Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams will be able to legitimately run the local game without consulting his Board for the foreseeable future, due to a loophole in the constitution that was enacted on Monday evening.
Article 20.2 of the TTFA Constitution describes the Board of Directors as ‘the Executive body’ of the local football organisation with authority over everything, including the hiring and firing of coaches, standing committee members, auditors and the general secretary.
However, Article 42.1 allows for an Emergency Committee, presided over by the football president, which has the authority to ‘deal with all matters requiring immediate settlement between two meetings of the Board of Directors.’
It feasibly allows for John-Williams—who was taken to court by one Board member, Keith Look Loy, and called to account by others—to run football business without the ‘inconvenience’ of a Board debate. The Board is mandated to meet just once every two months but can call Extraordinary Meetings to discuss urgent matters, as has often been the case.
Ironically, it was Wired868 that served notice that the Referees Committee was the only properly activated standing committee from a minimum of 16 during John-Williams’ tenure.
However, instead of breathing life into committees meant to oversee issues like finance, marketing, legal, women’s football, disciplinary or technical matters, John-Williams appeared to prioritise one that can put the responsibility of the Board into an ‘inner executive.’
And his political gift came on Monday courtesy of five supportive Board members, including four who voted for each other to sit alongside the president and vice-president Ewing Davis on the Emergency Committee.
Veteran Footballers Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago (VFOTT) president Selby Browne, a former vociferous critic of the John-Williams-led administration who has since embraced a remarkably different perspective, nominated Southern Football Association (SFA) president Richard Quan Chan, Tobago Football Association (TFA) president Anthony Moore and interim Eastern Football Association president (EFA) Bandele Kamau for roles on the committee.
Moore then nominated Browne to join them. Browne and Kamau have both been on the Board for barely four months and a total of just two meetings.
There was no room for John-Williams’ other Board ally, Eastern Counties Football Union (ECFU) president Sherwyn Dyer, as the Constitution stipulates a maximum of six places on the Emergency Committee.
The remaining Board members present—Raeshawn Mars (Northern FA), Joseph Taylor (Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association), Sharon Warrick (Women’s League Football), Julia Baptiste (TT Pro League) and Look Loy (Trinidad and Tobago Super League)—were powerless to stop them or get anyone else on the Committee, due to a lack of votes.
Central Football Association (CFA) representative Collin Partap, who has often voted against John-Williams, missed the meeting as he was in Tobago on business. Even if he were present, the TTFA president still has seven votes from a maximum of 13.
“They have appointed a cabal, which will now be the de facto ruling committee [of the TTFA],” Look Loy told Wired868. “Just imagine [an experienced football] man like Joseph Taylor, for instance, is ignored and bypassed for two men who have been in the Board for all of two meetings.
“These six people all sit together on the head table and they moved the motion, seconded the motion and passed the motion. The rest of the Board is redundant; there is no need for a Board anymore.”
Article 42.4 states that ‘all decisions taken by the Emergency Committee shall be ratified by the Board of Directors at its next meeting.’ However, John-Williams has the votes to ensure the Board is no more than a rubber stamp for decisions that can now be made in private.
At Monday’s meeting, the TTFA president tried unsuccessfully to appoint Angus Eve, Stephen De Four and Izler Browne as head coaches of the Men’s National Under-23 and Women’s Under-20 and Under-17 Teams respectively.
Eve is a former National Under-23 coach and the head coach of Pro League outfit, Club Sando, and SSFL champion team, Naparima College. De Four and Browne have also worked with National Women’s Teams before and would be returning home after stints abroad with Haiti and the US Virgin Islands respectively.
Look Loy argued, with some support, that the TTFA should not hire any coaches unless John-Williams was prepared to reveal what they would earn, where the money was coming from to pay them and the terms and conditions of each appointee.
John-Williams did not take the matter to a vote on Monday but, theoretically, can simply have the Emergency Committee appoint all three and put them to work immediately. From then, it would be two months before the Board has the chance to review that decision.
The Men’s National Under-23 Team goes into action in July. It means that the TTFA Emergency Committee can hire staff, prepare the team and complete the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifying tournament before the Board gets a chance to object.
An example of the John-Williams-led Board’s willingness to mock the spirit of the Constitution came with a proposed Constitutional Review Committee.
At the February AGM, the general membership of the local football body vetoed a suggestion by the TFA that a Constitutional Review Committee be implemented. The members, led by Referees Association vice-president Osmond Downer, preferred to deal with proposed amendments one by one.
Article 20.1 states that ‘the General Meeting is the supreme and legislative body’ of the local football body. As further evidence on the balance of power within the TTFA, the Constitution allows the General Meeting to remove Board members while the latter party, according to Article 22.4, has no voting rights at the AGM.
Yet on Monday, the Board overruled the General Meeting and appointed a chairman for its Constitution Review Committee anyway.
Article 36(a) states the Board of Directors ‘shall pass decisions on all cases that do not come within the sphere of responsibility of the General Meeting or are not reserved for other bodies by law or under this Constitution.’
The TTFA Constitution does not name a Constitutional Review Committee among its list of standing committees.
“The Tobago delegates raised the issue of having a Constitutional Review Committee look at amendments and the floor [of the General Meeting] defeated it,” said Look Loy, “because they said we have proposed amendments and are going through them one by one.
“So they come back with [the proposal for the committee] at the Board level; they circumvented the decision of the AGM in a nutshell.”
Neither Moore nor John-Williams have intimated what constitutional amendments they have in mind, although they will need to be approved by the General Meeting before taking effect.
Intriguingly, Elton Prescott SC, who also operates as counsel for the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC), was named as chairman for the Constitutional Review Committee and supposedly has carte blanche to select the remaining members.
Last month, Prescott admitted that he failed to review the TTFA Constitution—or, arguably, allowed himself to be misled by general secretary Camara David—when offering a legal opinion that paved the way for Look Loy to be removed from the Board. Look Loy subsequently blocked the manoeuvre for his ousting in the High Court.
It appears that the botched effort to jettison Look Loy has not soured Prescott’s view of David and John-Williams, or vice versa.
If Monday’s meeting was a political success for John-Williams, there is still the nagging issues of irate creditors knocking on the TTFA’s doors. Browne, according to Look Loy, suggested an answer for that too.
“Selby [Browne] said FIFA bailed out past TTFA administrations and will do it again,” said the TTSL president. “That is what they are hoping for—a loan from FIFA to save their arse.”
Two years ago, Browne nominated Look Loy for a role on the TTFA Board. These days, the VFOTT president refers to his former colleague as an ‘invalid’ Board member.
In an email to John-Williams last month, which was copied to the Board, Browne appeared to invite himself along with the TTFA president for the 2019 FIFA Congress in Paris, France on 5 June and the Concacaf Gold Cup in the United States, later that same month.
“President, […] I would be happy to do the Gold Cup and FIFA Congress which you MUST attend,” stated Browne.
Look Loy, who raised a motion for John-Williams’ dismissal last year, conceded that the football president has only consolidated his power since then. The TTFA has lost a string of cases in the High Court, though, and Look Loy believes it is the only place that John-Williams can be held to account at present.
“[US president Donald] Trump said he could kill a man on Fifth Avenue and get away with it, and [John-Williams] is our Trump,” said the TTSL president. “He can get away with anything because he has the votes. Only external intervention can save Trinidad and Tobago’s football because he has just enough people clinging on to him still to keep him in power and give him legitimacy—never mind that we are bankrupt and asking people to run national football for free, which is a very bad precedent for national coaches.
“Salvation has to come from outside because the internal mechanisms are failing to save the TTFA from itself and John-Williams; that is abundantly clear.”
Browne declined comment on Monday’s Board meeting, the Emergency Committee and the Constitutional Review Committee.
“I have taken the position that Board members should not comment in public about the discussions of meetings the Board,” said Browne, “but that the TTFA should make press releases after meetings to provide an update.”
John-Williams, as usual, did not respond at all, up to the time of publication.