Ball in FIFA’s court?

THERE were always going to be winners and losers, no matter which way Justice Carol Gobin ruled on Tuesday night.

But the victory of the embattled executive of the TT Football Association (TTFA) in its challenge of FIFA’s ouster of the local body was a particularly pyrrhic one.

So much so that none other than the Prime Minister felt compelled to note the outcome was purchased at too high a price.

“We are now free of the ‘colonial’ FIFA,” Dr Rowley said in a sardonic social media post in the early hours of Wednesday. “We, boys and girls, men and women, are free to play by ourselves and against ourselves because nobody will be allowed to play us.”

Yet the finer details of the case have a direct bearing on the authority of Dr Rowley himself, as the head of the Executive of a sovereign state and as a legislator sitting in the Twelfth Parliament.

This was a matter that hinged on the question of which body had more authority: Parliament or FIFA. For it was Parliament, through the 1982 TTFA Act, that had ratified FIFA rules locally.

It should be a source of worry to a prime minister that a member of our Supreme Court has red-flagged FIFA conduct as undermining the sovereignty of Parliament, conduct suggestive of a contempt for our judicial organs and, furthermore, conduct that threatens the very rule of law itself.

Justice Gobin made an effort to suggest she considered the real-world implications of her decision. She noted the concerns of all sports administrators, clubs, players, aspiring footballers, young people, fans, and even the Government itself.

That did not stop the judge from being critical of FIFA. She found the appointment of a “normalisation committee” in bad faith and “for an improper and illegal motive.” She found FIFA had exerted “unlawful pressure” to get the TTFA to drop its lawsuit.

“It is well settled that conduct which is calculated to impair access to the court is punishable as a contempt of court,” Justice Gobin said.

Unless there is an intervention by the Ministry of the Attorney General – and the matter of what options are open to the AG is itself an interesting consideration – the ball is now squarely in FIFA’s court.

It is for FIFA to pay the TTFA’s legal costs. It is for FIFA to determine if it will appeal. And it is for FIFA to treat with the matter of suspension.

Or is it for the Government, whose powers are upheld by this ruling, to repeal the TTFA Act? To change the rules so we have a clear winner?

Dr Rowley was right to follow this match.


"Ball in FIFA’s court?"

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