Following my column last week, several readers asked me if I supported the current T&T Football Association (TTFA) administration as I appeared to not support the previous one. I chuckled to myself as this episode with FIFA has nothing to do with whom I support or don’t support, I simply support what is fair.
It is interesting to note however that the current executive of the TTFA is receiving outstanding support from their member associations. Then, there are those members who no matter what, will find fault and criticise simply because they don’t want the particular executive to run the sport.
If you belong to any organisation, there will certainly be a few individuals who try their best to find fault with the executive simply because they may not get their way. But generally, as one source pointed out, “Those individuals are haters” and one has to ignore their rantings and do what is best.
One body that interestingly supports FIFA’s establishment of a normalisation committee to steer the financial and statutory affairs of the TTFA is the Board of the T&T Pro League. On one hand, a release from the Pro League had indicated that it had unanimously accepted the decision by FIFA but then, the rumours began to make the rounds that it was not unanimous. Whether or not unanimous, like in all democratic organisations when it was put to the vote, the majority of Pro League clubs had voted in favour of the normalisation committee.
Meanwhile, when one looks at the clubs that make up the Pro League, it is not difficult to understand why. Let’s be honest, the Pro League has struggled over the years for sustainable crowds, financial stability, adequate sponsorship, marketing and branding and proper direction.
As one of my WhatsApp chat group members sent in a message, “Pro League games still on despite COVID-19 fears as there would be no more than 25 people and they can sit 20 feet apart”. Unfortunate, but it does make you sit up and think.
The Pro League has had and continues to have credible individuals within their midst. I have no doubt that their heart is in football and they see this takeover by FIFA as a welcomed opportunity for them to lean on the world governing body to receive some funding to address the needs of the League. Funding is good, but it is obvious the League cannot see this funding coming from the TTFA; even if they get the money, the work only then begins.
Who is going to rebrand and market the league? Where is the sponsorship money coming from besides FIFA? How will the communities be enticed? Are they going to continue playing in big, empty stadiums?
I genuinely hope the league walks the talk they are preaching. The time for mudslinging, character assassinations and egotism in our football should be kicked out and we move to work as one; nice words I am sure, but I often wonder, how many of them can really hold their heads up high and be true to their words?
It is quite obvious that with the support the ousted executive of the TTFA is a beneficiary of, they feel hard done by and quite frankly, it remains difficult to not agree with them. They have already issued a pre-action protocol letter to battle the mighty FIFA through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, often referred to as the Supreme Court of sporting disputes. Quite a few people in football have told me that the TTFA doesn’t stand a chance. I certainly won’t doubt them as FIFA seems to be on solid ground and when they are not, they threaten an association by debarring them from all levels of football - you just can’t seem to win any battle with FIFA.
It is an extremely sad situation as the decision to instate a normalisation committee is not only premature but goes completely against the grain of a newly elected democratic organisation that was not given ample opportunity to try and succeed. The other unfortunate situation facing the TTFA is that they do not have and will fail to have support from the other Caribbean nations as they themselves could face a similar situation. So they will, as a friend of mine says, “Eat their biscuit and shut their mouth”.
You see, say whatever you wish about Austin Jack Warner - love him or loathe him, this could have never happened in his era. Caribbean football was strong; the region was united and the 31 votes we had were not fragmented.
But unfortunately, it does not appear so today and when I read the president of the Caribbean Football Union making comments about how difficult it will be to adequately administer football in T&T, I wondered whether he checked with the TTFA executive about their plans. More importantly, where was he over the last four years? I suppose he ought to be guarded with his words.
Some burning questions remain at the forefront of this brutal saga: if FIFA was so concerned with T&T football, why didn’t they send in their financial wizards to work with the TTFA? How come FIFA’s fact-finding team said to the TTFA not to bother to use the ‘Home of Football’ as a revenue-generating measure? Did the TTFA not say to the mission that the debt will be cleared in two to three years? What is the real reason FIFA removed the executive of the TTFA? And why is there a need for new elections following the work of the normalisation committee?
As I’ve stated previously, this takeover by the high and mighty stinks to the extreme. But I admire the democratically elected TTFA executive for battling against what is unjust and relentlessly pursuing what they believe in. Will they win their battle at CAS? Only time will tell.
But if they don’t, as Murphy’s law goes, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. A painful reality indeed.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not reflect the views of any organisation of which he is a stakeholder.