Tue, Sep


US$1.25 million in financial relief is coming to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association this week and staff are desperate for it, but an obstacle is presented by the legal wrangle for control of the Association’s assets between the ousted executive, led by president William Wallace, and the Robert Hadad-chaired FIFA normalisation committee.

This week, the TTFA stands to receive its full 2020 allotment after FIFA president Gianni Infantino confirmed on Friday it would release emergency funding to all its 211 member associations. The money will be emergency relief against the Covid-19 pandemic that has ground sport worldwide to a halt.

With month’s end coming, TTFA General secretary Ramesh Ramdhan, who is working with the normalisation committee at FIFA’s request, yesterday highlighted the immediate need for financial relief. TTFA office staff have not received salary in two months and technical staff, even longer.

“Now that it is official, they (staff) have started calling me,” Ramdhan stated. “A lot of them had been calling me since day before yesterday.”

FIFA had withheld TTFA funding, due in January, while it probed concerns it had within the TTFA. Following its probe, FIFA intervened in the running of Trinidad and Tobago football, presumably through its US$7m debt situation, and appointed a normalisation committee after deposing the TTFA executive. The ousted executive is fighting FIFA’s intervention through an appeal to the International Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

Yesterday, Hadad did not respond to either telephone call or WhatsApp message as the Express sought comment. Ramdhan, however, feels a burden will be lifted if they can get some money to staff.

“I will like the staff to be paid. The technical staff as well,” stated the former FIFA referee who through his own initiative, borrowed money to pay salaries the last time staff received money, which was at the end of February.

“I went out of my way to pay the staff because I understand the need for money to help their families. I also wrote the technical staff a letter to be a little more patient until our funding came through,” Ramdhan declared.

Hadad has several times in the past also highlighted an urgent need to pay salaries and Ramdhan revealed he had already furnished him with contracts for staff and technical staff. Now, in the midst of a legal wrangle for control of the TTFA accounts listed with First Citizens Bank, there is the hint that because it is FIFA money, they will likely deposit the money in a new local banking account which their normalisation committee chairman Hadad can access.

“All I can say is, if we can’t use the accounts then we can’t get the money, and then plan B should be an alternative account,” Ramdhan said, adding, “especially in the interest of the staff at this time because the staff will be the biggest commitment we have, apart from debt.”

Ramdhan revealed that he had received a FIFA email informing of Infantino’s plans as early as two weeks ago.

“They did indicate they will send all the money. Normally, we would receive it in two disbursements - one in January and one in July,” he explained. “FIFA’S decision is to send the entire thing because they appreciated that without football being played, there will be no income from gates from football; match fees from friendly internationals. They appreciate that we would need money to keep going in these serious times.”

A FIFA release issued yesterday stated that as part of the measure, all remaining entitlements of member associations to operational costs under the Forward 2.0 Programme will be released in full for the years 2019 and 2020. In particular, the release of the second instalment of operational costs for 2020, which was originally due in July, will be paid immediately. Under normal circumstances, FIFA’s member associations would have only received the full amount of the contribution upon fulfillment of specific criteria, which have now been waived.

President Infantino said it was FIFA’s duty to support those experiencing severe financial distress.

“This is the first step of a far-reaching financial relief plan we are developing to respond to the emergency across the whole football community. Together with our stakeholders, we are assessing the losses and we are working on the most appropriate and effective tools to implement the other stages of this relief plan.”

SOURCE: T&T Express