Hundreds, if not thousands, of T&T citizens have a keen interest in attending next June’s football finals in Germany.
The interest in the tournament is extremely high, given the fact that T&T has qualified for the 2006 World Cup for the first time, by virtue of its historic November 16 defeat of Bahrain.
The revelations in this and other newspapers that the family of Jack Warner, the special adviser to T&T Football Federation (TTFF), has a controlling interest in Simpaul’s Travel Agency will have raised many questions in the minds of football fans anxious to witness first-hand the exploits of the team dubbed the Soca Warriors.
There have been reports, for example, that Simpaul’s has been designated as the official agents for the tickets allocated to TTFF—that is, the eight per cent stadium quota for qualifying countries.
Anxious fans would obviously want to know what was the process by which Simpaul’s was so designated and whether there was transparency or equal opportunity given to other travel agents.
Some anxious fans are also questioning the need for travel agents in the first place, as some feel they can make their own arrangements for accommodation and ground transport, which will be less costly than the sums being charged by the official agency.
There may be fans who only wish to experience one or two of T&T’s three first-round matches and do not want to be locked into an arrangement which commits them to pay for all three.
All fans interested in attending the matches would want a clear sense of the value they are getting for the $30,000 they would be required to pay for the economy package being offered by the official agency.
There are also likely to be concerns that Mr Warner is using his position of supremacy in local and international football (he serves as vice president of football’s governing body, Fifa) to benefit financially from T&T’s qualification.
Some people feel that the financial benefits to Warner are justified, given that he provided financial support for the team “from his own pocket” from the start of the campaign, when few others were prepared to do so.
It is to be expected, according to this line of thinking, that Warner should reap the benefits of his early investment in the team—such an investment proving crucial to the team’s qualification.
There has been, however, no proper accounting known of the amount of money that Warner put into this World Cup effort and the terms by which the money was made available to the TTFF. There has also been no accounting reported of payments received for broadcast rights.
As it is, a private individual appears to be financing T&T football as a business venture—expecting a return on his investment—when such financing should properly be directed through the TTFF. This is a situation which bespeaks an amateurish approach to football administration.
With the Government about to commit a large sum of taxpayers’ dollars to the World Cup effort, there is obviously a need for a more professional approach to local football administration, as well as the transparency and accountability that must accompany state expenditure.
It would be prudent for the Government to insist that its provision of financial support for the World Cup effort is contingent on the TTFF and all its associated parties’ meeting the expected norms of professionalism, transparency and accountability.
The public is also entitled to expect that Warner will answer the questions that are being asked of him before they commit themselves to supporting the team or undertaking the expense of a trip to Germany.