THE PRIME Minister is intent on removing turmoil from local football.
Dr Rowley plans to approach FIFA as a mediator in an attempt to bring resolve to the current impasse between the TT Football Federation (TTFA) and the sport’s global governing body.
Rowley made these remarks during his address at Saturday’s opening of the Point Fortin Hospital. He believes the present state of local football and its administration is directly hampering the development of our nation’s youth.
“I give you the commitment today that I would try again to talk with FIFA and the TTFA to see if there’s a possibility of having the current arrangement pass us by or some kind of arrangement which can derive that which allows our youngsters to enjoy the beautiful game. What exists now cannot be allowed to continue because it is a serious threat to the well-being of our young people,” he said.
Since March, then-TTFA president William Wallace and his administration was removed from the helm of local football, by FIFA, after just four months in charge. FIFA claim this action was taken following an audit of the local association which unveiled a high risk of insolvency and major debt.
Following this decision, the Gianni Infantino-led fraternity then appointed a normalisation committee headed by businessman Robert Hadad to run the TTFA’s daily affairs and establish a debt repayment plan.
TTFA has since filed a lawsuit in the local High Court against FIFA preventing them FIFA from interfering or seeking to override the “fair and transparent democratic processes of the TTFA and/or preventing them from removing the executive of duly elected officers from office.
Rowley added, “Our football is in some aspect of turmoil at the moment and it would not and should not be allowed to continue. The Minister of Sport (Shamfa Cudjoe) and I have been looking at this very gingerly, hoping that we would come to a place very quickly where the difficulties might be overcome. They might not disappear but we need a working relationship.”
In the primary stages of the dilemma between the two football entities, Rowley contacted Infantino in an early attempt at quelling the situation. When the matter was put before the courts by TTFA, Rowley pulled back.
“I put a call through to the head of FIFA who I am in a good relationship with. But then I cancelled it because the conversation might not have been appropriate. Because the matter swiftly turned into a legal matter, the government kept out of it. There were those who turned to the government to intervene. It is not something the government can just jump in to,” he said.
At the launch of the Home of Football in Couva in November 2019, under then TTFA president David John-Williams, Infantino and Rowley were present for the official opening. The Prime Minister was impressed with the spanking new facility and was made to believe football was heading in the right direction.
However, after the administrative blunders and mudslinging between FIFA and TTFA over the past four months, Rowley’s has now rescinded his expectations.
“The administrations seem to have come apart. The government of T&T did in fact partner with FIFA. The government gave land (for Home of Football) and a commitment. FIFA gave money and a commitment to pay attention to improving football in TT. The opposite seemed to have happened,” Rowley declared.
After Rowley’s announcement to serve as an intermediary, former TTFA technical director Keith Look Loy was appreciative of such a move. Although Look Loy still believes FIFA should have held talks with the now-removed executive before disbanding the administration, he believes government involvement may be a step in the right direction.
“I see this as a welcome and overdue development. The government has held a standoffish position on this for the past four months. If they could engineer talks between FIFA’s representatives and the duly elected officers of the TTFA to see how we could resolve whatever issues there may be, that must be a welcome development. We are willing to sit with FIFA to sit and discuss all matters,” he said.
PM fears T&T football become an outcast.
By Rachael Thompson-King (Guardian).
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley does not want to give any false hopes when he suggested on Saturday that his government is willing to step in and assist in the ongoing impasse between the former executive of T&T Football Association (TTFA) and FIFA, the governing body of football but is unwilling to chance T&T becoming an outcast in football.
"One thing we cannot risk or cannot have as the outcome is T&T football becoming a pariah in FIFA," said Dr Rowley in an interview yesterday on i95 fm Isports Radio Show with Andre Baptiste. He was following up on comments he made during Saturday's opening of the Point Fortin Hospital where he stated that he was ready to assist.
"You see we already have an era where we at the management level, at the highest level in FIFA, we have generated pariahs in football and that has damaged us so now we are in a situation what needs to be corrected very quickly.
"So I as government spokesperson along with the Minister (of Sport) would do nothing to worsen the situation for persons to accuse us of having governmental involvement and therefore certain outcomes should follow. We really want things to happen positively but we have to be very careful that any kind of request doesn't worsen the situation and all I'm hoping is that the people from the Normalisation Committee and the TTFA see the big objective and stay true to that."
The normalisation committee to which the PM is referring to was appointed on March 27, is headed by chairman Robert Hadad, a director at the HADCO Group of Companies and includes Attorney Judy Daniel and former banker Nigel Romano.
On March 17, FIFA removed William Wallace, who was elected president to replace David John-Williams at the TTFA annual general meeting (AGM) on November 24, 2019, citing a number of administrative concerns. Wallace's three vice presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Joseph Sam Phillip were also removed.
"Whatever role the government could play, the government would be willing to play but that role is not clear at this point," said Dr Rowley.
"One, we are in a cooperative arrangement with FIFA in trying to help T&T's football, there is evidence of that. However, the management of our football seems to have fallen apart at our level from FIFA down to the TTFA. There's an impasse which I was about to talk about with FIFA when the matter turned quickly to a legal dispute."
He admitted that there is little that his government can do in intervening and fixing things but is open to having talks without prejudice.
"What I'm suggesting is that some type of contact, an all-party contact, where good sense will prevail by renewing their positions and allowing the main objective to take place which is football to progress and the young people get to play the sport," he said.
The Prime Minister explained that, "However, there is a limitation to what the government of the Minister can do here because one of the problems with this situation is that all of us know who played football, international football through FIFA has no rule for government involvement in disputes so we as a government can't put ourselves as part of the dispute because we might even worsen the situation."
He went on to say that he is relying on the people at both ends at FIFA and at TTFA to see what is going to happen to football here in T&T.
He said, "The main thing is that if we don't get this impasse clarified very quickly, it will destroy the aspirations of young people for whom football is such a great magnet - a positive magnet. We need to get people playing the game and aspiring to move up in the age-group competitions."
However, once it remains legal, it means that the government will remain a bystander.
"What the government can do is encourage," said Dr Rowley.
He concluded, "Tens of thousands of young men and young women are almost traumatised by what is happening with football. The government has a duty to speak for them or on their behalf."
The TTFA had appealed FIFA's decision to remove them at the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Switzerland in April but withdrew its matter claiming that CAS was biased since it appeared to favour FIFA by asking the TTFA to pay the total fees stated to commence the matter.
The matter is now in the T&T High Court and is expected to be heard on July 29.
The TTFA is seeking among other issues to have the court declare that the Normalisation Committee has no jurisdiction in managing T&T football and that FIFA cannot violate T&T sovereign rights by removing a democratically elected executive.