By Paul Nicholson
March 18 – After just three months in office, the FIFA Bureau – the top table of FIFA decision makers – has removed beleaguered Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace (pictured) and his newly elected board with immediate effect.
In a statement FIFA cited “a very real risk of insolvency and illiquidity” as a core reason for the establishment of a Normalisation Committee to run the TTFA.
For the TTFA the warning signs had been present for some time as it failed to agree payment plans with debtors, closed its recently constructed House of Football and tried but failed to establish alternative finance, including one rumoured plan to raise money secured against the House of Football with an unnamed private investor.
The escalation of the financial paralysis increased on Monday when the TTFA failed to regain control of its bank accounts following their being frozen by a Trinidad court after a garnishee order brought against the association by a former employee.
Esisting staff had also gone unpaid and the new administration had sacked former head coach Dennis Lawrence and appointed a new coach, former England international Terry Fenwick, incurring yet more unsustainable staff and redundancy costs for a federation that didn’t have any access to funds.
In the meantime debtors were becoming increasingly concerned about being paid and were instructing lawyers and debt collectors.
Some relief had came for staff receiving a month’s salary, apparently paid via an unnamed personal donor – though the source of the money had not been made public or whether it was a donation to the TTFA or to be treated as another loan secured against TTFA’s future income or assets (presumably the House of Football).
A FIFA/Concacaf fact-finding visit last month to the Caribbean island included a forensic audit of the TTFA accounts and found debt of at least $5.5 million with demands for payment and threats of court action mounting daily – a problem Wallace acknowledged at a press briefing marking his first 100 days in office saying that “letters were coming every day”.
While Wallace remarked that the FIFA delegation was satisfied with the inspection and the budgets the TTFA had presented, the reality is that they weren’t.
A FIFA insider told Insideworldfootball that the concern was to protect development grants being eaten up in a never-ending stream of debt repayments. FIFA’s statement said that the situation was putting “at risk the organisation and development of football in the country” and that the final solution was to “urgently” apply “corrective measures”.
FIFA said those measures would include:
- to run the TTFA’S daily affairs;
- to establish a debt repayment plan that is implementable by the TTFA;
- to review and amend the TTFA Statutes (and other regulations where necessary) and to ensure their compliance with the FIFA Statutes and requirements before duly submitting them for approval to the TTFA Congress;
- to organise and to conduct elections of a new TTFA Executive Committee for a four-year mandate.
It is expected to be a long journey back for the TTFA with FIFA saying the committee could be in place for up to two years as it both negotiates debt repayment schedules, manages the federation operations, and prepares for a new locally elected administration. To date no names of members of the normalisation committee have been announced.
“The normalisation committee will act as an electoral committee, and none of its members will be eligible for any of the open positions in the TTFA elections under any circumstances. The specified period of time during which the normalisation committee will perform its functions will expire as soon as it has fulfilled all of its assigned tasks, but no later than 24 months after its members have been officially appointed by FIFA,” said a FIFA statement.
Wallace had maintained that they were “doing the best they could in the circumstances” and pointed to a new kit deal with AVEC and a TT$1.5 million sponsorship with a chemical company as proof they were making progress. Closer examination of the kit deal suggests that it would have ended up costing the TTFA money rather than making any.
On the development side the TTFA had begun implementation of a number of programmes but it was too little too late for Wallace and his vice presidents.
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