The decision by ousted TT Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace and his executive to pursue the ongoing dispute with FIFA at the T&T High Court can end all hopes of this nation’s 2022 World Cup qualification bid and effectively end the careers of some of T&T’s most prolific footballers.
TTFA board member Brent Sancho believes the actions of Wallace will have far-reaching consequences when FIFA decides to put its foot down.
In FIFA’s most recent statement on the matter, on Thursday, the world governing body warned that Wallace’s “insistence” to bring this matter to a local court instead of “the established dispute resolution forum at the Court of Arbitration for Sport greatly endangers the position of T&T football internationally.”
It also stated, “The absence of a resolution that is in line with the statutes of both FIFA and the TTFA will result in the matter being brought to the attention of the relevant FIFA bodies for consideration and potential further action.”
In a telephone interview with Newsday on Friday, Sancho, a 2006 World Cup player, questioned whether Wallace and his axed executive have considered the negative impact their stance could have on both the local administration and its players.
He said, “Their (FIFA) actions could vary from suspension to expulsion. FIFA’s statutes are abundantly clear. Wallace and Co need to understand they’re putting our 2022 World Cup qualification campaign at risk. If we are suspended, worse yet expelled, would that not severely hamper or immediately end our chances of qualifying for Qatar?
“If T&T is banned from football activity, you are ending the careers of (national players) Khaleem Hyland, Marvin Phillip and the other young men who have a great opportunity to qualify for the World Cup. You are going to end their career because of your selfish ways. Has Wallace spoken to any of the national players how they feel on this?”
Sancho challenged Wallace and the United TTFA to seek a mandate from the over 45-member TTFA membership on their decision to legally tackle FIFA on local soil.
Sancho is of firm belief the ousted executive will not gather more than 50 percent of the membership’s support and should give up their protest on FIFA’s decision to remove the executive and appoint a normalisation committee.
“I can guarantee and only until he (Wallace) can show that, he and his vice-presidents are operating rogue and outside of the membership. They are now limiting decisions on the future of T&T football to five or six persons, which is a complete disrespect to the membership.
“If he believes this is best for T&T football, bring it in front of the membership now, I dare him to do that and get the majority vote that he needs to conjure that. I can guarantee he does not have the majority and they do not feel that way. If he does not have the majority support, step aside and remove this from the local court and not allow T&T to be sanctioned for selfish needs and reasons,” he added.
The Central FC director also questioned why Wallace would contest for local presidency if he did not agree with FIFA’s statutes.
On March 17 FIFA removed Wallace and his vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Joseph Sam Phillip, who were elected in November 2019. FIFA said the decision was made due to the association’s financial woes and massive debt.
FIFA then placed a normalisation committee, headed by businessman Robert Hadad, to run the TTFA’s daily affairs and establish a debt repayment plan. In April, however, Wallace’s contingent appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, saying the decision was a breach of the TTFA’s constitution.
Wallace's team withdrew the appeal claiming CAS would not give a “fair hearing” and instead went to the High Court in Trinidad on May 18.
FIFA responded saying they do “not and will never, accept the jurisdiction of a local court in T&T to decide on the legality of the appointment of a normalisation committee currently appointed to run football in the territory.”
On August 13, Justice Carol 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.
Gobin said, “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."
Former TTFA technical committee chairman Keith Look Loy on Friday said he was not surprised by FIFA’s resistance of the local court’s decision. He claims taking the matter to the CAS is a clear plan to hide the inconsistencies of past administrations and gain a legal advantage in Zurich.
“What they are afraid of doing is submitting themselves to the court (local) for this substantive matter, which is whether FIFA has the authority to remove a democratically-elected executive and impose a committee from outside. That hearing is going to go into all of the mismanagement of the past administrations and the role of FIFA in that.
“I have maintained from the start that this is what the normalisation committee is all about and I hold to that. They don’t want to get to the substantive matter that’s why they want to get it out of T&T and off to Switzerland where they have control over the process and information,” said Look Loy.
The United TTFA member also believes the current court matter would not affect T&T’s World Cup qualification campaign. He has even requested FIFA disburse its annual allocation (approximately US$3m) and the US$500,000 covid19 release funds promised by the Gianni Infantino-led organisation to each of the 211 national associations.
Look Loy continued, “If all parties involved claim to be interested in T&T football, the normalisation committee would get the money from FIFA to finance this World Cup campaign while we fight it out in the courtroom. Football can still go on, on the field. I challenge them to do that. I would encourage them to find the money from our outstanding FIFA allocation.”
The FC Santa Rosa president added, “The next step is that they (FIFA) have to submit their appeal and then we would have to submit our response to that. A High Court judge would be appointed, he or she would set a date and the hearing will proceed. The judge will take however long to arrive at a decision. In principle, this could take months. That’s the legal procedure.”
Sancho to Wallace: Do you have the membership support?.
By Walter Alibey (Guardian).
Most of this country's footballers, in the latter part of their careers, such as captain Khaleem Hyland, Kevin Molino, Daneil Cyrus, Marvin Phillip and Mekeil Williams, among many others could be facing a dismal end to their careers due to the ongoing feud between the T&T Football Association and the sport's governing body FIFA.
On Friday, Brent Sancho called on the members of the United TTFA, president William, Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Joseph Sam Phillip to cease the fight against the FIFA immediately until they can prove that they have the majority support of the Board of Directors of the TTFA, as well as the support of many players who are in the latter part of their careers.
The country faces certain sanctions from the FIFA for the TTFA's attempt to overturn a decision by the FIFA on March 17, to appoint a Normalisation Committee to govern T&T football. The appointment came after an auditing team from the FIFA/CONCACAF in February, found the status of the sport to be on the verge of insolvency, without any programme by the Wallace-led football association to clear a debt that has crippled it for many years.
Wallace and his team, who assumed office on November 24, some three months before the decision to appoint the normalisation committee, have since challenged the decision to remove them. And after they claimed to have not received the support from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in their initial appeal process, the legitimate jurisdiction for Member Associations to settle all grievances by the FIFA, they appeared to have won round one of the battles after seeking justice in the High Court of T&T, where Justice Carol Gobin ruled in their (United TTFA) favour on August 13, to have the matter heard in the High Court.
However, FIFA said in its appeal on Thursday that the country faces being banned, if the CAS is not used to settle the dispute, according to their statutes and regulations.
Sancho, the acting chairman of the T&T Pro League, told Guardian Media Sports on Friday that he deliberately stayed silent recently, but could not see the country and so many players, those in the latter part of their careers, as well as those budding players suffer because of people who do not care about the sport.
He said Wallace and his team have been making decisions that will make the country get sanctioned. “Wallace has not even consulted with the membership, as he did with the contracts of coach Terry Fenwick, TTFA Marketing representative Peter Miller and TTFA General Secretary Ramesh Ramdhan, all of whom appeared to have received contracts that were not approved by the Board of the TTFA.”
Sancho said in the interest of being fair, he wanted Wallace and his team to prove that they have the majority support of the Board to do what they are doing now. “Furthermore, let them say if they have an agreement from the older players on the team, to take the actions they are taking now. Do these players know that they will be collateral damage, that they will pay the ultimate price of the decision to challenge the FIFA.?”
According to Sancho: ”I also want Wallace to state if he knew about the Statutes of the FIFA and the TTFA when he was a candidate for the TTFA elections in November last year.
Sancho concluded by saying if Wallace can prove he has majority support of the football membership in T&T, he will be the first one in front of the court doors to support him in his fight.