The ’Soca Warriors’ are making it clear that they have not settled the matter of World Cup 2006 bonuses, currently before the local courts, and they are not going to give up.
Seven of the 13 players embroiled in the four-year legal battle held a press conference yesterday at the President’s Box of the Queen’s Park Oval- along with their London-based lawyer Mike Townley-to address what they claim are statements by Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) special adviser Jack Warner on the hustings that the matter has been settled.
Present yesterday at the press conference were goalkeeper Darlington FC goalkeeper Kelvin Jack, Sunderland FC striker Kenwyne Jones, USL First Division defender Atiba Charles, North East Stars FC CEO Brent Sancho, Anthony Wolfe, Aurtis Whitley and Cyd Gray.
Of the original 16 players taking legal action against the Federation, 13 are still awaiting a judgement on the matter.
The UK-based arbitration body Sports Dispute Resolution Panel handed down a ruling two years ago Wednesday, that awarded the players 50 per cent of corporate receipts from the World Cup, after they took legal action against the TTFF for unpaid bonuses promised by Warner.
A day later, the Trinidad Guardian reported the results of the arbitration, which had been placed under gag order. Since September 2008, that matter has been in the local courts. The players said that after two delays, a judgement on it was expected in November last year. So far, none has been forthcoming.
’There’s a phrase ’justice delayed is justice denied’. Well we have no justice. We can delay this forever (but) that means we get no justice,’ Townley told the media.
Townley added that he has had no update on the case since October 2009, and has written a letter to the Chief Justice’s office. A lack of response to his letter in the coming weeks, he feels, will send the signal that ’something’s up’.
The players deny the press conference yesterday was politically motivated, despite its timing right in the heart of a heated election campaign. Townley described this as an ’appropriate’ time.
’This press conference is not about the elections,’ he stated. ’It is about us not getting paid. It has been called at this time because statements have been made that we’ve been paid and we haven’t been paid.’
The players also denied that the People’s National Movement (PNM), who are contesting the elections against Warner’s UNC coalition, are behind the conference.
But Warner has dismissed their claims as PNM tricks, and nothing more than a political tactic.
’I am in the middle of campaigning for an election, (and) if the players think they can distract me from that they are mistaken,’ Warner told the Express yesterday.
He said they had the option to settle out of court, and that ’some players accepted, some did not’.
’But I have no problem with that, I expect to see more problems than that,’ the UNC chairman added. ’That’s a PNM trick. I heard they’re bringing (Andrew) Jennings too.’
’Let them go ahead, I wish all of them luck if they believe they could politicise this and drag it into the gutter.’
Jennings is a British journalist who has on a number of occasions confronted Warner, accusing him of backroom financial dealings inside and outside of FIFA, of which Warner is a vice-president.
The players say the TTFF got $82,245,113.15 from government and $88,165,000 from corporate sponsors, and the latter is the sum they are contesting. This, they said, would amount to $1.9-$3.4 million per player.
Jack (Kelvin) called on Warner to be accountable for the World Cup funds and accused him of being ’greedy’ and ’arrogant’.
’ Mr Warner has been trying to discredit us,’ the ex-T&T custodian said. ’He has been saying we are greedy, but you tell me: who is the greedy party here. Who’s the greedy person?’ He added that Warner ’probably thinks he is above the law.’
He accused senior national coach Russell Latapy and ex-captain Dwight Yorke of abandoning the team, who had played as a ’unit’ in Germany, pointing out that they were two of the more vocal players at the beginning of the standoff.
’Why didn’t they stand up with us as senior players?’ he asked.
Sancho also said the players’ current stand has become about more than money. He related that in his time as a footballer, he had heard a lot of ’shocking’ stories about players being victimised in the 1970s and 1980s.
’If we have to be the martyrs for this then so be it. But at the end of the day, this (intimidation) has to stop.’
Lalla blames English attorney for delay.
T&T Newsday Reports.
Om Lalla, attorney for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) has blamed Mike Townsley, who represents the players, for the delay in reaching an agreement on the payment of monies owed to them from the 2006 World Cup campaign.
He said that it has come about because of a breach of confidentiality by Townsley by going public. Lalla pointed out that such matters normally call for a code of confidentiality.
The preliminary hearing on the matter has already taken place and therefore a judge is expected to return with a decision on the next step of action Lalla said.
Yesterday the players, supported by their English attorney, held a press conference to express their disappointment in the lengthy process to reach a resolution.
Lalla said yesterday that because of Townsley’s breach there is a need to seek another hearing. In the meantime the matter is expected to abide the process of time, as any other matter being heard presently.
The TTFF attorney also lashed out at Townsley for criticisms he leveled against the TT judicial process.
SWO Member Patriot Up-Close (the raw report).
First off, as I arrived, I must commend the organizers as their signage, giving directions, was EXCELLENT, particularly as I'd arrived at 5 mins before the proposed 10:00am start of the Press Conference, and had never been to the President Box West before (Since being refurbished some years ago, the administrative part of the Oval building is one giant maze, where one wrong turn can take you FAR away from your intended destination!)
Upon enterin the room, I recognised Otis Whitley, Kelvin Jack, Cyd Gray, Kenwyne Jones, Brent Sancho and David Attiba Charles (Anthony Wolfe would join the Press Conference later). Also present was Mike Townley the British attorney and Kevin Harrison (who did NOT take part in the proceedings but sat among us the Audience).
I was immediately surprised by the ABSENCE of MEDIA Personnel tho! In fact it was the media who delayed the start of the Press Conference until about 10:15am. And even then other than a few faces familiar to me, and the station ID mikes at the podium, I can say that the media (Print/Radio/Television) was extremely UNDER-represented! One of the players even remarked that "...iz election time, allyuh fellas only have all them lil cottage meetings to study now eh"
Once the Press Conference started, Mike Townley traced the origins of the conflict and immediately sought to distance the TIMING of the PC from the General Elections on Monday. In fact he said that the MAIN reason, besides updating the Public, was that the group of players felt they needed to RESPOND to Jack Warner's claim on an election platform that the issue was settled, and the players ALL paid, which in fact is untrue.
To support this, he read JW's Press Release on the matter, from 2 years ago, stating same. He then read copies of letters written by him, in his capacity of legal representative of the 13 players (TECHNICALLY STILL 16, as there was NO proof of payment to the other 3 who have since distanced themseles from the legal action) to the TTFF and the Chief Justice of T&T/Ministry of Legal Affairs regarding the length of time the matter has been seemingly stalled in the T&T legal system.
He also indicated that the Ministry of Sports had provided appox 82 million TT$ to the 2006 campaign, while the PRIVATE sector added a further TT$88 million (companies such as ADIDAS,Atlantic LNG,CARIB and BG/BP).
Townley then clarified that the players were NOT even adddressing their claims to the Ministry's contribution, but rather 50% of the PRIVATE SPONSORS. contributions. Then it was time for Q&A.
While I don't remember all the questions asked, I will fill you in on the ones I think are MOST relevant. I asked about the most recent correspondence received from the local Courts..and was told, NONE has ever been received, tho the case is pending since October 2009 when a judgement was promised! One reporter then asked if the possibility of Jack Warner getting into the next Gov't was a concern to the players...
The response was that given the fact that Jack has a former Judge now campaigning with him, it raises questions in their (the players) minds as to whether or not this has contributed to the unusual delay in the local courts and going forward, whether they can expect fair treatment should the People's partnership win.
Another journalist asked whether the timing of the Press Conference 3 days before the General elections wouldn't be seen as Politically motivated...which I felt was already addressed by the players' attorney already, but Kelvin Jack replied that even at the airport coming in Mike Townly when questioned by Immigration authorities as to his reason for coming to T&T, told the officer for the Soca Warriors presence, the officer replied "Ent they get pay already?"...further proof that a lot of people in the country are or had been misled, AND the guys needed to bring it up at a time when they would get noticed, as it has been almost 4 years now (and he pointed to a sign on the wall behind which had printed on it "$ years later and Still the Soca Warriors have not yet been paid".
On the question as to whether it could be seen as a sign of dwindling fortunes on their part that of the 23 players who went to the World Cup, it's now down to 13 who are actively pusuing the matter, Brent Sancho said that if even only ONE continues the struggle, it's STILL a worthy cause. Another question came as to the lack of support from SENIOR players (ie Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy), and K. Jack threw it back at the media and asked them to go ask Latapy WHY he never supported the cause... and diito go find Dwight Yorke and ask him too, in fact Dwight got special mention, hear Kelvin Jack "As someone who I looked up to as both a player and my Captain, I was very disappointed in him having written a book last year, and NOT ONE WORD about this issue, but only talking about his various escapades, it's almost laughable...".
When asked what is the players last option, as it's been 4 years wih seemingly no end in sight, didn't the players feel that they were jeopardizing their International careers and chance of ever representig T&T again, brent Sancho said that their situation was NOT a unique one, but dated back years, even decades as players and the TTFA/TTFF have had numerous run-ins, but THIS group of players marked the FIRST time a UNIT has banded and stayed together.
The issue of FPATT was also raised and again the lack of support by guys like Russell and Dwight was mentioned. Sancho claimed that young players now getting into the National team, were being threatened by their Club managers if they joined!
Another question related to this was the blacklisting of players and it's impact on the failed 2010 WC campaign, and Sancho, Jack and Kenwyne Jones all shared their own feelings on how disappointed they were, Brent Sancho especially since he noted that his LAST game for T&T was actually against Paraguay in the World Cup four years ago! He said he didn't want future players to go through what they were experiencing and was taking a stand for the future of football in T&T.
There were some other issues raised, but thats basically what I can recall, so there you have it...nothing NEW per se, but for me it was an opportunity to be among some of the guys who contributed to two of the HAPPIEST days of my life... November 16th 2005 and June 10th 2006.