By Paul Nicholson
October 14 – A Trinidad and Tobago court has ruled that FIFA’s replacement of the board of the Trinidad and Tobago FA by a Normalisation Committee in March was illegal and that FIFA’s statutes are inconsistent with local law that formed the TTFA in 1982.
In her summing up in favour of the ‘United TTFA’ group that was removed by FIFA, she went a step further claiming that “the decision of the Defendant dated 17/3/20 to appoint a Normalisation Committee was made in bad faith and for an improper and illegal motive.”
It is a huge claim by Justice Carol Gobin as at no point in her 23-page summing up does she examine the facts of the case that prompted FIFA to remove former president William Wallace (pictured) and his board, including technical committee chair Keith Look Loy.
Nor does Justice Gobin give any indication of what the “improper and illegal motive” was.
The decision by Justice Gobin to declare both the removal of Wallace and his board and the imposition of a Normalisation Committee as was inevitable. FIFA refused to defend themselves against the claim by Wallace and his board in the Trinidad and Tobago courts saying that the correct jurisdiction for the appeal against their decision was the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS). Wallace’s group had withdrawn from CAS claiming it was rigged and, instead turned to what would be a friendlier local court and local judge. FIFA could make the same claim about the TT court, but haven’t.
In a judgement that is long on ‘United TTFA’ court submissions and very short on FIFA viewpoint and which at no point examines the public domain evidence of alleged corruption within Wallace’s board, Justice Gobin made a ruling that will likely see her country excluded from world football for the foreseeable future – four years minimum according to some insiders.
Justice Gobin, demonstrating a rare understanding of the implications, succinctly outlined in her judgement what the real world consequences for Trinidad and Tobago football are, saying:
“I am not insensitive to the anguish that this saga has wreaked on our nation. Our government, all sports administrators, clubs, players, aspiring footballers, young people, fans, I daresay the entire population is rightly concerned about the future of the sport. The request for the EGM identified the following grave and devastating consequences that the members who requested the meeting feared the fraternity would suffer if TTFA did not withdraw the action. i.
i. – Youth National teams to Senior National teams cannot participate in any international football competition including friendlies (No FIFA MA will be allowed to have any games with TTFA on all levels
a) Players would not have the opportunity to compete in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and some players will be forced into retirement
b) Marketability of players will be affected, no international caps. Also, players interested in playing in the international leagues may not meet the requirements of a percentage of games played for the national team over the stipulated two-year period.
c) Youth National players will not be afforded the scouting opportunities at these qualifying matches which also affords them the ability to build CV by having Trinidad and Tobago National team appearances.
ii. No Club Championship Competition. Local clubs will not be allowed to compete in the CONCACAF Champions League. No Platform for local talent to be seen.
iii. There may be no opportunity for referee appointments, match commissioner appointments at any international tournament including any football related appointment.
iv.. No Coaching courses. No refereeing courses, no management courses, no match commissioner courses, no media courses. Additionally, we will not have access to development programs from FIFA, CONCACAF, CFU.
v. Youth teams will not be able to travel to complete in sanctioned club tournaments outside of Trinidad and Tobago i.e. Dallas Cup.
vi. Scholarship opportunities. Players who play at CONCACAF U7/U21 tournaments are positioned to have top college recruiters watching those tournaments as it is a high-level competition with many young talented players on one event. Our young males and females will be impacted.”
Having outlined the damage to local football and the hundreds of individuals in the country that would be affected by a long ban from international football, she still ruled in favour of Wallace’s group.
One wonders how much the law is actually serving the national interest in this respect – from a sporting context and an image context. It should be remembered that this is the country that has gone out of its way to prevent the extradition of former Concacaf president and FIFA vice president Jack Warner to the US on multiple charges of corruption, bribery and graft. The US justice department’s indictments show Warner stole money from World, Caribbean and Trinidad football on an industrial scale. Wallace, his board, and its United TTFA associates are closely associated with Warner and pretty much ran the TTFA in the three short months they were in power in his image.
What next for TTFA?
FIFA has given the TTFA a December deadline to bring their statutes into alignment with their own and to keep their participations in the World Cup qualifiers and Gold Cup in 2021. But for that to happen will now require an act of parliament and presumably Justice Gobin’s ruling to be expunged.
FIFA is highly unlikely to backdown from its position as it would open the door for multiple rogue federations (and there are plenty within the membership) to go to local friendly courts to keep their hands collecting from FIFA’s cash pile.
FIFA has said that it will only talk to its Normalisation Committee, led by Robert Hadad. In her judgement Justice Gobin destroyed Hadad as an agent of FIFA – actually the job he was given to sort the country’s football administration out so something of a flawed argument and a remarkable skewing of the process.
Wallace and Look Loy have no other meaningful point of contact with FIFA or Concacaf, but it would be a waste of time in any case. Ultimately they are further away from seeing any international acceptance or resolution to their debt problems than ever before.
It was finance issues and suspicions of impropriety that prompted FIFA’s intervention in the first instance – if anyone can remember that far back to the start of this story in March.
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