The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) was accused of time-wasting and ordered by Acting Justice Devindra Rampersad to honour its agreement to pay bonuses to the 2006 World Cup football team, dubbed the "Soca Warriors", and legal costs, which are expected to be in excess of $3 million.
On November 19, 2008, the TTFF filed a stay of proceedings in the High Court that prevented the 16 players—since reduced to 14—from enforcing the judgment of the London-based Sport Dispute Resolution Panel (SDRP), on the grounds a supposed breach of confidentiality by the claimants "severely undermined" the defendants' faith in the SDRP and, as a result, "they no longer agree to be bound by the agreement".
The SDRP ruled on May 19, 2008, due to a contract made by United National Congress (UNC) chairman and TTFF Special Adviser Jack Warner with the players, the Warriors were owed 50 per cent of all 2006 World Cup commercial revenue and declared an immediate independent audit of the local football body's financial books for that period.
On Thursday afternoon, Justice Rampersad dismissed the TTFF's appeal and ruled in favour of the players.
"This court, therefore, finds that the breaches complained of by the defendants," stated Justice Rampersad, "did not go to the root of the arbitration agreement, and in those circumstances, the agreement remains irrevocable in accordance with Section 3 of the Trinidad and Tobago Arbitration Act 1950, which states that, 'an arbitration agreement, unless a contrary intention is expressed therein, shall be irrevocable except by leave of the court and shall have the same effect in all respects as if it had been made an order of the Court'."
The World Cup players who initially filed suit against the TTFF are Marvin Andrews, Shaka Hislop, Kelvin Jack, Atiba Charles, Cyd Gray, Ian Cox, Avery John, Brent Sancho, Chris Birchall, Aurtis Whitley, Collin Samuel, Evans Wise, Anthony Wolfe, Cornell Glen, Kenwyne Jones and Stern John. However, Andrews and Birchall are understood to have subsequently settled privately.
The remaining footballers will request an interim payment of roughly $1.8 million each—their share of the $88 million the T&TFF claimed to receive as World Cup commercial revenue—when the High Court reopens in September before auditors decide the complete figure due.
A Freedom of Information Act request in 2007 suggested the TTFF's earnings are closer to $180 million, exclusive of gate receipts and broadcast and television rights. In October 2006, the TTFF had offered the World Cup players just $5,644 each.
The SDRP ruled in favour of the players while Justice Rampersad dismissed the TTFF's case as frivolous and described the TTFF's conduct in the matter as "troubling".
"It is difficult for this court to understand the defendants' submission," stated Rampersad "…Indeed, as the claimants rightly submit, even in light of their admitted breach, the defendants have failed to advance any proof to the Court in this regard …
The post-award disclosures of the award itself would not raise the mischief against which the confidentiality provisions were directed… The surrounding circumstances of the confidentiality obligation very strongly indicate just how otiose the defendants' claim to confidentiality is at this point."
The TTFF was represented in the High Court by Om Lalla, instructed by Kelvin Ramkissoon, while George Hislop—father of World Cup player and ESPN commentator Shaka Hislop—appeared for the players and was instructed by Dave De Peiza.
The players' London-based solicitor Michael Townley was elated.
"I knew we should win, but the length of time it was taking to get the judgment made it all a bit uncertain and nerve-racking," said Townley. "In the end, it was worth the wait …Now, getting paid is the next step, and we recognise that we are dealing with a party who seems determined to carry on regardless of any amount of evidence.
"Nobody forced their hand to enter in an agreement, so at what point will they seek to recognise it?"
Warner could not be reached for comment by telephone yesterday while TTFF president Oliver Camps said he would follow his lawyer's advice and make no comment on the case.
Warriors elated by World Cup judgment.
By Lasana Liburd (Trinidad Express).
Thirty-four-year-old Darlington and 2006 World Cup goalkeeper Kelvin Jack:
"All we ever wanted was for the TTFF (Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation) to be honest with us. The entire country can now see who has been telling the truth… It has been mentally draining but I never felt like giving up.
"Young people are our greatest natural resource but they must see honesty and justice from those in authority. Hopefully this judgment will give them hope."
Michael Townley, the players' London-based solicitor:
"I knew we should win but the length of time it was taking to get the judgment made it all a bit uncertain and nerve-wracking. In the end, it was worth the wait. The judge has done a superb job and this is a really thoroughly researched and detailed analysis of the law of arbitration going back many, many years…
"I want to make a serious point to those people that have called the players greedy, mercenary, etc. A contract was made. The Federation knew how much it was making and what it could afford to offer and was not forced to agree to the bonus split.
"They did agree to pay this money, through their experienced special advisor (Jack Warner) so it's what the players are owed. I have heard that one public figure even called the players 'thieves' and that is that pure defamation. They are heroes not thieves…
"It is at least a moral victory that there was a contract promised and they were right to pursue it. Now getting paid is the next step and we recognise that we are dealing with a party who seems determined to carry on regardless of any amount of evidence...
"Nobody forced their hand to enter in an agreement so at what point will they seek to recognise it?"
Twenty-six year-old Ma Pau midfielder and ex-World Cup squad member Anthony Wolfe:
"Nobody begged for this. They are the ones who promised us so how come we are called greedy? Just like Warner and his family are living comfortable, why we can't want to live comfortable too?"
Thirty-three-year-old Ma Pau defender and World Cup player Cyd Gray:
"The ruling was a good ruling. Right now, I'm just waiting to see what happens next because I don't know what other tricks they might have but I am happy. The bonus will start one of my dreams beside football which is running my own business."
Forty-one-year-old ESPN sport commentator and ex-T&T goalkeeper Shaka Hislop:
"The judgment is exactly as we had all hoped, and believed it should be… Over the four years this has become less and less about the financial reward than about what is right and what is wrong...
"Obviously it was very easy for quite a few to accept an early and easy settlement and as much as I respect an individual's decision and reasons to do so, I think it was cowardly. That's only my personal opinion, I don't mean to imply that anyone else feels that way…
"I hold no grudge against the TTFF, I always felt that this was about two parties seeing things differently and we wanted a third party to rule on that. My father is a lawyer, so I was raised respecting the legal and judicial processes but I've been desperately disappointed by a number of people's actions or inactions, by what people have had to say, by the lies that have been told and probably will continue to be told as everyone tries to save some face or curry favour. For the most part it's all been water off a duck's back though."