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Futsal team furious as DJW appeals court ruling—without board approval; TTFA sets new record in legal fees.

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams has taken his cash-strapped body back to the High Court, as the local football body submitted an appeal today against its TT$544,943 loss to the National Futsal Team players and technical staff on 13 December 2018.

John-Williams’ move provoked a furious response from the Futsal squad, who had given the football body a grace period to satisfy the court judgment—only to discover the administrator had used the time to plot an appeal instead.

“We got the judgment on the 13th of December and we wrote to the attorneys of the TTFA asking for payment,” National Futsal Team manager Ronald Brereton told Wired868. “They asked for 28 days within which to pay—which expired on the 11th of January 2019—and we granted it to them in good faith.

“They never indicated to us their indication to appeal and they filed an appeal today… It is deceit at the highest level!”

The TTFA’s legal manoeuvre means a further delay for justice in a two year battle between the two parties.

The successful Futsal players listed in the action were: captain Jerwyn Balthazar, Kevin Graham, Adrian Pirthysingh, Colin Joseph, Kerry Joseph, Jameel Neptune, Ishmael Daniel, Anthony Small, Kevaughn Connell, Keston Guy, Kareem Perry, Jamel Lewis, Noel Williams, Bevon Bass and Cyrano Glen—whose elder brother Cornell Glen was one of 13 Soca Warriors who successfully sued the TTFA in the landmark ‘2006 World Cup bonus dispute’.

The technical staff members were: Clayton Morris (head coach), Sterlin O’Brian (assistant coach), Perry Martin (goalkeeper coach), Brent Elder (trainer) and Brereton.

Last month, Justice Margaret Y Mohammed ruled that the football body owed unpaid salaries, match fees, per diems and expenses to the claimants totalling roughly TT$475,743 plus interest at three per cent per annum.

The TTFA was also ordered to pay the Futsal Team’s legal costs of TT$69,200.82. All costs were to be paid immediately.

The Futsal players and staff were represented by Keston McQuilkin and Melissa Keisha Roberts-John while Annand Misir and Janelle Ganness appeared for the local football body.

Mohammed stated that “the sole issue for determination in this judgment is whether there was a valid oral agreement between the [TTFA] and the [Futsal Team] through former football president Raymond Tim Kee” and whether Morris and company had “proven that the [TTFA] breached the terms of the said agreement.”

Mohammed, who declared John-Williams’ evidence to be “entirely discredited” under cross-examination, subsequently ruled:

“The Court is satisfied from the unshaken evidence of the Claimants, and the evidence elicited from Mr John-Williams, the present President of the [TTFA], that there was an oral agreement between the Claimants and Mr Tim Kee, which provided for the selection, training and compensation of the Technical Staff and the players who formed the Team.

“It was not disputed by the [TTFA] that the Claimants participated in the CFU Qualifiers and CONCACAF Championship and in so doing represented Trinidad and Tobago. This was supported by the evidence from Mr John-Williams, who also stated that the Defendant supported the Technical Staff and the Team financially and otherwise, thereby sanctioning the agreement made by Mr Tim Kee.

“The Court is therefore of the opinion that based on an analysis of all the evidence provided by the Claimants and the [TTFA], the agreement between the Claimants and Mr Tim Kee was breached by the [TTFA] leaving the Claimants in a disadvantageous and unfair position.”

Today, John-Williams, via his attorney, appealed on the supposed grounds that the High Court decision was “unreasonable and cannot be supported; and is against the weight of the evidence—and in particular the [Futsal Team’s] own evidence.”

And the football president insisted, despite the previous ruling, that Tim Kee should not have been allowed to enter into agreement with Morris and his team; and Justice Mohammed “erred” and “misdirected” herself in her handling of the matter.

Ironically, John-Williams is arguing that Tim Kee should not have been allowed to unilaterally tie the TTFA to a contract with Futsal—a deal, as Justice Mohammed pointed out, that John-Williams recognised when it suited him; right up until the time to pay.

Yet, the incumbent football president did not seek or receive board approval to take the football body back to court in the matter.

The current administration’s regular and costly appearances before the High Court already appears unrivalled in the TTFA’s 110-year history. Between 2008 and 2015—a period that included the TTFA’s memorable 2006 World Cup bonus dispute—the local football body spent TT$1,108,620 on legal fees, with the largest annual figure being the TT$236,510 spent in 2011. (A breakdown of fees was missing for 2010).

In John-Williams’ first two years at the helm, the incumbent spent almost twice as much as he splashed out TT$1,260,960 on legal fees in 2016 and a further $766,276 in 2017 for a total of TT$2,027,236.

During this time, the TTFA has been unable to pay coaches, players and other creditors.

Brereton said the Futsal Team filed an application for enforcement proceedings but are unsure as to whether this was done before the TTFA lodged their appeal.

“I think our application went in before their appeal but, come next Wednesday, we will appear before the master and will be directed by the court,” said Brereton. “This just goes to show that this man is not to be trusted in any kind of forum.

“You ask for 28 days to pay and never indicate to us that you’re going to appeal. What is that? That is not the behaviour of a gentlemen.”

TTFA’s Grounds for Appeal:

That the decision is unreasonable and cannot be supported and is against the weight of the evidence and in particular the [Futsal team’s] own evidence;

The Court erred in finding that Raymond Tim Kee had the capacity to enter into binding oral agreements on behalf of the [TTFA];

The Court erred in finding that there was an oral contract between the [Futsal Team] and the [TTFA];

The Court erred in finding that Clayton Morris had an agency agreement with the TTFA and failed to consider/adequately consider all the evidence before it, particularly as it is related to this issue;

The Court erred in finding that Clayton Morris had an agency agreement with the [TTFA] and/or failed to consider/adequately consider that the [Futsal Team] had never pleaded, or properly pleaded, this issue as part of any of their claims against the [TTFA]; and in fact the [Futsal Team] themselves rejected the notion or existence of agency in their closing submission;

The Court erred in misdirecting itself by failing to consider that the onus rests on the [Futsal Team] to plead and prove to the requisite standard the issue of agency;

The Court further erred and misdirected itself when it made a finding that the [TTFA] was required to disprove the alleged agency—particularly as this was never pleaded—and no evidence of said agency was ever led by the [Futsal Team] and the [TTFA] never had an opportunity to address or respond to this in their pleaded defence or their evidence;

The Court misdirected itself in the assessment of the evidence of Jerwyn Balthazar, Sterlin O’ Brian and Perry Martin and took into consideration irrelevant matters, which were never pleaded and which the [TTFA] were never called upon to answer.