By Paul Nicholson
March 23 – The spat over whether US Spanish-speaking network Telemundo would be allowed to broadcast Trinidad and Tobago’s upcoming Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying matches against Panama and Mexico has been resolved at the last minute. A Trinidad judge ruled that broadcaster owns the TV rights and that the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has to allow Telemundo access to the stadium that had previously been denied.
Trinidad and Tobago play Panama tomorrow (March 24) and Mexico on March 28, both matches at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
The row arose when TTFA president David John-Williams refused to accept the validity of the TV rights contract with Telemundo that had been acquired from rights agency Traffic Sports in the US.
Traffic was at the centre of the corruption scandal that saw former CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb indicted in the US. John-Williams argued that bribes paid by Traffic USA president Aaron Davidson to Webb when he was head of the Caribbean Football Union’s Normalisation Committee should invalidate the deal.
In the Caribbean federation World Cup qualifying rights are pooled at the CFU, rather than sold individually by the federations. CONCACAF had a deal with Traffic Sports to sell its rights and Telemundo spent $30 million buying the Spanish language rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifying matches. Those rights were meant to include CFU matches, but they had to be secured via a subsequent deal that opened the door Webb to receive a bribe.
Webb received $3 million in mid-2012 to secure the CFU deal.
The Traffic/CFU deal provided $1.6 million for Caribbean nations that made it to the qualifying group and an addition $50,000 facility per home game. John-Williams reckons the real value of these matches is $500,000 each – Telemundo have already broadcast two qualifiers from Trinidad.
The problem for John-Williams is that the TTFA has a signed contract with the CFU, who in turn still have a contract with Traffic to represent their rights. In his affidavit John-Williams said: “TTFA does not acknowledge and/or recognise either the CFU agreement or the Traffic agreement as binding and enforceable upon it.”
The Trinidad judge ruled that contracts are valid and prevent John-Williams putting the rights back on the market or demanding an increased fee from Telemundo.
However, there may still be a door open to the TTFA who requested that Telemundo should place a sum in an interest-bearing account of the court which “represents the minimum value that ought to be payable to the TTFA for the broadcast rights of these games which the TTFA will seek to enforce as against Traffic and the CFU in the proper forum so that the root of the fraud which the claimant refers to as the ‘chain of contracts’ can be unravelled in the best interest of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Telemundo is currently considering this proposal and will meet with the TTFA today in this regard. If proposal is agreed that will open up a new legal challenges to the CFU deal and its relationship with Traffic.
John-Williams, who mounted a CONCACAF and FIFA-supported challenge for the CFU presidency but lost to Antigua’s Gordon Derrick last December, speaking to Wired868 about the judgement, said: “This does not faze me.”
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