Constitutional cage-fight? How standoff between DJW, Look Loy and Gosein could change TTFA.

In one corner stands the Central Football Association (CFA) and its general secretary Clynt Taylor and president Shymdeo Gosine as well as the Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) and its interim president Keith Look Loy, who have a joint motion. In the other is the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) board of directors and its president David John-Williams.

And, in the middle of the ring, is the TTFA’s 22-month-old constitution.

One way or the other, the ongoing passive-aggressive battle involving the three parties might change the landscape of local football in the near future.

Tomorrow is the deadline for the CFA to satisfy the TTFA’s general secretariat on all procedural matters related to its motion for an extraordinary general meeting on 10 June 2017.

The EGM agenda, as drawn up by the CFA, has four points:

Removal and replacement of CFA representative on the Board of the TTFA as requested by the CFA;

Change status of the Super League Clubs with the establishment of the TTSL;

The application of the TTSL for full membership of the TTFA or for the enjoyment of equivalent status as the TT Pro League as a recognised body to organise its own games and competitions;

Changes in the TTFA constitution consequent upon changes made in (3) above: (Article 10.1b and 22.1b) Change from National Super League Clubs to Trinidad and Tobago Super League Clubs; (Article 33) To include one member representing the Trinidad and Tobago Super League [on the TTFA board]; To change the board of directors [from] 13 to 14 members; Elections of the TTSL representative to the board of directors of the TTFA.

The CFA has recommended that James Toussaint represent the zone on the TTFA board, due to its estranged relationship and irreconcilable communication issues with current representative Samuel Saunders. The TTSL already identified Look Loy as its choice.

Otherwise the TTSL’s request, like the CFA’s, seems remarkably straightforward. Apart from one season—when then Sport Minister Anil Roberts forced the TTFA to back away from All Sports Promotion under the threat of a withdrawal of State funding—the local football body has never run the Super League nor wanted to.

If anything, the clubs’ wish to run their own affairs should be applauded and encouraged—particularly by John-Williams, whose W Connection club was part of a similar movement, 14 years ago, when Professional Football League (PFL) clubs created the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League (TTPL) to rescue the local professional game.

Then TTFA president Oliver Camps and his puppeteer and special advisor Jack Warner did not lift a finger to help the Pro League. Warner initially withdrew his Joe Public team—which, ironically, employed Look Loy at the time. But, crucially, Warner did not block the country’s top flight clubs.

Not that John-Williams or his board will describe their own stance as obstructionist.

It was June 2016 when Taylor first indicated to the TTFA that the CFA wanted to change its representative. And Look Loy initially asked the TTFA to recognise the TTSL on 8 January 2017.

“It was an application for membership along with a copy of our constitution,” said Look Loy, as he recalled their first correspondence with the John-Williams-led board. “It took about three weeks for a formal response and they said they were putting a committee in place under [vice-president] Ewing Davis. (The committee also includes vice-president Joanne Salazar, CFA’s controversial representation Samuel Saunders and Northern Football Association member Jabari Williams).

“We have been playing ring around the roses ever since…”

Tomorrow will be the third deadline given by the TTFA for the CFA to support its motion—as the zonal body adjusted its initial agenda last weekend, which prompted Latapy-George to ask the supporting members to resubmit letters reflecting this change.

“The requirements that the TTFA is asking for are changing by the minute,” Gosine told Wired868. “Because we have met the requirements before and they always want something different after.”

Justin Latapy-George, who was hired as the TTFA’s general secretary last November, claimed the delay was actually a result of procedural issues and not gamesmanship.

The CFA is required to prove that its motion has the support of more than 50 percent of the TTFA’s membership. First, Latapy-George rejected the zonal body’s petition on the grounds that the requesting parties should offer their support on official letterhead with proof that they are bonafide members.

It provoked an immediate and furious response from Look Loy, who described the request as “a ruse to frustrate and deny the democratic will of both CFA and TTSL.”

“The TTFA Secretariat’s request is redundant, as more than half of the TTFA’s membership have already indicated their support for the CFA petition,” stated Look Loy. “Moreover the demand that the TTFA Secretariat’s standard letter be signed by the president of each member is an unnecessary imposition on members which do not have a president (such as Police FC and Defence Force FC), and on members which legitimately authorise other officials (such as their Club Secretary) to sign on their behalf.

“Indeed, the TTFA cannot tell a member who its official signatory should be.”

Regardless, Look Loy urged clubs to remain steadfast and urgently resubmit the requested information. However, Latapy-George’s request that members prove they are legitimate TTFA members caused more consternation.

“This demand is […] an artificial device being employed to threaten and undermine every member’s constitutional right to call an Extraordinary General Meeting,” stated Look Loy, “and to create artificial grounds for suspending said right of those members which support the CFA petition.

“The fact is that neither the TTFA Secretariat nor any officer or group of officers can arbitrarily suspend a member’s rights.”

Look Loy’s claim that the TTFA must prove the members were not bonafide rather than the other way around is debatable in this case.

In July 2015, as the TTFA rushed towards a November election, a transitory clause was inserted as an appendix to the constitution, which read:

“Existing members shall be granted a transitional period of 18 months to submit the documents and declarations required in article 10 paragraph 2 of this constitution. Failure to comply with this obligation may lead to the suspension of that member.”

Article 10.2 stipulates that all members must have an acceptable constitution, give declarations to abide by the laws of FIFA, CONCACAF and the TTFA, and, crucially, present a “copy of the minutes of its last General Meeting or constitutional meeting and a copy of its audited financial statements for the previous financial year.”

It was the duty of the electoral committee, which comprised of chairman Dinanath Ramnarine, Elton Prescott SC and Mervyn Campbell, to ensure that members complied with 10.2 before the election on 29 November 2015. But they did not and one presidential candidate was particularly disturbed by the committee’s negligence and, arguably, their misdirection of the membership.

“It is my understanding that all members mentioned in 10.1 in the new constitution of the TTFA must comply with all the requirements as outlined in 10.2 of the new constitution,” stated John-Williams, in an email to FIFA on 4 November 2015, “in order to take part in the elections carded for 29th November 2015.

“Furthermore it is also my understanding that the members who fail comply will be given an 18 month grace period to ‘get their house in order’ so to speak or lose their membership altogether after the 18 month grace period has expired.”

Despite his objections, the TTFA election proceeded with some legitimate voters and some illegitimate ones. And John-Williams won.

Some Wired868 articles apart, article 10.2 of the TTFA constitution was not mentioned publicly again. Until now.

“Before the election of 2015, there was a moratorium given by all members to become compliant by mid-January 2017,” said Latapy-George. “Based on the information we are still gathering, there are members who may not have been compliant as of yet…”

John-Williams confirmed that the TTFA board of directors created a sub-committee, last month, to investigate how many of its members were compliant with article 10.2.

“We are reviewing the entire process,” John-Williams told Wired868. “We are checking to ensure that all our members come to scratch, so we did set up a committee to ensure that all the members were compliant.

“But it is still ongoing and no ruling has been handed in [by the committee].”

The TTFA president refused to name the members of the ad-hoc committee set up to investigate its membership. However, Wired868 understands that Davis is again leading the committee.

Theoretically, John-Williams and the TTFA board—or at least a faction of it—might already have vital information on the CFA’s supporters, which could feasibly affect their motion for a fourth time. And, again, the TTFA would be following the letter of the law.

Although, as far as Gosine is concerned, the local football body does not have the moral high ground.

“It is all gimmickry and things unrelated to football,” said the CFA president. “What we are saying at the CFA is we want to promote football in every sense of the word… They are trying to create more confusion so they can create more delays.”

Look Loy insisted that the TTSL is prepared to fight with fire if necessary.

“There is not a single regional association that has an audited financial statement and only four Pro League clubs received money for this season because the rest of them don’t have audited statements,” said Look Loy. “Ninety percent of the TTFA is not compliant. So if they want to go that route, then remember it is the same non-compliant people who voted for them. So the [2015 TTFA] election, therefore, is null and void…

“If they try to disqualify anyone based on 10.2, then we will challenge the election.”

On Wednesday 20 April, John-Williams called Gosine and requested a meeting between his party and the CFA. The CFA president refused and accused the TTFA boss of trying to “railroad” the zonal body.

“I let him know that the CFA is an autonomous body and we don’t report to anybody,” Gosine told Wired868. “If we feel we need some help, we will ask him for it. We asked for a meeting last year which they never responded to… In my mind, the only thing [John-Williams] wants to do is to have a confrontation and having a meeting is just another way to prolong this and create more issues.

“The CFA is not going to have meeting with the TTFA president. We have asked for a meeting with the general membership with which we have the overwhelming support of more than 50 percent of the members. They will decide if what we are asking for is reasonable and within the permit of the rules.”

The distrust in either camp is growing.

“They blatantly refused to come,” said John-Williams, who confirmed his attempt to meet with the CFA but declined to share the purpose of the meeting. “You see how they do things and you make your judgment call…”

Ten months ago, the CFA wanted only to have a voice on the TTFA’s board of directors. Now, the zonal body is prepared to openly attack the operations of the sitting president.

The TTSL only wanted to run its own league in peace. Now, Look Loy wants a seat on the board too and has no qualms about threatening John-Williams right to lead local football.

John-Williams might have won the battles so far with either party but is he in danger of losing the war?

Latapy-George painted a different picture. The TTFA’s general secretariat, he said, was working on behalf of the CFA rather than against it.

“There is no intent or attempt by the general secretariat to frustrate or delay the process,” said Latapy-George. “The movers of the motion remain the CFA and the general secretariat is guided by the movers of the motion. All I am ensuring is adequate notice is given to all and that members show that they are in support of this motion according the constitution and by the required numbers.

“And what I am also trying to establish is that the members are compliant. That’s about it. There is no stopping of the meeting per se.”

The TTFA general secretary insisted that there will be no witch-hunt and victimisation of members who were not compliant with article 10.2.

“Any matter of suspension must go to an AGM, so there is a process that must be followed,” said Latapy-George. “So nobody can automatically suspend anyone, although the board can provisionally suspend until it is ratified by the AGM. Ultimately the powers of suspension lie with the AGM.

“Maybe my language was not quite clear or maybe it is because of the tension in the air, but the membership of the TTFA remains the members as listed in the constitution…”

Article 14.1 of the TTFA constitution, which deals with suspension states that:

“The General Meeting is responsible for suspending a member. The board of directors may, however, suspend a member that seriously violates its obligations as a member with immediate effect.

“In this case, the suspension shall last until the next General Meeting, unless the Board of Directors has lifted it in the meantime… A suspension shall be confirmed at the next General Meeting by two thirds of the members present and eligible to vote. If it is not confirmed, the suspension is automatically lifted.

“A suspended Member shall lose its Membership rights. Other Members may not entertain sporting contact with a suspended Member.”

Meanwhile, the TTSL is continuing plans for an 11 June 2017 kick off of its maiden season.

“We are setting up a meeting with the referees now and we are going about organising,” said Look Loy. “So we will be recognised [at the EGM] on the 10th [of June] and begin on the 11th.

“It is not the ideal situation—hardly. But we have no choice.”

John-Williams pointed to article 30.2, which deals with amendments to the constitution.

“Any proposals for an amendment to the Constitution must be submitted in writing with a brief explanation to the General Secretariat by a Member or by the Board of Directors.”

The CFA may struggle to pass that test. The TTSL could have another delay on the way.