TT Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace is not ruling out the possibility of taking his ongoing battle against world football body FIFA all the way to the Privy Council if he has to.
Wallace told Newsday on Thursday the idea of taking the case to the London courts – TT’s highest appellate court – if the Court of Appeal’s decision is not in his favour, is something he “cannot disagree with.”
It is now nearly eight months since Wallace began his legal battle against FIFA after it removed his administration and appointed a normalisation committee to run the affairs of local football, on March 17.
FIFA insisted the move was not victimisation and that the decision was made because of “a massive debt” and financial woes.
It also refused to acknowledge TT’s High Court as a legitimate option for the hearing after Wallace appealed. It said the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland is the only court it recognises for such disputes.
Initially, Wallace and his attorneys – Dr Emir Crowne and Matthew Gayle – appealed to the CAS but withdrew, moving to TT’s High Court, as they believed they would not get a “fair hearing” from the Swiss court.
Wallace and his team persisted, but this led to the association’s suspension on September 24. They have since appealed this decision at the CAS.
Last Tuesday, Justice Carol Gobin ruled that FIFA’s removal of the TTFA executive and implementation of the committee, after the executive had been in office for just four months, was illegal.
While some described this victory as an “own goal,” and it led to jeers on social media from the Prime Minister, Wallace told Newsday he still believed it was a “real win.
“It was a ruling based on the facts presented. I am extremely happy and satisfied with it. It indicated every single thing we have been trying to say, and it was always about getting the chance to be heard.
“It was also saying it was injustice, based on the facts and all those things. That for me is enough; that in itself is a win. And in addition to that, I think we would have planted some seeds within the football fraternity both locally and internationally.”
On Monday, at the Court of Appeal hearing, Crowne told Chief Justice Ivor Archie the team would be willing to return to the CAS if FIFA pays its half of the cost – which it had previously refused to. The total fee is 40,000 Swiss francs which is approximately TT$299,000.
Archie posed the question, saying, “I am assuming the TTFA wants to retain its relationship with FIFA.”
But Wallace later told online news blog Wired868 he was not willing to return to CAS and “start all over,” and that he had come to the end of his battle against FIFA. He did not speak with any other local media on the matter.
Asked if he had contacted any of the attorneys before speaking to Wired868, he said no.
He told Newsday, “The information in that article is accurate. If an option is presented to go back to CAS with a substantive matter or the initial matter, that is not something I am willing to do.”
Crowne told the Appeal Court even if FIFA agreed to pay half the costs of appealing to CAS, there was nothing to appeal, since the normalisation committee ceased to function when FIFA suspended T&T from international football.
He said FIFA would have to lift the suspension, which could possibly lead to a reinstatement of the normalisation committee, and then they would have something to argue before the CAS.
FIFA’s attorney, Christopher Hamel-Smith, said he knew his client would agree to paying half the costs since he suggested it to them, but he could not say what its position would be on lifting the suspension.
On Sunday, the TTFA will host its extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to continue charting a way forward. The members of the TTFA will decide whether it will drop the appeal to CAS on its suspension.
FIFA has previously indicated the temporary suspension may be lifted once the membership complies with its demands.
And Concacaf gave the TTFA until December 18 to determine whether it will be able to participate in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup. If the suspension is not lifted by 5 pm on that day, T&T will be replaced by Antigua and Barbuda.
Archie and Justice of Appeal Nolan Bereaux are expected to give a ruling on Friday at 3 pm. If this does not go in favour of Wallace, which will render Gobin’s ruling null and void, Wallace said it may not necessarily be the end.
“I have been getting feedback from not just the Caribbean but international feedback that this is something that should be settled at the Privy Council. I cannot disagree with that point – they are making a statement I cannot disagree with.”
He said one local businessman offered to pay the required legal fees in full if he decides to take that route.
But he added, “As to whether we are going with it, that is another story…”
If he loses in the end, what does his future in T&T football look like?
Well, he said, “No word on that yet.”
Asked about the possibility of the case being taken to the Privy Council, Crowne told Newsday, “Depending on the Court of Appeal’s ruling, and subject to any instructions we may receive from our client, the decision may well be appealed to the Privy Council, especially given the global significance of the issues at play.”