Former Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical director and Men’s National Senior Team player Kendall Walkes has accused the Robert Hadad-led normalisation committee of hiding money from its creditors.
Walkes, who won a TT$5.1m award in the Port-of-Spain High Court for breach of contract against the David John-Williams-led administration in 2015, has not gotten a cent from the local football body since he was allowed to empty the TTFA’s accounts on 16 March 2020.
Ironically, Walkes’ case was used as justification for Fifa’s decision to ‘normalise’ the TTFA to address its critical debt situation. The Bureau of the Fifa Council appointed Hadad, Judy Daniel and Nigel Romano on 27 March 2020 to supervise a ‘debt repayment plan’ for the two-island republic.
Nineteen months later, though, Walkes said he saw no evidence of a debt plan at all. In fact, he said things are now worse than under former president William Wallace—whom Fifa president Gianni Infantino dramatically removed—with Hadad refusing to have meaningful dialogue with him.
In the absence of information, there has been speculation within local football circles that perhaps the normalisation committee’s inability to pay office staff, coaches and players in a timely manner is attributable to its surreptitious payment of prior debts.
Walkes insisted that Hadad and his gang are certainly not addressing his outstanding money.
“They owe me every penny that was awarded to me [by the High Court] and more,” Walkes told Wired868. “When I garnisheed their account [at First Citizens Bank] when the new [Wallace-led] administration had come in, there was maybe US$55,000 there—that was it… Since then, they have moved their money because we examined their accounts again and the account was dry.
“They hid the money somewhere else. I was told that they are paying guys directly into their accounts. They would still have to declare to Fifa what bank they are using because their subventions have to come here but there is a tight lid on it.”
Fifa law dictates that the world governing body can only deposit money into an account taken out in its name within the borders of the member association. However, the normalisation committee members are direct employees of Fifa.
In short, wherever Hadad and committee members Judy Daniel, Nigel Romano and Trevor Nicholas Gomez are putting the TTFA’s money, it could not be without Fifa’s approval.
“The payroll continues, so which local bank is it coming through?” Walkes asked. “My lawyer has served them a court order to disclose what financial institutions they are working through, so their creditors can know. How is that going to go? I don’t know.
“Every time my lawyer has contacted them so far, we get a short answer: they don’t have any money. I don’t know if it is on Fifa to tell anyone what financial institution the association is working through, but I know the TTFA is being tight-lipped on it.”
Former Men’s National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart and ex-technical director Anton Corneal are the TTFA’s second and third largest creditors, to the tune of TT$5 million and TT$3.5 million respectively.
Both echoed Walkes’ position. They don’t know who, if anyone, has been getting money out of the normalisation committee—but it certainly is not they!
“There is nothing to tell really,” said Hart, when asked for an update regarding his outstanding money. “There has not even been a courtesy call [from the normalisation committee] in the last six-plus months. It’s clear the TTFA/Fifa normalisation or whatever clearly have no intention of paying debts.
“There is not even a plan moving forward.”
“I have not been paid,” said Corneal, “and no arrangement has been made yet for me.”
Trade Winds director Susan Phargoo, whose travel agency is owed just over TT$500,000, said local service providers are not faring any better. Even as Phargoo conceded that the TTFA had acknowledged its debt to her company, she said the normalisation committee is using other travel agents for their teams’ overseas assignments while ignoring its debt to her.
“We have full admittance from TTFA of the outstanding debt—yet they’re paying other travel agencies and not clearing our outstanding money,” said Phargoo. “We have no update at present or any confirmation from TTFA on when the debt will be settled. But we are diligently pursuing our legal options.”
Former Soca Warriors head coach Dennis Lawrence had another two years on his contract at US$17,000 per month, when he was sacked by the TTFA Board in December 2019. It is uncertain what the outstanding balance is but it is estimated at roughly TT$3m.
Lawrence’s agent, Mike Berry, said the former 2006 World Cup hero is now turning to the courts after growing frustrated with the Hadad-led normalisation committee. He too said he has not been paid a cent.
“There was minimal contact initially in the first two months but it has only been legal communication ever since,” said Berry. “I asked Hadad ‘why don’t you reach out to Dennis, why don’t you talk to him?’ But he did nothing. It is terrible.
“[…] It is ludicrous that we are now in the fifth year since the non-payment of his bonus for the win against the USA [on 10 October 2017]. Everybody got paid for that game except Dennis. It is scandalous really.”
Walkes has since returned to the United States, where he has lived since accepting a ‘soccer’ scholarship in the 1980s. A former coach at US collegiate level, he was technical director at the US Virgin Islands when the TTFA asked him to oversee the development of the game on the two-island republic in 2015.
“After giving to a foreign country for my whole adult life, I thought it was a chance to give back to my own country,” said Walkes, “and it turned out to be the worst thing ever. It was like walking into Caesar’s court, where I am being stabbed all over.
“Had I stayed in ‘VI’, I am sure I would still be there. Look at [Russell] Latapy who has been in Barbados for as long as he was in Trinidad or even longer. [Trinidad and Tobago] don’t treat their own properly at all.
“[…] Here, I walk into the room and they say ‘I have heard so many good things about you’. You get that respect. And you go home and you are among your own and they are the ones who stab you the deepest.
“[…] Up here, the pros get together all the time to try to come up with ideas that are best for their country. In Trinidad, they are just fighting each other all the time.”
Berry, an Englishman, also pointed out the nationality of the four committee members—Hadad, Daniel, Romano and Trevor Nicholas Gomez—who he felt were disrespecting his client, a Chaconia Medal recipient for outstanding service to Trinidad and Tobago with the 2006 World Cup team.
“There is no empathy, no communication really, and no respect at all!” Berry said. “And we are talking Trinis to Trinis, not British colonials to Trinis. There are four Trinidadians on that committee.
“What are they even doing after all this time? It is as if they spend one day a week, if that much, attending to normalisation committee business and really couldn’t be bothered otherwise.
“I would think they would be preparing the election process by now [as their term is due to end in March 2022]. There has not even been a mention of that.”
Article 22 of Fifa’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players stipulates that the world governing body will only get involved in disputes when there is an ‘international dimension’.
Fifa: ‘Without prejudice to the right of any player, coach, association, or club to seek redress before a civil court for employment-related disputes, Fifa is competent to hear: […] employment-related disputes between a club or an association and a coach of an international dimension…’
Berry saw that law work in practice. After Wallace dismissed the Men’s National Senior Team staff, Lawrence and assistant coach Stuart Charles-Février turned to Fifa for help.
Février is St Lucian but has lived in Trinidad and Tobago since 1999, when he was appointed as head coach of W Connection FC while he also spent most of his playing years in the two-island republic.
(Février was even invited—but declined—to represent the Strike Squad in the 1990 World Cup qualifying campaign, as St Lucia only received Fifa affiliation in 1988.)
Lawrence holds a British passport and has lived in the United Kingdom since 2001.
Yet, Fifa declared that Lawrence was a Trinidad and Tobago citizen and there was no ‘international dimension’ to his dispute with the TTFA, while Février was considered a foreigner.
And, as was the case with Norwegian Even Pellerud, Dutchman Wim Rijbergen and others, Fifa paid Février directly from the TTFA subvention while Lawrence is forced to follow Hart, Corneal and Walkes to court. Ironically, the latter trio also have dual citizenship.
Using that same law, Fifa would step in to assist Englishman Terry Fenwick if his contract was not being respected, even as Fifa’s own employees, Hadad, Daniel, Romano and Gomez, are allegedly hiding income from unpaid local coaches.
“It is a disgrace and I think it is so wrong and against the principles of Fifa for fair play,” said Berry, of Article 22. “[…] I think in the future that law has to change, so everyone gets the same treatment.”
Walkes told Wired868 that, despite his hurt, he cannot help but think about the state of Trinidad and Tobago football and said he is in regular communication with iconic Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) coach and former TTFA technical committee member Michael Grayson.
“For some reason, my mind always drifts to how can I help football back home,” he said. “When there are new trends in the game, I always wonder if they are paying attention to what is happening—and I pick up the phone and talk to Mikey about that all the time.”
Walkes was critical of his former national teammate Richard Chinapoo’s role in a TTFA ‘ad hoc selection panel’ created by the normalisation committee, which was responsible for the selection of Angus Eve and James Thomas as head coach of the men’s and women’s programmes respectively.
“Chinapoo has only coached youth level in the States, like under-15s down, apart from being player/coach at indoor level more than 20 years ago,” said Walkes. “I left the international game in 2018 and I don’t think I am in a position to make decisions on [what coaches are] out there. I would have to make extensive calls and so on to familiarise myself with the market.
“He has never even been in it. I texted ‘Chinas’ and asked ‘why the hell would you be on a selection committee?’”
Walkes sent Chinapoo another text when Thomas quit the Women’s National Senior Team head post to take up the post of Bristol City Women and Girls youth development manager.
“I said ‘great vetting on women’s coach’,” he said. “Now [Thomas] can put Trinidad and Tobago on his résumé so he can get a bigger job.”
Walkes was critical too of the ‘work’ being done by current technical director Dion La Foucade, who he said ‘totally missed the boat’ in terms of productively using theCovid-19 pandemic- provoked absence from the playing fields.
“Fifa has a library archive that gives you CDs on small-side game situations—from one v one all the way to six v six,” said Walkes. “You can access it as a coach in a member association. If there is a topic I wanted to drill on, I can go and look at it for a bit to get ideas.
“Dion has all that at his fingertips and he could be creating from that to share with players stuck at home, or with coaches to add to what they might be doing.
“A whole year has passed and all the youngsters are sitting at home and you have done nothing to massage their love for football. That is criminal as the technical director.”
Walkes did not trust himself to articulate his feelings on Hadad and his associates.
“I don’t know what ‘NC’ means anymore but I can think of a lot of things,” he said, with a laugh. “Fifa said Wallace and them were driving the FA into debt, so they moved them out and tasked these people with fixing it—but I have heard nothing from them.
“I hope when my lawyer serves them that they can at least say something. They are no different than John-Williams, who would not communicate at all.
“All the smoke that was around John-Williams and the Fifa guy from Africa (Veron Mosengo-Omba) about their alleged handling of money for the Home of Football. That was such a hot topic, yet it has just gone away as soon as the normalisation committee got in; and these guys get to sleep comfortably at night. It is nuts.”
Hadad did not respond to Wired868’s request for comment on the concerns raised by the TTFA creditors.
‘Unworkable!’ Ferguson, Lewis, Look Loy and Wallace discuss Hadad’s debt plan and suggest how to rescue TTFA.
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868).
On 5 October 2021, Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad shared his idea for addressing the debt of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association with the Trinidad Guardian.
“We’re looking at other methods of raising the funding and some sort of process to repay that debt, either borrowing or [an] advance that somebody would give us—or somebody gives us a donation,” said Hadad, who was appointed to the helm of the TTFA on 27 March 2020. “There are many ways to deal with this debt issue, but it’s not going to happen overnight, so we need the government involved, we need Fifa involved and we’re having active discussions with everyone.
“Maybe contributions from a third party or multiple third parties, maybe contributions from different places, different sources…”
Hadad, after 19 months on the job, is yet to hold a media conference to discuss his stewardship or ideas for the TTFA while TTFA members complained frequently about the inaccessibility of the committee.
So what do local football stakeholders make of the work done by the committee, which comprises Hadad, vice-chair Judy Daniel, Nigel Romano, and Trevor Nicholas Gomez?
Wired868 spoke to former TTFA president William Wallace, Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis, ex-TTFA Board member Keith Look Loy, and former local football presidential candidate Richard Ferguson on the normalisation committee’s job so far, and, in particular, Hadad’s comments about addressing the TTFA’s debt.
Wallace was removed by the Bureau of the Fifa Council, headed by Fifa president Gianni Infantino—on 17 March 2020, just four months after his election—due to the world governing body’s supposed concern at the TTFA’s ‘massive debt’ and ‘very real risk of insolvency and illiquidity’.
Almost two years later, the TTFA’s financial situation has not improved. Wallace suggested that Hadad’s inability to point to any real debt repayment plan is proof that Fifa misled Trinidad and Tobago about its intentions here.
“The people in and out of the TTFA who were making all the noise never took time to understand what ‘normalisation’ meant in the context of what we were faced with,” Wallace told Wired868. “The impression that Fifa would liquidate the debt seemed to be the understanding among many. That thinking led me to publicly state that, if that was so, I would immediately step aside.
“[…] All the voices that reverberated at the many levels [for me to accept normalisation] are now strangely silent. Fifa took the microscope away from itself and DJW (David John-Williams) and to hell with everybody now.”
Wallace’s former Board member, Look Loy, echoed Wallace’s view as he mocked the ‘neophytes’ of the normalisation committee.
“I have always maintained that the true rationale behind Fifa’s action was/is to prevent the United TTFA administration from untangling the financial mess left behind by the last (David John-Williams-led) administration,” said Look Loy, “and to cover its financial impropriety and mismanagement, which Fifa must have been aware of.
“The world body inflicted absolute neophytes—supposed leaders of business and management—on the Association. It is no surprise that they don’t have the first idea how to proceed with their responsibilities and are now begging the government, Fifa itself, and indeed anyone, for a handout.”
Lewis, who is also part of the local football ecosystem through his membership at the Harvard Sports Club, suggested that the TTFA’s leaders should spend less time looking at the cash flow statement and focus more on the cash flow projection.
The outgoing TTOC president insisted that the local football debt, which is estimated at around TT$50 mil, is not insurmountable. However, he said more ‘resourceful and entrepreneurial thinking’ is needed at the helm.
“Crunching the numbers and looking at the TTFA debt from a purely financial, accounting and book-keeping perspective is not or ought not to be the singular focus,” said Lewis. “What’s the vision for the future? The vision will drive the mindset [and] it can’t be based on the numbers and arithmetic alone. It has to include the passion and purpose for the positive difference [that] football can make to the youth and young people and citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
“[…] The financial experts and financial engineers may know everything about finance and money but the TTFA is more than number crunching. It’s about people and their passion for football.”
Ferguson, a businessman and accountant by trade, went further. The Terminix La Horquetta Rangers suggested why Hadad’s proposed debt repayment plan was not only unworkable but ‘ridiculous’.
“You can’t ask the government to fund the TTFA’s debt, because you’re telling the country they have to pay for all the mistakes the TTFA’s management made, which is not fair,” Ferguson told Wired868. “You are also setting a precedent that the government has to bail out companies that are doing stupidness. And you can’t be telling Fifa that any member that wastes its money paying coaches TT$250,000 a month can turn to them and ask them to pay it. That is a terrible precedent and that plan is unsustainable and goes against the grain of financial propriety.
“No, you have to take some financial responsibility. Going to the government with a plan like that is just ridiculous.”
Did Ferguson have a suggestion then?
In fact, he does. And he shared it with Hadad, he said, months ago. The normalisation committee, he claimed, did not even offer him the courtesy of a proper response.
“If your income is $100, you have to save $10 for whatever unforeseen problems may arise, then you spend $60 on things that generate income and $30 you spend on things you consume,” said Ferguson. “That is very basic management. But he is not doing that. He wants to spend $150. You have to spend on things that make money and he is not doing it.
“[…] They had a job to do. They had to prepare a debt repayment plan and to organise constitutional reform, which they haven’t done. We did it and sent it to them and they ignored it. So you would think they have something better. But [what] he is talking about is worse.”
Ferguson said it is extremely difficult to get usable financial information from the Hadad-led normalisation committee. However, he said their inability to pay staff, coaches and players in a timely manner was an indication that Hadad, Daniel, Romano and Gomez are not managing the affairs properly.
For the Rangers director, the path to becoming debt free—and he suggested that the TTFA’s real debt is roughly TT$45m—passes through stringent financial measures.
“He has to cut all his expenses and stop living like a billionaire,” said Ferguson. “Use local coaches and don’t pay them more than TT$10,000 per month. You have to bite the bullet and pay for sins of the past.
“The TTFA’s income from Fifa is about TT$20m. So say we take TT$10m and put it towards the debt and live on TT$10m. That way, you can pay off most of that debt in five years. It is a bitter pill to swallow but you have to be prudent.
“[…] He thinks Fifa are going to come and pay off TT$100m just so? He has to be mad. The plan must be sustainable and it must make financial sense.
“The TTFA can deal with this debt on its own if they manage it properly, but he doesn’t seem to want to be prudent… If he is getting $10, he wants to spend $35. I say spend $3.”
Wallace agreed that Hadad’s two main proposed sources of debt relief were, based on his information, non-starters.
“If there is still hope in Fifa paying the debt, then there is information that the normalisation committee has that we are not privy to,” said Wallace. “As far as the Government is concerned, Prime Minister [Dr Keith Rowley] indicated to me then that he was not willing to use taxpayers’ money to deal with the debt and I agreed with him. If that position has since changed, I am happy for the TTFA.”
Lewis, like Ferguson, believes the TTFA’s debt can be approached with more creativity than simply requesting a handout. Whereas Ferguson focused on cutting costs, Lewis pointed to a potential revenue-generating asset.
“Slaying the dragon of indebtedness is by no means a simple or easy task for the TTFA but it can be done with creativity and taking calculated risks,” said Lewis. “But there must be a willingness to listen to the football stakeholders who have the passion for the sport… In terms of [raising finances], I still feel the Home of Football is a critical success factor and a key asset for the TTFA.”
Ferguson said the TTFA’s current reality is not as bleak as suggested by the normalisation committee’s auditor’s report, which described the local football body as ‘a going concern’.
“In accounting, the rule is if a company is unable to meet its debts, you have to prepare the accounts as ‘a going concern’, which means the debt is greater than the assets—that it can’t continue,” said Ferguson. “But the standard also goes on to say if the owners can prove the company can continue, then you continue to prepare it as normal.
“The fact is the TTFA has been insolvent for many years, but it is not a going concern because Fifa (a billion-dollar organisation) is directly involved and came into it to make sure it is sustained. So it is not a going concern according to international accounting standards.”
Invariably, the focus shifted to Fifa’s reasons for being here, its oversight of the local football over the past 19 months and, in particular, the work done by Hadad, Daniel, Romano and Gomez.
“The normalisation committee was imposed by Fifa ostensibly to devise a debt reduction plan and to effect it and to revise TTFA’s Constitution,” said Look Loy, “[…] but the normalisation committee has accomplished absolutely nothing. It is an absolute failure at its ostensible mandate.
“At its real purpose, it has been an outstanding success.
“Imagine, this is what representatives of government, the overwhelming majority of TTFA members and the general public demanded United TTFA should abandon its fight to allow. Ultimately, people get the government they deserve.”
Wallace said he ran for TTFA president to ‘help to make a difference’ to the state of the local game. He felt he was moved aside for an unelected businessman who has fared, at the very least, no better.
“It pains me to see that we have not moved football and the TTFA forward after all the ‘noise’,” said Wallace. “It is also sad that a plan to deal with the debt by the duly elected executive was never even given a chance to fail.”
The Hadad-led committee had ‘a limit of 24 months imposed on it from the start by the Bureau of the Fifa Council. It means the normalisation committee should be replaced by 26 March 2022, just five months or 24 weeks from today.
Ferguson said Hadad has been such an abject failure at his mandate that he is forced to wonder if there is an ulterior motive.
“There is a concept that if you go in the kitchen and you make a mess, then you clean it up,” said Ferguson. “Don’t wake up your mother and father to clean it up.
“My point is the revenue is there to clean up the mess but they want to eat their cake and have it too. That plan he has to address the debt is erroneous and unworkable.
“But maybe that plan is so he won’t have to relinquish that [normalisation committee] position. Maybe he wants to stay for another five years…”