By Paul Nicholson
April 17 – Controversially not considered of high enough standard to house Trinidad’s footballers, the recently opened and rapidly closed Trinidad and Tobago FA’s Home of Football is now to be used as a facility in the islands’ battle against the coronavirus.
The decision by the government heaps even more embarrassment on the former president of the TTFA William Wallace and his board who two weeks ago were deemed incapable of running the federation and removed from office by a FIFA Normalisation.
Wallace closed the Home of Football just two days into his presidency saying it wasn’t fit for purpose. Trinidad and Tobago prime minister Dr Keith Rowley (pictured), announcing the decision to accept the offer to use the 72-room ‘hotel’ on television, said that the government had “evaluated (the Home of Football) to be excellent” and “as good as any accommodation you can get in Trinidad and Tobago”.
Rowley said private contractors had agreed to complete issues on the building regarding passing fire regulations and other repairs, jobs that were completed within two days and which means the Home of Football can start taking in patients in the next few days. It also means that the TTFA will be handed back a facility that will now be up to the required code and with final ‘snagging’ completed at no cost.
So what was the TTFA’s real deal around the Home of Football?
Bringing the status of the Home of Football back into public focus will also once again raise major questions over the real financial intentions of Wallace and his key supporter Keith Look Loy as regards their separate development plans for the Arima Velodrome, and who the parties and beneficial owners were in that $50 million TTFA supported project. That project was to be managed through its construction by a mystery ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’.
Wallace has refused to respond to questions regarding the ownership of that SPV. It is not known whether FIFA is investigating this deal any further for any potential ethics violations but it asks the question of why Wallace and his cohorts rushed to close the Home of Football so quickly (presumably in favour of the Arima Velodrome cash opportunity) when it would have taken only a couple of days to complete the snagging on the building.
What is known is that when a FIFA inspection party asked why the developers would include the TTFA in a construction development with the promise of wiping out the TTFA’s debt, the answer was “because they like us”.
Opened last November with a fanfare by FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Concacaf president Victor Montagliani, and built on land provided by the government, the Home of Football was meant to signify a new dawn for Trinidad football and what could be achieved by a federation that was juggling with issues of debt, development and a national team that did not have the playing talent of previous generations.
Wallace’s election came with a raft of new board members who campaigned under the TTFA United banner, and the immediate appointment of Look Loy, a disciple of football’s most-wanted villain Jack Warner, who is still facing extradition to the US on multiple counts of bribery, wire fraud and money laundering.
Within days Wallace and Look Loy had closed the House of Football citing it as not being fit for purpose. Three months into his term Wallace stood before local media with a list of building compliance issues based around the building not passing fire safety regulations and the peculiar assertion that 72 door frames weren’t correctly fitted.
At the time Wallace stood before the media he was leading a federation that had failed to deliver any form of national team programme, had fired its head coach, closed its training facility (its only real asset), had had its bank account frozen by the Trinidad courts and had no financial plan in place that either debtors or the courts believed, racked up millions more in unpaid debt, hired a new head coach on a $20,000 pcm salary, had failed to pay staff for months, had struck up a relationship with a suspected English fraudster to run the federation’s marketing (Peter Miller is being pursued for an outstanding debt of £250,000 by Port Vale FC in England), and signed off on a kit deal that incredibly sees the TTFA having to buy its own national team kit.
Wallace maintains that he has been unfairly treated.
He says that he is still the legally recognised president of the TTFA, and that the whole sad and sorry situation of the TTFA is nothing to do with him but all to do with the previous administration he had replaced three months earlier.
He has appealed against his removal by FIFA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), funding the first stage of the appeal via a Gofundme page that raised just $3,000 of a $25,000 target – $200 of that from his wingman (some say pilot) Look Loy.
Today is a big day for the Wallace camp as it is a deadline for filing witness statements in the CAS case. It will also need Wallace to provide proof of financial resources to proceed. Doubtless all the unpaid staff during his regime and the creditors he failed to engage with will be watching with interest.
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