On Wednesday evening, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace applied to withdraw his case against Fifa for their implementation of a normalisation committee on the twin island republic.
By Friday morning, Wallace had twice as many cases running against the world governing body in as many countries.
The TTFA has not only ‘withdrawn its withdrawal’ of the substantive motion against Fifa but also filed an appeal against its international suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Wallace, in a 980-word statement, explained that his United TTFA slate—now minus second vice-president Susan Joseph-Warrick, who resigned this morning—are responding to yesterday’s ruling of the Bureau of the Fifa council, led by president Gianni Infantino, to suspend the TTFA.
(United TTFA is the slate under which Wallace successfully contested the TTFA elections on 24 November 2019.)
The local football body missed Fifa’s deadline to withdraw the High Court case by two minutes on Wednesday and did not directly notify the governing body, through its local attorneys or normalisation committee.
“I believe that the recent punitive action taken by Fifa against the TTFA because the TTFA is engaged in a legitimate action before the Trinidad and Tobago High Court, even after the TTFA filed documents to discontinue the action before the Court,” stated Wallace, “is high-handed, unreasonable, and does not accord with the principle of ‘fair play’ which lies at the heart of the sport of football; but instead is consistent with ‘fear play’.”
United TTFA member and Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president Keith Look Loy was even more blunt.
“Fifa caused all of this,” said Look Loy. “They could have said: ‘allyuh were two minutes late but we win’. But that wasn’t enough for them. They wanted to put our faces in the mud and humiliate us.
“This would have all been done yesterday but they prolonged it because of their vindictive attitude. They wanted to show us and the rest of the world who is boss, despite the fact that we followed our membership’s wishes and Fifa’s wishes—they still went ahead and ban.”
Trinidad and Tobago has not competed in a Fifa tournament since hosting the Women’s Under-17 World Cup in 2010, while the Soca Warriors’ only Men’s World Cup appearance came at the 2006 Germany edition.
Yet, Infantino may be hearing the words ‘Trinidad and Tobago’ far too often these days, and he probably shudders every time.
Wallace explained that the TTFA filed an injunction with CAS this morning, which was meant to overturn Fifa’s suspension and safeguard the Warriors’ participation at the 2021 Gold Cup tournament.
That request became, arguably, moot at 11.55am today, when Concacaf announced that it would save a space for Trinidad and Tobago at next year’s Gold Cup—so long as they satisfy Fifa’s requirements and their international suspension is lifted by 13 December.
Had Fifa and Concacaf reversed the sequence of their respective pronouncements, Wallace and his team might have still walked. However, although grateful for Concacaf’s ‘wiggle room’, Wallace has a second wind now.
“Concacaf’s announcement this afternoon that Trinidad and Tobago will remain in the draw was welcoming news,” said Wallace, “and I have since instructed the attorneys to inform CAS that we are withdrawing the application for injunctive relief. But our appeal against Fifa’s decision to suspend Trinidad and Tobago will remain before CAS.”
Why did the TTFA return to CAS after complaining of bias and being priced out of justice by the body in May?
Look Loy noted that the new cost of the application meant it was a worth a shot. Their initial tussle with Fifa over the latter’s right to remove the TTFA’s officials carried a bill of between 40,000 to 50,000 Swiss francs (TT$277,000 – TT$366,000).
In contrast, the TTFA’s request for a second opinion on their suspension is apparently a straightforward disciplinary matter and should only cost 1,000 Swiss francs (TT$7,314).
Why resume the High Court case though? Why not deal with CAS exclusively?
“Well, if Wallace dropped his claim to be the legitimate president of the TTFA,” asked Look Loy, “under what authority could he approach CAS to stop the suspension?”
So the United TTFA can now justify using the High Court to determine whether they remain the local body’s bonafide representatives, as a means of saving Trinidad and Tobago from suspension—a suspension brought on by their late withdrawal from the very same court case.
“We can’t drop [the High Court case] because we have to have standing before CAS,” said Look Loy.
It is left to be seen what the TTFA’s member delegates make of Wallace’s new legal manoeuvre, which was again taken without consultation. Yet, simultaneously, Infantino might be facing a whisper campaign of his own within Fifa’s corridors.
Already facing criminal charges for corruption in Switzerland, Infantino has proved utterly incapable of dealing with a virtually bankrupt association in a country of 1.3 million people.
Is Infantino really the most capable person to lead a company with cash reserves estimated at US$2.7 billion?
“The decision of the former leadership [of the TTFA] to go to a local court to contest the appointment of the normalisation committee,” stated Fifa, on Wednesday, “jeopardises not only the future of football in Trinidad and Tobago but also endangers the overall global football governance structure, which relies on the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as the exclusive forum for resolving disputes of this nature.”
Yet, the court case is back on stream now. If Wallace and the United TTFA are likely to face some backlash for it, will the same be true of Infantino?
On 9 October, High Court Judge Carol Gobin is due to rule on whether Fifa was justified in removing the TTFA’s Board. Fifa has not filed a defence and Infantino’s attempt to strong-arm the TTFA into abandoning the case has backfired spectacularly.
So what next for the TTFA?
“If Justice Gobin comes on the 9th [of October] and says Fifa had the right to bring in a normalisation committee,” said Look Loy, “then it is done and we will ride off into the sunset. The membership will then have to find a way to invite Fifa back into Trinidad and Tobago, through a normalisation committee or whatever.”
Concacaf’s extended deadline of 13 December means there would be still plenty time for the TTFA’s members to acquiesce to Fifa’s demands.
But what if Justice Gobin declares that Fifa is wrong and Wallace remains the rightful head of the TTFA?
“If Justice Gobin says we win and Wallace and his elected officers are the legitimate leaders of the TTFA,” said Look Loy, “then the elected officers will call a bonafide EGM and ask members what they would like to be done. If the members want the normalisation committee to be in charge at that point, then it will be in charge.
“By the ninth, this will be settled one way or the other and I assure you that this will be all done long before December 2020.”
Look Loy said he has already written his resignation as TTFA technical committee chairman and Super League president.
“My resignation has been pending for weeks now—from the TTFA, from the Super League, from everything,” he said. “[…] I have reached my limit. I am just waiting on the right time to send it.
“After that, whoever wants to jockey for position and so on can go right ahead, and everybody can be happy.”
At this stage, it may still be too early to guess how local football history will remember the United TTFA. But, at this rate, Fifa—and Infantino in particular—will have a hard time forgetting them.
Wallace: ‘We won’t bow to Fifa fear play’; TTFA president explains return to CAS and resumption of case.
“[…] I believe that the recent punitive action taken by Fifa against the TTFA because the TTFA is engaged in a legitimate action before the Trinidad and Tobago High Court—even after the TTFA filed documents to discontinue the action before the Court—is high-handed, unreasonable, and does not accord with the principle of ‘fair play’ which lies at the heart of the sport of football; but instead is consistent with ‘fear play’…”
In the following press statement, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace explains why he has taken Fifa to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and resumed his case before the local High Court:
On Wednesday 23 September 2020, I instructed the TTFA attorneys to file the necessary documents to withdraw the claim between the TTFA and Fifa before the High Court of Justice in Trinidad and Tobago.
This followed an informal meeting held with the TTFA membership on the evening of Tuesday 22 September 2020. Many of our members were of the view that although they supported the court case in principle, the threats by Fifa on at least two occasions to take punitive action against the TTFA was too high a cost to pay for continuing with what is a legitimate action before the Trinidad and Tobago High Court of Justice.
As a result, the majority of our members indicated that they were of the opinion that the matter should be withdrawn from our court.
To this end and in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules in Trinidad and Tobago, a Notice of Application for permission to withdraw and discontinue the claim was in fact filed on the 23rd September 2020 and was supported by my affidavit and a draft order.
However, on the 24th September 2020, as Trinidad and Tobago commemorated Republic Day, the Bureau of the Fifa Council suspended the TTFA with immediate effect and indicated that the suspension will only be lifted when: ‘the TTFA fully complies with its obligations as a member of Fifa, including recognising the legitimacy of the appointed normalisation committee and bringing its own statutes into line with the Fifa Statutes’.
It is unfortunate that, notwithstanding the TTFA having taken steps to withdraw the claim before our High Court, Fifa seemingly found it fit, fair and/or proper to not only take punitive steps against the TTFA but to introduce a new and further condition—requiring the TTFA to ‘bring its own statutes into line with the Fifa Statutes’.
With the shifting of the goal post, we don’t know exactly whether this new and further condition declared to us on our nation’s Republic Day 2020 is meant to dictate to the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament, since the TTFA is an organisation created by an Act of Parliament. This remains to be seen.
It is now clear however, that Fifa intended to take punitive action against the TTFA regardless of whether or not steps were taken by the TTFA to withdraw and discontinue the claim before our High Court of Justice on the 23rd September 2020.
It is also now clear that the decision to suspend the TTFA amidst the upcoming draw for the Gold Cup 2021 is meant to, amongst other things, provoke public furore against the properly and democratically elected executive of the TTFA.
It is for this reason that last night I gave instructions to the TTFA attorneys to file an emergency appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), challenging the sole issue of the suspension of TTFA in the face of illegal threats and coercive acts by Fifa.
The attorneys were also asked to make an application for Injunctive Relief so that, if successful, this would allow Trinidad and Tobago to participate in the Gold Cup draw carded for Monday 28th September 2020.
Concacaf’s announcement this afternoon that Trinidad and Tobago will remain in the draw was welcoming news and I have since instructed the attorneys to inform CAS that we are withdrawing the application for injunctive relief. But our appeal against Fifa’s decision to suspend Trinidad and Tobago will remain before CAS.
This morning and on my further instructions, the TTFA attorneys also filed the relevant documents to continue with the claim before the High Court of Justice since this is the only way that we can legitimise our application to CAS.
The obvious question would be, why CAS? The answer is that the action taken against the TTFA is a disciplinary one and CAS is charged with dealing with such matters. It must also be noted that our only financial obligation in this matter is the filing fees.
I believe that the recent punitive action taken by Fifa against the TTFA because the TTFA is engaged in a legitimate action before the Trinidad and Tobago High Court—even after the TTFA filed documents to discontinue the action before the court—is high-handed, unreasonable, and does not accord with the principle of ‘fair play’ which lies at the heart of the sport of football; but instead is consistent with ‘fear play’.
Further, I do not believe that this punitive action of Fifa against the TTFA and the people of Trinidad and Tobago will withstand objective scrutiny before any competent tribunal.
I have committed my life to the development of the youth in Trinidad and Tobago as a member of the teaching service for over 30 years. I have served as president of Secondary Schools Cricket League and Secondary Schools Football League and in many other areas where the focus was on the development of our youth.
For those who do not know, these many years of service to young people in Trinidad and Tobago was all voluntary, so for those who indicate that I don’t care about our young people you need to speak to what you know.
What I do care about though is that we must stand up against injustice and as Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse would not appreciate your neutrality.”
The duly elected executive of the TTFA now calls on all right-thinking, principled and patriotic citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to let you voices be heard as resounding as Reverend Dr Iva Gloudon’s and all the others that have spoken out against Fifa’s action.
We might be a small nation, but we are a very proud people.
Concacaf extends olive branch and fresh deadline, as TTFA-FIFA tussle enters slapstick territory.
By Lasana Liburd (wired868).
At 11.55am today, Concacaf offered an olive branch to the Soca Warriors. On Monday 28 September, Concacaf will hold its draw for the 2021 Gold Cup, which is its showcase tournament, and there will be a special arrangement for the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team.
Yesterday, Fifa suspended Trinidad and Tobago from international football and its secretary general Fatma Samoura warned Fifa’s 210 full member associations not to have any contact with any football teams from the twin island republic.
But, last night, Concacaf president Victor Montagliani held an emergency meeting with his executive which decided on a compromise.
“Concacaf has noted Fifa’s decision to suspend the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA),” read a Concacaf statement, just before midday. “This matter was discussed during an emergency meeting of the Concacaf Council last night, and the following was agreed:
“For the purposes of the 2021 Gold Cup draw, […] Trinidad and Tobago will be drawn in the Prelims as planned. However, they will only participate in the competition if the suspension imposed on the TTFA is lifted by FIFA by 5:00 pm ET on 18 December 2020.
“If the suspension imposed on the TTFA is not lifted by FIFA by 5:00pm ET on 18 December 2020, Trinidad and Tobago will be replaced in the Gold Cup Prelims by the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association, as the next highest ranked team based on their 2019 Concacaf Nations League performance.”
If Fifa president Gianni Infantino played the role of ‘bad cop’ yesterday, by suspending the TTFA for a late withdrawal of its High Court case—Montagliani tried to be the ‘good cop’.
The problem was, while Concacaf was deciding how to deal with the TTFA, the United TTFA members were also meeting.
And, at 7:38am today, the TTFA’s attorneys informed the High Court that Wallace and his colleagues—now minus the resigned second vice-president Susan Joseph-Warrick—wanted to resume the fight.
By the time that Concacaf offered the TTFA an olive branch at 11:55am, Wallace already had his gloves back on.
It is a scenario exacerbated, in large part, by Fifa’s refusal to communicate directly with Wallace and his team, who the governing body refers to in public statements as the ‘former officials’.
Will Wallace withdraw a second time, as a result of Concacaf’s offer? And what of the opinion of the TTFA’s member delegates?
On Tuesday night, roughly 70 per cent of the TTFA’s members asked the elected officials to end the case, so as to avoid a potential ban. It was an informal meeting and not binding, but their feedback was said to be the catalyst for Wednesday’s withdrawal.
The members were not consulted on Friday morning when the case was resumed. What does Wallace say to them now?
TTFA v FIFA timeline:
17 March: The Bureau of the Fifa Council announces that Wallace, his vice-presidents and the TTFA Board have been replaced by a normalisation committee, as a result of their massive debt and ‘extremely low overall financial management methods’.
18 March: Fifa declares that TTFA accountant Tyril Patrick, the man who oversaw the ‘extremely low overall financial management methods’ in the first place and was targeted for an internal probe, was the perfect fit to run the local body in the interim.
21 March: Patrick tells Fifa ‘thanks but no thanks’, after his appointment was quickly met by legal threats from the TTFA’s attorneys.
27 March: Robert Hadad, whose family-owned company holds the Häagen-Dazs franchise in Trinidad, accepts the job of normalisation committee chairman and is immediately on the back-foot as he unconvincingly tries to distance himself from controversial former president David John-Williams.
6 April: Wallace appeals against Fifa’s decision to implement a normalisation committee in Trinidad and Tobago at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), as permitted by Fifa’s Statutes.
7 May: Wallace realises why Fifa likes CAS that much. “We feel we are basically being set up!” he says. TTFA withdraws from the Switzerland-based CAS and turns to the local High Court itself.
18 June: Bambi has claws. Up to this point, Wallace has been painted as an innocent victim of Fifa’s machinations. Turns out that ‘Honest Wallie’ was guilty of some dodgy backroom dealing himself. Outspoken United TTFA member Keith Look Loy calls Wallace a replica of former president David John-Williams. Ouch. Still, the officials decide to remain united in the face of the Fifa threat.
13 August: High Court Judge Carol Gobin rips Infantino a new one, as she bins Fifa’s attempt to have the case moved to CAS.
“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,” said Gobin, “how does it reconcile that with its insistence that these very persons who have no authority to file these court [documents] should commence arbitration proceedings in Switzerland?”
26 August: Infantino, sore from Gobin’s spanking, has had enough of these legal niceties. Secretary general Fatma Samoura emails Hadad and issues a public missive, which gives the TTFA’s ‘former leadership’ three weeks to drop the case. The deadline of 16 September is on the eve of a Fifa Council meeting and two days before the annual Fifa Congress.
“We firmly request the TTFA to ask the TTFA former leadership for an immediate withdrawal of the claim at the Trinidad and Tobago High Court by 16 September 2020, at the latest,” stated Samoura. “In view of the above, we deem that a failure to comply with this directive would result in the commencement of suspension proceedings via the relevant Fifa bodies.”
5 September: Hadad announces EGM on 15 September, after request from the TTFA’s member delegates. But it turns out that holding a proper EGM is not as easy as serving ice cream and Hadad’s procedural errors are immediately pointed out.
14 September: Justice Gobin endorses a requested injunction from the TTFA against the Fifa-appointed normalisation committee, which stops Hadad and his gang from holding an EGM or so much as using the TTFA’s stationery. If Infantino and Samoura had not misled the TTFA delegates about who was legally in charge of the local game, the call for an EGM might have worked. But there is no time now for that.
18 September: The Fifa Congress and Council meetings pass with nary a word about the TTFA. Was Infantino bluffing? Nope. The Congress had barely ended when Fifa sent the TTFA a new deadline of 23 September. As it turns out, Infantino does not want to put the Trinidad and Tobago impasse to a vote between 210 member nations—but he is happy to drag the TTFA before his seven member cabal, cough, Bureau.
Oh and, for the first time, Concacaf is going to hold its Gold Cup draw nine months before the tournament, on 28 September. Only non-suspended members allowed. Hint, hint.
22 September: The TTFA calls an informal meeting to hear what its members think about fighting Fifa and possibly facing a suspension. Thirty-six from 47 members attend (maybe Netflix had something too good to miss!) and 70 per cent of them ask their elected officers to shoulder arms.
23 September: United TTFA puts out a statement at 1pm confirming the withdrawal of the High Court case. Curiously, it is not signed by president Wallace or vice-president Clynt Taylor. Worse, the withdrawal is filed electronically two minutes after the close of court and not sent to Fifa’s attorney as a matter of courtesy—so Fifa has only the 1pm press statement to go by.
24 September: It is a holiday, so the courts are still closed and Fifa still has no official update to their case. In truth, Justice Gobin would still have to accept the withdrawal in any case before it became final. Peeved, Infantino calls the six families of The Fifa to a Bureau meeting, to select the perfect Republic Day present for Trinidad and Tobago.
They opt for a horse’s head. The TTFA is suspended until they not only withdraw the case but also amend its constitution, so as to presumably make it easier to be shafted in the foreseeable future. Fifa reveals the decision at 4:26pm.
As it turns out, Concacaf president Montagliani, who is also a Bureau member, got permission to play ‘good cop’. He calls a Concacaf emergency meeting that same night, which offers the TTFA roughly three months more to make Infantino happy. Badda bing badda boom. The Concacaf members decide to sleep on their decision and release it in the morning. What could go wrong?
25 September: Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him right back… Wallace decides that, with the Gold Cup dream squashed anyway, he is going to go down with his boots on. At 7:28am—yeah, they were bright and early this time!—the TTFA attorneys tell the High Court that they are withdrawing their withdrawal. We are back beeyatch!
There is one casualty though. Second vice-president Susan Joseph-Warrick says the TTFA seems to be no longer fighting for its members or players and submits her resignation at 6:49am.
At 11:55am, the Concacaf executive—presumably operating on ‘Trini time’—gets around to issuing confirmation that the Soca Warriors have a ‘bligh’ and can compete in the Gold Cup, providing that the TTFA can make Infantino smile by 5pm eastern time on 18 December 2020.
So we are all good right? Right?