Sidebar

17
Sun, Dec

Typography

The Central FC board, which is headed by ex-Sport Minister Brent Sancho and includes his former advisor Kevin Harrison, responded to the furore over the sacking of its former captain Marvin Oliver with a 983-word press release, published on the Soca Warriors Online website, that both confirmed and denied releasing the player.

In an extraordinary personal attack, Central also described Oliver as ungrateful and claimed that the club helped build his house and keep him out of jail.

The Sancho-led board also suggested, in the statement, that Oliver was convinced to make his “militant stance” by a journalist. The press statement was emailed by Harrison and provided contact details for him and Sancho, in case of follow-up questions.

The 41 year old midfield star and former San Juan North student, who was recently selected among the best Secondary School Football League (SSFL) players for the past 50 years, contacted Wired868 soon after Central manager Kevin Jeffrey told him his contract was terminated.

The club’s account of where the friction started with Oliver is consistent with the player’s recollection. The dreadlocked playmaker, who was one of Central’s outstanding players last season, asked his coach, Dale Saunders, if he was expected to be used regularly in the near future.

And, if not, whether the club was willing to let him leave on loan.

Central confirmed this conversation, although they did not mention whether Oliver had suggested a loan move.

Central then prepared a termination letter for Oliver, which was handed to him by Jeffrey on behalf of Saunders.

“Following on from this conversation, having no wish to prevent the player from continuing his career elsewhere, a letter was prepared by the club agreeing to release Mr Oliver from his contract,” stated the Central release today. “This letter was delivered to Mr Oliver at the training ground on Tuesday 26 January by Kevin Jeffrey, Dale Saunders and Derek Khan.”

The initial letter, which was published by Wired868, informed that the club would: “arrange for your release, effective today.”

Oliver was also told not to join the team on the training ground and to leave the premises.

Bizarrely—despite handing Oliver a letter which said his contract was terminated—Sancho, Harrison and the remaining Central board members claimed that Oliver was not fired.

“At no point was Marvin Oliver’s employment terminated by the club,” stated Central’s press release. “Indeed, no official release from his contract has been prepared. Until an official release from contract letter was prepared and signed by both parties, Mr Oliver’s employment was intact…

“This letter was merely correspondence confirming a verbal discussion.”

Central suggested Oliver was trying to win a battle of wills, so as to get more playing time, and the club called his bluff.

“At no time had there been any discussion to terminate Marvin Oliver’s contract,” stated the Central release. “He was a squad player and would certainly be called upon from time to time.

“It would appear that Mr Oliver didn’t expect the club to accept his request to leave the club, and panicked, knowing that no other club would pay the same level of salary as he received at Central FC.”

By Central’s own admission then, Oliver did not want to leave the club but only hoped to get more playing time. And it was the “Couva Sharks” who escalated the situation when they gave him a release letter and asked the player to leave the premises.

Oliver said, when he received the letter, he promptly told Jeffrey he did not wish to be released. He claimed Jeffrey then went over to Sancho, Saunders, assistant coach Dale Saunders and another team manager, Derek Khan, and held a brief meeting.

Khan then walked over and said the club stood by their release letter.

The club denied that this meeting took place. But, in today’s release, the Sharks admitted that they did not get the response they expected from Oliver.

Instead of grovelling for his job, Oliver contacted Wired868, lodged a complaint with the Pro League, wrote to Sancho and asked to be paid up for the remainder of his contract and sought legal advice.

Sancho and Harrison suggested that Oliver’s response was not in keeping with “recognised grievance procedure.”

“One of the reasons for such a letter is that it would give the recipient an opportunity to reconsider his actions before the formal letter of termination is issued,” stated the Central board. “Instead of following the recognised grievance procedure, or even, common employment practice, and requesting a meeting with the board, Mr Oliver decided instead to contact a journalist and air his grievances publicly.”

Central further blamed the entire incident on the journalist that Oliver discussed the matter with, who is Wired868 editor Lasana Liburd.

“It appears that outside influences, perhaps with their own agendas, have convinced Mr Oliver to take a more militant route in the public domain,” stated Central. “Airing such grievances in public can benefit no party other than the journalist.

“Yet it is the player and the club, and, ultimately, the game of football, whose reputations are tarnished in the name of writing one or two headlines.”

The Central board claimed that they could have justifiably fired Oliver for talking to the media—notwithstanding the fact that they had already sacked him.

Sancho offered to meet the sacked player and possibly fine him instead.

“Central FC would have been within their rights to terminate Mr Oliver’s contract on the basis of gross misconduct by bringing the club into disrepute,” stated Central. “However, the board of Central FC decided instead to invite Mr Oliver to a meeting at the club office to resolve the situation. Mr Oliver was and still is, an employee of Central FC and is contracted until 31 May 2016.

“As such, it is the responsibility of Mr Oliver to attend meetings when requested. However, Mr Oliver declined to attend the meeting and instead suggested to meet four days later in Port of Spain…

“One final attempt was made by the board to resolve the matter by requesting Mr Oliver’s attendance at a meeting on Friday 29 January 2016 at the club office…

“The letter also reminded Mr Oliver that it is his contractual duty to attend the meeting and a fine would be administered should he fail to attend, which is standard practice.

“Once again, instead of responding in a professional and respectful manner, Mr Oliver decided to send this letter to a journalist for publication, together with further derogatory remarks.”

The Central board claimed that it chose the high moral ground in its response to Oliver’s “derogatory remarks”—the player told Wired868 that Sancho was worse than ex-FIFA vice-president Jack Warner—out of respect for his “exemplary service” to the club.

Central then claimed to have given Oliver building material for his house and prevented his potential arrest in a legal matter.

“The club has also supported him in two separate legal matters which were in the public domain, when the club could simply have terminated his contract,” stated the Central release. “Several other incidents during his time with Central FC could have resulted in termination. In one incident, the club lost a potential sponsor valued at around $200,000 per year.

“Our club sponsor, Bankers Insurance also helped Mr Oliver financially, preventing his arrest.

“Central FC and its sponsors have also assisted Mr Oliver with the building of his house by contributing finances and building materials.”

Incidentally, even as Sancho and Harrison claim that Oliver has harmed the image of the Pro League club, the two Central directors are under investigation by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) regarding their: conduct with regards to the transfers of Central FC forward Rundell Winchester, the signing of then 16-year-old winger Levi Garcia, and the alleged misappropriation of CONCACAF funds and non-payment of bonuses to Central players.

The probe has paused under new TTFA president David John Williams, who is yet to restart the relevant disciplinary bodies.

The Central board, whose directors Sancho and Harrison were both members of the now defunct Football Players Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT), claimed that the Oliver brouhaha is a good example as to why the country needs a players association.

“It is these situations which clearly show the need for a players association,” stated the Central board. “Had Mr Oliver had access to professional advice, the situation may well have been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.”

The need for a players association might be one thing Sancho, Harrison and Oliver could all agree on.

Oliver has denied all of the club’s allegations.

It is not usual for the board of Central FC to air personal issues in public, a fact that Mr Oliver himself can testify to. Yet due to the reckless and inaccurate reporting of this episode, the club feels it has no choice other than to defend its reputation as well as that of its players, staff and sponsors.

On Sunday 24 January, following a game versus W Connection in which he took no part, Marvin Oliver spoke to Team Manager Kevin Jeffrey and Head Coach Dale Saunders. Mr Oliver was disappointed in the number of appearances he had been making.

He made it clear that if he was not going to be starting more games he would prefer to leave the club. This is a usual occurrence in football, particularly when a player begins to mature.

Following on from this conversation, having no wish to prevent the player from continuing his career elsewhere, a letter was prepared by the club agreeing to release Mr Oliver from his contract.

This letter was delivered to Mr Oliver at the training ground on Tuesday 26th January by Kevin Jeffrey, Dale Saunders and Derek Khan.

Contrary to certain press statements, no impromptu meeting between Managing Director Brent Sancho, Dale Saunders and Stern John took place on the training field regarding Marvin Oliver.

At no point was Marvin Oliver’s employment terminated by the club. Indeed, no official release from his contract has been prepared.

Until an official release from contract letter was prepared and signed by both parties, Mr Oliver’s employment was intact. Indeed, it is standard practice that when a player leaves the club he is required to return all apparel before receiving his final salary.

No such letter had been prepared or presented.

This letter was merely correspondence confirming a verbal discussion. One of the reasons for such a letter is that it would give the recipient an opportunity to reconsider his actions before the formal letter of termination is issued.

Instead of following the recognised grievance procedure, or even, common employment practice, and requesting a meeting with the board, Mr Oliver decided instead to contact a journalist and air his grievances publicly.

This resulted in several untruths and misconceptions being expressed, exaggerated, and now repeated as if fact.

At this point, Central FC would have been within their rights to terminate Mr Oliver’s contract on the basis of gross misconduct by bringing the club into disrepute.

However, the board of Central FC decided instead to invite Mr Oliver to a meeting at the club office to resolve the situation.

Mr Oliver was and still is, an employee of Central FC and is contracted until 31 May 2016.

As such, it is the responsibility of Mr Oliver to attend meetings when requested. However, Mr Oliver declined to attend the meeting and instead suggested to meet four days later in Port of Spain.

Again, this refusal to attend an official meeting is a contradiction of the terms of Mr Oliver’s contract.

One final attempt was made by the board to resolve the matter by requesting Mr Oliver’s attendance at a meeting on Friday 29 January 2016 at the club office. The invitation was sent in writing.

The letter also reminded Mr Oliver that it is his contractual duty to attend the meeting and a fine would be administered should he fail to attend, which is standard practice.

Once again, instead of responding in a professional and respectful manner, Mr Oliver decided to send this letter to a journalist for publication, together with further derogatory remarks.

Mr Oliver has provided exemplary service to Central FC on the field. Out of respect for Mr Oliver and the service he has provided, Central FC has frequently been financially supportive of his community projects.

Indeed, no other Central FC player has received as much support and respect as Mr Oliver, a fact that he seems to have forgotten.

The club has also supported him in two separate legal matters which were in the public domain, when the club could simply have terminated his contract.

Several other incidents during his time with Central FC could have resulted in termination.

In one incident the club lost a potential sponsor valued at around TT$200,000 per year. Our club sponsor, Bankers Insurance also helped Mr Oliver financially, preventing his arrest.

Central FC and its sponsors have also assisted Mr Oliver with the building of his house by contributing finances and building materials.

The reality of the situation is that Mr Oliver tried to force the club to select him more often. Unfortunately, despite his ability, the club’s coaches felt that he would not be suited to the new tactics employed by the club in most games.

No club wants to force a player to stay when he wants to leave.

However, at no time had there been any discussion to terminate Marvin Oliver’s contract. He was a squad player and would certainly be called upon from time to time.

It would appear that Mr Oliver didn’t expect the club to accept his request to leave the club, and panicked, knowing that no other club would pay the same level of salary as he received at Central FC.

It is these situations which clearly show the need for a players association. Had Mr. Oliver had access to professional advice, the situation may well have been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.

Instead it appears that outside influences, perhaps with their own agendas, have convinced Mr Oliver to take a more militant route in the public domain.

Airing such grievances in public can benefit no party other than the journalist. Yet it is the player and the club, and, ultimately, the game of football, whose reputations are tarnished in the name of writing one or two headlines.

As we have seen so many times, the real loser in this dispute will be the beautiful game.