“Is the moral victory that they are seemingly seeking worth taking Trinidad and Tobago football down this path?” asks former Trinidad and Tobago sports minister Brent Sancho. “I am not here to dispute whether FIFA (is) wrong or right. I'm here to ask a question.”
The implications of the TTFA taking football’s world governing body to the local high court are far reaching and have evoked everything from dread to caution to concern.
Most persons were reluctant to comment officially. Of those who did, Sancho raised concerns of a possible international ban for the country’s football.
Former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner felt Sancho’s comment “would not help the Football Association”, while football constitution expert Osmond Downer took a cautious approach.
On Monday, deposed TTFA president William Wallace instructed attorneys Dr Emir Crowne and Mathew Gayle to abandon an appeal to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and turn attention instead to T&T’s High Court.
Wallace’s executive had initially petitioned CAS to overturn a decision by FIFA to appoint a normalisation committee to oversee the running of the TTFA until new elections could be held. Elected in November, 2019, Wallace and his team were removed by FIFA just four months later, the world body citing the Association’s heavy debt burden as the main reason for its action.
Most outspoken of those willing to comment, Sancho inquired how Wallace’s executive ever hoped to function with FIFA, having taken them to court.
“There is the possibility of not being able to partake in World Cup qualifiers, under-15, Under-20 and all the age-group tournaments. No women football or club championship,” stated the Central FC club owner, “Who benefits from that?
“At the end of the day, who are the true winners from this? You can’t tell me it’s Trinidad and Tobago football when there is the possibility of being sanctioned.”
Downer, the writer of the TTFA’s constitution, took a cautious approach to the TTFA decision to head to the local courts, a decision which seems in contradiction of point 3 of Article 64 of the FIFA statutes dealing with its members’ obligations to the world organisation.
“The Associations shall insert a clause in their statutes or regulations, stipulating that it is prohibited to take disputes in the Association or disputes affecting Leagues, members of Leagues, clubs, members of clubs, players, officials and other Association Officials to ordinary courts of law,” the statute says.
Article 64 further states, “Instead of recourse to ordinary courts of law, provision shall be made for arbitration. Such disputes shall be taken to an independent and duly constituted arbitration tribunal, recognised under the rules of the Association or Confederation or to CAS.”
“I would not want to comment on whether it is wrong or right,” said Downer, a former school principal, FIFA referee and referees’ instructor.
Further, point two of Article 13 relating to FIFA members’ obligations, states: “Violation of the above-mentioned obligations by any member may lead to sanctions provided for in these statutes.”
Article 14 speaks of suspension of a member and says, “The Congress is responsible for suspending a Member. The Executive Committee may, however, suspend a member that seriously and repeatedly violates its obligations as a member with immediate effect.”
“I have just adopted a wait and see attitude,” Downer said, “I am waiting to see what is the eventual result because it is not as easy as some people think.”
Downer, who preferred that the matter had been handled at CAS, said it would be interesting to see the legal interpretation of what there is in the TTFA constitution.
“Perhaps it would be good to see how a local court will look at it because when you look at it, there is a definite conflict between the two constitutions. Definite conflict,” he added.
Warner initially reserved comment, having not yet read yesterday’s newspaper reports highlighting the issue.
“Let me not say much on that for the time being because that will not help the Football Association (FA) or you,” Warner said.
A prominent FIFA official for nearly three decades until he was forced to resign amidst a 2011 corruption scandal, Warner is now an outspoken critic of the organisation. He took a sympathetic position to Wallace’s plight.
“A wrong has been done against the Football Association and not a single media house has stood up in their defence and for me, that is very painful,” he said,
Corrected and informed that Wallace’s point of view has been regularly vented on both newspaper and television, Warner instead diverted from the issue - that being of the consequence of the TTFA taking FIFA before a local court.
“Everything in Trinidad has gone to the one-percenters. They claim football and nobody see nothing wrong with that,” he ranted. “The last thing that the black man had was football and that has been lost. That has been taken away.”
Warner promised to read further into the issue and call back. He did not, neither did he answer his phone later on.
SOURCE: T&T Express