Fri, Jun

Pyrrhic Wars : Heraclea Battle

I have noted the response of the Honourable Prime Minister to Monday’s ruling of the High Court in the TTFA v FIFA matter in which the PM said, among other things: “So now United TTFA has ‘won’ and FIFA has lost. The matter is settled in local court. We are now free of the ‘colonial’ FIFA. We, boys and girls, men and women, are free to play by ourselves and against ourselves because nobody will be allowed to play with or against us. Oh. That’s it! I finally understand it. That means we can never lose and will always win because we will only be playing by ourselves.”

I, however, find it difficult to share in the enthusiasm of others who gleefully welcome the obvious sarcasm of the PM’s comments.

Let me state two points before I am accused of bias or worse.

Firstly, I would have thought the FIFA appeal against the jurisdictional ruling of the court, which is imminent, would have been sufficient for this ruling to be postponed pending the Appeal Court’s ruling.

Secondly, I hold no brief for William Wallace or the TTFA executive, and my criticism of their handling of this issue (as others have said) is that they failed, as leaders, to fully involve their members in what is the most significant action they were embarking on.

However, I think it is important to note the TTFA (unlike many other football associations elsewhere) is a statutory organisation created by our Parliament by an act.

In Monday’s judgment, the court noted: “FIFA has now taken to making repeated demands accompanied by threats to TTFA, most recently through its Normalisation Committee to amend its rules to ‘bring them in line with FIFA Statutes’.

“There is no lacuna. The futility of these threats and demands should by now have become obvious. TTFA simply cannot deliver. The only amendment that can produce the result that FIFA commands is an amendment to the TTFA Act, and if it insists on blocking access to our courts in favour of the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport), then it should be put on notice there might be constitutional hurdles.”

This aspect of the ruling should be of concern to any lawmaker in our nation’s Parliament. What it points to is that FIFA is, in effect, seeking to direct our nation’s Parliament on what to do with an act of Parliament which it passed to give life to the TTFA.

I am sure that the Honourable PM must be concerned about this.

A statutory body as the TTFA decided, when its approach to CAS was treated by that court with bias toward FIFA, allowing FIFA to refuse to pay its share of the cost of arbitration, for example, to approach the court of the land.

That is its right, like that of any citizen, to seek redress in the courts of this country.

The judgment points out: “The wisdom of the challenge by the (TTFA officials) of the actions of FIFA is not for the court (to decide)... But it has to be said that the law expects the TTFA to do what its statutory duty requires even in the face of unlawful pressure.

“(...) In the circumstances, the TTFA’s actions of seeking redress before the court was perhaps the only appropriate response which avoided capitulating to the demands of FIFA; and thereby elevating the status of FIFA Statutes above the laws passed by our Parliament.”

Again, any lawmaker who has sworn to uphold the Constitution and the law, and who holds the rule of law as a pivotal constitutional principle of our governance, must be concerned that any person (citizen or corporate) should be facing pressure from anyone, worse the defendant in a claim before our courts to abandon their claim, including threats as FIFA has not only made, but, put into action.

The judgment quotes the following from an English case (R v Coventry City Council) on the issue of public authorities and responding to unlawful threats: “Tempting though it may sometimes be for public authorities to yield too readily to threats of disruption, they must expect the courts to review any such decision with particular rigour—this is not an area where they can be permitted a wide measure of discretion.”

The fact that our Parliament, at the instance of the Government, may eventually have to decide what to do with the TTFA Act should impress the seriousness of this situation as a matter of the rule of law.

This is not merely a matter of whether “we will only be playing by ourselves”, as the Honourable PM ended his comment on the judgment. This is a matter of whether the rule of law in our country will be respected by an international sporting body.

I am not aware of any other international sporting body attempts to deny citizens their right to approach the courts of our land (or any other), or even to tell any country what to do with its laws.

This is a profoundly serious matter for the principles of our nation’s governance, its sovereignty and whether a non-governmental body’s rules can be regarded as superior to the law of our land. It is that serious.

To successfully defend our governance against external pressure, as our country has done on several occasions in the past and recently, can never be a pyrrhic victory.

—Clyde Weatherhead describes himself as A Citizen Fighting for Good Governance

SOURCE: T&T Express