Eight days after CNC3 aired an hour long investigative report on former Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams entitled ‘TTFA’s Secret Panama Trail’, the controversial administrator has offered his first rebuttal.
In one clip during the programme, CNC3 investigative journalist Mark Bassant told viewers: “Shipping sources say that John-Williams told them he didn’t have any US currency to clear the containers, even though in 2017 Fifa gave the TTFA that $2 million US in funding towards the Home of Football project under Fifa’s Forward Development Programme.
“In addition to the funding from the Fifa Forward Development Programme for the project, the TTFA got another 1.25 million US. This money came from the annual allocation given by Fifa to all federations to assist with operational costs of National Associations.
“After the disbursement of the project’s funding, Fifa’s Development Programme Manager, Solomon Mudege, in July 2017, made a list of stipulations which the TTFA should follow.”
John-Williams, via a press statement, said he was ‘cleared’ by his legal team to ‘issue the following statement of fact’ regarding that specific claim.
“As of July 2017, the TTFA had not even yet submitted its application for the Home of Football Project,” said John-Williams. “The TTFA’s application was submitted on 15 August 2017 and was approved by Fifa on 5 September 2017. The TTFA received its first disbursement of USD 900,000 in November 2017.
“Further, the lease for the land to be used for the project was given on 3 August 2017 by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. No approval could have been given by Fifa without this lease.”
In essence, Bassant said the TTFA received funding in July but, according to ‘DJW’, that money actually came in November.
Does a mix-up of dates in one soundbite cast aspersions over their entire documentary?
Bassant accepted the error but noted that, earlier in the hour long show, he did say that TTFA received the money from Fifa ‘in tranches’, starting in 2017. John-Williams’ correction, he suggested, does not impact on the more damning aspects of the investigative report, which alleged that the administrator might have diverted football money into a secret Panamanian account.
“The month was an error but the money was approved within virtually a month [of that July date],” Bassant told Wired868. “[…] It doesn’t change anything in the story… I said it was July but it was approved by Fifa in September, after the land was granted by the government in August.
“[…] The fact of the matter was Fifa gave them the money in 2017 for the Home of Football—that’s the crux of it. He still fails to answer the fact: why didn’t he pay the shipping fees in 2018, when he had already paid for all the material?”
John-Williams, according to Bassant’s investigation, paid US$283,000 to Panamanian company, Ecotec, between February and April 2018 for material. But then supposedly did not have money to clear the goods.
Where, Bassant asked, did the other US$617,000 go?
John-Williams offered another ‘fact check’ to the TTFA’s Secret Panama Trail. Bassant said, in the programme, that the TTFA received US$1.25 million from the Fifa Forward programme in 2017, which represented its annual subvention.
The former president disagreed.
“Additionally in 2017, the TTFA, as well as all member associations of Fifa, received a sum of USD 500,000 for its operational costs,” said John-Williams. “The TTFA did not receive USD 1.25 million.”
The Fifa website stipulates that all member associations with ‘an annual revenue of USD 4 million or less’ are entitled to financial support from the governing body, which is broken into two payments of US$500,000 plus US$250,000 ‘in order to support their travel and equipment needs’.
Almost certainly, this is how Bassant came up with the figure of US$1.25 million. However, the US$250,000 is not handed over to the association—but rather credited to meet specific bills for travel and equipment.
And, after the first tranches of US$500,000 is paid in January, the respective member association must earn the second figure of half a million USD by fulfilling up to 10 specific activities.
The activities (which are rewarded by Fifa with a payment of US$50,000 each) include:
1. ‘Organising men’s, women’s and youth competitions (two age groups for both girls and boys)—each competition should involve at least ten clubs for at least 90 matches and for at least six months each year’;
2. ‘Having active men’s, women’s and youth national teams—each one participating in at least four matches per year’;
3. ‘Having a functioning and regularly updated IT player registration and competition management system (provided free of charge by Fifa if needed); and
4. ‘Having men’s and women’s refereeing programmes’.
It is uncertain whether the John-Williams-led administration met Fifa’s criteria for additional funding in 2017. There was certainly no ‘functioning and regularly updated IT player registration and competition management system’ while only three teams—the Men’s National Senior Team, Boys’ National Under-15 Team and Women’s National Under-17 Team—played four times that year.
Women’s coach Carolina Morace, who had authority over the entire women’s programme, quit in 2017, after barely six months on the job, and took her staff with her. Morace cited breach of contract by John-Williams.
Fifa also ruled against the TTFA in several contractual matters over the last five or six years, and withheld money from the twin island republic to satisfy such judgments. It is uncertain whether John-Williams lost some expensive cases at Fifa level that year.
John-Williams did not explain why Trinidad and Tobago may have gotten only half of the money on offer from the Fifa Forward programme that year. He only said that Bassant was wrong on that score.
Bassant, incidentally, has stood by his claim regarding the allocation money.
Still, the CNC3 allegations go much deeper than that and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) has already asked its Fraud Squad to investigate further.
John-Williams promised more answers ‘in the coming days’.
“It is my hope that in the coming days, I will be cleared by my attorneys to issue further statements of fact which will further expose the untruths, the distortions and the falsehoods contained in GML’s and Mr Bassant’s articles and television news stories,” stated John-Williams, “as I await my day in court when I will clear my name and cause GML and Mr Bassant to account dearly for their libel.”