The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) declared an immediate interest in the “Soca Warriors” 2014 World Cup campaign. However, their rift with the class of 2006 shows no sign of closing as both parties brace for fresh legal jousting over unpaid World Cup bonuses in the Trinidad and Tobago High Court.
Sixteen 2006 World Cup players took the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA)—the TTFA is still mandated by the government to run local football although the body has referred to itself as the TTFF since September 13, 1998—before the London-based Sport Dispute Resolution Panel (SDRP) last year. On May 19, 2008, that body ruled that they are owed half of all revenue obtained from the country’s successful Germany World Cup bid.
(The TTFF revealed last November that defender Marvin Andrews had settled with them but, in the absence of formal information from either party, Michael Townley, a London-based solicitor hired by 17 World Cup players, continues to number him among his clients.)
However, even as the two parties prepare to cross swords again on home soil, the local football body’s attempt to have the name “TTFA” erased by an act of Parliament has prompted shock and dismay from the players’ representatives, who are urging authorities to thwart their manoeuvre.
Through a notice in the local newspapers on August 28, 2009, Jacqui Sampson, Clerk of the House of Representatives, notified the public that the main purpose of the Bill, which would formerly incorporate the TTFF, is “to enable (the TTFF) to hold property and to otherwise carry out its aims and objectives”.
But the players are unconvinced, particularly considering the timing of the move.
“I find it farcical, if not comical,” 2006 World Cup standout and former Newcastle and West Ham custodian Shaka Hislop told the TnT Times. “It is a ploy by the TTFF or TTFA to do exactly what they did some 20 years ago, which is to get out of paying debts they owe to creditors and players included.
“I have a copy of the contract between the ‘Strike Squad’ and the TTFA that they got out of by just changing their names. Now they have a more substantial payoff in the offing with the 2006 World Cup squad and they are trying to repeat history.”
Hislop pleaded with the powers-that-be not to be “hoodwinked.”
“To get away with this, they need presidential and Government support for what amounts to a fraud on their creditors,” said the ESPN commentator. “Nothing changed when they changed their names the last time. Everyone remained in their same jobs. It was a fraud and we shouldn’t sit idly by and allow it to happen again.”
Mike Townley is also suspicious of the TTFF’s motives and is urging Parliament to defy the football body until after the court case is settled.
“There is no apparent good reason to incorporate a new company to run the business of Trinidad and Tobago’s football,” said Townley. “The reason given in the paper is to allow the Federation to hold property but they can hold the property under the 1982 act. And, if it is about a trading name, then they have been using the name ‘TTFF’ for over ten years without any problem either.
“I can only think it is to do with the litigation and their wider responsibility to the players.”
The Clerk of the House’s public notice stated that “all legal proceedings pending, or claims subsisting against the TTFF immediately before the commencement of the Act shall be continued on and after the commencement of the Act by the TTFF”. But Townley does not feel that provision offers enough protection for his client and would rather not take any chances.
“One of the consequences of the name change,” said Townley, “is that it would make it formally impossible to require an account to be produced for the 2006 World Cup period because there won’t be a body left to produce that account.
“The new body can say we were not around in 2006 so we can’t be expected to produce an account for that period. They say (the proposed name change) is for convenience but clearly there is a reason that isn’t being stated.”
On September 18 and 23, 2009, Townley sent to the Clerk of the House two petitions in opposition to the bill.
George Hislop, father of Shaka Hislop and an attorney, also petitioned the House of Representatives to “desist from being made a party to changing and/or altering the status of any of the litigants to the proceedings prior to the determination of the matter without leave of the Honourable Presiding Judge and notice to all parties therein.”
Hislop senior further requested that any new bill regarding the local football body should give the Football Players Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT) “full recognition as a partner with TTFF for the fair and proper conduct and management of the affairs of TTFF with particular reference to (i) players’ contracts and remuneration; (ii) revenue sharing at international games.”
At present, FPATT is in a state of flux as they are yet to appoint a president since the term of interim leader, Shaka Hislop, expired in mid-2008. The players’ union is yet to meet the criteria for government funding and, as such, was unable to bank the $1.5 million cheque offered by Sport Minister Gary Hunt in January.
“We are dormant,” said Hislop (S). “I have made contact with the founding members and we are trying to kickstart the association again… You might say (FPATT) went 90 yards and then stumbled at the last hurdle.
“But we don’t have far to go where (being able to accept government funding) is concerned.”
The players have always maintained that FPATT business was separate from and unrelated to their World Cup bonus suit. For the moment, it is the bonus issue—and, particularly, the possible repeal of the 1982 Act by which the TTFA was incorporated—that is on the front burner.
“The TTFF has been collecting and distributing money quite comfortably for all those years,” said Hislop, “and I don’t have any confidence in them being above board with their reason for a sudden change.
“I am afraid they are trying to divert property so that (if our legal victory stands) we will get an empty judgement.”
Liburd: W/ Cup bonus-gate blow-by-blow.
By Lasana Liburd (www.tnttimes.com).
Applicants: Shaka Hislop, Kelvin Jack, Atiba Charles, Cyd Gray, Ian Cox, Avery John, Brent Sancho, Chris Birchall, Aurtis Whitley, Collin Samuel, Evans Wise, Anthony Wolfe, Cornell Glen, Kenwyne Jones and Stern John.
Respondents: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association and Oliver Camps
November 9, 2005
Shaka Hislop, Brent Sancho and Kelvin Jack represent the “Soca Warriors” in a meeting with FIFA Vice-president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) Special Adviser Jack Warner and TTFF General Secretary Richard Groden to discuss financial rewards should the team qualify for the Germany 2006 World Cup.
On the advice of Dwight Yorke’s British agency SFX, the players request a 30 percent share of all commercial revenue for World Cup qualification and a share in the FIFA payments. Warner and Groden agree to the proposal.
November 16, 2005
Trinidad and Tobago qualify for the 2006 World Cup after a 1-0 triumph over Bahrain in Manama.
January 8, 2006
Hislop, Jack, Sancho and Stern John meet with Warner, Groden, National Team Manager Bruce Aanansen and the TTFF’s “UK liaison” Mike Berry at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, London in an effort to quell unrest within the squad. At this stage, the players are yet to receive any financial reward for their World Cup qualification.
It is agreed that Hislop and Aanansen will meet the following day to continue discussions for both parties.
January 9, 2006
Hislop and Aanansen meet at the Hilton Hotel in Dartford Bridge and agree on a formula to share the FIFA payout—subject to verification of provided figures—for their World Cup qualification and match fees for warm-up matches and World Cup games.
Warner claims FIFA payout of $38 million (6 million Swiss francs) is subject to 21 percent “withholding tax” ($8 million) by German authorities and a further five percent insurance deduction ($2 million).
Hislop is subsequently sent “proof of payment” from the TTFF which he claimed was “a flow diagram showing the claimed FIFA payment and the supposed deductions”. Hislop accepts this as proof so players are paid their qualification money.
January 29, 2006
After a written request by Trinidad and Tobago journalist Lasana Liburd, FIFA reiterate that the TTFF will get $43 million (7 million Swiss francs) and not $38 million (6 million Swiss francs) for World Cup qualification. FIFA and the German Organising Committee both deny that the money is subject to tax.
February 16, 2006
FIFA find Warner guilty of violating its Code of Ethics for diverting Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup tickets through his family-owned travel company, Simpaul Travel Service. He is the first recorded violator of FIFA’s ethics.
February 17, 2006
Warner, who could have been expelled, is spared further punishment by FIFA after he takes his name and those of his family members off the list of Simpaul Travel’s directors.
March 30, 2006
Players and TTFF meet in Manchester and sign World Cup participation contracts.
Hislop requests promised spreadsheet outlining all commercial contracts and is assured by Aanansen and Berry that it would be provided soon.
April 4, 2006
Camps registers the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation as a private limited company at the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
June 6, 2006
Hislop emails Warner, on behalf of the football team, and again requests spreadsheet with commercial contracts.
June 7, 2006
Warner responds by email and tells Hislop that “what you are asking of me is not ready and will not be until I return to Trinidad at the end of this event”.
June 10, 2006
Trinidad and Tobago kick off their 2006 World Cup campaign with a goalless draw against Sweden at Dortmund.
June 12, 2006
Warner agrees to meet players at their hotel but is late and only Jack is in the lobby when he arrives. Warner tells the goalkeeper that the spreadsheet will be available soon and he is so proud of the team that he has increased their share of commercial revenues from 30 to 50 percent.
Warner meets Hislop on his way out of the hotel and repeats his decision to increase the players’ share to 50 percent.
Warriors are promised $1 million each from the Trinidad and Tobago Government—$750,000 in units from the Unit Trust Corporation and $250,000 in cash.
August 31, 2006
The “Soca Warriors” players and Coach Leo Beenhakker receive Chaconia Gold medals—the second highest national award.
October 5, 2006
On the eve of a friendly against St Vincent—the first home international since the World Cup—the TTFF declares a 2006 World Cup income of $18.2 million and, after deductions, reduces the players’ share from $9 million to $141,102, which translates into $5,644 per player.
Team captain Dwight Yorke announces in a media conference that the World Cup players reject the TTFF’s calculations and would retire since contracts with the Federation are “not worth the paper they are printed on”. Yorke is flanked by Dennis Lawrence, David Atiba Charles, Avery John, Chris Birchall, Carlos Edwards, Colin Samuel, Stern John, Kenwyne Jones, Jason Scotland, Cornell Glen and Sancho.
In a TTFF release, Groden calls the players’ position “delinquent” and “confrontational”. The Warriors take the field and defeat St Vincent 5-0 and, two days later, beat Panama 2-1.
October 23, 2006
Michael Townley, a London-based solicitor hired by 17 World Cup players, formally requests that FIFA arbitrate the bonus dispute between the players and the Federation. FIFA declines. Yorke, who announced his international retirement, and Russell Latapy decide against pursuing legal action against the TTFF as do four of Berry’s clients, Edwards, Scotland, Lawrence and Ince.
(The TTFF later “revise” their calculations and come up with a net profit of $950,403.49—which, they claim, waived investment in the South Africa 2010 campaign—and offer half of this figure or $475,201.75, equal to $19,008.07 per player. This is also refused by the Warriors.)
November 15, 2006
The Warriors lose 4-1 away to Austria and the TTFF immediately suspends players who have retained Townley. The TTFF claims that it is “actively contemplating a swifter than originally envisaged consideration of incorporating the rising brood of players from our Professional League, Under-20 and even Under-17 squads to form the nucleus of our team for 2010”.
Densill Theobald, who had initially stood with the dissidents, decides against taking legal action, which leaves Townley with 16 of a possible 23 players as his clients.
April 27, 2007
TTFF overlooks 16 Warriors from CONCACAF Gold Cup squad on the grounds that their proposed legal action might lead to Trinidad and Tobago being expelled by FIFA. Townley insists that nothing is preventing selection of the players.
May 31, 2007
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who initially refused to have FIFA arbitrate the Warriors’ case against the TTFF, announces an amendment to the FIFA statutes that obliges associations “to insert a clause in their statutes or regulations stipulating that disputes affecting the football family may not be taken to ordinary courts of law”.
June 14, 2007
Weakened Warriors are one of just four teams eliminated in Gold Cup’s first round. Via a media release, Warner congratulates the TTTFF on “the principled stand you guys have taken in resisting being blackmailed into doing what could never have been right for your country and/or your Federation by bending to the will of a mercenary few”.
August 28, 2007
Trinidad and Tobago striker Kenwyne Jones, who is poised to join Premiership club Sunderland from Southampton, claims that TTFF president, Camps, has refused to write a letter to UK Home Office explaining that the TTFF ‘blacklist’ had denied the player the chance of acquiring the necessary international caps to meet their requirements. Camps says he does not know what Jones is talking about.
August 29, 2007
Trinidad and Tobago striker Kenwyne Jones joins Sunderland in $75.7 million move after intervention and letter from FPATT president and former Premiership goalkeeper, Hislop.
September 3, 2007
Two days after he became a Sunderland player, the TTFF offers letter on Jones’ behalf.
Camps: “When the club representative contacted me I told him that once it had to do with any of the players who are involved in a legal battle with the TTFF that I would need to get advice from our legal advisers.
“We agreed to do the letter… but when I contacted the club, the representative didn’t refuse the letter but said it was no longer needed. At no time would we try to prevent a player from making a move as it pertains to his club career.”
September 14, 2007
In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, the Trinidad and Tobago Government reveals that the TTFF had received $173,690,113.50—and not $18.2 million as claimed by the football body—from the public and private sector.
The figure excludes gate receipts from World Cup qualifying and friendly matches and broadcast rights, including television revenue from games against Iceland, Peru, Wales, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.
TTFF lawyer Om Lalla says they are “strangers to that document”.
September 15, 2007
The TTFF requests that the financial dispute with the players go to arbitration rather than to the Trinidad and Tobago High Court.
September 21, 2007
The TTFF lifts blacklist against aggrieved World Cup players. The players cease local court action and agree instead to arbitration before the London-based Sport Dispute Resolution Panel (SDRP).
Players receive money promised by the TTFF for charity in the form of CONCACAF cheques drawn on a Florida account. Camps and Warner, the CONCACAF president, claim to be unable to explain why CONCACAF was meeting the TTFF’s financial obligation and whether World Cup money had ended up in CONCACAF’s coffers.
April 28, 2008
SDRP chairman, Ian Mill, QC, begins hearings into bonus dispute. The players have filed against the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA)—the body mandated to run the local game by the government—and its president Oliver Camps.
May 19, 2008
SDRP chairman, Ian Mill QC, rules that the players are entitled to 50 percent of all World Cup revenue as well as half the money that Warner claimed was withheld by FIFA and the German Organising Committee for tax. Mills orders the TTFA to expeditiously permit sufficient inspection of its records by the players and declare any agreement that might arguably be considered commercial revenue.
The judgment was made on May 12 but not released until May 19 because of the TTFF’s non-payment of arbitration fees. These were eventually paid by the players’ representatives.
Warner did not make himself available for cross-examination and the TTFA offered no reason for his absence.
May 20, 2008
Trinidad Guardian publishes exclusive report by journalist Francis Joseph that gives details of arbitration decision.
May 21, 2008
Townley requests interim payment of $44 million from TTFF based on World Cup income revealed by the government.
However, the TTFF subsequently files a block on judgement in Trinidad and Tobago courts on the grounds that the Guardian report violated the SDRP’s confidentiality clause and, in their opinion, rendered the judgement null and void.
Townley and the players deny that they were the party who leaked the arbitration decision to the Guardian and further argue it should not invalidate judgement in any case.
November 17, 2008
Warner offers new settlement of $186,000 per player to World Cup players, more than 30 times the first offer but, according to the government’s figures, less than one tenth of their worth.
Townley describes the offer as “not sufficiently generous” but Yorke, Latapy, Edwards, Scotland, Lawrence, Ince and Theobald accept. The TTFF claims that unemployed Scotland-based defender Marvin Andrews also breaks ranks to accept although Townley insists he has no proof of this.
November 19, 2008
The TTFF applies for bonus dispute to be brought before local courts on January 7, 2009.
January 7, 2009
Both parties agree to a six-month adjournment of case and inform the Trinidad and Tobago High Court of their agreement.
Another adjournment is agreed by both lawyers.
August 28, 2009
The Clerk of the House of Representatives informs the public that the TTFF wishes to repeal the 1982 Act, which incorporated the TTFA by an act of Parliament.
September 18 & 23, 2009
Townley urges Clerk of the House, via letter, not to allow TTFF name change and requests opportunity for players to address Parliament.
Justice Devant Rampersad will rule on TTFA’s request to have bonus dispute re-opened in local court.