By Paul Nicholson
October 12 – It will be another busy week for Trinidad and Tobago football with the nation’s future being played out in courtrooms rather than on the field of play as the local battle for control of the game in the country continues.
It is somewhat ironic that the action is taking place during the FIFA international fixture win as even if national team football was being played in the region, the TTFA would not be part of it – they are suspended.
Instead the TTFA is more concerned over whether being part of FIFA means following their rules. The former TTFA president William Wallace, and his former TTFA board, his United TTFA supporter Keith Look Loy (there appear to be few others apart from some notable members of the local press) are challenging their replacement by a FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee having financially driven an already struggling organisation even deeper into the ground.
They maintain it is a matter for the Trinidad courts to decide, FIFA only recognises the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for this kind of dispute. A recognition that is written into their statues, which the TTFA signed up to. The United TTFA argue they break local laws and, in their more hysterical statements, are an affront to their national sovereignty.
Trinidad and Tobago High Court judge Justice Gobin ruled out a FIFA appeal over jurisdiction, saying her court was the appropriate court to rule on the matter but on Friday reserved her decision in the case to Tuesday at 3pm. FIFA does not recognise the court and is not prepared to defend its position, but was present (virtually) to ask for a stay until their appeal over Justice Gobin’s original decision on keeping the case in her court and Trinidad and Tobago’s jurisdiction.
United TTFA under legal fire from supposed supporters
Meanwhile one of the TTFA’s clubs, Cunupia FC, has sued Wallace and his two remaining vice presidents Clynt Taylor and Joseph Sam Phillips over their decision to pursue the FIFA lawsuit.
Cunupia claims the club was entitled to more than $4.5 million in Government and private funding which it would have received if FIFA had not suspended the TTFA.
The club says there was a clear mandate from the majority of TTFA stakeholders from a meeting organised by Wallace withdraw the case but he and his board went against their wishes by refusing to do so.
“The Defendants’ actions were grossly negligent, highly reckless unethical and irresponsible and without due regard to the statutory underpinning which binds the actions of the Association,” says the legal submission. This case will be heard Friday.
Sacked coach goes legal
Cunupia’s action has been followed by former national women’s coach Stephan De Four announcing he had instructed his Attorneys to pursue legal action against the United TTFA for breach of contract.
De Four had a two-year contract that Wallace terminated within three weeks of taking over on November 24, 2019 – Wallace and Look Loy also fired men’s coach Dennis Lawrence immediately on seizing power. De Four said his lawyer sent a pre-action protocol letter to Wallace that has been ignored.
John Williams stands up
Meanwhile David John Williams, the TTFA president before William Wallace – and who the United TTFA blame for all the problems of their world, endlessly – has hit back at media concerning a TV documentary, that was circulated to members of FIFA by Wallace and his cohorts, alleging John Williams had colluded with FIFA to embezzle money into a Panama bank account.
John Williams has since proved significant elements of that documentary to be factually incorrect and FIFA’s Normalisation Committee chiefs have similarly confirmed there is no evidence of funds being misappropriated and that all money has been accounted for.
This didn’t stop Look Loy and Wallace circulating the documentary to FIFA members as
“I have caused pre-action protocol letters to be sent to various persons in relation to the vile and false allegations against me in various publications and via various media platforms, By means of such letters, I have triggered the legal process against all of these persons. I respect the legal process and now await my day in court,” said John Williams.
Initial pre-protocol letters were sent, among others, to Guardian Media and documentary producer and front man Mark Bassant. John Williams said other letters will follow.
Justice Gobin’s decision tomorrow will determine the long term fate of the TTFA. With FIFA refusing to recognise her court as the jurisdiction for the complaint and hence not defending itself the court would normally rule in favour of the opposition – a clear cut and easy route to take.
That she delayed her decision could signal some hope for the local football community who just want to get on with the activity of playing football, domestically and overseas.
If Justice Gobin rules in favour of Wallace and his crew, she will then consign the country to the dustbin of world football as the TTFA will be unable to return under FIFA’s rules until the judgment is removed from the statute books. That would take an act of parliament and most likely 18 months, assuming there was a willingness to do so.
Justice Gobin would also find herself back in her own court this week ruling on personal financial claims against Wallace et al by Cunupia FA. Claims that are likely to be followed by many more.
Wallace may win against FIFA and regain the control of the TTFA that he and Look Loy so desperately want, but the reality is they will have won nothing except more lawsuits, more bad feeling and created a pariah in world football that will impact not just on the country but its domestic players whose registrations are held by clubs in the country but who were hoping for the opportunity of wider careers in the game.
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