“What’s the sense of fighting against FIFA when it leads to one outcome, a ban for the country’s football from all competitions,” several of this country’s top coaches have asked.
Should the country be banned, it would not be able to participate in any football, such as the Caribbean Football Union’s (CFU) junior and senior competitions, CONCACAF junior and senior tournaments, World Cup Qualifiers both men and women, International Club football, etc.
Their question sums up a sad irony in a battle of principle versus priority, that led to the T&T Football Association (TTFA), being led by former president William Wallace and his three vice presidents, taking their fight of having a FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee replace them as the managers of local football, to the T&T High Court on Monday afternoon, and thereby violating a FIFA Statute that Member Association cannot take its grievance to its local courts.
Former national players Brent Sancho, Alvin Corneal, Brian Williams spoke to Guardian Media Sports on Tuesday and they believe the country faces certain suspension, as was done to the Nigerian Football Federation for government interference in 2010; Cameroon in 2013 for government interference: Indonesia in 2015, while in Pakistan in 2018, the Pakistan Football Federation just missed out on a FIFA sanction for its attempts to use the Supreme Court to settle an election result, as is being attempted here in T&T.
On Monday, the TTFA group of Wallace, vice presidents Clynt Taylor, Sam Phillip, Susan Joseph-Warrick and supporters Keith Look Loy and Anthony Harford submitted a brief in the High Court in Port-of-Spain after it felt that their pursuit of justice for the FIFA removing them without merit, could not be achieved via the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Switzerland, following a series of events that their lawyers Dr Emir Crowne and Matthew Gayle claimed showed an apparent bias by CAS for the world governing body for football.
In an immediate response, Sancho described the action of TTFA as the ultimate indictment on T&T football, asking what will Wallace and his team do if they win or if they do not win in the high court.
“This appears to be a moral stance for Wallace but certainly not for the country. What happens when our footballers cannot look forward to any qualifying competitions at CFU, CONCACAF and World Cup levels. Or what happens when our country cannot play in the World Cup Qualifiers, or even cannot play at the International Club level?” asked Sancho.
“Wallace must tell us if he intends to run football without the support of the FIFA, and otherwise. Also, what happens when our ban is up, will he (Wallace) attempt to have the FIFA statutes changed, or will he rejoin under the same regulations.”
Williams, a Strike Squad defender back in 1989 believes Wallace and his team ought to have known what are the consequences of their action, saying it makes no sense to him, as the sport and many young footballers are set to suffer from it.
“I am all for football and the future of the young players. The ones making the decisions do not have careers ahead of them in football, and therefore, I do not think that fight is making any sense,” Williams said.
Corneal, who has represented T&T both as a player and coach, is also predicting a ban by FIFA and has called for more dialogue among the parties to take place. He believes the administrators of the sport in T&T have not even satisfied the people of T&T and therefore should give the normalisation committee a chance to fix the problem.
Meanwhile, an official who is close to the developments and who spoke to Guardian Media Sports on the condition on anonymity, believes that Wallace’s team might also benefit should they win in the High court.
“It might be difficult for the FIFA to convince the court that it should appoint a normalisation committee and then ban the TTFA, when they have failed to follow their statutes by failing to pay its part in arbitral proceedings of the CAS, which is the court its statutes directs Members Associations to, in case of justice.
“Although I believe that T&T will be banned, the second thing is that Member Associations cannot be banned by the FIFA itself, but rather by Congress. And with a vote of no-confidence being called on president Gianni Infantino, the TTFA might be in for a fight.”
On March 17, FIFA disbanded the TTFA’s administration and appointed a normalisation committee on March 27 as it felt that TTFA faced a risk of insolvency and illiquidity.
However, on Monday, the ousted executive of the TTFA asked the court to recognise them as the duly elected and legitimate executive, as well as prevent FIFA from interfering in its operations.
However, article 65 Arbitration of the TTFA Constitution reads:
1 Disputes in the Association or disputes affecting Leagues, members of Leagues, Clubs, members of Clubs, Players, Officials and Officials of other Associations, shall not be submitted to Ordinary Courts, unless the FIFA regulations, this Constitution or binding legal provisions specifically provide for or stipulate recourse to Ordinary Courts.
2 Instead, such disputes as specified in par. 1 shall be taken to an independent Arbitration Tribunal created by TTFA. The Board of Directors shall issue special regulations regarding the composition, jurisdiction and procedural rules of this Arbitration Tribunal.
2 As long as such Arbitration Tribunal has not been duly installed by TTFA and recognised by the General Meeting, any dispute of national dimension may only be referred in the last instance to CAS.
Meanwhile, the team of six in their Court file on Monday stated that after long and hard deliberations, they decided to lodge a brief with the sovereign High Court of T&T, requesting:
1 A Declaration that the purported decision of the Defendant dated the 17th March 2020, purporting to remove the Claimant’s duly elected executive is null, void and of no legal and/or binding effect;
2 A permanent injunction preventing the Defendant from interfering in, and/or seeking to override the fair and transparent democratic processes of the Claimant and/or from attempting removing the Claimant’s duly elected executive from office;
3 A permanent injunction preventing the Defendant and/or its agents and/or assigns and/or servants from interfering in the day-to-day management of the Claimant, including the Claimant’s bank accounts and real property.