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United TTFA: Suspension 'inevitable'
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FIFA’s failure to discuss with its members its legal battle with the ousted TT Football Association (TTFA) executive at Friday's virtual FIFA Congress, has been described as “shady”.

The removed officials, from the United TTFA slate, believe if it was brought up, the Congress would have asked “difficult questions” of the world governing body.

FIFA, on August 26, gave the United TTFA a deadline of September 16 to withdraw its case from the High Court and instead have it heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), or face suspension proceedings.

However, FIFA president Gianni Infantino did not mention TT football when he spoke about the suspension or expulsion of a member at the Congress on Friday.

Infantino said, "There is nothing that falls into this agenda item, which is obviously good news."

Far from being shelved, the legal wrangling with TTFA remains on the front burner for football's governing body.

On Friday, FIFA gave TTFA's former executive until September 23 to withdraw the case from the High Court.

A letter from FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura to normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad said, “Given the seriousness of the matter addressed therein, the FIFA Council has decided to give a final deadline to the relevant parties to withdraw all types of claims against FIFA before the TT courts and comply with all their obligations under the FIFA statutes, in particular arts 57 et seqq of the FIFA statutes by September 23 at 15:00 AST (21:00 CET). Failure to comply with this directive within this revised deadline will result in the matter being brought to the attention of the relevant FIFA bodies to decide on the suspension of the TTFA.”

The letter ended by saying, “Finally, we kindly request the TTFA to communicate the above mentioned to all relevant persons and to keep FIFA closely informed on all further developments regarding the matter.”

The instruction to Hadad could land him in trouble as an injunction granted on September 14 specifically addressed "instructing and/or directing any person or persons to seek to withdraw the instant claim and/or in any way, manner or fashion from interfering with or seeking to undermine, the instant proceedings – except by way of lawful representations made by duly appointed Attorneys-at-Law or other lawful intervention."

United TTFA attorney Matthew Gayle said on Friday, "I think it is uncontroversial to say that quite clearly, any order of the High Court must be obeyed unless and until it is overturned by the Court of Appeal."

The United TTFA, led by William Wallace, won the TTFA elections in November 2019.

Wallace and his former vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Joseph Sam Phillip, are challenging FIFA’s decision, on March 17, to remove them from office and instal a normalisation committee.

In a reaction to the decision by FIFA to bypass item four (the suspension or expulsion of a member), the United TTFA said in a media release, “This is no surprise.”

The release was signed by Wallace, Taylor, Joseph-Warrick, Phillip, Anthony Harford and Keith Look Loy.

United TTFA believes FIFA will soon make an announcement concerning TTFA at the level of the Bureau of the Council, which can be called at any time, according to Look Loy.

“United TTFA is fully convinced that the FIFA leadership has decided to use the Bureau of the Council, which comprises seven persons, including FIFA president Infantino, to suspend TTFA. The Bureau is the same FIFA body that imposed the so-called normalisation committee.”

The FIFA congress included 211 delegates and United TTFA believes FIFA would have been faced with some tough questions if the topic of the TTFA was raised.

“FIFA’s leadership has chosen this shady route to suspension rather than submit a suspension recommendation to hundreds of Congress delegates…United TTFA knows that some of these delegates were primed to ask FIFA’s leadership some difficult questions. Such is the democracy and transparency of FIFA, and the end to corruption of which president Infantino spoke at length today.”

United TTFA said the fight for local football will continue.

“While the FIFA cover-up of its complicity in the sins of the last administration continues, so too will United TTFA continue its struggle in the long-term interest of our football.”

Look Loy, who is also president of the TT Super League, confirmed that the new deadline date will not change the minds of the United TTFA members to withdraw the case.

“No, we are not going to change,” Look Loy told Newsday.

The TT Super League president gave the example that because the new deadline date is September 23, the Bureau of Council could be held on September 24.

Several stakeholders have asked United TTFA to withdraw the case because TT football will suffer.

On the contrary, Look Loy believes now is the best time to fight for a cause because no major international football is taking place due to covid19.

“We believe that the suspension is inevitable, but it comes in the time of covid and there is no football to be played until the second quarter of next year, be it domestic or international football. If ever there is a time for us to be suspended it is now and we are holding firm in our position.”

He said the United TTFA is thinking of the “long-term benefits” of local football and want to “set an example for other countries in FIFA.”

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‘WHO BLINKS FIRST’

FIFA has rescinded legal proceedings in the local High Court — regarding the matter involving ousted TTFA executives William Wallace and his three vice-presidents — but still stands firmly behind its September 23 (tomorrow) deadline given for the United TTFA to withdraw any legal action before the local courts.

“Please be informed that FIFA did not file a defence in the case against the TTFA in the Trinidad High Court,” a spokesman from the Communications Division of the FIFA Media Department articulated in response to enquiries by the Express.

World football’s governing body also asserted that in line with its policies, it has chosen not to comply with Friday’s 4 p.m. deadline rendered by Madame Justice Carol Gobin to file a defence.

Further, FIFA related that it is sticking to the position that Wallace and the United TTFA faction has only a couple days to withdraw its action in the High Court, or the TTFA faces an international suspension from football.

“This follows the fact that FIFA has communicated a revised and final deadline to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association for the relevant parties to withdraw their claim by 23 September 2020,” FIFA replied to our correspondence.

“FIFA’s position remains that we do not recognise the claim at the Trinidad court, and that the CAS is the only correct tribunal to consider this dispute,” the FIFA spokesperson added. The Express was informed that further comments would not be engaged at this stage.

Earlier attempts to get clarity on the matter saw FIFA local representative, attorney Jonathan Walker, indicate only “that enquiries should be directed to FIFA”. Meanwhile, TTFA attorney Matthew Gayle could not confirm whether FIFA would be in court on October 9, as directed by Justice Gobin, as start date for the case. “We have not been served. That I can tell you confidently,” stated Gayle.

In a landmark decision, Gobin gave Wallace and vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Sam Phillip, leave to challenge their March 2020 dismissal by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which came about when FIFA instituted its own Normalisation Committee to run the TTFA, which is said to be debt-burdened to the tune of about $100 million.

FIFA’s move toward suspension would be no surprise to United TTFA. Last Friday, FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura sent a letter giving Wallace and his three vice-presidents a week extension to her original September 16 deadline, for them to cease court action against FIFA.

“The FIFA Council has decided to give a final deadline to the relevant parties to withdraw all types of claim against FIFA before the Trinidad and Tobago courts and comply with all their obligations under the FIFA Statutes, in particular arts 57 et seqq of the FIFA Statutes, by 23 September,” Samoura wrote.

“Failure to comply with this directive within this revised deadline will result in the matter being brought to the attention of the relevant FIFA bodies to decide on the suspension of the TTFA.”

Wallace initially argued that there was no risk of the TTFA getting banned and that the risk of United TTFA’s action was only to himself and his executive. However, following Samoura’s release, United TTFA appears to have accepted the inevitable — that of a T&T ban, though still determined in their pursuit of court action.