Can power and transparency co-exist? – Maybe not in the TTFA

By Mariah Ramharack June 14, 2020
#INCASEYOUMISSEDIT with Mariah Ramharack #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT with Mariah Ramharack

Power is the ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events. Transparency in governance focuses on honesty and openness. Question; is it that when one gets power it clouds their ability to be transparent? 

If power doesn’t cloud the ability to be transparent, then has the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) been creating a culture where the two are diametrically opposed?

Recently, based on the way events have unfolded within the TTFA, I am led to believe that power clouds transparency.

On Sunday, November 24th 2019, then President of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), William Wallace defeated incumbent David John-Williams to become the new TTFA boss, at the Home of Football in Couva. It took two rounds of voting, but in the end, Wallace received 26 votes to John-Williams’ 20.

The election result marked the end of a stormy tenure for John-Williams, who was often accused by his detractors of leading an authoritarian administration that lacked transparency.

Upon becoming TTFA President, Wallace gave the SportsMax Zone his word to keep in contact and ensure that the public was updated on the affairs of the TTFA.

According to him, this was of utmost importance because he did not want to lead in the manner for which he turned ouster of John-Williams.

But then, every good story has a twist.

On March 17th, a mere four months after Wallace occupies office, FIFA appoints a normalization committee to run the TTFA. Questions were immediately raised. Was FIFA being unfair? Even I felt there was not enough time given to the newly elected administration to prove themselves.

Recently I’ve had to rethink my position with the surfacing of two contracts signed by the Wallace administration. The two contracts have provoked numerous questions. Questions that are yet to be answered.

The first discrepancy is with the contract afforded to T&T’s Men’s National Senior Team Head Coach Terry Fenwick by the TTFA.

Based on the findings of a SportsMax Zone investigation, the contract Fenwick signed was not the one agreed upon by the Board members. The same Wallace, who described the former head of the administration of being a dictator, went ahead with a contract that was not agreed upon by the board. Is this a case of power clouding transparency?

After constant requests from the SportsMax Zone for Wallace to clear the air, he eventually came to the forefront explaining it was simply an “error”. An error that is a legally binding document for the TTFA five months later?

A debt-riddled organization making errors where money is concerned?

Would the error have been rectified if it was not exposed?

Wallace’s reason for the additional sum added to the contract is that Fenwick sourced private sponsorship. Why include a private sponsor in an official TTFA contract? What if the sponsor falls through? And who is this sponsor? What are they getting from Fenwick or the TTFA in return?

TT Pro League Board representative Brent Sancho provided this comment on the matter, “Football has been in the doldrums for the last 20/25 years. Corruption, lack of transparency, governance issues, and greed has been the order of the day and this latest instalment by the Wallace regime is a continuation of this disease that has infected the growth of the sport. These men have put yet another nail in the coffin of our aspiring young footballers.”

Wallace has said the clerical error is being rectified, meaning Fenwick’s salary will not be affected. But there are losers with this latest faux pas taking centre stage. Football will lose. The sport suffers, the footballers suffer and the reputation of Trinidad and Tobago suffers.

Then, as if one error wasn’t enough, the Avec Sport contract surfaces and again the views of the board seem to have been disregarded.

The terms of the contract, worth approximately TT$25 million, are that the TTFA will receive a “Gifted Pro Kit Allowance” from Avec but are to buy a minimum of 7500 replica shirts in each contract year for four years.

According to the terms of the contract, the TTFA’s sponsors will spend half a million pounds with Avec Sport. If this figure isn’t met over the course of the four years, the TTFA will pay for all the kits provided over the period. This deal is also alleged not to have had the backing or approval of the board.

This information about the manner in which the TTFA is conducting business forces me to re-think my feelings on the issue of FIFA’s normalization committee running the affairs of the TTFA. I am led to believe that power has a way of clouding transparency and if not, it definitely has a history of doing so at the TTFA.

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