By Paul Nicholson
August 24 – William Wallace, removed from the presidency of the Trinidad and Tobago FA by a FIFA Normalisation Committee just three months after being elected to office, is not backing down in the dispute to have the legality of board’s removal contested in Trinidad rather than at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
Wallace (pictured) issued a press release yesterday maintaining FIFA is wrong in insisting that CAS is the right authority and that FIFA’s statements show the “contempt with which FIFA holds our Courts, our people and our Nation.”
The language used is high drama from the former TTFA president – though he still believes he is the President of the TTFA, signing the press release as such – that gets even more emotional when he claims: “Not since 1962 have the people of Trinidad and Tobago allowed themselves to be forcibly subjugated in the manner that FIFA now seeks to do.”
It is a remarkable claim and suggests a sense of perspective has been completely lost in this dispute by Wallace’s ‘United TTFA’ lobby group. Are we talking about a coup by an invading force or a sports governance issue?
Trinidad and Tobago (the country, not the FA) obtained its independence from the British Empire in 1962. It seems pretty unlikely that FIFA wants to take over where the British Empire left off and run the country, it likely doesn’t really want to run its football either.
Indeed, FIFA and its money had worked with the government in the building of the newly opened House of Football. Wallace shut down that facility within days of coming into office favouring to put resource into the untransparent dealing around a proposed $50 million new facility at Arima, the beneficial owners of which were never revealed.
Wallace’s press release will be seen as provocation by FIFA and Concacaf though will unlikely alter their courses of legal and investigative action that are on-going into Wallace and his United TTFA cronies Sam Phillips, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Clint Taylor, as well as their ringmaster Keith Look Loy who headed the TTFA technical committee but had a hand in the significant decisions made at the TTFA under Wallace’s short but disastrous reign.
Top of that investigation agenda will be the issues that are already in the public domain of election fraud (false claims and forged letters of support by the Wallace campaign that won the election), the bogus Nike deal and the deal that never was with AVEC, the unpaid debt to staff and suppliers (a bulk of it inherited but never dealt with), the agreement to pay an unsubstantiated TT$7 million claim by disgraced former Concacaf president Jack Warner, the freezing of the TTFA’s bank account by Trinidad courts, the charges secured by creditors over TTFA finances, falsified and changed employment contracts for enormous amounts, the unceremonious sacking of head coach Dennis Lawrence, the closure of the House of Football (now in use as a Covid recovery and quarantine facility), and of course the spurious Arima property development project that on paper looked like a big pay day but for whom it might never be known.
Those are just some of the issues that became public during Wallace’s tenure.
In his press release Wallace refers to Justice Gobin’s summing up that she hoped “FIFA would not take their ball and go home.” Wallace concludes his press release by saying that “by doing so however, FIFA would be accepting and confirming that the Normalisation Committee it claims to have appointed lacks not only moral legitimacy, but legal legitimacy too.”
While that statement is an obvious non-sequitur (and perhaps shows a worrying logic process from the former school teacher), in reality what do the Wallace and the United TTFA expect FIFA to do? The rules are clear and, according to those rules mediation is not an option – the reality is they were removed from office over multiple suspicions of corruption that have remained unanswered. Suspension from international football seems the only path this is taking if the Appeal Court rules in favour of Wallace (that looks in the balance when viewing the number of judgements Justice Gobin has had overturned on appeal).
Within the country there are growing signs that the rank and file of the country’s clubs and stakeholders have now had enough of Wallace and the threat that he and his cohorts pose to the game.
Rumours art weekend were that were mobilising to enforce a special egm and vote Wallace out (but under whose constitution and with what authority?). At the same time a number of young players have come out saying that the “selfish” actions of United TTFA is destroying their opportunity.
The theme was picked up by Brent Sancho, a former national team player, sports minister and club owner who said: “If TT is banned from football activity, you are ending the careers of (national players) Khaleem Hyland, Marvin Phillip and the other young men who have a great opportunity to qualify for the World Cup. You are going to end their career because of your selfish ways. Has Wallace spoken to any of the national players how they feel on this?”
As has been said a few times during this dispute, Trinidad may soon be playing Tobago in their own World Cup.
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