Sat, Jun


Following news that the T&T Football Association (TTFA) has been suspended with immediate effect by FIFA and until further notice Guardian Media Sports reached out to several persons of the general membership to get responses regarding the United TTFA team failure to meet the September 23, 3:00 pm deadline set by FIFA on September 18, to withdraw their legal matter from the T&T High court.

Several of them decided that they don't want to go on record but they expressed concerns with what they deemed 'the intent of the action by the last minute as the deadline time approached to have the matter withdrawn from the T&T courts.

The embattled TTFA president William Wallace and his United TTFA executive team's decision to withdraw their controversial case against FIFA is yet to be officially recognised since the application was made and stamped at 15:23.57 (3:23 pm) on Wednesday which was after the deadline of 15:00 AST (21:00 CET) time as outlined in the FIFA letter dated September 18.

Guardian Media Sports understands that while the group's legal team filed an eight-page notice of the application to withdraw the case, in an attempt to beat FIFA's revised ultimatum of Wednesday 23, at 3:00 pm (TT Time), the matter will not be actually be withdrawn until the application is dealt with by Justice Carol Gobin, who is presiding over the case.

On Thursday, Guardian Media Sports reached out Robert Hadad, the chairman of the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee (NC) and asked: 'Did you, FIFA legal Team or FIFA get any documents of notice from William Wallace' legal team to date regarding the withdrawal of the legal matter in the T&T high court?'...He responded, "No".

Dr Emir Crowne, one of the attorneys from the United TTFA legal team when contacted and asked on Thursday: "If FIFA lawyers were served with the application & affidavit regarding the withdrawal he responded: "If it's about the TTFA matter, I unfortunately can't comment as it's still before the Courts."

The application which highlights 23 grounds for which the withdrawal is being made, can either be dealt with in the absence of the parties with the decision being subsequently sent by Gobin or can be dealt with on October 9, when she was expected to referee the trial of the case. The trial date could also be brought forward in order to resolve the issue.

In an affidavit which comprised ten pages and bears the court stamp and time as 15:02.03 (T&T 3:02 pm) attached to the application, which was obtained by Guardian Media Sports, Wallace sought to explain his and his team's decision to grudgingly withdraw their case.

"To ask this court for permission to withdraw this claim on the day before Republic Day (September 24), and in so doing tacitly accepting that football in T&T continues to be at the whims and fancy of the Defendant, who is bullying and coercing the TTFA into bending its knee, makes me feel physically sick," Wallace said.

"It is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do," he added.

Wallace, the former president of the Secondary School Football League (SSFL) suggested that their decision was based on feedback from TTFA stakeholders, which was solicited after he and his team noted strange developments in the sport regionally.

He said on Monday he was informed that FIFA regional affiliate CONCACAF had scheduled the draw for its 2021 Gold Cup for this weekend.

"I can say that this is unusual because the Gold Cup (held every two years) is not until July 2021 and normally the draw usually happens approximately two months before the tournament," Wallace said.

He admitted that it was this that led him and his team to call the meeting on Tuesday as a possible suspension would mean no chance of participation in the tournament.

In a separate but related press release issued yesterday, the executive expressed similar sentiments and noted that 21 stakeholders voted for them to withdraw the action, while eight voted for it to continue. Three abstained.

In his court filings, Wallace, a former national team manager, claimed that despite the vote many members agreed that FIFA was acting in bad faith by seeking to compel them to withdraw under the threat of the association and by extension, the country, being suspended and other sanctions.

"My firm view is that they are acting out of fear and not in the long-term best interests of the TTFA," he said.

On Thursday, Brent Sancho, the acting chairman of the T&T Pro League and who has been challenging the United TTFA decision to take FIFA to the T&T Courts rather than Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, believe that the general meeting called by the United TTFA on Tuesday was set-up to give the membership the impression that they (United TTFA) really wanted to get meeting's view to move forward.

Sancho said, "After the voting 21-8 to withdraw the matter; 8 to stay and fight; and 3 abstentions, the meeting asked the chairman (Wallace) what next and he did not answer. In fact, after reading the withdrawal documents it is crystal clear that eight votes are what the application and affidavit are based upon and not the 21 delegates who voted to withdraw the matter from court."

The Central FC owner pointed out that every action by the United TTFA team from September 22 to missing the deadline September 23, has been intentionally designed to get the TTFA suspended.

He said, "September 22: United TTFA last-minute “informal” member meeting to attempt to show they listened to membership and most importantly to mask their reasons for apparently withdrawing case: “to withdraw based on the will of the membership - the members voted to do it – against TTFA United’s will, and on September 23 the following happened:

1. TTFA United formally express their plans:

2. At approx.1:30 pm local time (and 1-hour ½ before the deadline to withdraw case) they issue an official media statement:

3. At 3:02 PM (intentionally after the FIFA deadline expired) they lodge affidavits before the High Court to request that case be withdrawn. Way it is redacted shows malicious intention for it to be rejected or to claim coercion after suspension and continue with the case.

4. At 6:30 pm and through the media, Wallace tries to justify why his name is not on media release:

5. September 24, a public holiday in T&T, reason why they also kept the matter secret hoping FIFA would suspend the TTFA before any court decision was reached. This series of events clearly shows TTFA United’s plot to play victims and paint FIFA as the monster who suspended them, and while their intent is to continue with their battle.

According to a delegate who attended the meeting and spoke to us on the condition anonymity: "Without pointing fingers or casting blame, I think Trinidad and Tobago football has experienced extremely challenging times, and we have challenging times ahead of us. Football is largely political and it has gotten the better (or worst) of us. We need true unity and wholesome, inclusive dialogue with all stakeholders if we are to ever heal and move forward for the good of the game and most importantly the players of the game."

Through the lawsuit, Wallace and his three vice presidents — Clynt Taylor, Joseph Sam Phillips, and Susan Joseph-Warrick were seeking a declaration that the decision to remove them on March 17, and replace them with a committee comprising of businessman Hadad, attorney Judy Daniel, and retired banker Nigel Romano was null, void, and of no legal or binding effect.

They were also seeking a permanent injunction barring FIFA from meddling in the TTFA's affairs by allegedly seeking to circumvent the democratic process by removing duly elected executive members.

Wallace and his team initially brought proceedings against FIFA in the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in April but withdraw it in May as they could not pay the 40,000 Swiss francs (TT$276,000) in associated costs.

Their position was partly due to FIFA's policy to not pay its share of the fees and CAS's rules, which require the other party to pay the full costs when the other fails in its obligations.

After the case was filed, FIFA applied for it to be struck out as it claimed that the TTFA by virtue of its membership with FIFA agreed to forgo all legal action in local courts in favour of proceedings before the CAS.

The application was initially blanked by Gobin, who ruled on August 13, that the local courts were the appropriate forum to resolve the dispute.

FIFA appealed with a hearing set for October 21.

While the appeal was still pending, Gobin set the date for the trial of the case for October 9 and gave FIFA an extension to file its defence. FIFA failed to meet the deadline as it maintained its position that it did not accept the jurisdiction of the court in the matter.

Wallace and his team also obtained an injunction against the normalisation committee after it attempted to facilitate an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) among members to vote to withdraw the case and recognised the NC as the administrators of T&T football.

The injunction, which will remain in place until discharged by Gobin, was not opposed by FIFA and was granted.

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

SOURCE: T&T Guardian