Fri, May

FIFA: A TTFA High Court victory means no funding.

Lawyers representing FIFA are seeking to have a lawsuit over the removal of the former executive of the T&T Football Association (TTFA) dismissed before it even reaches trial.

In an application filed in the Supreme Court Registry on Monday, FIFA’s local lawyers claimed that the case brought by former TTFA president William Wallace and his executive team should be dismissed or stayed as the local High Court does not have jurisdiction to entertain it.

FIFA’s lawyer Cherie Gopie pointed out that under FIFA’s Statutes, which the TTFA accepted when it joined the Switzerland-based organisation in 1964, the resolution of disputes involving it or appeals against decisions taken by it and its bodies should be dealt with by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), also based in Switzerland.

“CAS is an independent institution which provides for services in order to facilitate the settlement of sports-related disputes through arbitration or mediation by means of procedural rules adapted to the specific needs of the sports world,” Gopie said, as she noted that similar provisions are contained within the TTFA Constitution.

Gopie suggested that arbitration before CAS would also prevent leaks of confidential information on the work of the Normalization Committee headed by businessman Robert Hadad, which was appointed in March to replace Wallace and his associates.

“Much of the detailed information will be confidential and sensitive and its entry into the public domain could have the effect of undermining the ongoing efforts of the members of the Normalization Committee to turn the affairs of the TTFA around and place it on a sound footing for the future,” Gopie said, as she noted that her client was willing to participate in the arbitration up until the lawsuit was filed in May.

In the letter, Gopie sought to outline FIFA’s rationale for intervening in the TTFA.

“FIFA concluded that the institutional and regulatory framework of the TTFA did not provide appropriate means to address the alarming financial situation the TTFA was (and is) in and that the Executive Committee did not have the appropriate skill set to manage the situation and had taken no or no appropriate steps to correct the situation,” she said.

Gopie also claimed that if the executive members were allowed to pursue the lawsuit and are eventually successful, FIFA could choose to withhold vital funding.

“The removal of the Normalization Committee before appropriate controls, policies, and procedures are in place at the TTFA will not only jeopardise the achievements to date and reintroduce the threats to the solvency of the TTFA, but it will be a disincentive to FIFA to provide any further funding to the TTFA given the absence of appropriate controls,” she said.

FIFA’s suggestion of arbitration through CAS comes almost a month after Wallace and his associates were forced to withdraw their appeal before CAS as they were unable to pay the 40,000 Swiss francs (TT$276,000) in costs associated with the appeal.

Under CAS’s procedural rules, both parties are required to split the costs of the appeal. However, if one party fails to pay its share and the other fails to cover the entire amount by the deadline set by the court, the appeal is automatically withdrawn. Parties can apply to the court for legal aid if they are unable to cover their costs.

In an affidavit attached to the application before the local court, FIFA’s Director of Litigation Miguel Lietard sought to explain his organisation’s general policy to not pay its share when appeals arise.

Stating that FIFA usually has to deal with in excess of 100 cases before CAS annually, Lietard said: “Having to pay the advance of costs in each of these arbitrations will result in FIFA paying large amounts each year towards meeting advanced costs. FIFA would then have to take steps in respect of each case in which it was successful in order to recover those costs (with the attendant difficulties in securing recovery).”

Through the local lawsuit, Wallace and his three vice presidents — Clynt Taylor, Joseph Sam Phillips, and Susan Joseph-Warrick are seeking a declaration that the decision to remove them was null, void, and of no legal or binding effect.

They are also seeking a permanent injunction barring FIFA from meddling in the TTFA’s affair by allegedly seeking to circumvent the democratic process by removing duly elected executive members.

A date for the hearing of the preliminary application before Justice Carol Gobin is yet to be set.

Wallace and his vice-presidents Taylor, Joseph-Warrick and Phillip are represented by Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle and Crystal Paul, while Christopher Hamel-Smith and Jonathan Walker are also representing FIFA.