Fifa threatens TTFA Members: Accept normalisation, or we will make you!

Fifa has threatened further action against the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) if members use their constitutional right to demand a local football election, which was promised by the world governing body in the first place.

The latest missive was issued by Fifa Chief Member Associations officer Kenny Jean-Marie today and relayed to TTFA members. The document bore the date but no time stamp and began to be circulated within local football circles at roughly 5.40pm.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino.

One way or another, the timeline is likely to bear significance. It was roughly 10.30pm in Zurich when the missive began to make the rounds in the two-island republic. However, it was 20 minutes before a crucial online meeting between stakeholders in which they were due to address the adversarial position taken by TTFA trustee Maria Daniel.

Yesterday, according to a football source, Daniel told members that the football body’s still undisclosed financial backer would renege on the offer of an interest-free loan to the TTFA of US$3.5m unless they backed down on demands that the Fifa-appointed Normalisation Committee depart office by 18 March 2023.

Failure to secure that loan would leave the TTFA at risk of being wound up by creditors. However, members told Daniel that they want to consult with each other before they provide an answer.

KFC Munch Pack

Just minutes before the TTFA membership’s 6pm meeting today, Fifa raised the stakes.

“If the TTFA’s normalisation committee convenes the requested Extraordinary General Meeting [on 18 March], before all tasks assigned to them have been accordingly carried out,” stated the Fifa despatch, “this would go against the mandate of the normalisation committee established by the Bureau of the Fifa Council.

Trinidad and Tobago football fans enjoy the show during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“Please be advised that, should the elections be held before all other tasks are completed, we would be obliged to submit the matter to our relevant decision-making body for further consideration and possible decisions based on the Fifa Statutes.”

The Fifa Statute used to negate the will of the TTFA’s electorate is Article 8.2, which 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.”

On 17 March 2020, the Bureau of the Fifa Council, led by president Gianni Infantino, used that clause to usurp the will of the Trinidad and Tobago football electorate, as they unilaterally declared control over the TTFA for a two-year period that was due to end on 18 March 2022.

Almost three years later, the Fifa-appointed normalisation committee, steered by local business owner and co-CEO of HadCo Limited Robert Hadad, remains in place.

Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad is in charge of the TTFA at present.
However, he shut down all of the TTFA’s standing committees while only one from eight national teams is active at present.

Concerned about the lack of progress made by the Hadad-led committee and rumours that the NC might receive a second extension to its mandate, Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (TTFRA) president Osmond Downer moved a motion that Hadad and colleagues Nigel Romano and Trevor Nicholas Gomez be replaced, come-what-may, by 18 March 2023.

On 10 December 2022, 20 TTFA members agreed to set the normalisation committee the aforementioned deadline while five disagreed. The motion passed.

Downer, one of the framers of the current TTFA Constitution, assured members that Fifa would not victimise the two-island republic once they followed the law.

“Fifa is a very careful organisation and Fifa will not go against the written constitution of one of its members,” Downer told members, at the December EGM. “You know why? The constitution [of the TTFA] from the very start and every amendment thereafter must be sent to Fifa for approval.”


Image: A satirical take on the US Department of Justice’s raid on Fifa in 2015.

In retrospect, he appeared to underestimate Fifa.

And, after threats, relayed by the Trustee, to delay payments to TTFA’s creditors and even squash a US$3.5m loan failed to have the desired effect, Fifa added a personal touch today.

“We are writing to you as Fifa was informed that during the last EGM on 10 December 2022, the Members of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) voted in favour and approved a motion requesting that the TTFA Normalisation Committee convene EGM by 18 March 2023 to elect a new board of directors,” stated Jean-Marie, a Guadeloupe-born administrator who previously worked for the France Football Federation and Ministry of Sport.

“First and foremost, we would like to recall that in accordance with article 8 paragraph 2 of the Fifa Statutes, the Bureau of the Fifa Council decided, on 17 March 2020, to appoint a normalisation committee for the TTFA.

Fifa Chief Member Associations officer Kenny Jean-Marie.

“[…] Due to the urgent and complex challenges that the TTFA is still facing, the Bureau of the Fifa Council decided on 17 December 2021 to extend the mandate of the normalisation committee until 31 March 2023.

“In this regard, Fifa expects the TTFA to ensure that the mandate of the normalisation committee is carried out and fulfilled in strict compliance with the decision of the Bureau of the Fifa Council—with the last task being the organisation of elections.”

Fifa insists that Hadad and his cohorts remain in charge for an additional two weeks. But what is the significance of that timeframe? What can the normalisation committee do in 14 days that they could not in three years?

The fear, within local football circles, remains that Hadad will receive more time at the helm.

“You had had ample time, more than sufficient time,” Downer told Hadad last month.

TTFRA president Osmond Downer (right) makes a point to former president Joseph Taylor.

Mike Berry, the agent to TTFA creditor and former national coach Dennis Lawrence, echoed popular sentiment when he scoffed at the work of Trinidad and Tobago’s normalisation committee.

“If I was the financier, I would be more concerned about Robert Hadad and Co and the snail-like pace of their abysmal efforts to date,” stated Berry.

Fifa, via its Chief Member Associations officer, not only dismissed local concerns but contradicted them too.

“We appreciate the great efforts made by the TTFA Normalisation Committee during its mandate,” stated Jean-Marie, “especially in attempting to finally resolve the TTFA’s outstanding debts so that the TTFA can continue to promote, improve, and develop football in the territory of Trinidad and Tobago.

Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad repeatedly refused to answer any questions on his stewardship at the helm of the TTFA.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

“We thank you for taking note of the above and kindly ask you to keep us informed about any further development in this matter.”

The Normalisation Committee’s mandate by Fifa was:

  • to run the TTFA’s daily affairs;
  • to establish a debt repayment plan that is implementable by the TTFA administration;
  • to review and amend the TTFA Statutes (and other regulations where necessary) and ensure their compliance with the Fifa Statutes and requirements before duly submitting them for approval to the TTFA Congress;
  • and to organise and conduct elections of a new TTFA Executive Committee for a four-year mandate.
Nipdec and National Flour Mills chairman and Normalisation Committee member Nigel Romano.

The Hadad-led body is widely considered to have given a less than satisfactory performance on the first two points while they have not even started the rest.

On 13 August 2020, High Court Madame Justice Carol Gobin declared that Fifa’s “normalisation clause” appeared to contradict Article 19 of its own Statutes:

  • 19.1 Each member association shall manage its affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties.
  • 19.2 A member association’s bodies shall be either elected or appointed in that association. A member association’s statutes shall provide for a democratic procedure that guarantees the complete independence of the election or appointment.
  • 19.3 Any member association’s bodies that have not been elected or appointed in compliance with the provisions of par 2, even on an interim basis, shall not be recognised by FIFA.
  • 19.4 Decisions passed by bodies that have not been elected or appointed in compliance with par 2 shall not be recognised by Fifa.

(Fifa since amended that statute. See footnote after article.)

Madame Justice Carol Gobin.

However, a local Appeal Court panel, led by Chief Justice Ivor Archie, subsequently threw out Gobin’s seismic ruling on the grounds that it ought to have been heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Nearly three years later, the TTFA appears further than ever from proper governance under the management of a usurper who is yet to field a single press conference on his stewardship.

And, once more, the choice given to Trinidad and Tobago’s football stakeholders appears to be: accept Fifa’s complete control of your affairs, or become a pariah from the “beautiful game”.

Essentially, Trinidad and Tobago must either accept normalisation willingly—until Fifa calls time. Or face being forcibly normalised again.

The unspoken third option, which TTFA members baulked at before, is to be cast aside from the Fifa fraternity entirely.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) shows off a gift from Fifa president Gianni Infantino, during a courtesy call by the Swiss-Italian.

Editor’s Note: At 11.40pm on Friday 20 January 2023, EFATT president Kieron Edwards wrote acting TTFA general secretary Amiel Mohammed to indicate that the TTFA membership wanted an EGM to “review” its decision to force Fifa-appointed normalization committee chairman Robert Hadad from office. Click HERE for details.

Editor’s Note: Fifa’s clause on Member Bodies is now found in Article 17 and reads:

  • 17.1 A Member’s bodies shall be either elected or appointed in that Association. A Member’s statutes shall provide for a procedure that guarantees the complete independence of the election or appointment.
  • 17.2 Any Member’s bodies that have not been elected or appointed in compliance with the provisions of par. 1, even on an interim basis, shall not be recognised by FIFA.
  • 17.3 Decisions passed by bodies that have not been elected or appointed in compliance with par. 1 shall not be recognised by Fifa.

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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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