The T&T Football Association (TTFA) has been cautioned by a High Court Judge over its repeated refusal to release information on the construction of its US$2.5 million "Home for Football" in Balmain, Couva to one of its directors.
Delivering an oral judgement at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday afternoon, High Court Judge Ronnie Boodoosingh ruled that TTFA president David John-Williams and former general secretary Justin Latapy-George acted irrationally and unreasonably when they repeatedly declined requests made by TTFA director and T&T Super League president Keith Look Loy, since December 2017.
"Organisations like the TTFA, having been incorporated by statute, can not be the personal fiefdom of individuals. Even if it were so in the past, it can not be so in modern times," Boodoosingh said, as he ordered John-Williams to disclose the information to Look Loy within seven days.
Neither John-Williams nor Latapy-George were present in court for the judgement and were represented by the TTFA's lawyer Anand Missir.
In his judgement, Boodoosingh ruled that Look Loy was entitled to seek the information which includes the financing arrangement for the facility, the tendering process used for selecting the contractor and sub-contractors and time-frames for completion.
"He (Look Loy) has obligations as well as potential liabilities and must, therefore, have the true position of the association so he can properly perform his functions," Boodoosingh said.
Stating that transparency is the antidote for corruption, Boodoosingh questioned the rationale of the TTFA officials in the case.
"Given international knowledge of the turmoil in Fifa, one would have thought that the defendant would not have found itself in the position it has," he said, also criticising the TTFA for requesting that Look Loy sign a non-disclosure agreement if he was to be given the information. The TTFA claimed that the request was made after it received advice on the issue from Fifa, which mainly financed the project.
"It is not about protecting an organisation but what is in the best interest of the world game...Those who have nothing to hide, should not fear light being shone on them," Boodoosingh said.
As a secondary issue in the case, the TTFA was alleging that Look Loy should not have been allowed to bring the judicial review lawsuit as it is not a public body, whose decisions are capable of being reviewed by a court.
Boodoosingh strongly disagreed as he pointed out that it was established by an Act of Parliament to manage and promote football in the country and that it receives occasional State funding.
He also rejected the TTFA claim that the issue should have been resolved using arbitration as he stated that such have would require "willingness" from both parties.
In addition to ordering the disclosure of the information, Boodoosingh also ordered the association to foot Look Loy's legal bill for pursuing the lawsuit.
Look Loy was represented by Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle and Crystal Paul.
Accountants agree to analyse documents
A team of forensic accountants are expected to look into the financial records on the construction of the "Home for Football".
In a brief interview outside the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, after Look Loy won his lawsuit against the TTFA, he said the accountants approached by him had already agreed to analyse the documents once they are released by the TTFA over the next week.
Look Loy said: "I don't know what we would find. I never accused anyone of anything but in the absence of factual information there would be speculation and there is a mountain of speculation over what is happening in Couva.
"I am going in there now to see what exactly has been happening, not on behalf of Keith Look Loy but behalf football community and the people of T&T."
Asked how he felt with the outcome of the case, Look Loy said he was always confident.
"It feels good to know that there was recourse for me and other people who are fighting for transparency in the conduct of business, human affairs and the conduct of TTFA affairs," he said.
He also suggested that Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh's judgement in the case may help improve the sport in T&T.
"The judge was right. Football is not private business or a private fiefdom, it belongs to all of us," he said.
About the Project (Put in box)
The "Home for Football" project is expected to include a 72-room hotel, training pitches, an entertainment centre and administrative offices for the association.
The sod was turned in September 2017, with construction starting in February, last year. The project was sponsored by Fifa and is being constructed on a little over seven hectares of land donated by the Government.
The project was already at an advanced stage when Fifa representative Veron Mosengo-Omba and Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe conducted a tour in August, last year.
The project is still incomplete but the facility is scheduled to be opened, later this year.
“Public organisations can’t be run like private fiefdoms!” Court orders DJW to hand TTFA financial info over to Look Loy
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868).
Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) board member and TTSL president Keith Look Loy hailed a ‘complete victory’ over football president David John-Williams this afternoon, after the High Court ordered John-Williams to make all financial information related to the local football body available to the claimant within seven days.
Look Loy, who was appointed to the TTFA board in January 2018, turned to the courts after his repeated requests for information related to the controversial Home of Football project were either ignored by John-Williams or only offered on various conditions, including that the administrator sign a non-disclosure agreement.
However, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh rubbished John-Williams’ stance as he ordered the TTFA president to not only make the requested information available within a week but to also permit Look Loy to make copies.
Once more, John-Williams was stuck with not only the cost of his legal team but must also pick up the tab for Look Loy’s attorneys as well—expenses that must again be borne by the cash strapped local football body.
Crucially too, John-Williams’ stalling encouraged Look Loy to widen the scope of his enquiry to not just the Home of Football but every cent spent during the president’s tenure, which began on 30 November 2015.
Look Loy told Wired868 that he will immediately hire a forensic accountant to help shine light on the secret spending of the John-Williams-led administration, which has been kept hidden from even board members.
“I asked for names for all the contractors who worked [on the Home of Football] in Couva, what they worked for, who gave them the contracts, how much money has been spent, where the works have reached, etc,” said Look Loy. “But I also asked for the ledger of the TTFA from November 2015 to present. Why? Because it is the daily record of income and expenditure of the TTFA that tells the entire day by day history of the [football body] until March 2019.
“I am expecting we will find information on a lot of questions we have been asking including what is the TTFA’s relationship with I95.5FM, etc.
“It is extensive work but it is work that has to be done for us to ascertain the true financial status of the TTFA and to find out who has been spending money, what has the money been spent on and who has been receiving the money.”
Look Loy was represented by attorneys Matthew Gayle, Dr Emir Crowne and Crystal Paul. Anand Missir was retained by the TTFA.
John-Williams never denied that Look Loy was authorised to receive the information requested, according to the TTFA’s constitution. However, his legal team argued that world governing body, FIFA, was keen on a certain level of confidentiality for the project, that Look Loy ought to have used in-house arbitration before approaching the courts and the High Court was not the right forum to settle the dispute in any case since, they claimed, the TTFA was not a public body.
Justice Boodoosingh gave short shrift to each point as he pointed out that the TTFA was incorporated by an act of Parliament and the entire public has a stake in the going-ons of the national football body. And he chided John-Williams for trying to stand behind an alleged suggestion by FIFA, which the president did not support with documentation.
“The judge made the point that transparency and accountability are necessary in the modern world and those who have nothing to hide shouldn’t be afraid of the light,” said Look Loy. “And he said the TTFA and FIFA should have seized the opportunity to lay everything bare; but, even if FIFA said there should have been no disclosure, the TTFA should have rejected it and made the information available [for the sake of] the image of the game.
“Even if this type of thing happened before, it must not happen again. He actually made the point that public organisations cannot be run like private fiefdoms.”
The High Court’s ruling compounded a miserable month of March for John-Williams. Last week, Concacaf banned all Trinidad and Tobago clubs from participating in its competitions, due to the TTFA’s failure to properly implement the club licensing requirements—which means Pro League teams cannot compete at senior Concacaf Champions League or Under-13 level.
And, on Monday, a court order froze the TTFA’s First Citizen Bank account after a request by the National Futsal Team, following the TTFA’s failure to service a debt of just over $500,000.
Now, just eight months before John-Williams is due to face the electorate for a second term in office, the football president is forced to open his books to an indefatigable critic of his behaviour at the helm of the football body.
Look Loy suggested that his court victory was a win for transparency—in and out of the football community.
“First of all, I want to thank [my attorney] Matthew Gayle for doing a terrific job,” he said. “It feels good to know that I won—even though I had to take part in a 14 month odyssey. For people who are fighting for transparency and accountability in the national arena, at least we know that we can have recourse and justice from the courts.
“On a personal level, I feel good to know I did the right thing and the court supported it… In the absence of factual information, speculation will thrive. Now we will go and see what we find.”