Opinion: Much of TTFA, FIFA fallout still shrouded in confusion and contradiction

By March 24, 2020

Even from a distance, it seems impossible not to gawk at the mangled train wreck that has unfolded at the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association and not be overcome with a sense of bewilderment.

In a press conference earlier this month, then newly elected president William Wallace became the latest in a long line of TTFA bosses to firmly plant allegations of widespread corruption at the feet of the previous tenants.  The new head honcho pointed to unpaid statutory deductions, bounced checks, a faulty finance structure as partial contributors to the body accruing a towering $US7,370,990 (TT$50,000,000).  Wallace also pointed to an incomplete Home of Football in Couva, which he claimed was shown to have structural flaws and lacking proper insurance. 

In the midst of the doom and gloom, Wallace then went on to paint a much rosier outlook for the future of the TTFA, after claiming the newly appointed administration had already taken major steps to alleviate some of the issues.  A settlement had been reached with television commentator Selwyn Melville regarding the issue of who owns the ‘Soca Warriors’ (Now famous nickname of the Trinidad and Tobago Men's Senior team)  and the announcement of an unspecified memorandum of understanding that would clear the debt in ‘two to three years’. The president pointed out that the new body had secured a TT$25-million apparel deal, secured a broadcast and digital rights partner, sealed a domestic sponsor and secured a sponsor for the FA. 

Good so far, but crucially, Wallace claimed that the work of a pair of accountants posted within his administration’s new internal finance structure satisfied a recent delegation of FIFA and Concacaf officials and that a better relationship could be expected going forward.  The bodies have long been at odds regarding the financial state of the local football body and had delayed its annual subvention.  A little over two weeks later FIFA disbanded the Board of the TTFA and appointed a normalization committee to take over affairs.  What on earth is going on? Nobody has explained to date.

The timing of FIFA's intervention seems strange, deciding to disband a newly formed executive that seems to not only have implemented structural reform but also pledges for financial support. A perceived sense of chumminess with the former administration, whether real or imagined put this in an even worse light and could be a real black eye for a Gianni Infantino-led organisation, which claims to have taken on the mantle of crusaders against corruption.

The response of the former TTFA members is, however, also interesting.

Any claims about a violation of sovereign and democratically elected officials certainly does not fly as when it comes to football the twin-island republic falls directly under the governance of FIFA itself and not the state. In several instances, countries have been suspended from the organisation for violating just that principle. The charter and ordinances that govern all 211 national associations of which T&T are a part, and the particular article that was quoted, gives them the specific right to intervene in the affairs of a member nation.  Normalisation committees are not after all aberrations on the global football landscape with Ghana, Egypt, Pakistan and Namibia among a few of those that have received such ‘assistance’ in recent years. This isn't even the first time this has happened in the Caribbean, with FIFA taking over the Guyana Football Federation and putting in a normalisation committee for a little over a year.

In other words, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president Randy Harris was right, even if not popular, in pointing out that the appointment of normalisation committees is the prerogative of FIFA and can happen to any of the 211 national associations.  With all members agreeing to and playing under those statues it is difficult to see how it can be argued otherwise.

Secondly, it’s hard to imagine supporting the argument that a measure put in place to mitigate against damage the TTFA has admitted exists, is unfair, and to do so with the question, 'why now?'. FIFA should perhaps have intervened long ago, but few could argue with firefighters attempting to save any part of a house that has been engulfed in flames for a prolonged period. We would not advocate them letting it burn to the ground. 

Though they may not be required to, FIFA should, in the interest of the transparency they have long sought, give more details on the specifics of these particular circumstances.

 

 

Kwesi Mugisa

Kwesi has been a sports journalist with more than 10-years’ experience in the field. First as a Sports Reporter with The Gleaner in the early 2000s before he made the almost natural transition to becoming an editor. Since then he has led the revamp of The Star’s sports offering, making it a more engaging and forward-thinking component of the most popular tabloid newspaper in the Caribbean.

Related items

  • Bayern president expects transfer fees to dip after coronavirus pandemic Bayern president expects transfer fees to dip after coronavirus pandemic

    Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer expects a significant decrease in transfer fees following the coronavirus pandemic.

    Deals worth in excess of €100million have been commonplace in the past four years, with Neymar becoming the world's most expensive player when he joined Paris Saint-Germain for €222m in August 2017.

    Bayern have been more conservative but broke their transfer record by splashing out €80m on Lucas Hernandez last year.

    Links to Leroy Sane and Timo Werner led to suggestions the Bavarian giants were willing to break the bank again, but Hainer believes the inflation in the market will have been stemmed by the proliferation of COVID-19.

    Revenues have dried up for clubs across the world, with players at Bayern, Barcelona, Juventus and Atletico Madrid among those to take pay cuts while football is on hiatus.

    Asked about the potential impact of the coronavirus crisis on transfer fees, Hainer told Bayern's 51 magazine: "As I said, although serious predictions are difficult to make, it's obvious there'll be changes. I agree with Uli Hoeness' assumption that transfer fees will decrease. That's just logical.

    "When income decreases, there's less money in circulation. And given the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis on people's everyday lives, outrageous sums in the millions are even less justifiable than they already were.

    "My hope is that more common sense will be applied here as well. I have to take my hat off to Hasan Salihamidzic and our sporting leadership. They're handling the coronavirus situation very well."

    Bayern players agreed to a 20 per cent wage reduction during the Bundesliga suspension, which is scheduled to last until at least April 30.

    Hainer acknowledged the situation has put clubs in precarious financial positions, but he is confident Bayern will be able to get through the crisis without "any major damage".

    "Of course, the situation is very tense. It's about the existence of individual clubs. And even FC Bayern faces a major financial challenge – that's no secret," said Hainer.

    "But our club is in an excellent position. We work day after day to ensure that FC Bayern can navigate through this phase without any major damage.

    "Despite this immense task, we're looking to the future with confidence."

  • Coronavirus: Serie A season could finish in October, suggests FIGC chief Coronavirus: Serie A season could finish in October, suggests FIGC chief

    Serie A clubs could be allowed to finish the 2019-20 season as late as October, according to Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina.

    Italy's top flight was suspended indefinitely last month due to the spread of coronavirus, and the FIGC stated on Friday that the season would not be resumed until the health and safety of all concerned could in some way be guaranteed.

    Italy has been the country hardest hit by COVID-19 in Europe, with close to 129,000 confirmed cases and more than 15,800 deaths, although official figures over recent days have indicated strict lockdown measures are having an effect on the spread of the virus.

    Gravina says the proposed date of May 17 to restart Serie A remains a possibility, but he insists it would be best to allow 2019-20 to finish much later this year if necessary, rather than declare the season cancelled.

    "It's a hypothesis," Gravina told RAI when asked if a September or October finish had been put forward. "At the moment, a possible date to restart could be May 17, but I want to clarify that this is only a hypothesis.

    "Finishing the season would be the best way not only so the 2019-20 season is not compromised, but also to avoid compromising the 2020-21 season in any way."

    There are signs Italy's stringent measures to enforce social distancing and limit all non-essential travel are working, with the number of new deaths falling over the past three days, while the rate of confirmed new cases also appears to be going down.

    However, prime minister Giuseppe Conte admitted earlier on Sunday that he cannot offer any guarantee when lockdown measures will be eased.

    "Right now, I can't say when the lockdown will end. We are following the directions of the scientific committee, but Italy was the first nation [in Europe] to face the emergency," Conte said.

    "Our response was maybe not perfect, but we have done our best based on the knowledge we have.

    "The validity of the measures we have taken has been recognised by the World Health Organization and the results indicate we're on the right path."

  • Coronavirus: Copa del Rey final and retirement not important amid pandemic - Aduriz Coronavirus: Copa del Rey final and retirement not important amid pandemic - Aduriz

    Aritz Aduriz does not see his retirement nor Athletic Bilbao's Copa del Rey final with Real Sociedad as important amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    The veteran striker, who has scored 172 goals in over 400 appearances for Athletic, announced his intention to retire at the end of this season back in August.

    His final season as a player is set to be marked by an all-Basque Copa del Rey final between Athletic and La Real.

    Originally scheduled to take place on April 18 in Seville, the Copa showpiece - along with the vast majority of sport around the world - has been put on hold.

    It is not clear when the final will be played. However, Aduriz accepts even an occasion as momentous as the clash with La Real has little significance amid a crisis that has killed over 12,000 people in Spain.

    "This coronavirus crisis is forcing us to think twice and consider what matters," Aduriz told Athletic's official website. "And now my retirement, or football in general, or if we will play [the Copa del Rey final] or not doesn't matter.

    "I think there are many other more important things to stop and solve. I'm sure with everyone's help together, with each of us playing our role, we will get ahead of it. That's what I'm focused on at this moment and that's the most important thing."

    Aduriz was born in San Sebastian, where Real Sociedad hail from, but he expects a respectful reception from their fans if and when the final goes ahead.

    He added: "Maybe all of us are keeping in mind the Copa del Rey final, but we're prioritising other things now.

    "We're all going through a tough time where many people are struggling a lot and even passing away…so, the final of the Copa has its importance, but maybe not that much now.

    "There are other things we need to solve together, and if the day [of the final] finally comes, I'm Donostiarra [people originally from San Sebastian]. I've always felt very comfortable in Donostia [the city's Basque name] and that won't change whatever happens in any football game. I'm sure they will treat me in the same way, no doubt."

    Asked about recognition for his achievements from Athletic fans, Aduriz replied: "If we've learned something from this pandemic or virus that we're struggling with, it's that we should think twice about what is important.

    "I sincerely believe the people who really deserve a statue and recognition are clear nowadays, and it's not me or any football player.

    "I would build a statue to those who are battling every day at the very front line against the virus in all the hospitals. They're showing us what really matters.

    "We have to realise what's important and what isn't. And this is probably showing us that football isn't important enough for this kind of recognition."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.