There is much criticism of the decision to replace the elected leadership of TTFA with a FIFA normalisation committee so early in its tenure. Critics have questioned the timing and put forward all kinds of conspiracy theories as to why the United TTFA team were allowed less than four months at the helm.
Could it be, however, that after visiting TTFA in February, the FIFA representatives saw signs of gross financial mismanagement and poor decision making that had to be nipped in the bud?
With the election of an openly anti-FIFA executive in Trinidad and Tobago, who immediately closed and ridiculed the Home of Football - opened with immense pride by Infantino mere days before - it is obvious that the FIFA president would view the new TTFA regime with contempt.
So when FIFA looked at the debt reduction plans of United TTFA and their first few management decisions, alarm bells started to ring.
The uniform deal with unknown English supplier Avec was announced by United TTFA as a key element of its debt reduction plan. Announcing a deal that would generate TT$25 million over four years, this was the first big piece of business introduced by the new regime.
Unfortunately, William Wallace, who campaigned on a platform of openness, good governance and transparency - negotiated and signed the contract with Avec before obtaining approval or input from its own TTFA board of directors.
And once board members demanded sight of the contract, the then President Wallace refused to distribute copies but instead insisted that the contract could be viewed at the TTFA office, but not be copied and taken away. Thus, directors were forced to attempt to absorb a 16-page contract with figures quoted in both UK and US currencies after attending a board meeting.
On closer inspection, the contract did not appear to be the income reducing Godsend described by United TTFA.
Let's be clear on this: uniform suppliers are there to make money. While giants such as Adidas and Nike will supply free uniforms to big-name nations and clubs, they do so with carefully measured predictions of replica sales. They are forced to negotiate against the other big names to obtain the marketing kudos of equipping World champions and elite sports clubs and teams who have constant media coverage and top name players and coaches.
Sadly, for now, Trinidad and Tobago football do not belong in that category.
But Avec is building a brand and T&T would be a coup that could lead to other national associations coming on board. Still, the company would need to enter a contract that would provide them with financial stability. So the deal offered would always benefit the supplier first.
The Avec contract guarantees the supply of free equipment for TTFA's national men and women's teams at senior, U20, U17, U15 and U13 levels.
The value of this equipment equates to approximately TT$1,300,000 per year, for 4 years. Over TT$5 million worth of equipment. On the face of it, a good deal for TTFA.
But when we look at the contract with Avec agreed by United TTFA without its board approval, some very worrying commitments come to light.
United TTFA has agreed to purchase a minimum of 7,500 replica jerseys each year for 4 years. That figure may seem achievable to a nation playing regular home fixtures and achieving respectable results.
But to a businessman tasked to reducing debt, it's a big concern. The jerseys will each cost TTFA US$29.65 excluding vat (around TT$192.72). The contract demands payment before the goods are shipped, which means that TTFA is committed to spending around TT$1,445,400 excluding vat each year for four years - TT$5,781,600.
Once in possession of these jerseys, it is then the responsibility of TTFA to sell these items as quickly as possible to recoup their outlay.
To do this, United TTFA entered into a well-publicised deal with Sports & Games. Again, on the surface, a progressive move. S&G will have exclusive rights to retail the jerseys and will return 80% of net profits to TTFA. If all goes well, TTFA will see a tidy profit.
<Hoping for the best, planning for the worse>
But there are many questions to be answered before an investment such as this takes place. The first and obvious question is where will TTFA obtain the $TT1.5 million to purchase the jerseys? How much will the jerseys retail for? After all, TTFA jerseys will be competing with big brands such as Adidas and Nike who will be pushing replica jerseys from clubs such as Barcelona and Man Utd. When faced with a choice, where will T&T football fans spend their money? And worse, in 2022 we will encounter the huge World Cup marketing campaign pushing replica jerseys from Germany, Brazil, Argentina etc.
As a business, you need to hope for the best, but plan for the worse. Unfortunately for United TTFA they either did not understand this or chose to ignore it. Because the worst has happened. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, football is at a standstill like all other sports and economies across the world. With untold months of inaction from our national teams, this can hardly provide fertile retail conditions as desired by United TTFA. Hardly conducive to luxury purchases such as replica jerseys.
So United TTFA has gambled by committing to spending nearly TT$1.5 million per year - money that could have been used to reduce debts.
Another key aspect of the Avec deal is that United TTFA has committed to purchase further Avec equipment. At a cost per year of just over TT$1 million.
This equipment, again, will be exclusively sold by Sports & Games and will include items such as tracksuits, kit bags, caps, shorts, socks etc.
But realistically, what is the likelihood of S&G selling that quantity of minor brand equipment that earns them only 20% of net profit, when they will be stocking major brand items with far greater markup? And every year, another TT$1 million worth of stock will arrive!
Regarding purchases of replica jerseys and equipment, the contract actually commits the items to be purchased by the TTFA's “Approved Retail Partner” and TTFA's “sponsors”.
Yet these entities are not named in the contract and did not sign the contract. However, failure to purchase these annual quantities will result in TTFA having to pay the full value of the free national team uniforms.
So here's the real danger: If Sports & Games, for any reason, fail to purchase the TT$2.5 million worth of stock in, say, year 4 of this contract, TTFA will owe Avec over TT$5 million. A commitment that was never approved by the TTFA board.
As mentioned at the beginning of this letter, Avec is a business, and they, understandably, have constructed a deal in which they cannot lose. A glance at the “free” uniforms to be supplied shows that there are far more items being supplied than are necessary for an association with an alleged debt of TT$50 million.
<Quality of uniforms for limited usage>
Firstly, is it necessary to purchase full sets of new uniforms each year? Even if each national team played 12 games per year, which is unlikely, can these uniforms not withstand such low levels of usage? Obviously, there is wear and tear. But 60 home and 60 away jerseys per team, per year?
Does each team require 120 tracksuits per year? In our climate, tracksuits would only be essential for away trips outside of the Caribbean and Central America. Only 20-24 players would travel. So why 120 tracksuits per team, per year?
Do we need 120 polo shirts per squad? Surely, they would only be needed for the 20-24 players selected for each squad. That should total no more than 50 players per squad per year. And are baseball caps a necessity? Amid a financial crisis such as the current TTFA situation, pennies must be counted and debt must be reduced.
We would hope that Sports & Games perform admirably and we will see a new income stream.
But FIFA live in the real world, and when they saw this deal (and they would be aware of other associations uniform deals), they would see a sword of Damocles hanging over TTFA for four years.
Add to this the potential $6 million contract of Terry Fenwick, along with a myriad of other coaching and staff contracts and perhaps Infantino felt it was not such a fantastic debt management plan.
Perhaps, a better, smarter move would have been to simply purchase national team uniforms at a discount? Buy what you can afford and create retail demand. Let sports outlets place orders and use their funds to buy the replicas.
What is the need, for example, of purchasing 120 jerseys for the U13 boys and girls when we don't even know if we can afford for them to play an international fixture?
United TTFA may believe they have the football knowledge to win matches, but this deal, for one, exposes their total ignorance of the business of football and the need to consult with their board.