By Paul Nicholson
August 27 – The soap opera that has become Trinidad and Tobago football took another turn for the worse for the rank and file of the game on the islands yesterday as FIFA issued a deadline, via letter, and a clear warning of suspension. At the same time former TTFA former president William Wallace issued his own warning to FIFA that he and his allies will not back down.
The letter from FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura to the head of the Normalisation Committee Robert Hadad demands that the dispute with removed president William Wallace and his allies is not taken out of the Trinidad courts and returned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for resolution.
It puts the emphasis very much on Trinidad and Tobago football to find a solution if they want to remain as part of the international football community and remain in its competitions.
But finding that solution locally looks to be further away than ever after Wallace released his own letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino threatening a continuation of court action against FIFA unless some form of mediation was undertaken, presumably to allow him, his board and their cohorts to return to office.
The deadline given by FIFA to Hadad and Trinidad football was September 16 with Samoura saying that the FIFA statutes clearly prohibit recourse to local courts and that CAS is the recognised court in the first instance.
“We further wish to underline that the failure to meet these obligations may, according to art. 14 par. 4 of the FIFA Statutes, lead to sanctions as provided for in the FIFA Statutes, including a possible suspension.”
In reality this means that on the current course Trinidad and Tobago look set to miss out on the 2021 Gold Cup which has been expanded to 16 teams with a further 12 taking part in a qualification competition in the US in the two weeks before the Gold Cup proper starts. Trinidad and Tobago would be part of the qualification tournament.
The Gold Cup draw is scheduled for late September. A suspended Trinidad and Tobago would be removed from the draw and replaced with another nation, ending any chance of Trinidad and Tobago competing. The World Cup qualification position situation is slightly different as the country was in the draw but if suspended at the time of their first fixture they would only then forfeit. The September 16 deadline means they might not even make it to the starting gates for the Gold Cup.
The stakes are highest for Trinidad and Tobago’s current players who want to play in international competition but Wallace in his letter is refusing to move his position and seems to have little regard for them, their clubs and their international opportunities as he desperately tries to find ways to return to power. Ultimately he and his supporters have nothing to lose since they have already been removed from office and football activity. At this point the only losers will be the players, coaches and football on the islands.
Wallace maintains in the letter that he was the legally elected president and that there were no grounds to remove him.
Perhaps the most remarkable statement in Wallace’s letter is where says: “FIFA cannot continue to ignore our calls to mediate an agreement between the TTFA and FIFA and maintain any moral authority. FIFA must recognize and work with the duly elected Executive of the TTFA. Likewise, TTFA must recognize, and does, the need for financial assistance and guidance from FIFA in resolving TTFA’s current financial malaise.”
Wallace refuses to recognise that under FIFA law he was removed but still seems to think that FIFA has an obligation to give him and his board money.
Wallace talks about mediation but it is hard to see what there is to mediate. Mediation requires two parties but as far as FIFA is concerned Wallace and crew aren’t a party. So, logically, in any discussion what does Wallace have to bring to the table to mediate with and where is there any common ground?
Within the clubs and stakeholders there is a growing groundswell of opinion that Wallace and his right hand man Keith Look Loy need to back down. A petition demanding they back down has reportedly been signed by a number of clubs.
It is a valiant attempt by the rank and file to get football back on track and will doubtless be recognised as a step forward by the governing bodies.
Whether it would be enough to stave off suspension remains to be seen. Ultimately it is that rank and file that backed Wallace in the first place, and watched as the federation was driven deeper into the ground.
In his letter Wallace says that: “In the case of Trinidad and Tobago the two reasons given by FIFA for their intervention clearly had nothing to do with the new executive.”
What he seems to have forgotten are the endless financial and fraud scandals that plagued his short three months in charge. These are the issues – and widely circulating in the public domain – that forced FIFA to move. They include election fraud (false claims and forged letters of support by the Wallace campaign that won the election), the bogus Nike deal and the kit supply 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.
Wallace has failed to adequately address these issues, but he and Look Loy still demand mediation. You have to admire their chutzpah. But then this is the Trinidad house of football that Jack (Warner) built and Look Loy was one of his right hand men.
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