Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams and his board of directors, apparently, do not know when they are behind.
Wired868 understands that the TTFA, in an extraordinary show of chutzpah, is sticking to its guns and refusing to allow broadcast rights holders to operate inside the Hasely Crawford Stadium for tomorrow’s World Cup qualifying contest between the Soca Warriors and Panama.
One local attorney, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he understands that at least four television companies—including ESPN—are shopping around for high-end legal services in a bid to force the TTFA to accept their contracts.
Yesterday, Port of Spain High Court Judge Mira Dean-Armorer granted an injunction to United States Spanish-speaking television network, Telemundo, which forbid the local football body to re-sell rights already owned by the company or impede their exercising of those rights.
The TTFA had unsuccessfully argued, through Reginald Armour SC, that all broadcast rights derived from a pact between Traffic Sports USA, the Brazilian arm of a Brazilian sports event management television production company, and the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) should be voided due to a bribe paid by former Traffic president Aaron Davidson to ex-CONCACAF president and CFU normalisation committee chairman, Jeffrey Webb.
Former local football body interim president Lennox Watson signed over Trinidad and Tobago’s television rights to the CFU for the next two World Cup cycles on 29 August 2012.
Crucially, the John-Williams-led board never bothered to test the strength of their case in court by seeking to void their deals with CFU and Traffic.
Instead, the TTFA simply refused to acknowledge the validity of the contracts—although the local football body allowed all the rights holders in question to exercise their rights for previous 2018 World Cup qualifiers in Port of Spain against Guatemala and Costa Rica.
“That is not the conduct of an honest commercial man,” said Christopher Hamel-Smith, during Telemundo’s legal charge at the Port of Spain High Court on 21 March 2017. “The conduct of an honest commercial man is that he respects the rights of somebody who is bonafide and he gets what he can get from the people who took advantage of him if he truly believes that.”
Dean-Armorer ordered John-Williams and the TTFA to stand down and allow Telemundo to do their work until the High Court can rule on the validity of their contracts.
However, the Judge did suggest that she may have Telemundo make a deposit in an interest-bearing account of the court for the minimum value payable for the two games if the United States-based company loses its eventual suit against the TTFA.
The TTFA is guaranteed US$1.8 million in broadcast rights for competing in the CONCACAF Hex. However, according to an insider, John-Williams allegedly insisted that the football body can double that figure by shopping the rights around on the open market.
Should the TTFA fail to convince the High Court that Telemundo’s contract is voided by the behaviour of CFU and Traffic, the Spanish-speaking network—whose parent company, NBCUniversal has assets of over US$68 million—has already vowed to sue for:
Damages and/or damages on the footing of exemplary and/or aggravated damages;
An account of profits;
Interest at such rate and for such period as the Court may find just;
Such further or other relief as the Court considers just and appropriate;
If the TTFA attract more lawsuits—as seems likely—and lose those as well, the local football body could end up haemorrhaging money from its 2018 World Cup campaign, despite their success on the field in getting this far.
Either way, this remarkable action by the TTFA—which Telemundo described as “a shakedown” in a court deposition—is likely to define John-Williams’ presidency in one way or the other.
Unfazed, John-Williams suggested that he was encouraged by Dean-Armorer’s ruling.
“I suggest you get the full consent order from the court,” the TTFA president told Wired868, “and [fully] understand what the Judge granted.”
A legal source familiar with the case was incredulous at the TTFA’s stance.
“He definitely has balls bigger than mine,” he said.
CFU president Gordon Derrick and Traffic USA senior vice president Roberto Herval declined comment on the issue. Both are monitoring the unfolding situation in Port of Spain.