By Paul Nicholson
August 5 – The court filing in Trinidad by Jack Warner claiming that the Trinidad and Tobago FA owes him TT$15,761,003 ($2.3 million) has sparked the re-opening of an old claim by Selby Browne and his CSTN broadcast company over Caribbean TV rights – rights that Warner sold to the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) for $4.25 million.
CSTN bought the exclusive TV rights to the Caribbean for the FIFA World Cup 2002 and all ‘Additional FIFA Events 1999 – 2002’ from FIFA’s then TV Partner ISL/ISMM.
When ISL went spectacularly bust, then FIFA president Sepp Blatter said that all broadcast rights reverted to FIFA but that all existing contracts would be honoured through FIFA’s new rights partner, Germany’s Kirch Group.
For all broadcasters bar CSTN that is what happened.
Despite contract guarantees, CSTN’s rights were in fact eventually re-awarded to Warner’s J. D. International company, registered in the Cayman Islands in a ‘sweetheart’ deal – believed to be for $1 – with CSTN left with nothing.
The rights were then on-sold to the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) for $4.5 million – with the CFU then presumably syndicating the rights via their members to local broadcast stations, though there doesn’t appear to be any paperwork on the on-sale of the rights to the regional stations or their final value.
Browne claims that the $4.5 million plus interest is the minimum that CSTN is owed in compensation following stripping of the rights by Kirch. It is compensation he has never received despite the assurances of Blatter that FIFA would honour its commitments.
“On the collapse of ISL/ISMM, FIFA’s TV Partner, all FIFA WC Broadcast Partners after receiving the assurances of then FIFA Ppresident Blatter in writing, had their contracts renewed except the CSTN rights which were surreptitiously removed and given to then FIFA VP, Concacaf president and CFU president, Austin Jack Warner,” said Browne.
“Facts are the FIFA ExCo Meeting held in Busan, Korea in December 2001, demanded the FIFA Media Rights be immediately removed from Austin Jack Warner for conflict of interest, and a Special FIFA ExCo Meeting be held in Zurich in two weeks. All this thanks to FIFA Vice President Johansson (UEFA) and his ExCo colleagues,” he continued.
“To my surprise the report to that FIFA ExCo Meeting in Zurich was that the directive of the ExCo was met and the rights had been sold (dumped) by J. D. International of No.1 Dr Roy Drive, Grand Cayman to the Caribbean Football Union – CFU for $4.25 million and no longer in the name of Jack Austin Warner by contract dated December 10th 2001, which was agreed by FIFA’s new TV partner Kirch, which the ExCo must accept.”
Fast forward to 2019 and the Warner claim in the Trinidad courts for the repayment of his loans to the TTFA. The US Department of Justice in its 2015 indictments details money that was earmarked for the TTFA but whose transfer only made it as far as accounts that were controlled by Warner.
It looks suspiciously like Warner’s claim against the TTFA is for the loan of money that was in fact destined for them in the first place. Similarly some of the money Warner is now claiming from the TTFA may well have originated from the 2001 TV deal with the CFU that was enabled by FIFA’s refusal to honour its contract with CSTN. It is an interesting conundrum for the Trinidad courts. While there is little doubt that Warner loaned the money the question over whether he came to have that money legally needs proof.
Somewhat ironically Browne is now a new member of the board of the TTFA and battling for that organisation’s financial stability.
As regards the CSTN rights he is adamant that he is due compensation from FIFA. “A debt is a debt,” he said. “I have every confidence that the new FIFA under President Gianni Infantino will give due consideration to have CSTN duly compensated.”
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