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Robert Hadad, chairman of the FIFA-appointed normalisation committee, speaks at a media conference at the Courts MegaStore, San Juan on Thursday, March 24th 2022

BY the first week of May, the FIFA-appointed normalisation committee of the T&T Football Association (TTFA) is expected to present to the High Court for approval of its proposal to liquidate the football body’s massive debt.

The committee’s attorney Richard Beckles revealed this on Friday at a brief virtual hearing before Justice Devindra Rampersad.

On November 8, 2021, the TTFA filed proceedings in the High Court.

In a statement, the body said it had “notified the Supervisor of Insolvency of its intent to make a proposal under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act of T&T which will enable a structured approach to the restructuring of the TTFA and the preparation of a fair, transparent and acceptable payment proposal to address the TTFA’s debt.”

Chartered financial analyst Maria Daniel was appointed as an independent trustee to negotiate the debt repayment proposal.

Beckles told the judge the parties were in discussions on the arrangements to fund the proposal and funding should be in place with the plan moving forward by April 11, at which time the TTFA expects to send it to the Supervisor of Insolvency.

He also said a creditors’ meeting is hoped for on April 29, and five days from then they intend to approach the court with the proposal for its approval.

On March 22, a press release went out inviting creditors to make claims, the attorney also said.

The TTFA has found itself crippled by debt, with a number of claims filed against it in court for payment of outstanding monies.

The November application stayed any legal action for up to six months and secures the association’s assets while the trustee works with the normalisation committee to find a debt-repayment proposal to present to the creditors.

According to reports, the TTFA had a debt of $98.5 million up to April 2021, although this was reportedly disputed by former presidents of the association, who put the figure at $58 million.

Already, the TTFA has signalled that the selling of its most prized asset – the Home of Football (HoF) in Couva – could almost halve its $98.5 million debt. The HoF has an estimated value of $42.5 million and is now considered an option for sale to assist the association in significantly reducing its hefty bill.

In its statement in November, the committee outlined Daniel’s itinerary to meet with, review and verify the claims of the TTFA’s creditors to then implement a payment proposal with the HoF remaining a valuable asset on the bargaining table towards the TTFA’s financial recovery.

The statement said an independent third-party valuation will be done to determine the total value of the TTFA’s assets as it seeks to reduce its massive debt.

“At this stage, all options are on the table; the sale of the Home of Football is definitely an option,” it read.

Newsday reported in November, as it quoted an article from Inside World Football on October 8, that the deed for the land on which the HoF is built (and which FIFA provided grant aid to build) had not been secured from the government in the name of the TTFA.

Subsequently, Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe cleared the air on the land’s ownership, saying,

“The land is state land which is being leased to the TTFA. The lease has not been perfected as yet. The government, as committed, will perfect the lease for the land on which the Home of Football has been built in favour of the TTFA.

“Once perfected, the TTFA will be able to treat with the asset as they consider appropriate,” Cudjoe told Newsday back then.

In 2018, then-TTFA president David John-Williams said the association was given a US$2.5 million ($16.85 million) grant to build football’s new home.

The government, however, supplied the TTFA with the 17.5-acre parcel of land on which it stands, Newsday reported.

Several senior football administrators have expressed grave concern about potentially selling the TTFA’s most prized asset to help offset its debt.

In its previous statement, TTFA said the day-to-day management would not be affected by the process, emphasising that was “not being dissolved” and the organisation will continue to operate normally under the supervision of the normalisation committee while the trustee meets with creditors to validate their claims and develop a payment proposal.

Part of the mandate of the committee and its chairman Robert Hadad – who was at Friday’s virtual hearing – when appointed in March 2020 was to “establish a debt repayment plan that is implementable by the TTFA.”

It was responsible for running the TTFA’s daily affairs and was also tasked with reviewing and amending TTFA’s statutes (and other regulations where necessary) and ensuring their compliance with the FIFA statutes and requirements before submitting them for approval to the TTFA congress.

In the statement, Hadad said: “The TTFA is currently hamstrung with debt, and we can’t allow past mismanagement and poor governance to cripple the future of football or indeed its daily operations. This option, under the supervision of the Supervisor of Insolvency, the trustee and the courts, ensures transparency, equity and independence in the process while, at the same time, ensuring that our current subventions are used for the day-to-day running of the TTFA and its present and future needs. The intent is to rehabilitate as opposed to dissolve the TTFA with a view to preserving continuity and the development of football in T&T for future generations.”

Initially, the committee’s 24-month reign at the helm of local football was expected to end in March 2022. But in December 2021, the general secretary of the government body confirmed FIFA had given the Hadad administration a one-year extension to complete its mandate. The committee now remains at the helm of the local football body until March 31, 2023.

SOURCE: T&T Newsday