The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the most powerful sporting body in the world and it should be.
FIFA is in control of 211 football associations throughout the world, in a sport that is the most popular and profitable on the globe.
However, the association hasn’t always used that power in the most judicious ways and recently went through a harrowing couple of years with evidence of widespread corruption beating down on its reputation.
Many bans and jail sentences later, FIFA has tried to change its image with new, progressive bosses with a more inclusive management style.
But, in truth, FIFA is a fiefdom and that was made very clear in the events in Trinidad and Tobago over the last week.
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s (TTFA) board does not exist anymore and its president, scratch that, former president, looks set for a lengthy legal battle to change that.
I do not want to get into the who is right and who is wrong, even though there are questions FIFA should answer.
Here are the facts as we know them.
An arm of FIFA called the Bureau of the FIFA Council investigated the financial affairs of the TTFA, which had just gone through the process of electing a new president in William Wallace just over three months before.
According to the council’s findings, the TTFA was in bad shape financially, so bad, that it risked the possibility of insolvency if the situation were not arrested.
Further, the council says it found that there was no plan to assuage the situation, leading it to replace the TTFA’s board with a normalization committee that would be in place for a maximum of two years after which it would hold elections to create a new board with its own mandate.
On an interim basis, FIFA installed former TTFA Finance Manager Tyril Patrick to oversee the day-to-day activities of the organization before the normalization committee could be properly vetted, organized and begin to work.
According to FIFA, that normalization committee would be given a mandate to:
- Run the TTFA’s daily affairs;
- Establish a debt repayment plan that is implementable by the TTFA;
- Review and amend the TTFA Statutes (and other regulations where necessary) and to ensure their compliance with the FIFA Statutes and requirements before duly submitting them for approval to the TTFA Congress;
- Organise and conduct elections of a new TTFA executive committee for a four-year mandate.
But today, the TTFA has no direction as interim boss, Patrick, declined the position after lawyers for Wallace wrote to him, calling his appointment illegal, or at the very least unconstitutional.
In fact, the former TTFA boss has not taken his ousting lying down and is contemplating taking his grouses to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, pointing out that FIFA has ignored his plans to get the TTFA out of debt and is claiming prejudice against his administration, pointing first up to the timing of the ‘coup d’etat’ and the implications of a friendship with the TTFA’s previous boss, as well as inconsistencies regarding a FIFA-TTFA joint project dubbed ‘The Home of Football’.
I won’t look at any of that, however. I am more interested in the entrenched laws that allow FIFA to make a decision of this nature.
Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president, Randy Harris sympathises with the ousted TTFA administration but believes FIFA well within their rights to install a normalization committee.
Harris is right because of article 8.2 of the FIFA statute.
Article 8.2 states: ‘Executive bodies of member associations may under exceptional circumstances be removed from office by the Council in consultation with the relevant confederation and replaced by a normalisation committee for a specific period of time’.
It is here that I have a problem though.
I suppose, FIFA, as arbiters of the sport, must have in its bylaws, appropriate actions to ensure the continued growth of the sport throughout the world, but I find this article distasteful.
The article admits that the council is removing an ‘Executive’ body which has been duly elected by administrators of the sport within a country. This means, FIFA is saying it reserves the right to ignore the democracy of an entity when it has a mind to do so.
I say ‘has a mind’, because it is the council who decides what is an ‘exceptional circumstance’ and in this instance, it very well might be. But the fact that it is FIFA making this judgement, is problematic.
Each Member Association has elections and it is there that they decide if the fate of their organization can be managed by its leaders. It should certainly not be as easy as it was for FIFA to overturn that decision.
It means, in essence, if a Member Association does not operate its own affairs just the way FIFA says it should, and each country has a different set of circumstances to deal with that could mean varying ways of operating such affairs, then you could find that you have no say.
Harris pointed to this fact in a radio interview with Trinidad and Tobago’s i955 FM’s ISports radio, saying “The Trinidad and Tobago FA has found itself in a sad situation which all of us in the Caribbean could be in tomorrow.”
Therein lies my problem. This particular ‘takeover’ may very well be warranted with the TTFA in debt to the tune of TT$50 million, the question is, who decides this, and how can it be that ‘little’ Member Associations have no say in deciding whether or not they need outside help?