Court to decide Aug. 13 whether to send FIFA/TTFA dispute back to CAS

By July 30, 2020

Trinidad and Tobago High Court Justice Carol Gobin will hand down a decision on August 13 whether the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) will be compelled to abide by the arbitration process at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) or whether FIFA will be subject to the jurisdiction of the TT High Court in their ongoing dispute.

The TTFA and FIFA have been in dispute since March when FIFA dissolved the association’s administration who were in office four months and installed a normalization committee to oversee the affairs of the debt-ridden association.

TTFA took the matter to the CAS but later withdrew citing fears of institutional bias.

On May 18, lawyers for the William-Wallace executive had filed an application in the Trinidad and Tobago High Court seeking a permanent injunction to prevent FIFA from interfering or seeking to override the “fair and transparent democratic processes of the TTFA and/or preventing them from removing the executive of duly elected officers from office.

They are also seeking a permanent injunction against FIFA preventing FIFA and/or its agents from interfering with the day-to-day management of the association, including its bank accounts, website and real property.

Attempts at mediation failed when FIFA decided to withdraw citing a lack of confidentiality.

FIFA now wants the court to send the matter back before the CAS.

On Wednesday, the parties appeared before the Honourable Justice Carol Gobin after FIFA filed an application on June 15, 2020, challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to adjudicate on the impending issues between the parties.

The TTFA was represented by attorneys-at-law Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle, Crystal Paul and Jason Jones of New City Chambers while FIFA was represented by Christopher Hamel-Smith SC, Jonathan Walker and Cherie Gopie of M Hamel-Smith and Co.

Hamel-Smith submitted that the TTFA’s commencement of the proceedings before the TT High Court was an act beyond its legal authority and that the TTFA’s commencement of the proceedings before the TT High Court was done without the due and proper authority of those who purported to do so on behalf of the TTFA.

Hamel-Smith also submitted that proceedings be stayed in favour of arbitration at CAS as agreed between TTFA and FIFA. He also submitted that the permission initially granted to the TTFA to issue and serve the originating documents outside of the jurisdiction be set aside as, among other reasons, electronic service of the documents were contrary to Swiss Law.

However, in submissions for the TTFA, Dr Emir Crowne said the TTFA was created by an Act of the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament and so if the Parliament intended to abdicate its supervision and/or jurisdiction over the TTFA- thereby ousting the jurisdiction of the TT High Court- then the Parliament would have clearly done so.

These submissions were made in support of Dr Crowne’s insistence that the matter before the Court posed far-reaching public policy implications of which the Court should consider.

As it relates to Swiss Law, Dr Crowne indicated that the question should not have any significant relevance since the alleged breaches, torts, property rights and other issues affecting the TTFA are all occurring and have its ultimate effect within Trinidad and Tobago, not Switzerland.

Further, he contended that the FIFA submitted no evidence before the Court to support its assertions regarding Swiss Law and the TTFA’s service of its originating documents outside of Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr Crowne also raised the issue of the institutional bias at CAS and whether there was, in fact, an enforceable agreement between the TTFA and FIFA to arbitrate before the CAS.

He submitted that the decision to be bound by the arbitration clause, as FIFA alleges, cannot be said to have been entered into freely by the TTFA given the drastic consequences to the TTFA of not being affiliated or participating in international football.

It will now come down to Justice Gobin’s decision on August 13.

“The TTFA, perhaps like many other stakeholders of Trinidad and Tobago football, patiently awaits the ruling of the Honourable Court in this Application,” said Jason Jones in a comment to Sportsmax.TV.

Prior to the start of Wednesday’s proceedings, Justice Gobin asked whether the parties would consider Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods. The TTFA said it was willing to engage in mediation. However, FIFA reiterated that it remains willing only to engage in arbitration before the CAS.

 

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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