted to start a competition,” he said, “it would put it in the hands of the competition committee, who would then put their plans to the board for ratification.”
The normalisation committee can enter into financial arrangements on behalf of the TTFA, just as the board could. However, this must be relayed to the membership.
Downer said there is particular interest in the TTFA’s debt repayment plan and members are anxious to hear from the normalisation committee on this, and to ask them questions.
“Any use of money must be decided by the board or, in this case, the normalisation committee,” said Downer, “but then at the very next general meeting, the general membership has to be informed—because that money belongs to the TTFA, which comprises the membership. If they spend it badly, they can be brought to account.
“[…] It is not the funds of the president, or the board. It is the funds of the members.”
Downer believes an emergency general meeting is long overdue, as football stakeholders hope to recover from a traumatic 2020 due to normalisation and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“People want to know what’s going on,” he said. “How many people know the details about this upcoming competition? What are the plans? What is going on with the debt repayment plans?
“What are the plans for the amendments of the constitution that Fifa so desires?”