Sun, Jun

No insurance, water, sewerage, fire extinguishers: gov’t reveals extensive Home of Football shortcomings.

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) Home of Football was opened under former president David John-Williams and housed international athletes without a range of amenities including: public liability insurance, fire extinguishers, a proper water supply, an adequate sewerage system, washing machines and dryers and internet.

Minister of National Security Stuart Young provided an extensive list of services provided by the government and private sector, free of charge, to have the facility fit to accommodate even non-paying guests.

At present, the controversial Home of Football in Couva is hosting 22 asymptomatic Covid-19 patients—described as ‘low risk and stable’—and 14 members of staff from the Ministry of Health. The venue has an 80-bed capacity.

Although it took the government just 72 hours to get the Home of Football ready—Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley referred to works at the facility as ‘tweaks’—Young offered details at today’s press briefing.

“Corporate sponsorship came from Ansa McAl, Beacon provided the public liability insurance, I had a number of companies providing us with the fire extinguishers, Safe Tech, and some other companies and also the fire signs,” said Young. “[…] We had Flow provide the cable and the internet for each room, we had WASA on site within a matter of hours, doing all that needed to be done to get the water supply working.

“The Defence Force worked overnight to fix the sewerage system, CEPEP—Minister Kazim Hosein and his CEPEP gang—got there a matter of hours after the request, cleared the place, built fire trails. I am going to miss certain names [who also assisted].

“[Fifa-appointed Normalisation Committee chairman] Mr Robert Hadad personally donated light bulbs and other things to assist. Everybody just came together. It was a great success story. […] It was amazing how we got washing machines, dryers, electricals… everything up and running within 72 hours!”

Young’s review of the work needed at the Home of Football mirrored previous complaints about the state of the venue by TTFA president William Wallace. Wallace was criticised for his observations with several parties suggesting that he neglected the facility out of spite for his predecessor, John-Williams.

Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe also knocked Wallace for not using the Home of Football to raise income.
Wallace said he hopes that Young’s statements would finally put the issue to bed.

“I don’t even need to say I feel exonerated [because] I was making a statement of fact, that this is the state of the building,” Wallace told Wired868. “There are people who refused to believe that this was the state of the building. So I hope they are now in the know.

“[…] The amount of things [Young] had to do with the whole army and statutory bodies to put in everything from fire hydrants and a soak-away and the works—it clearly states to me that we could not operationalise the building. We were telling the truth.”

The Home of Football was built under the personal supervision of John-Williams, who allegedly acted as project manager. Yet, despite being unfinished, it appeared to have exceeded its US$2.5 million (TT$17 million) budget, provided by Fifa, and is already a target for legal action, with several contractors unpaid for services provided.

Wallace was given less than four months to sort out such inherited issues before Fifa moved to oust him from his elected post. The TTFA president confirmed that Young did not respond to his query as to why the government appeared to be siding with Fifa although the local body is formed by an act of Parliament.

“He never responded [to the letter] but Fifa responded,” said Wallace. “Most likely, [the letter] would have gone straight to the normalisation committee and then to Fifa because they responded that same evening, within a matter of hours of me sending it.

“[…] However I note today that [Young] thanked the normalisation committee and he also thanked the TTFA. So I am assuming the ‘TTFA’ he thanked was the current executive.”

At present, Fifa is insisting that Hadad, the co-CEO of HadCo group of companies, is in charge of football on the twin island republic while Wallace is standing by the TTFA constitution, which does not allow him to be removed by anyone but the members of the local body.

Fifa and the TTFA are due to meet at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland at an unspecified date in the future.

Wallace has already moved to block the normalisation committee from seizing control of the TTFA’s account at the First Citizens Bank, with the latter company noting its dissatisfaction with the leaking of internal discussion between the two parties into the public domain.

Ironically, a letter from First Citizens Bank attorney Kendell Alexander that warned of legal action against the TTFA if the bank’s reputation was tarnished by the leaks, was also published by the Trinidad Guardian newspaper.

Wallace insisted that the correspondence was not leaked by the TTFA.

“It didn’t come from me,” said Wallace. “The lawyers sent the letter [to First Citizens Bank] and that was the last I know of the letter. I did not send anything to the Guardian and no other member of my executive was in possession of that letter, so they would not have sent it to the Guardian.”

The TTFA is represented legally by Dr Emir Crowne and Matthew Gayle.