The dust raised by sudden and swift football takeover here in T&T has not yet settled and neither will it settle soon, Especially if the ousted administration continues to pursue mediation through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on FIFA’s decision to appoint a Normalisation Committee here in T&T.
It was only last Tuesday March 17, FIFA announced that it had disbanded the ruling TTFA administration led by William Wallace, in favour of its committee to run the day to day affairs, establish a plan to reduce the association’s mounting debt, make necessary adjustments to the TTFA statutes so that they are compliant with FIFA’s and finally, to organize and execute an election at the end of its stipulated time in charge or at the end of the process, whichever comes first.
Since that communication to the TTFA, FIFA has neither identified a chairman for this committee and its members nor has football’s global governing body stipulated how long will this committee serve, except to say that its stay will not exceed 24 months.
During a recent interview with Guardian Media Sports, Clinton Urling - former chairman of the FIFA Normalisation Committee in Guyana in 2014, said that the aggrieved T&T football administrators are well within their right to take the matter to CAS without fear of reprimand from FIFA.
However, Urling foreshadowed that premise by stating categorically that the position which the local association now finds itself is, “…the point before the same FIFA says ‘you are no longer a part of the FIFA family’ or bans the entire member association.”
<End of the road for TTFA>
Former FIFA VP Jack Warner backed this up when he stated that the installation of a normalization committee was “the end of the rope” for the TTFA and “the lowest point” for any FIFA member association.
By these pronunciations it seems that the TTFA and T&T’s status among the international football community is hanging by a thread. In fact, one needs only to review a situation which emerged in 2008 leading to the suspension of the Samoa Football Soccer Federation within a matter of eight months of a similar intervention by FIFA to that which the TTFA now faces.
And if there is anyone that can warn the TTFA about the possibility of a suspension from the FIFA family, that person is Warner himself who was a member of the FIFA Emergency Committee which decided on Samoa.
According to a FIFA report which Guardian Media Sports has seen - In 2008, following a joint mission between FIFA and the Oceania Football Confederation into Samoa four months earlier, FIFA attempted to set up a Normalization Committee at the SFSF with the stated objective to “restore the proper administration of football in Samoa.”
<Samoa's debt was only US686,000>
At the time, the Samoa Football Soccer Federation (SFSF) was burdened with significant debt, believed to be an estimated $US686,000 and still with the possibility of bulging further if more creditors stepped forward with claims. FIFA determined that this, as well as general mismanagement of the association “endangered not only the association but also FIFA’s Goal Project in Samoa.”
The FIFA Goal Programme provides resources and funding for essential projects so that member associations in developing countries can advance the game of football. – FIFA.com
In what could be interpreted as FIFA acting (in the main) in the interest of protecting its significant investment in the Samoa Goal Project as well as to save the federation from crippling debt, Warner and the rest of FIFA’s Emergency Committee - chaired by former FIFA President, Sepp Blatter and included other former FIFA Executive Committee members, Michel Platini, Issa Hayatou, Mohamed Bin Hammam, Reynald Temarii and Dr Nicolas Leoz – took action.
The similarities between the Samoan Federation and T&T’s are striking, starting with those between the FIFA Goal Programme, instituted by Blatter in 1999 and the FIFA Forward Development Programme adopted in 2016, under which the construction and establishment of the TTFA’s Home of Football has been funded.
<FIFA protecting its investment>
FIFA Forward is built to provide 360-degree, tailor-made support for football development in each of our member associations and the six confederations and is based on three principles - more investment, more impact, more oversight. The aim is to improve the way we develop and support football across the globe so that football can reach its potential in every single country. – FIFA.com
Despite being declared open under former TTFA president David John-Williams last November, William Wallace and the new TTFA board of Directors elected on November 24, decided to keep the HoF closed. They claim that an audit of the project has uncovered that in addition to the incompletion of necessary works that would bring the facility up to code, there also several outstanding debts to suppliers and contractors who worked on the project.
In Samoa in 2008, creditors threatened to foreclose on the Goal Project as well as to seize certain assets before the FIFA Finance Committee agreed to an exemption to its Financial Assistance Programme rules to allow the SFSF to use FAP funds to pay off outstanding debts.
Moving beyond the financial resemblances, there are also similarities in legal posturing between the SFSF and the TTFA.
However, unlike FIFA’s willingness to bend its FAP rules where finances are a concern, attempting to take them on in the very public glare of the legal arena proved to not such a good idea in the case of Samoa.
<Why Samoa was suspended>
After FIFA attempted to institute is own remedial measures, then SFSF president Tautulu Roebuck refused to recognize the power of FIFA’s normalization committee and twice tried to take the dispute to a tribunal.
An initial submission in June 2008 to CAS was ordered to be withdrawn due to administrative oversight, but by October, according to an article appearing on the website of Fijian newspaper – Fiji Sun, the FIFA Emergency Committee decided to suspend the SFSF with immediate effect over its non-compliance with the normalization committee.
In November of 2008, Radio New Zealand (RNZ) reported that Samoa’s Sports Tribunal ruled in favour of the normalization committee taking over the affairs of the SFSF. The Tribunal granted the Normalisation Committee full jurisdiction and ordered Roebuck to resign his post and relinquish all Federation files to the Normalisation Committee.
Following Roebuck’s official appeal of these decisions as well as FIFA’s suspension of the SFSF, the Court of Arbitration of sport determined in May 2009, the SFSF president’s “Lack of standing to appeal” relating to the “Validity of a FIFA decision to establish a normalization Committee”.
The Court’s adjudicating panel determined the following:
As for the function of the NC, the federation’s chairman is therefore automatically replaced by the NC and the replaced chairman, as an individual not subject to the FIFA Statutes, therefore cannot appear before CAS in his individual capacity as he lacks standing. The appeal should thus be rejected on these grounds without going into the merits of the case.”
Like Samoa and other member nations before it, the TTFA is well within its right to pursue justice against any perceived wrong-going even if history shows that the outcome might not always be favourable.
According to TTFA and FIFA documents seen by Guardian Media Sports - During 2012 and 2014 two different groups within the TTFA sought to get FIFA's involvement to remedy concerns that plagued T&T football. The first was a group of players who were aiming to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and sighted several issues among mismanagement and financial concerns that would affect the country's chances of achieving its objective. In the second instance, two vice presidents serving under former President (now deceased) Raymond Tim Kee (Rudolph Thomas and Lennox Watson) requested FIFA's involvement.
The result was that FIFA through its then secretary Jerome Valcke gave the TTFA an ultimatum; to establish an Independent Reform Commission, or; face being reported to the FIFA Emergency Committee for consideration and action, which could have included the appointment of a Normalization Committee.
The reforms committee was set-up and that led to a new constitution which changed the name from the T&T Football Federation (TTFF) to the T&T Football Association (TTFA) and elections which saw David John-Williams elected as the new TTFA President in November 2015.