T&T Football Association (TTFA) has been barred from preventing United States (US) Spanish language television network Telemundo from broadcasting this country’s next two World Cup qualifiers.
High Court Judge Mira Dean-Armorer yesterday granted Telemundo an injunction against the TTFA, who it had complained was blocking its legitimate contract for broadcasting the matches against Panama tomorrow and Mexico, next Tuesday.
Delivering an oral ruling in the Port-of-Spain High Court, Dean-Armorer said that Telemundo has raised a valid case against the TTFA over its broadcast rights.
She also rejected claims by the TTFA that the lawsuit should have been filed in the United States, the country where it (Telemundo) signed its broadcast contract with the Caribbean Football Union (CFU).
Dean-Armorer said if the TTFA’s recommendation had been followed, it would be “virtually impossible” for Telemundo’s to obtain and enforce an injunction. She also agreed with Telemundo’s attorneys that the injunction was necessary to protect the company’s reputation with its customers, who were expecting to view the games live as advertised.
While Dean-Armorer expressed the view that as a foreign company, Telemundo should deposit money which would be used a security in the event it loses it substantive case against the TTFA, she noted that it was not necessary for the injunction to stand.
The TTFA were initially demanding US $1.25 million which represents its valuation of the Spanish-language broadcast rights for the two games, Telemundo claimed the figure was an overestimate.
Dean-Armorer reserved a hearing for this afternoon, when attorneys for the both parties would indicate if they had come to an agreement over the deposit amount.
The injunction does not cover two other home qualifiers scheduled for September and October as Dean-Armorer said only the next two games required urgency. Dean-Armourer advised Telemundo that it can reapply to the court for relief if it had not resolved its issues with the TTFA in time for the next round of qualifiers.
Asked if the TTFA was going to file an emergency appeal against the decision as he was exiting the hearing, TTFA president David John-Williams said: “I can not say right now. I am on my way to the office to speak to our lawyers.”
Telemundo’s lawsuit centres around its broadcast contract with US-based sports marketing companies Traffic Sports and Media World, which both obtained the rights to all World Cup 2018 and 2022 qualifiers for the CONCACAF region in 2012.
The TTFA is claiming that a subsequent contract between Telemundo and the companies for Spanish-language broadcasts in the region should be held null and void as the companies were accused of fraudulently obtaining the rights for Caribbean countries from the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) in a recent US Justice Department investigation into corruption in world football’s governing body Fifa.
In February, the TTFA complained to the CFU about its existing deal which saw it netting approximately US$130,000 for the two games and awarded the marketing rights for its games to another US-based company Elite Soccer Agency in the hope of getting a more lucrative deal.
Telemundo had also filed a separate lawsuit in Florida against Elite Soccer, in which it is challenging its ability to now sell the broadcast rights already awarded to it.
In response Telemundo was contending that its US$30 million contract was still valid as it was not accused of any wrongdoing in the international investigation.
Almost a dozen FIFA and CFU officials including former CFU president and government minister Jack Warner were indicted in the US following the investigation. Warner is currently challenging his proposed extradition to that country to face a series of fraud charges arising out of his over two decade stint in Fifa and regional football bodies.
Telemundo was represented by Christopher Hamel-Smith, SC, while Reginald Armour, SC, appeared for the TTFA.
Telemundo triumphs in High Court! DJW, TTFA fail in bold bid to escape tv rights contract.
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868).
United States Spanish-speaking television network, Telemundo, were granted the right to broadcast Trinidad and Tobago’s upcoming Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying matches against Panama and Mexico, after Judge Mira Dean-Armorer granted their injunction against the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) at the Port of Spain High Court today.
The Soca Warriors face Panama and Mexico on 24 and 28 March respectively at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
Telemundo was represented by Christopher Hamel-Smith SC, advocate attorney Jonathan Walker and filing attorney Debra Thompson. The TTFA was represented by senior advocate Reginald Armour SC, junior advocate Raphael Ajodhia and filing attorney Annand Misir.
For local football president David John-Williams and his board of directors, it is a potentially damaging body blow as the TTFA loses the right to earn increased revenue from their most lucrative World Cup qualifier against Mexico.
It also calls into question the line taken by the John-Williams-led board, which sought to ignore its own contract with the CFU, Traffic and, indirectly, Telemundo although the football body did not—according to information presented in court—actually test their argument by seeking to void that pact in a court of law.
John-Williams, in an affidavit, argued that: “on the basis of legal advice received, the TTFA does not acknowledge and/or recognise either the CFU agreement or the Traffic agreement as binding and enforceable upon it.”
However, Dean-Armorer’s verdict now blocks the TTFA from allowing any other party—whether directly or indirectly—to enjoy the rights that Telemundo acquired from Traffic, or to in any way hinder Telemundo from enjoying those rights.
However, she has left a door open to the TTFA’s request that Telemundo should place a sum in an interest-bearing account of the court which “represents the minimum value that ought to be payable to the TTFA for the broadcast rights of these games which the TTFA will seek to enforce as against Traffic and the CFU in the proper forum so that the root of the fraud which the claimant refers to as the ‘chain of contracts’ can be unravelled in the best interest of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Hamel-Smith, after speaking with his client, promised tell the court if Telemundo is prepared to do so and what sum would they find agreeable. All parties should meet again to discuss the matter at 3pm tomorrow.
“I think it is a common sense decision,” said Hamel-Smith, of Dean-Armorer’s decision.
John-Williams also put on a brave face.
“This does not faze me,” the TTFA president told Wired868.