Since taking office on November 29, 2015, the T&T Football Association (TTFA) led by David John-Williams has been the subject of numerous media attacks from both the traditional and social media surrounding its operations and the leadership style of its president.
Over the past few months, Guardian Media Sports has reached out to several members of the board in an effort to ascertain if the claims from the board’s most vocal member - Super League president Keith Look Loy - are justified.
A source close to the TTFA’s operations said for anyone to give the impression the board is a one-man show would be dishonest and outright making mischief to destabilise the administration and the sport.
"We are not perfect but our records and board minutes will show that Joanne Salazar was the chairperson of the Finance Committee before she resigned last month while vice president Mr Davis (Ewing) is the chairman of the Tenders Committee, which includes Wayne Cunningham and Joseph Taylor is chair of the Referees Committee and Richard Quan Chan is chairman of the Technical Committee.
"I will agree that the board should push for a wider cross-section of persons to be co-opted into the committees so that we can deliver more and become more efficient," the source said.
After Guardian Media Sports was turned down several times by various board members for interviews, a director agreed to speak to us about the administration of the sport strictly on the condition of anonymity.
The source revealed that there are one or two board members who want to lead but refuse to abide by the rule of collective responsibility when they don't get their way and that cannot be good for the sport.
"It's either you are a board member or you are not. Not everyone will agree with you and your opinion," said the source, who pointed out that there has been a lot of noise in the media about the TTFA’s accounts and financial affairs but the fact is that everyone on the board has all the accounts and everyone knows the true financial status of the body.
Guardian Media Sports was shown audited financial accounts for 2014 through 2017 done by Madame Ramnarine & Company Limited.
The source said, "When we came into office in 2015 there were no audited accounts for 2008 to 2015 and we fixed that.”
In fact, the source added, "The AGM of 2015 was conducted without financial statements and FIFA funding was suspended for a long time as a result of no financial accounts. It is this administration that restored FIFA funding. The FA (football association) also has an up to date financial management statement of accounts up to August 31, 2018."
Armed with a briefcase, the source said, "Every member of the board knows that when we were elected we inherited a debt of well over $23 million dollars ($23,507,263.10 to be exact) and we discussed it at every meeting when we meet and much of the income the FA has raised to date has been used to service that debt."
The source explained that back in June, former president Raymond Tim Kee, in an article in the T&T Guardian, called for answers on why the TTFA was still in the "red" when it received twice as many monies from FIFA than when he was in power. The source pointed out that Tim Kee had said in the article, "The TTFA used to receive US$58,000 every quarter for development and I have heard that the new president now receives much more than that, so where is the money going?"
The source said, "Mr Tim Kee knows that when FIFA gives money it's for specific purposes and it cannot be used for any debt serving. The current debt servicing comes from other revenues raised and sourced by the FA."
According to a document titled “Membership Presentation 2018,” which was presented to members in April, a sum of $7,673,680.54 was paid to several debtors which include coaches, a former referee, players World Cup match fees and service providers.
The source said the debt to former women's coach Even Pellerud of $1.3 million or (US$210,146,00) was the most crucial for T&T because the FIFA's Disciplinary Committee had given T&T 120 days from March 2015 to pay Pellerud or face sanctions which included being disqualified from participating in the World Cup qualifiers.
To date, the FA has also cleared part of the $3.6 million owed to current technical director Anton Corneal and part of the $7 million owed to coach Russell Latapy, while former World Cup referee Ramesh Ramdhan was paid $572.280.00 in full, while the Banquet and Conference Centre, Graphics Advertising and two out of six hotels were also paid.
The documents obtained by Guardian Media Limited show that the TTFA still owes $15,121,815.34, which includes over a million dollars to PTSC, the staff of the senior and junior teams and players.
The source said, "The FA owed almost all the hotel and travel agency businesses in T&T and they all sued us for their monies. Some we've paid in part, some we have paid in full and others we have asked for time and there are still matters before the courts. This is one of the main reasons why football is in this state today.
“As money comes in most of it goes out to pay the debts that we inherited and a couple of the debts were incurred by keeping our national team operations active. We know that as a board we must honour all the debts as the FA.”
The source added, “This is not about John-Williams and Keith Look Loy, this is about T&T football. A large sum of the monies the FA has gotten from Concacaf has gone to pay loans, which means our national teams and development programmes have taken a hit."
From the documents reviewed, the $15 million debt does not include a claim by former general secretary Sheldon Phillips, who in April filed a trade dispute in the Industrial Court for wrongful dismissal and is seeking damages of US$1.4 million or TT$10 million.
The source said, "I don't want to say much about this matter. However, Mr Phillips was hired by the former FA under president Tim Kee on May 9, 2013, to a four-year contract which was terminated in October 2015. I want to invite all of T&T to be present in court for this matter because we want everyone to know what the FA is being sued for here. I hope the media will be present also to report on this matter.”
The FA also settled all fines from FIFA totalling 12,500 Swiss francs or TT$90,000.
The source said the figures provided to the T&T Guardian did not include a legal claim by a former administrator of the FA for $15 million and another $2.4 million by nine individuals and companies, which includes a former general secretary and a company owned by the son of a former president.
In February, John-Williams, the TTFA president wrote FIFA seeking assistance in an effort to avoid the organisation from shutting down in his letter to Veron Mosengo-Omba he wrote: "The payments made above total TT $8,632,129.82 or (USD 1,290,000.00) and represents funds which the FA has earned and should have been utilised in our football programmes. At the moment all our programmes are grinding to a halt as a result. We foresee within one month the need to significantly reduce staff in order to just survive.
"Our FIFA forward money for special projects for 2016-2018 (USD2, 250,000.00) has been committed to our Home of Football Project which we hope to complete by September 2018. We envisage this project as a major income generator for the association thereafter. Our 2018 FIFA Forward operations money is fully budgeted for - the major cost being wages and salaries.
"In the circumstances, in order to survive in the immediate, we are seeking some funding or advances from FIFA to assist our cash flow needs. I am available at any time to discuss this urgent matter at hand."