Wed, Jun

Corneal withholds services over unpaid salaries.

An­ton Corneal, Tech­ni­cal Di­rec­tor of lo­cal foot­ball has said he will be with­hold­ing his ser­vices with im­me­di­ate ef­fect un­til monies owed to him for salaries are paid.

Corneal in a let­ter to the T&T Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion and copied to oth­er mem­bers of foot­ball fra­ter­ni­ty said his last paid salary was in June last year. Al­so, the agreed con­trac­tu­al arrange­ment to pay off his pre­vi­ous ar­rears has not been ho­n­oured since De­cem­ber 2017.

Corneal, con­sid­ered one of the most qual­i­fied coach­es in the Caribbean, wrote to David John-Williams, pres­i­dent of the em­bat­tled foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tion on many oc­ca­sions in an at­tempt to re­ceive monies owed to him. But his words ap­pear to have fall­en on deaf ears, with lit­tle or no ac­tion com­ing from the lo­cal foot­ball boss.

Ac­cord­ing to Corneal, "Af­ter days of con­tem­pla­tion and le­gal ad­vice, I have de­cid­ed to with­hold my ser­vices as Tech­ni­cal Di­rec­tor of the TTFA un­til they ho­n­our my con­trac­tu­al agree­ments made in Au­gust of 2017. I have been promised salary pay­ments con­tin­u­ous­ly but to no avail. I had meet­ings with the Pres­i­dent and the Gen­er­al Sec­re­tary in­di­cat­ing the in­con­ve­nience of not be­ing paid, and the toll it is tak­ing on my life."

Corneal said in Sep­tem­ber last year he had to rent a ve­hi­cle on two oc­ca­sions to per­form his du­ties. Then he had to trans­port FI­FA and CON­CA­CAF of­fi­cials.

Corneal joins his col­league, Na­tion­al un­der-15, 17 and 20 coach Rus­sell Lat­apy in the strug­gle for salaries, by both with­hold­ing their ser­vices with­in the past year. But they re­turned to their jobs for the CON­CA­CAF Women's and Un­der-20 Men's Qual­i­fiers late last year re­spec­tive­ly, with the hope that pay­ments will be forth­com­ing.

In­stead Corneal said the sit­u­a­tion has been tak­ing a toll on his health and fam­i­ly life and he has been con­sid­er­ing seek­ing oth­er means of in­come to sup­port his fam­i­ly.

"In De­cem­ber, I wrote to the Pres­i­dent again, ask­ing him to use his of­fice to pay me dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son, again to­tal­ly ig­nored, not even an ac­knowl­edge­ment of the mail. Then fi­nal­ly on Jan­u­ary 5th 2019, I was called to a meet­ing with the Pres­i­dent, Vice Pres­i­dent, and the Chair­man of the Tech­ni­cal Com­mit­tee, where it was in­di­cat­ed to me, they will pay off my cur­rent salaries at the end of Feb­ru­ary 2019, but will not be pay­ing the agreed pay­ments to my ar­rears and /or any arrange­ment con­cern­ing trans­porta­tion, which is clear­ly stat­ed in my con­trac­tu­al agree­ment with TTFA," Corneal ex­plained.

He is set to hand in a 2018 year­ly re­port in­di­cat­ing the sta­tus of the na­tion­al teams' pro­grammes and the chal­lenges en­coun­tered dur­ing the year but af­ter­wards will await word from Justin Lat­apy-George, the TTFA's gen­er­al sec­re­tary be­fore re­sum­ing work as the tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor.

Con­tact­ed yes­ter­day John-Williams told Guardian Sports his as­so­ci­a­tion, in spite of the dif­fi­cult fi­nan­cial times faced, was still able to pay Corneal $500,000 out of the $3 mil­lion owed to him. He be­lieves Corneal's de­ci­sion to copy his let­ter to Clynt Tay­lor, gen­er­al sec­re­tary of the Cen­tral Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (CFA), William Wal­lace, pres­i­dent of the Sec­ondary Schools Foot­ball League (SS­FL) and An­tho­ny Har­ford, pres­i­dent of the North­ern Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (NFA), all of whom has sup­port a vote to have him re­moved as pres­i­dent re­cent­ly, was a bla­tant show that he has an agen­da.

He promised a re­lease from the TTFA will be sent to the me­dia to­day but said a de­ci­sion to pay out cur­rent salaries will be done next month.

Corneal said he has seen the de­vel­op­ment of lo­cal foot­ball suf­fer and coach­es grow dis­en­chant­ed due to the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.


Corneal cries foul again.
By Joel Bailey (Newsday).

Look Loy calls for FIFA intervention as…

ANTON CORNEAL has decided to down tools and withhold his services as technical director of the TT Football Association (TTFA), until his outstanding salary is paid.

This move is another stain on the beleaguered TTFA and its president David John-Williams, whom Corneal has accused of disrespectful and inhumane treatment.

TTFA board member Keith Look Loy yesterday issued a call to FIFA to intervene, since the technical director is a crucial component in any member association.

Corneal, the former national midfielder and youth team coach, wrote to the TTFA yesterday saying his financial burdens were too much to bear and he needed to take a stand in order to get the salary owed since July 2018.

This is not the first time that the 54-year-old Corneal has been at loggerheads with the TTFA over unpaid salaries. He was appointed technical director by then president Lennox Watson in January 2012, but stepped down in April 2014, when Raymond Tim Kee was at the helm. Months later, Corneal took legal action against the local governing body to get his outstanding salary, estimated at $3 million.

On August 9, 2017, he was rehired as TTFA technical director by John-Williams for two years with an option to extend.

At the time Corneal, son of football great Alvin Corneal, said, “We came up with a long-term agreement to pay me off on a contractual basis. The courts would have done nearly the same thing, so this is a better way.”

Corneal also revealed TTFA has not paid his arrears from his previous tenure since December 2017.

In his e-mail to the TTFA, Corneal said, “I have been promised salary payments continuously but to no avail. I had meetings with the president and the general secretary (Justin Latapy-George) indicating the inconvenience of not being paid, and the toll it is taking on my life.

“In September 2018, I explained to the president, I am having to borrow a vehicle to perform my duties and on two occasions having a rent a vehicle to transport FIFA and CONCACAF officials.

“I am tired of the disrespect and inhumane manner in which I have been treated by the (TTFA) president.”

John-Williams, whose primary focus of late is the controversial Home of Football project in Couva, has remained silent in the face of criticism of his leadership style by board members, coaches (notably T&T youth team’s Russell Latapy), men and women players and the US Embassy's chargé d’affaires John McIntyre.

Corneal wrote, “In December I wrote to the president again, asking him to use his office to pay me during the festive season – again totally ignored, not even an acknowledgement of the mail.”

On January 5, Corneal said he was called to a meeting with John-Williams, vice-president Ewing Davis and chairman of the technical committee Richard Quan Chan and told his salary would be paid at the end of next month.

But the TTFA would “not be paying the agreed payments to my arrears and/or any arrangement concerning transportation, which is clearly stated in my contractual agreement with (the) TTFA.”

He said his financial constraints have affected both his health and his family life, and he may have to look for other sources of income.

Corneal continued, “I have seen the development of football suffer in our country, coaches working in our programmes disenchanted by the way they are treated by the (TTFA).”

Contacted yesterday, he would only say that his decision to withhold his services would take immediate effect.

Several calls to John-Williams’ phone went unanswered yesterday, Latapy-George declined comment, as he alluded to his current situation with the TTFA. Latapy-George, brother of ex-T&T captain Russell, has been working on a month-to-month contract since his term expired on November 30.

The outspoken Look Loy, a fierce critic of John-Williams’ leadership style, said, “I believe that it is time for FIFA to intervene in the TTFA. The technical-director position is one that is mandated by FIFA regulations and one that FIFA sets aside money for national associations to pay someone to fill the post and perform their duties.

“While the grass is growing, the horse is starving. We have (funds) coming in, by way of FIFA subventions, and all (the TTFA) is taking about is Home of Football, while football is collapsing all around our ears. The worst is yet to come where this presidency is concerned.”

Look Loy, the president of the TT Super League, said, “This is further evidence of the validity of the motion to dismiss John-Williams that was submitted by my club, FC Santa Rosa, to the 2018 annual general meeting.

“In the week after that motion was not passed, we had the futsal (team) winning their judgement against the TTFA and the men’s team saying that they’re not going to be playing because they’ve not been paid.”

Look Loy called for an urgent board meeting to discuss the respective positions of Corneal, Latapy-George and T&T men’s coach Dennis Lawrence, whose contract is set to end on January 30.

Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Shamfa Cudjoe yesterday said her ministry could not get involved, as national sporting bodies are all autonomous.

She said, “I know there have been some challenges within the TTFA. They had some long-standing bills (and salaries) that they would have incurred over the years. We (will) provide assistance as it relates to development programmes. We are yet to receive a proposal or a request from TTFA as it relates to assisting or paying coaches, or their programmes.”

Is just ah sweat.
By Stephon Nicholas (Newsday)

T&T football in crisis but…

IN July last year, TT Football Association technical director Anton Corneal sought to close the disconnect between the local football body and the media by outlining the organisation's plans for the short, medium and long term.

Corneal and T&T head coach Dennis Lawrence addressed a select group of journalists at the TTFA office, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, revealing their goals and going in-depth about how they intended to achieve them.

Given all that has transpired since then, one can't help laugh and recall the words of boxing legend Mike Tyson: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

Make no mistake, Corneal, entrusted to chart the way forward for T&T football from the youth to senior level, has taken his share of punches.

This last blow has him on one knee contemplating throwing in the towel. Since that meeting in July, Corneal has not been paid his salary and has now downed tools in protest.

This isn't Corneal's debut in the game of cat and mouse that TTFA coaches and officials have to play to get paid. Corneal is a veteran in this game and has come out on the losing end – even if he won in the courtroom.

In April 2014, Corneal, who was technical director then, quit after going unpaid for over a year. He was owed close to $3.5 million.

After winning a lawsuit against the TTFA, Corneal was rehired in the same capacity with an agreement thathe would be paid the money owed to him as well as his new salary.

But in an e-mail to the board yesterday, Corneal said, "My last paid salary was June 2018, and the agreed contractual arrangement to pay off my owed arrears has not been honoured since December 2017...I honestly believe this situation is affecting my health, it is eroding my family life and forcing me to find other means of income to support my family."

Where is our football headed if Corneal's portfolio is not respected enough to find the money to pay him? Who will be playing at the Home of Football when it is completed?

At that round-table discussion with the media last year, Corneal divulged the TTFA's goals: “Long-term is to compete at the highest level, to qualify for Youth World Cups, (Men’s) World Cups, to be the top team in the Caribbean and to be in the top four teams in CONCACAF.

“Of course, there must be areas where we have to measure how we are developing. Some of them would be how we compete in our regional tournaments (and) the Gold Cup, how the under-15 boys and girls compete in their regional tournaments. So that’ll give us an indication.”

The signs so far are not good. The under-15 girls failed even to arrive at the 2018 CONCACAF Championships because the TTFA bungled their visa applications. The National Under-20s' quest to qualify for the World Cup was doomed because the team failed to train for close to three months before the CONCACAF Championships in November last year. Coach Russell Latapy, in an exclusive interview with Newsday, said he and his staff had not been paid and were unable to hold training sessions. A late training camp just before the tournament was never going to be enough, and "The Little Magician" was unable to conjure any magic, as T&T exited at the group stage.

The national women's team also expressed a similar tale of salaries and contracts not being honoured in a timely manner. It takes no genius to know what happened to their World Cup campaign last year.

And like a broken record, the men's team recently complained about not being paid for over a year, even though salaries have been slashed by over 50 per cent. Funding and sponsorship are hard to come by, but TT footballers have every right to strike for being unpaid – and they've threatened to do so vs Wales in March!

Firing former coach Stephen Hart to bring Tom Saintfiet was also another move that backfired horrendously and cost TT a place at the 2017 Gold Cup.

The current state of local football is bad.

But TTFA head David John-Williams remains silent on the disaster that is unfolding – save for boasting about the Home of Football project.

What really is the plan going forward? Can we trust in the success of the projects, development programmes and template expounded upon by Corneal last year – when he can't even be paid? It might be time to just take ah sweat instead of taking football seriously.

Skate tackles must be banned from all football locally. After all, is just ah sweat. To the former Central FC footballer who was playing a hockey post tournament for $10,000 in Sangre Grande two days before a CONCACAF Champions League match, I must apologise for castigating you among my peers. You were ahead of your time. Is just ah sweat. Pro League clubs should remove the ban imposed on their players competing in minor league football. Is just ah sweat.

Organised football at the highest level is dying. Let's just take ah sweat.