NARISSA FRASER and JOEL BAILEY
THE former executive body of the TT Football Association (TTFA) says its members do not believe they would get a "fair hearing" under the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and is now appealing to TT's High Court for its ongoing battle against FIFA.
After only three months in office (March 17), the TTFA executive were removed by FIFA, the world's governing body of football, and replaced by a normalisation committee headed by businessman Robert Hadad. FIFA said this was done due to the TTFA's mounting financial debts.
Since then, the members have insisted they are still in charge of the TTFA's affairs.
In a media release on Monday, Wallace - embattled president of the association - said the financial state of the TTFA was assessed when he came into office and they discovered several issues. A report was then sent to FIFA highlighting those issues and explaining how his executive planned to deal with it.
"Ironically, our discovery is one of the two reasons FIFA used to remove us from office. Even more ironically, FIFA conducts an annual audit at the TTFA and would have done so for the previous four years and never discovered this issue or if it was discovered never demanded that it be fixed."
FIFA president Gianni Infantino visited TT in November 2019 for the opening of the Home of Football in Balmain, Couva. At that time, the TTFA president was David John-Williams, under whose leadership, a massive portion of the association's debt was created.
Wallace said the "democratically elected TTFA officers" continue to reject FIFA's decision.
The sacked executive, through their lawyers Matthew Gayle and Dr Emir Crowne, recently issued an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but had noted its fees were quite hefty.
"In short order, it became clear that CAS was prepared to ignore its own regulations to facilitate FIFA in its handling of TTFA vs FIFA. Specifically, CAS directed the democratically elected TTFA officers to pay (TT $297,000) to cover the entire cost of the proceedings, when its regulations require the two parties to a matter to pay half each.
"It was only in response to the TTFA’s officers’ objection to this glaring denial of its own regulations that CAS called on FIFA to pay its half which FIFA has since refused to do."
Wallace said he doubts they would get a "fair hearing" under CAS, so "after long and hard deliberations," they decided to lodge a brief with the High Court of TT.
They are requesting the following: A declaration that FIFA's decision to appoint a normalisation committee and to remove the elected members is null, void and of no legal and/or binding effect; a permanent injunction preventing the defendant from interfering or seeking to override the fair and transparent democratic processes of the claimant; a permanent injunction preventing the FIFA and its agents from interfering in the day-to-day management of the claimant, including bank accounts and real property.
Wallace said the real reason for FIFA's decision is to try to "cover up the financial mismanagement and illegal actions of the last administration, including the failure to provide contracts for the expenditure of $16 million on the Home of Football, the issuance of dozens of cheques against TTFA accounts that had insufficient funds and failure to pay to relevant statutory authorities the sum of $4 million deducted from employees’ salaries."
He added that over the years, FIFA has not shown interest in good governance or proper financial management.
"We are guided by the principles of Freedom and Democracy enshrined in the supreme and governing law of TT – the constitution – under which TTFA is established. We shall prevail."
Newsday posed a question to Hadad, via Whatsapp, on Monday afternoon, asking if he think this move is proof that Wallace and his team are fighting a losing battle or if he is concerned that the High Court may lean towards the removed TTFA executive. Hadad did not respond to Newsday's query up to press time on Monday.