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Judge Gobin rules High court can referee TTFA v FIFA case, We just wanted to be heard — Wallace.
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FIFA has lost its bid to have a lawsuit by a group of former T&T Football Association (TTFA) executive members over their removal dismissed before it even kicked off.

Delivering a judgement electronically on Thursday, High Court Judge Carol Gobin rejected FIFA's interim application to strike out the claim based on its rule, which precludes member federations and associations from taking legal action against it in their local courts.

Gobin ruled that FIFA's rule, which it says the TTFA agreed to when it joined the organisation, could not oust the jurisdiction of the local courts to determine whether its rules are in conformity to the Act of Parliament, which established the TTFA.

She also said that arbitration, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as the referee, as suggested by FIFA and initially attempted by former TTFA president William Wallace and his executive could not resolve the dispute.

"This is a matter which falls squarely within the jurisdiction of the High Court of this country. This is not a matter for the CAS," Gobin said.

Gobin also noted that FIFA's policy of refusing to pay its share of the 40,000 Swiss francs (TT$276,000) required for the arbitration before the CAS rendered the process inoperable.

She said that at the eventual trial of the case Fifa would have to prove that its removal of the board and the appointment of its normalisation committee was in conformity with its own statutes which speak to respecting the independence of member associations.

"FIFA may yet have to justify its purported assumption of extraordinary power to control the day to day affairs of the TTFA, including the authority to amend to review and amend its statutes and to organise and conduct elections of a new TTFA Executive Committee for a four-year mandate," she said.

In her judgement, Gobin made noted of FIFA's open threat that former board's continued pursuit of the matter in court may lead to the suspension of the country's membership and funding cuts.

Gobin noted that while FIFA has a duty to ensure the enforcement of its rules, she noted that its lofty objectives in Article 3 and 4 of its statutes include a commitment to non-discrimination and humanitarian objectives underpinned by the rule of law.

"I do not expect FIFA to walk off the field or take its ball and go home if, after full ventilation of the issues, this court were to confirm the primacy of an Act of the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago over the FIFA Statutes," she said.

FIFA was ordered to pay the former board's legal costs for defending the application.

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 in March and replace them with a committee headed by businessman Robert Hadad, 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.

Wallace and his colleagues are being represented by Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle, Crystal Paul, and Jason Jones, while Christopher Hamel-Smith, SC, Jonathan Walker and Cherie Gopie are representing FIFA.

A date for the next hearing of the case is yet to be fixed.

RELATED NEWS

We just wanted to be heard — Wallace.
By Walter Alibey (Guardian).


Members of the United T&T Football Association are claiming round one in their battle against the sport’s supreme body - FIFA, after High Court Judge Justice Carol Gobin, ruled that T&T courts can hear the matter. In her 24-page electronic judgement on Thursday Gobin wrote: “This matter is not a matter for the Court of Arbitration for Sports.”

The United TTFA is seeking to have FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee which was appointed on March 27 to govern the affairs of T&T football be removed. FIFA on March 17 removed the duly elected executive of the TTFA headed by president William Wallace and his thre vice presidents — Clynt Taylor, Joseph Sam Phillips, and Susan Joseph-Warrick.

Wallace told Guardian Media Sports on Thursday that: “We are extremely happy with the ruling of the judge. We just wanted the opportunity to be heard that is what we were always asking for. So, this is the first step and we are grateful and elated.”

Asked if he feeling that he vindicated he responded, “I will not say that myself, this is just the beginning and the end of it all if I have to be vindicated then, then I will be vindicated then. It’s just the beginning so I will not toot my horn until the end.”

The matter was initially set to be heard in the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) situated in Lausanne, Switzerland in May, but the William Wallace-led TTFA opted to take its fight to the High Court in Port-of-Spain on May 18, citing institutional bias.

Justice Gobin, in handing down her decision, urged the FIFA to not exercise discrimination of any kind against the TTFA, saying: “65. As for the concerns about irreparable fallout or adverse consequences to TTFA and T&T I am encouraged by the lofty objectives identified in FIFA statutes and particularly articles (3) and (4) of FIFA’s commitment to respecting internationally recognised human rights, non-discrimination of any kind against a country for any reason and its commitment to promoting friendly relations in society for humanitarian objectives all of which are underpinned by an appreciation for the rule of law. I do not expect FIFA to walk off the field or to take its ball and go home if, after full ventilation of the issues, this court were to confirm the primacy of an Act of the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago over the FIFA Statutes.”

Following the ruling as Keith Look Loy, who served at chairman of the TTFA Technical Committee in Wallace administration said the fight is about national sovereignty and democracy. “This is a struggle about national sovereignty and democracy. The court has said that T&T’s law is supreme. The court has said that it has the absolute right to hear this case, irrespective of what FIFA may say. The second case in this matter is about FIFA’s right to impose that committee. I fully expected this decision to go our way, as I am convinced that the second decision will go our way.”

Look Loy, a former national player and coach believe that this matter will be a significant one, as the FIFA is facing challenges by other Member Association around the world. “I have always maintained that this case will have far-reaching implications for the whole FIFA, Normalisation Committee, CAS system. There are people around the world watching this and this is one of the biggest decisions in global sports law for I don’t know how many decades. So the two cases combined is not only about the TTFA or what FIFA can do and if we have a plan to pay off debt, no. This is about huge matters of global importance and we have won the first round and we are happy for that, and we look forward going into the substantiative case which, I repeat, is if FIFA has the right to remove a democratically and constitutionally elected executive and replace it with whatever it feels to replace it with.”

With the ruling, the FIFA now has a period of seven days to file an appeal and 21 days to file a defence against the claims against them. Look Loy dismissed claims of an impending ban on the United TTFA for its decision to seek justice via the local courts, as well as its breach of the FIFA Statutes which is liable to a ban or suspension.

He believes the ruling can also inspire other member associations in the FIFA to challenge decisions that may be seen as unfair, or forced the FIFA to amend its Statutes. “It is not just a matter of TTFA versus FIFA, but what this now places squarely on the table in my view, is the issue of FIFA regulations, FIFA protocol, FIFA culture and FIFA Statutes. Under the statutes as it exist right now, FIFA can literally declare that it does not like the shape pf the president’s head and impose a normalisation committee, there are no rules to guide it. None in terms of the reasons why it will be imposed, the duration of the imposition, the functions of the committee, nothing at all. This places on the table the question of if normalisation committees are legal and if they are legal under what limitations.”

Look Loy said there are lots of unreported concerns of normalisation committees across the globe, saying the African nations are currently in a battle with one now.

Ousted TTFA executive awaits final whistle in FIFA dispute
By Narissa Fraser (Newsday).


OUSTED TT Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel as Justice Carol Gobin has denied FIFA’s request to have the ongoing dispute remitted back to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The case can now proceed locally.

It has been approximately five months of an ongoing dispute between the TTFA and the world-governing body of football.

It began on March 17 when FIFA removed Wallace and his executive (deputies Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Joseph Sam Phillip) who were elected in November 2019. FIFA said the decision was made because of the association’s financial woes and “massive debt.”

The TTFA currently has a debt of approximately $50 million .

The removal of the TTFA executive was done in accordance with article 8:2 of FIFA’s statutes which 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.”

But in April, the ousted executive made an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, saying the decision was a breach of the TTFA’s constitution.

The team later indicated it did not believe CAS would give a “fair hearing” as they encountered runarounds during the process. Instead – on May 18 – they appealed to the local High Court.

But the drama only continued as FIFA – in June – filed an injunction in the TT High Court to stop it from hearing any matter relating the ongoing dispute. It insisted that CAS was the only acceptable forum.

On Thursday, Gobin ruled: “The application for the stay of proceedings is refused…The defendant is ordered to pay the claimants costs to be assessed by this court in default of agreement.”

She said FIFA has 21 days to file a defence.

Speaking with Newsday on Thursday afternoon, a hopeful Wallace said, “This is definitely significant progress because it has given us a chance to be heard which is all we wanted in the first place – to be heard.”

Asked if he believes FIFA would be able to come up with an effective defence, he said, “I don’t have a clue (what they would try). I don’t see any possibility of a defence. From what I said, I think we have a very good case.”

He also commended his attorneys for their hard work.

TTFA technical committee chairman Keith Look Loy shared similar sentiments, saying regardless of it being a small victory, it is still worth celebrating.

“It is a good day. It is the first half of the match – and there is a second half – because the court has said we can hear the case here but now we have to win the case. And beyond that, it is a massive statement in the sense of our national sovereignty and democracy.

“The depiction that FIFA could just do what it wants and disrespect local courts, local law, the constitution of local associations – the court has said it cannot do this and that the rule of law must be upheld and it stands in the defence of the TTFA in that regard.”

He said he believes this case has the potential to become a landmark case in not only local but international sports law.

“There’s no doubt about that. I’ve always said it, I’ve taken some heat and some blows for saying that but it is a fact...It is a huge case.

“Right now, FIFA could just do what it wants with the normalisation committee and if they don’t like the shape of your head, they could remove you. But the problem is that nobody has ever fought FIFA. (In some people’s minds) we were not supposed to fight, we were supposed to pick up, say we can’t fight FIFA and walk away.”

Newsday tried to contact Hadad but all calls and messages went unanswered.

This story was originally published with the title "Wallace hopeful as judge rules case against FIFA can proceed locally" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.

OUSTED TT Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel as Justice Carol Gobin has denied FIFA’s request to have the ongoing dispute remitted back to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The case can now proceed locally.

Wallace and his executive challenged FIFA’s decision on March 17 to remove the TTFA executive and implement a normalisation committee.

On May 18, the former TTFA executive decided to take the matter to the TT High Court, instead of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), since they felt they would not get a fair hearing at the Switzerland-based CAS.

FIFA then challenged this move.

But on Thursday, Gobin ruled: “The application for the stay of proceedings is refused…The defendant is ordered to pay the claimants costs to be assessed by this court in default of agreement.”

FIFA has 21 days to file a defence.

Speaking with Newsday, Wallace said, “This is definitely significant progress because it has given us a chance to be heard which is all we wanted in the first place – to be heard.”

Asked if he believes FIFA would be able to come up with an effective defence, he said, “I don’t have a clue (what they would try). I don’t see any possibility of a defence. From what I said, I think we have a very good case.”

He commended his attorneys Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle, Jason Jones and Crystal Paul for their hard work.

TTFA v FIFA to take place on local soil.
By Jada Loutoo (Newsday).


THE TT Football Association’s (TTFA) challenge of FIFA’s appointment of a normalisation committee to run the affairs of the sport locally and the ouster of the William Wallace-led executive will play out on local soil.

In a ruling, on Thursday, Justice Carol Gobin dismissed FIFA’s application to have the TTFA’s complaint heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Gobin rejected FIFA’s application to strike out the claim because its rules prevents member federations and associations from commencing proceedings against it in their local courts.

“I do not think that arbitration would be the appropriate forum for the resolution of this dispute. This case goes well beyond TTFA’s alleged governance issues and the justifiability of FIFA’s purported action in appointing the normalisation committee.

“This is about the legitimacy of powers exercised under Article 8(2) of the FIFA Statutes and its consistency with a law passed by legislators in this country. This is a matter which falls squarely within the jurisdiction of the High Court of this country. This is not a matter for the Court of Arbitration for Sports,” Gobin said in her decision which was delivered electronically.

On May 18, the ousted TTFA executive, through its attorneys Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle, Jason Jones and Crystal Paul, decided to take the matter against FIFA to the TT High Court instead of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The TTFA executives felt they would not get a fair hearing at CAS.

The Wallace-led executive was removed from office by FIFA on March 17 after less than four months in the job.

The former executive was replaced by a normalisation committee led by local businessman Robert Hadad. The committee was formed to run the affairs of local football, including getting rid of the $50 million debt facing the local football body. In response to the legal action, FIFA challenged the ousted TTFA executive’s move to have the case heard at the High Court.

In her ruling, Gobin also held that because TTFA was a statutory corporation, it could not oust the jurisdiction of the local courts. She pointed out that the TTFA Act and its constitution established a “comprehensive governance structure within the organisation.”

“A normalisation committee appointed by FIFA is not on the face of it an organ recognised under that structure,” she said, adding, “FIFA may yet have to justify its purported assumption of extraordinary power to control the day to day affairs of TTFA, including authority to review and amend its statutes and to organise and conduct elections of a new TTFA executive committee for a four-year mandate.”

She further held that the question for the court as the litigation progresses will be whether the TTFA can contract out of the TTFA Act to give FIFA the power to control its day-to-day affairs or whether the local body’s contractual undertakings are subject to TT laws.

On the question of arbitration, which the ousted TTFA executive has refused to agree to, Gobin said there was “an inherent contradiction in the FIFA’s purported appointment of a normalisation committee, the purpose of which has been to usurp the powers and functions of the executive of the TTFA on the one hand, and its insistence on holding the TTFA to the arbitration agreement on the other.”

“The claimant properly asks the question, whom FIFA holds to that agreement. In other words, if FIFA disputes the authority of Mr. Wallace and others to act on behalf of TTFA, and TTFA is under the control of the normalisation committee, how does it reconcile that with its insistence that these very persons who have no authority to file these court should commence arbitration proceedings in Switzerland?

“The arbitration process cannot be triggered if there is a dispute as to the capacity of one of the parties to invoke the process and to bind TTFA to any outcome,” she said.

On FIFA’s arguments on the cost of arbitration at the CAS – it suggested that the TTFA could have applied for legal aid – Gobin said “not only has FIFA unequivocally refused to comply with” the CAS rules on the payment of advanced costs, it thumbed its nose at its obligations to pay under the agreement and “further paralysed the arbitral process by obtaining an extension of time to answer the case until after TTFA paid its (FIFA’s) costs.

“This together with the refusal to recognise the board of directors was sufficient to establish a wider pattern of repudiatory conduct and, in the circumstances of this case, I find that the refusal to pay the advance costs rendered the arbitration inoperable. The stay of proceedings would not have been granted in the circumstances,” the judge said.

Before disposing of the matter, Gobin also addressed the warning by FIFA’s local attorneys of the “severe consequences to which TTFA is exposed as a consequence of taking action in direct breach of the terms of its membership of FIFA.”

FIFA’s lead counsel Christopher Hamel-Smith warned that the breach of the rules left the TTFA susceptible to suspension from the world body’s membership which would directly impact TT as the various national teams will no longer be allowed to enter international tournaments and matches.

Hamel-Smith warned that a suspension would compromise the careers, livelihood, education and other prospects for players.

“These are no doubt serious concerns. FIFA has been clear on its objective to control every type of association football by taking appropriate steps to prevent infringements of the statutes, regulations or decisions of FIFA or of the laws of the game.

“This case has disclosed that among the mechanisms by which it achieves its goals is to dictate that member association’s rules are consistent with its statutes and that they (the associations) adopt stringent rules to enforce them. FIFA also insists on rules which prohibit or limit access to municipal courts.”

She held she was confident that FIFA believed the statutes and mechanism it used to enforce them were compliant with the laws of the countries to which member associations belong and “FIFA could not presume to be above the law.”

As for the concerns about irreparable fallout or adverse consequences to TT’s football on the international state, Gobin said she was encouraged by the “lofty objects” identified in FIFA’s statutes and particularly its commitment to respecting internationally recognised human rights and non-discrimination of any kind against a country for any reason.

“I do not expect FIFA to walk off the field or to take its ball and go home if after full ventilation of the issues, this court were to confirm the primacy of an Act of the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago over the FIFA Statutes,” she said.

FIFA was ordered to pay the TTFA executive’s costs as she also extended the time for filing of its defence.

Also appearing for FIFA were Jonathan Walker and Cherie Gopie.

Trinidad and Tobago teeter on brink of ban and 2022 exclusion after judge rules local law trumps FIFA’s
By Paul Nicholson (Insideworldfootball).


Trinidad and Tobago High Court judge Carol Gobin has ruled against FIFA’s application to dismiss a lawsuit brought against it by former TTFA board members over their replacement with a normalisation committee.

This was a ruling over whether jurisdiction should be with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, as FIFA argued, or whether it was an issue for the T&T courts – whether the TTFA is subject to national law over and above FIFA’s statutes, even if those statues had been recognised by the TTFA when it joined the organisation.

The impact for football in Trinidad and Tobago will be far reaching and potentially immediate if FIFA choose to move towards banning the TTFA. If a ban happened before next week then Trinidad and Tobago would be removed from the draw for the World Cup qualifiers, hence ending chance of going to the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 before a ball was kicked.

Also upcoming is the draw for 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup as well as various age group competitions and women’s competitions. If banned Trinidad would not be included in any of them with no senior team likely to be seen participating in any major international championship until qualifiers begin for the 2023 Gold Cup – assuming they are reinstated by then.

Judge Gobin referenced this in her judgement saying:  “I do not expect FIFA to walk off the field or to take its ball and go home if after full ventilation of the issues, this court were to confirm the primacy of an Act of the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago over the FIFA Statutes.”

FIFA had already warned that it could implement sanctions, potentially immediately. On a simple, if neither the ousted TTFA board or the Trinidad and Tobago government are prepared to respect FIFA’s statutes then how can they expect to play in FIFA or Concacaf’s competitions against other countries that have signed up to those codes – whether they like them or not.

Perhaps more importantly in an FA that has shown itself too often to be more motivated by money than football, how can it hold its begging bowl for FIFA’s money – realistically the only chance it has of clearing debt built up over a number of years and for which the ousted TTFA officials had shown no credible plan of eliminating, but had only added to in their short three months at the helm.

One option mooted two months ago to Insideworldfootball was that it might make more sense to shut the existing TTFA down completely, leave the individuals personally responsible for the debt mountain and start a new federation from scratch.

FIFA will not want to go to court – even though they would probably like to expose the corruption within football in this twin island republic – as on a practical level it potentially opens them up to national litigation from any other federation that refuses to accept its decisions. The legal costs could potentially bankrupt the world governing body.

What looks most likely is that there will be a discussion between FIFA and the ousted TTFA board with a compromise sought. However, it is unlikely that there will much movement from FIFA’s side. The FIFA Ethics investigations that are currently ongoing into the former TTFA board regarding the multiple corruption allegations (from election fraud to contract and financial fraud) will likely be a determinant in any negotiation and, perhaps unfortunately, prevent any full airing in the Trinidad courts.

Locally Judge Gobin’s decision is being hailed as a major victory for the country. “…it is a massive statement in the sense of our national sovereignty and democracy,” said TTFA technical committee chairman Keith Look Loy told local news service Newsday. Look Loy, the puppet master behind the administration of former TTFA president William Wallace (pictured), continued: “The depiction that FIFA could just do what it wants and disrespect local courts, local law, the constitution of local associations – the court has said it cannot do this and that the rule of law must be upheld and it stands in the defence of the TTFA in that regard.”

While it seems pretty unlikely that FIFA have any burning ambition to run the Trinidad and Tobago government or its judiciary (Trinidad and Tobago obtained independence in 1962), it is clear that football’s patience is wearing thin and ultimately time is running out for players in the country who now look like losing any opportunity of playing for their country and potentially moving into the professional game in more serious football nations and leagues.

Judge Gobin gave FIFA 21 days to file a defence against the claim that it illegally introduced a Normalisation Committee. While Look Loy says that there is now a second half to this game to be played, as the top coach and football guru in his country he will also be aware that the best form of defence is very often attack. FIFA’s might be nuclear in a country whose judiciary is still protecting world Football’s Most Wanted, former Concacaf president Jack Warner, who five years after being indicted in the FIFAgate scandal is still avoiding extradition to the US to face multiple bribery, corruption and money laundering allegations.