Ramdhan challenges TTFA $98.5M debt.

A response by the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee (NC) on Tuesday to concerns raised by the T&T Football Association’s (TTFA) membership on May 1, appeared to have raised more questions than it provided answers.

Ramesh Ramdhan, the former TTFA general secretary who worked for several months with the NC before he was suspended, has raised a number of questions surrounding the TT$98.5 million debt.

Ramdhan believes that the response by the normalisation committee which is chaired by businessman Robert Hadad, and includes Attorney Judy Daniel, Nigel Romano, and Trevor Gomez, only served to confirm the ill intention of the appointment of the NC by FIFA, rather than to fix the issues plaguing local football, inclusive of the debt.

The local football members, in a stinging 15-page document accused Hadad and his committee of mismanaging the affairs of the sport, and called on the Hadad-led committee to stick to the mandate given by FIFA to stabilise local football, clear the existing debt and prepare for fresh football election to be held after a period of two years.

The NC in a four-page unsigned response summarised that the TTFA has, for the past decade been on the verge of insolvency, not only because of the debt but because of decisions in the past that continue to increase its financial burdens.

Hadad, via the services of accounting firm Ernst & Young (EY) has put the debt at $98.5 million to date, which he promised will be cleared by both entities - EY and the NC.

Ramdhan, a former FIFA World Cup referee, said the report is an indication that Hadad and his committee are incapable of achieving its mandate and FIFA is well aware of it.

“What FIFA did by bringing a committee is to use a nuclear weapon which will destroy everything. The nuclear weapon is the normalisation committee to achieve the removal of the previous administration, which promised to be transparent and disclose the whole thing with the Home of Football (Couva) and how the monies were spent. That is all FIFA wanted to achieve and they achieved it, so they have put the TTFA in a worse position,” he said.

Only recently certain members of the TTFA questioned the sincerity of the sport’s world governing body for football after they failed to get as simple as a letter of acknowledgement to their letter of concern on May 1, sent to all the NC members and the FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura.

“Are they really interested in solving the problems with T&T football?” one member asked.

Ramdhan, who was quick to dissect the NC letter, challenged the veracity of the TTFA debt and questioned the new figures that were highlighted for the salaries of coaches Derek King, an assistant to senior team coach Terry Fenwick, Kelvin Jack, the goalkeeper coach for all the national teams, and why the NC has paid for Futsal coach Constantine Konstin.

According to Ramdhan: “What Ernst and Young did was what we got done for free which was verifying the debt. Our debt stood at $53 million and there were other things that were factored in separately, like the debt to Jack Warner which is estimated at TT$23 million, and a couple other financial matters which are yet to be determined and which if you add all, came up to about TT$71 million dollars.

"What they paid EY to do, our auditors of Madan Ramnarine and Company, who were the TTFA auditors confirmed the debt and had an audited financial statement completed for 2019 and that formed part of FIFA’s mission report. So unless he factored in all the contracts that were given under Wallace, and not considering that Terry Fenwick’s contract was a one-year contract in the first instance, then there’re certain achievable.

"Then we were paying Kelvin Jack, the goalkeeper coach TT$20,000, a month and I saw where it's quoted as US$9,000 which is a lot more money than we agreed to pay him. We gave him a one-year contract for $20,000 per month, and he couldn’t do anything because he couldn’t come to T&T. Then, I see they raised Derek King’s salary from US$6,000 a month to US$8,000 so I don’t know what is the rationale for changing those. All the coaches we appointed were up to August after the competitions. So I don’t understand how they arrived at that exorbitant figure of close to a million dollars.

"Also, the futsal coach wasn’t being paid by the TTFA. Geoffrey Edwards who is the president of the Futsal Association had made arrangements for Konstin to be paid. We were only paying the manager who was Nigel Roberts and everything was handled by the futsal association.”

Hadad told Guardian Media Sports earlier this year that several debt-eradicating initiatives were being considered to clear the existing debt, including mortgaging the controversial Home of Football. Despite rumours now of ongoing work to fix the Home of Football now by the normalisation committee, there are questions of how Ernst and Young, in a collaborative effort with the normalisation committee, can clear the existing debt of the TTFA, unless there is some kind of revenue stream to do so.

Under the Wallace-led administration, the United TTFA, a series of initiatives to reduce the debt, including the transformation of the Arima Velodrome to a multi-purpose-residential, commercial, and sporting state-of-the-art facility by UK architectural firm Lavendar, to the Avec Sports deal, to hosting English Premiership giants Manchester City for an international friendly match with the T&T team, but all fell flat upon their removal.

Ramdhan said the sport faces a difficult situation with the abandonment of corporate citizens in T&T, the reluctance of the government to get involved and the inability of the current administration to do anything.