WAS FIFA’s decision to remove William Wallace and his executive from the helm of the TT Football Association (TTFA), in March and install a normalisation committee a violation of TTFA’s democratically elected process? Or was it justified?
These questions are expecetd to be answered when attorneys representing both organisations appear before High Court judge Carol Gobin in a virtual court hearing at 9.30 am on Friday.
Justice Gobin’s ruling, if any, may return Wallace’s regime to the top of local football, although the sport’s global governing body, in a letter issued on Tuesday, insisted “the only legitimate leadership of the TTFA, recognised by FIFA and CONCACAF, is the one led by Robert Hadad,” chairman of the normalisation committee.
Gobin is not mandated to give a final decision on this matter on Friday.
FIFA’s decision to remove Wallace’s administration was due to the TTFA's mounting debt, which was TT $50 million.
On September 24, TT was indefinitely suspended from all FIFA-sanctioned tournaments “due to grave violations of the FIFA Statutes.”
FIFA’s statement said the suspension was prompted by the ousted administration lodging a claim before a local court to contest the decision of the FIFA Council to appoint a normalisation committee for the TTFA.
“This course of action was in direct breach of article 59 of the FIFA Statutes, which expressly prohibits recourse to ordinary courts unless specifically provided for in the FIFA regulations.”
FIFA’s September 24 statement also said, “The decision of the former leadership to go to a local court to contest the appointment of the normalisation committee jeopardises not only the future of football in TT but also endangers the overall global football governance structure, which relies on the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as the exclusive forum for resolving disputes of this nature.
“The relevant parties were initially given until 16 September to withdraw the case but failed to do so. This deadline was then extended until 23 September, which was not respected either. In the circumstances, the Bureau of the FIFA Council has decided to suspend the TTFA.”
On September 25, Wallace’s United TTFA team, after previously questioning the impartiality of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, has returned to the Swiss-based court to fight FIFA’s suspension.
Wallace’s team initially complied with FIFA’s request but withdrew from the legal fight at 3.02 pm on September 23 – two minutes after the 3 pm deadline set by the world body – to escape suspension proceedings. FIFA, however, showed no leniency.
On Tuesday, it issued a reminder that the suspension must be lifted by noon (TT time) on December 18 or else TT will be withdrawn from participation in the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers.
United TTFA will now fight the FIFA suspension at CAS and, on September 24, “gave instructions to the TTFA attorneys to file an emergency appeal with CAS, challenging the sole issue of suspension.”
This was revealed in a document Wallace issued on September 25, which said, “The TTFA attorneys also filed the relevant documents to continue with the claim before the High Court of Justice (TT) since this is the only way that we can legitimise our application to CAS.”
CAS was rejected by the United TTFA during the early stages of the legal battle, as its attorneys Dr Emir Crowne and Matthew Gayle claimed that a “number of irregularities have arisen, irregularities that have caused their clients to believe their right to a fair hearing has been impinged.”
After the normalisation committee was appointed in March, Wallace’s team took FIFA to CAS.
Two weeks later, the ousted executive (which includes vice-presidents Clynt Taylor and Joseph Sam Phillip) turned to the High Court in its fight, although, according to FIFA’s statutes, the matter was mandated to be heard at CAS.