Central FC, Guaya Utd and Police FC among 14 clubs set for TTFA suspensions.

“The rope is at an end!”

Three-time Pro League champions, Central FC, and current Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) League One and League Two winners, Guaya United and Petit Valley/Diego Martin United (PVDMU) are among 14 clubs due to be provisionally suspended from football, after allegedly failing to meet Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) compliance regulations.

The 14 clubs from Trinidad and Tobago’s top three divisions will have their fates sealed on 21 April 2018 at the TTFA extraordinary general meeting. At that stage, their provisional suspension is likely to be made permanent with the respective teams then having until the next AGM—which is due in November 2019 at the latest—to meet the necessary requirements.

Until then, none of the clubs can compete in any FIFA-recognised competition. It would be a massive blow to Central and, by extension, the Pro League as the “Couva Sharks” are still active in the Caribbean qualifying leg of the Concacaf Champions League.

The next leg of Concacaf qualifying action is scheduled for May or early June in Jamaica.

The full list of suspended clubs, according to information issued by the TTFA, comprises: Central FC, Point Fortin Civic, Police FC (Pro League), Police FC (TTSL), Guaya United, 1976 Phoenix FC, UTT, WASA FC, Siparia Spurs, Petit Valley/Diego Martin United, Central 500 Spartans, Perseverance Ball Runners, Harlem Strikers and Youth Stars.

It means that once the TTFA’s EGM accepts the suspension on 21 April—and president David John-Williams’ loyalists and opposers agreed in advance that sufficient leeway had been provided—the beleaguered Pro League competition would be left with just seven clubs for the 2018 season.

The TTSL, which was initially designed for 24 clubs split between two divisions, was hit even harder with just eight teams deemed compliant from its 19 participants last season. FC Santa Rosa, Cunupia FC, QPCC, Defence Force FC, Club Sando Moruga, Bethel United, Prisons FC and Marabella FCC were the only TTSL clubs to fulfil the necessary requirements.

However, newly promoted clubs, Beatnix, San Fernando Giants and Perseverance United FC were all declared compliant as well as returning Super League club, Matura Reunited.

Those 12 clubs—once they pay their TT$45,000 registration fees by month’s end—will compete in one division this  season along with the Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team, which received special dispensation to take part.

TTSL president Keith Look Loy said the second tier competition will have to make do with that.

“As I always say, I cut my suit to fit my cloth,” Look Loy told Wired868. “If these are the compliant clubs, then we abide by the regulations of FIFA and the constitution of the TTFA; and we will play with what we have.

“It is looking like we will have one league of between 12 and 14 clubs and that is a good solid league.”

The situation might not be done and dusted, though, as several teams—including Central and Guaya—insisted that they submitted proper documentation and are dumbfounded by their pending suspensions.

Point Fortin Civic are likely to be bemused too since, in a list issued by the TTFA on 25 March, they were declared to be compliant. So how was it that they were declared non-compliant six days later?

The compliance process was overseen by then TTFA Board member Sharon O’Brien and secretary Michelle Lynch.

According to the TTFA constitution, all members must have:

1. A copy of its legally valid constitution and regulations, which shall comply with the requirements of the Constitution;

2. A series of declarations stating its intention to respect FIFA, CONCACAF and TTFA regulations and directives;

3. A list of Officials, specifying those who are authorised signatories with the right to enter into legally binding agreements with third parties;

4. A copy of the minutes of its last General Meeting or constitutional meeting;

5. A copy of its audited financial statements for the previous financial year.

Several clubs offered none of the above, although, for most, the audited financial statements proved the most difficult line item.

Central FC operations director Kevin Harrison, who was surprised to hear that the Sharks were on the TTFA’s ‘naughty list’, insisted that his club did everything asked of them.

“We submitted documents and, if that wasn’t enough, they should have gotten back to us immediately,” said Harrison, “so I am sure this is going to cause a huge bacchanal. “The last [update on] compliance was on 25 March and it said the only thing we had outstanding was our audited statement, which we submitted to them on 29 March. If there was anything still outstanding, why would they not say something to us?

“How do you know before we do? That can’t be correct. […] I am not overly worried because, as far as I am concerned, we are compliant.”

Guaya, according to Look Loy, are in a similar position where they have submitted financial documents but were still declared non-compliant. And Police FC and Petit Valley/Diego Martin United feel they have extenuating circumstances that ought to be taken into account.

“We are trying to follow up on the Guaya situation because they have submitted a financial document and I have a copy,” said Look Loy. “The Police situation (for their Pro League and Super League clubs) is that there is an audit ongoing at the Police Sports Club—which has many other sport teams—and that is slowing down their audit. So they are not done yet.

“And Petit Valley are saying they didn’t keep records in 2016 [although they were Super League members at the time and] which they are required to do as members of the TTFA. They are saying they kept none and therefore have no records to audit and they shouldn’t be held responsible.”

Harlem Strikers also hope for leniency, since they only joined the Super League in 2017 and had no obligation to keep financial records prior to that. Look Loy confirmed that he will represent the cases of Police, Guaya and Harlem at the EGM.

It appears unlikely, at this stage, that any exceptions will be granted unless the clubs in question can prove their compliance before the 31 March deadline or for exceptional circumstances.

On Monday, attention will move to the various zones and other bodies under the TTFA, who also have to become compliant in order to operate under the local football umbrella and to retain voting rights. TTFA general secretary Justin Latapy-George is expected to formally advise all members, including clubs, as to whether they are deemed compliant by then.

Only four from the TTFA’s 14 bodies—the Northern, Central and Southern Football Associations as well as the TTAYSO—were compliant as of 25 March and it is left to be seen how many of the others were able to shape up in time for 31 March.

Look Loy said the TTSL executive did everything it could to help its clubs become compliant, including sourcing auditors and holding a seminar last month, which was conducted by auditor Wahida Mohammed.

“We tried to educate them on what documents they needed to submit,” said Look Loy, “and it is instructive to note that three of the brand new clubs followed our advice and they are now compliant whereas older clubs are not.

“[…] We made auditing services available to them and asked one auditor to conduct a seminar in financial management and control. Clubs that did not attend that seminar are today non-compliant and clubs that did, including new clubs like San Fernando Giants, are now compliant.

“[…] I kept the pressure on them every week, asking where they are, what they have submitted and what they need and trying to help and guide them. Some took us on, some didn’t. And now they find themselves in the situation in which they find themselves today.”

Look Loy, who is also a TTFA Board member, supported the principle of compliance, which was written into the local football body’s constitution since July 2015.

“This shouldn’t be interpreted in any quarter as some kind of aggression against football,” said Look Loy. “These requirements are intended to improve football by improving the internal structuring and operations of clubs. Without strong clubs, we cannot have strong leagues and strong football; and therefore I am fully in support of membership compliance.

“[…] Anyone who is interested in developing the domestic game and making it strong, so we have strong leagues and strong national teams, must be in support of this. Change brings pain and people have to meet the requirements of change and meet the requirements of the new status quo. This is just life and this is football.

“[…] Even if FIFA didn’t require this, the TTFA constitution required it and time has run out. The rope has come to an end.”