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FIFA's Normalisation Committee will return as the managers of local football.

This after the Court of Appeal judges, Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Appellate Judge Nolan Bereaux on Friday overturned the ruling by High Court Judge Carol Gobin last Tuesday, thereby throwing the future of United T&T Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace and his vice presidents Clynt Taylor and Joseph Sam Phillip into limbo.

The lawsuit, brought by embattled TTFA president William Wallace and his United TTFA executive team, which also included vice president Susan Joseph-Warrick before she resigned the post on September 25, contravened the TTFA's Constitution, which prescribes that all disputes between the TTFA and FIFA should be dealt with by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the Appellate judges concluded.

The Appeal Court has also ordered the cash-strapped TTFA to pay the legal cost of FIFA also.

The ruling has also put in doubt Sunday's Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) called to decide on the future of the sport in T&T, following a suspension by the FIFA and a demand by the sport's world governing body to get the TTFA Statutes in line with theirs if the suspension is to be lifted.

The decision yesterday stems from a move by the FIFA on March 17 to appoint a Normalisation Committee to replace the TTFA on the basis that local football face a possibility of becoming insolvent, with no means of clearing huge debt that crippled the TTFA under Wallace and his team.

TTFA challenged the decision, by first going to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Switzerland in May. They then withdrew the matter and filed it in the T&T High Court in Port-of Spain, a decision that violated FIFA's Statutes.

Wallace, who, in a newspaper report on Friday, said he was not ruling out considering going to the Privy Council, told Guardian Media Sports soon after that the court has ruled and they will respect the ruling of the court. However, quizzed on whether he was any closer to deciding if an appeal will be filed, he said: "This is final for me. This is final for me."

The embattled football association president who guided the Secondary Schools Football League to its highest point of sponsorships, development and marketability, said based on the ruling he was unsure if Sunday's crucial meeting will come off, noting that he will have to seek legal advice before offering a response to that.

Coincidentally, one of Wallace and the TTFA's Attorneys, Matthew Gayle said he will wait to see if his client wants to pursue anything further.

"I will have to look at the ruling to see what our next position will be and what the TTFA wants to do. I will have to reach out to the TTFA. It appears to be a binary ruling but it can be multi-dimensional," Gayle said.

Wallace, whose consideration of an appeal was hinted by members of the international football fraternity, said he took comfort that their concerns were heard under Justice Gobin.

"As far as I am concerned, Justice Gobin's ruling will always be very important to me, whether it was struck out based on the matters heard before, or based on jurisdiction, it was heard, fate allowed that, and there was enough in that for me. I am happy with that so now we move on," said Wallace.

Known constitutional expert Osmond Downer and Eastern Football Association (EFA) president Kieron Edwards gave different accounts on why tomorrow's meeting can go on as planned.

According to Downer, when a court rules it gives the other party time to appeal.

"This, I have to find out more about, if FIFA's Attorneys intend to lodge an appeal, or if in the ruling a timeframe was given for an appeal. During this timeframe, the TTFA members will still be considered the legal officers, which means Sunday's crucial EGM will be held."

Downer, one of the men who drafted the Constitution of the TTFA, believes tomorrow's meeting has crucial significance in deciding whether any court matter against FIFA will be dropped.

The United TTFA, which was recently reduced by three members also following the resignations of the group's key founder Keith Look Loy, who held the position of Chairman of the Technical Committee and former Northern Football Association president Anthony Harford, currently has two matters against FIFA in the CAS.

One, a challenge against FIFA's suspension on September 24 and the other an Injunctive Relief which was filed to ensure the country took part in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

TTFA, on September 25, was given an ultimatum by CONCACAF to settle the court matter with the FIFA by December 18 or be left out of the Gold Cup. As it is, however, the country was allowed to be part of the Gold Cup draw on September 28, which saw it draw Montserrat in the preliminary round of the tournament next year.

Edwards, the author of 19 questions to be posed to Wallace at tomorrow's EGM, said the meeting was constitutionally called and therefore will go on as planned.

"It is a meeting of the general membership, a body of people that will exist whether the normalisation committee is here or not. It was called by the Board of the TTFA before the ruling, so it is legitimate," said the EFA boss, adding that it is important that Wallace and the TTFA are blocked from going to the Privy Council and all court matters that currently exist against FIFA are dropped.

RELATED NEWS

Appeal Court overturns judge's TTFA ruling.
By Derek Achong (T&T Guardian).


FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been given the green light to retake control of the T&T Football Association (TTFA).

Delivering a judgement during a virtual hearing yesterday, Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Appellate Judge Nolan Bereaux ruled that the lawsuit brought by embattled former president William Wallace and his United TTFA team had contravened the TTFA’s constitution.

The decision means that FIFA is free to reintroduce the Normalisation Committee which they replaced Wallace’s team with in March.

With such a move, FIFA may also choose to lift the TTFA’s indefinite suspension, which it applied after Wallace and his team failed to withdraw the lawsuit by its extended ultimatum in September.

FIFA had previously indicated that the lifting of the suspension was contingent on the withdrawal of the lawsuit and modification of the TTFA’s legislation and constitution to prevent similar legal action in the future. However, based on the Appeal Court’s findings the latter may now be unnecessary.

Wallace and his team may still have a lifeline if they desire to pursue the case to its fullest, as they can still appeal the Court of Appeal’s ruling to the Privy Council. They are also free to pursue a case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

However, Wallace told Guardian Media yesterday that he was throwing in the towel on the matter.

“The court has ruled and we respect the ruling of our courts. As I said before, this is final for me. This is final for me. I am not going beyond this,” Wallace said moments after the ruling.

“I said we would have stated our case and as far as I am concerned, Justice Gobin’s decision would always be very important to me, whether it was struck out based on the application of the law or jurisdiction.

“It was heard. Fate allowed that and there was enough in that decision for me. So now we move on.”

Justice Bereaux, who wrote the substantive judgement yesterday, noted that the TTFA constitution prescribes that all disputes between itself and FIFA should be dealt with by CAS.

“The fact that such a provision is enshrined in the TTFA’s constitution means that the TTFA and its executive are bound to comply. The result is that the filing of these proceedings was a breach of the TTFA’s constitution,” Bereaux said.

He also said that High Court Judge Carol Gobin, who heard the case despite FIFA’s jurisdictional protest and found in Wallace’s team’s favour, was wrong to rule that FIFA’s statutes, which deal with the appointment of normalisation committees to member federations, were inconsistent with the Act of Parliament which incorporated the TTFA. Bereaux said the legislation gave the TTFA the power to adopt FIFA’s laws and policies in its constitution.

“Having made its choice and having bound itself by its own constitution to comply, it cannot now act outside of its provisions,” Bereaux said, as he ruled that the CAS was the more appropriate forum as it is comprised of sporting experts.

Bereaux also stated that Gobin should have stayed the case as requested by FIFA and referred it to arbitration.

While Archie merely gave his nod to Bereaux’s written judgement, he decided to weigh in on Gobin’s handling of the case.

“It was neither prudent case management nor an economical deployment of judicial time and resources to attempt to finally determine the substantive issues and to deliver a judgement less than a week before the scheduled hearing of the interlocutory appeal...Zeal is commendable but it must not obscure the need for caution,” Archie said.

In the judgement, the Appeal Court also ruled that the litigation contravened the Judiciary’s Civil Proceedings Rules, as it was served on FIFA via email when Swiss law does not permit such a method for service of a lawsuit.

Despite the ruling, Bereaux said Wallace did have the authority of the bring the case as all that was required was the approval of the board.

In addition to declaring Gobin’s judgement null and void, the Appeal Court also ordered Wallace and his team to pay FIFA’s legal costs for defending the lawsuit.

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

ABOUT THE CASE

William Wallace and vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Joseph Sam Phillips and Susan Joseph-Warrick pursued legal action after they were removed in March and replaced with a committee comprising of businessman Robert Hadad, attorney Judy Daniels and retired banker Nigel Romano.

Wallace’s team initially brought proceedings against FIFA in the CAS but were forced to withdraw 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 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 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 the local courts were the appropriate forum to resolve the dispute.

With the appeal against her ruling still pending, Gobin set the date for the trial and gave FIFA an extension to file its defence. FIFA failed to meet the deadline, as it maintained the position that it did not accept the jurisdiction of the local court.

Wallace’s team also obtained an injunction against the Normalisation Committee after it attempted to facilitate an extraordinary meeting among members to vote to withdraw the case. The injunction was not opposed by FIFA and was granted.

Wallace’s team attempted to withdraw the case on FIFA’s extended ultimatum of September 23 but filed the application to withdraw past the deadline.

After FIFA’s suspension the following day, Wallace’s team filed another application withdrawing the withdrawal application, in which he admitted he was grudgingly discontinuing the case based on a majority vote during an emergency meeting between his team and stakeholders.

The legal manoeuvre coincided with an announcement from second vice-president Joseph-Warrick that she was resigning from her post.

The United TTFA also approached the CAS for a temporary stay of this country’s suspension to allow its participation in Concacaf’s 2021 Gold Cup draw on September 28. The hearing of the injunction application was deferred after Concacaf agreed to conditionally keep T&T’s place in the draw.

If the suspension is not lifted by either FIFA or CAS by 5 pm on December 18, T&T will be replaced by Antigua and Barbuda as the next highest-ranked team based on performances during the 2019 Concacaf Nations League.

In her judgement last week, Gobin ruled that FIFA’s statutes which prescribe the appointment of committees to member federation was too broad to be considered lawful. She also said the executive was not given an opportunity to respond to FIFA’s decision before they were replaced.

Appeal Court quashes TTFA's court victory.
By Jada Loutoo (T&T Newsday).


THE TT Football Association’s complaint about the imposition of a normalising committee by world governing body FIFA should have gone to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

In a decision delivered just after 3 pm on Friday, Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Justice of Appeal Nolan Bereaux overturned two rulings of the TT High Court, delivered in August and October, on the local court’s jurisdiction to hear the TTFA’s complaint and its challenge of the imposition of the normalisation committee in March.

Both appellate court judges agreed that the filing of proceedings in the local courts by TTFA’s president William Wallace and his executive was a breach of the local football body’s Constitution which provides that any dispute against a decision by FIFA must be heard by the CAS.

As a result of their decision, the TTFA’s early victory delivered by Justice Carol Gobin, which some described as an own-goal, was short-lived as her decisions and declarations were set aside and quashed.

Gobin had ruled that the removal of Wallace and his executive was illegal and that the appointment of the normalisation committee “to interfere in the affairs of the TTFA” was also of no effect since the FIFA statute which allowed the appointment was inconsistent with the provisions of the TTFA Act of 1982.

“That trial proceeded ex parte. FIFA took no part in it. But the judge’s decision remains valid and subsisting and is binding on FIFA, at least in Trinidad and Tobago, and must be set aside.

“TTFA by proceeding with the trial while this appeal was pending must bear the costs of what is now a wasted trial,” the judges ruled as they ordered the TTFA to pay FIFA’s legal costs.

Gobin was also faulted for refusing to stay the proceedings before her so that the matter could be resolved at the CAS.

“We are concerned here with the exercise of a judicial discretion,” the judges held.

The judges also ruled that the purported service by e-mail of the TTFA’s legal claim to FIFA was against both Swiss law and the local civil proceeding rules.

Both judges gave a unified decision, but each had something to say on the case.

Archie spoke of the managing of the case by the judge. “As any experienced practitioner will know, service of the originating process is an arcane area of procedural law that is littered with pitfalls. Many a claim has floundered at the first hurdle,” he said, adding that the court had no choice but to allow for the appeal for this and other reasons. He said it would be a “recipe for chaos” for a court to invest a process outside the court rules.

Bereaux focused on the arguments advanced by FIFA. “It is a matter of public notoriety that TTFA has been in straitened circumstances for quite some time,” he noted, acknowledging that the TTFA said it was in the process of coming to terms with the mess they inherited and were formulating a plan to address its parlous financial state.’

He said the terms and conditions of membership for the 211 affiliated associations, which FIFA supported financially and logistically, were set out in the world governing body’s statutes.

FIFA’s contribution is 60 per cent of TTFA’s total revenue. Bereaux pointed out that as a condition to its FIFA membership, the TTFA undertook in its constitution to be bound by its statutes, which includes the mandatory recognition of the CAS and the appointment of the committee.

In March, FIFA appointed a normalisation committee to run the affairs of local football, removing Wallace and his administration.

FIFA said the move was because of “massive debt” and financial woes plaguing the local football body.

It resisted the option of the TTFA’s complaint heard in the TT High Court, insisting that the CAS was the only court it recognised in keeping with its statutes.

Wallace and his executive initially filed an appeal before the CAS but withdrew, saying they did not think they would get a fair hearing from the Swiss court because it condoned FIFA’s refusal to pay half the costs of the challenge.

Wallace and the others had already paid the relevant fees – 1,000 Swiss francs or TT$7,000 – for the appeal in which they say the appointment of the normalisation committee was “exclusively disciplinary in nature” since it had the effect of removing them from their duly elected offices.

After failing to meet a deadline to withdraw its legal challenge in the local courts, T&T was suspended from international football by FIFA. The TTFA has since appealed this decision at the CAS.

However, even if FIFA agreed to pay half the costs of appealing to CAS, there is nothing to appeal since the normalisation committee ceased to function when FIFA suspended T&T from international football. FIFA would have to lift the suspension which could lead to the reinstatement of the normalisation committee for the TTFA to have something to argue at the Swiss court.

At the trial and before the appeal court, the TTFA has argued that the world body for football was not above the laws of T&T since the TTFA was a body incorporated by an act of Parliament.

In her ruling last Tuesday, Gobin ruled that FIFA’s removal of the TTFA executive and implementation of the committee, after it had only been in office for four months, was illegal.

In his reasons, Bereaux held that section 67 of the TTFA’s Constitution was unambiguous that any appeal of a decision of FIFA is heard by the CAS.

“The filing of these proceedings was, therefore, ultra vires Article 67, null, void and of no effect and must be struck out,” he held.

In looking at the matter afresh, the judges found that FIFA had met the threshold required to trigger the court’s discretion under the Arbitration Act and was satisfied “that there was no reason why the matter should not have been referred to arbitration” when FIFA “was ready, willing and able to conduct the arbitration.”

He said the arbitration clause was the typical garden variety one in which parties agree to forego the civil jurisdiction of the High Court for a tribunal with expertise.

Bereaux admitted that he did entertain some concern about the CAS’s impartiality and what appeared to be a cozy relationship with FIFA but said these were not sufficient reasons why the dispute should not go to arbitration.

“CAS’ reaction to FIFA’s request to forego its share of upfront costs appeared to be reflexive with no apparent independent consideration being given to it.”

On whether Wallace had the authority to file the proceedings, Bereaux said there was not enough evidence to show he did not.

On Thursday, Wallace told Newsday he was not ruling out taking the challenge to the Privy Council.

The TTFA was represented by attorneys Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle, Jason Jones, and Crystal Paul while FIFA was represented by Christopher Hamel-Smith, SC, Jonathan Walker, and Cherrie Gopie.

This story has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.

THE TT Football Association’s complaint about the imposition of a normalising committee by the world governing body FIFA should have gone to arbitration before the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration (CAS) for Sport.

In a decision delivered just after 3 pm on Friday, Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Justice of Appeal Nolan Bereaux both agreed that the filing of proceedings in the local courts by TTFA’s president, William Wallace, and his executive, was a breach of the local football body’s Constitution which provides that any dispute against a decision by FIFA must be heard by the CAS.

As a result of their decision, the decisions of Justice Carol Gobin in August and October were set aside.

Gobin was also faulted for refusing to stay the proceedings before her so that the matter could be resolved at the CAS.

“There was no reason it should not have proceeded to arbitration,” Archie said of TTFA’s dispute.

The judges also ruled that the purported service by e-mail of the TTFA’s legal claim to FIFA was against both Swiss law and the local civil proceeding rules.

In March, FIFA appointed a normalisation committee to run the affairs of local football, removing Wallace and his administration.

FIFA said the move was because of “massive debt” and a "real risk of insolvency and illiquidity" facing the local football body.

The world governing body resisted the option of the TTFA’s complaint being heard in the High Court, insisting that the CAS was the only court it recognised in keeping with its statutes.

Wallace and his executive initially filed an appeal before the CAS but withdrew, saying they did not think they would get a fair hearing from the Swiss court.

After failing to meet a deadline to withdraw its legal challenge in the local courts, TT was suspended from international football by FIFA on September 24. The TTFA has since appealed this decision at the CAS.

In her ruling last Tuesday, Gobin ruled that FIFA’s removal of the TTFA executive and implementation of the committee, after it had only been in office for four months, was illegal.

On Thursday, Wallace told Newsday he was not ruling out taking the challenge to the Privy Council.

The TTFA was represented by attorneys Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle Jason Jones and Crystal Paul while FIFA was represented by Christopher Hamel-Smith SC, Jonathan Walker and Cherrie Gopie.