Newtown caught in old-school politics as Johnson seeks to retain St Kitts presidency

By Paul Nicholson

June 22 – A storm is brewing in the Caribbean between the St.Kitts and Nevis Football Association (SKNFA) and its member clubs. Elections take place later this month with president Anthony Johnson standing for re-election.

The controversy surrounds one of the leading clubs, The Newtown Sports Club, which has had its executive committee removed by the SKNFA in what is widely believed amongst other clubs to be a politically motivated tactic in advance of the elections.

This has prompted both the club and others in the federation to complain both to the SKNFA, and subsequently to CONCACAF and FIFA. Their complaints have been largely ignored, presumably in support of Johnson, who are of the view that this is “a local matter”.

The dispute began when the captain of Newtown, Kareem Mitchum, protested against the recent club elections saying that he and some other players were not given the opportunity to vote in the election for executive committee positions in the club.

Those elections were for the sports club, but nevertheless the SKNFA stepped in immediately, putting its own committee in to run the club, claiming that it had the right to do so under its statutes.

That has been disputed by Newtown and other clubs who fear the same could happen to them, but argue that the SKNFA does not have the power to remove the sports club’s (ie not just the football team) executive committee.

This is the first time the SKNFA has stepped in to run a club and remove its elected representatives. The timing with the elections coming up does not appear to be a co-incidence.

Newtown, traditionally one of the top four clubs in the federation, is a supporter of Dr Alexander Garfield in his bid to win the presidency away from Johnson. That election looks to be evenly balanced.

The role of Mitchum in the removal of the Newtown executive committee also needs further scrutiny. Mitchum is the nephew of SKNFA general secretary Stanley Jacobs indicating an existing conflict of interest. The belief locally is that Jacobs engineered the Mitchum complaint to gain control of the Newtown vote and influence.

Newtown’s plight has been supported by a number of other clubs including Lodge Patriots whose president Leon Natta has written to all SKNFA clubs “on the merit of unprecedented decisions by the Executive of the SKNFA,” and “the possible implications on the Executive Committees of all Member Clubs if such unprecedented actions and decisions of the SKNFA are allowed to stand.”

Natta outlines what he says is the failure to allow Newtown due process in the matter, and various Articles of Association enacted by the SKNFA which he says are not applicable, not least the ‘special normalisation committee’ which he says is unconstitutionally formed.

Natta says: “If these unprecedented actions and decision is allowed to stand then there is no statutory limit to the powers of the Executive of the SKNFA. The questions and concerns for other member clubs are;

  • What is to prevent the SKNFA executive committee from doing same to the Executive Members of Lodge Patriots FC and to other members of the SKNFA?
  • How do member clubs remedy situations like this?”

With the SKNFA intransigent in its position on Newtown, the clubs have written to CONCACAF and FIFA. Both bodies have resolutely failed to step in – though FIFA has been keen to step in to similar situations of potential election rigging in other federations.

The SKNFA is one of the most active of the Caribbean federations with a thriving club league and a number of successful development and grassroots programmes. It’s national team also punches above its weight, ranked 116th in the FIFA table.

Under Johnson – who was reprimanded by FIFA in the 2011 Mohammed Bin Hammam ‘cash-for-votes’ scandal in Trinidad – the federation has clearly progressed. But the governance questions regarding the election look to be an uncomfortable blot in the federation’s copybook.

With FIFA and CONCACAF reluctant to get involved, it looks like the governance and integrity issues will now be de facto ruled on by the 25 voting club members of the SKNFA in their elections.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1548137323labto1548137323ofdlr1548137323owedi1548137323sni@n1548137323osloh1548137323cin.l1548137323uap1548137323