By Gregory Bryce
The Jamaican proverb, “Who cyaa hear, will feel” comes to mind if I were to summarize the entire ordeal between the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and their legal battle against FIFA. The TTFA had seemingly gotten the upper hand in the recent dispute between the two footballing bodies, but – in a move that surprised no one – FIFA has made their stance clear by suspending the TTFA with immediate effect.
The punishment being handed down to Trinidad is not much of a surprise, but rather an inevitable course of action after it was announced by the High Court that the legal matter will not be judged by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland as FIFA had intended.
To understand the true extent of this decision, you must first understand what the conflict is between the two bodies, and why FIFA felt the need to suspend the TTFA.
The conflict first came to head back in March, when FIFA had judged that the president of the TTFA, William Wallace, has been unable to properly carry out his duties as the head of the national association. This, FIFA said, was evident by his not having a concrete plan for the future of Trinidadian football, his lack of proper funding, exaggerated/fraudulent sponsorship claims and overall mismanagement.
According to their by laws, FIFA exercised their right to appoint a normalization committee to oversee the operations of the TTFA (and essentially, remove Wallace from power).
Wallace contested the decision from FIFA, and maintained that he, and his recently disposed organization, remained the sole authority over the governing of the island’s football.
Wallace would, in the following months, bring the matter to court to overturn FIFA’s decision and would have been locked in dispute since.
Wallace and the TTFA seemed to have gotten the legal advantage after it was ruled by the High Court that the matter would stay in Trinidadian courts, something Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA had not wanted.
FIFA would be inherently playing by Trinidad’s terms if there was to be an agreement between the two, or so it seemed before FIFA played the allegorical ‘UNO Reverse Card’.
Similar to how Wallace had rejected the authority of the normalization committee, so too had FIFA rejected the decision made by the High Court.
“The decision of the former leadership to go to a local court to contest the appointment of the normalization committee jeopardizes not only the future of football in Trinidad and Tobago 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,” FIFA wrote in its released statement.
According to the statement by FIFA, the TTFA was given a deadline of September 16, 2020 to withdraw their case against the world governing body but had failed to do so. FIFA explained that they gave a second deadline of September 23, but that deadline was also ignored.
The TTFA reports that they had indeed tried to withdraw their case to avoid a suspension, but with September 24, being a national holiday, the courts were closed and their withdrawal was unable to be processed.
FIFA went on further to say, “In the circumstances, the Bureau of the FIFA Council has decided to suspend the TTFA. This suspension will only be lifted when the TTFA fully complies with its obligations as a member of FIFA, including recognizing the legitimacy of the appointed normalization committee and bringing its own statutes into line with the FIFA Statutes.”
The suspension could not come at a worse time for the TTFA. With the draw for the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup to be held on the upcoming Monday, Trinidad’s participation is cast into doubt.
CONCACAF has decided that Trinidad will be allowed to take part in the draw, but should the suspension still be in effect by 5 pm ET on December 18, they will be removed from the competition and their spot will be awarded to Antigua and Barbuda.
The suspension could also prevent Trinidad from taking part in their CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers fixtures, which is slated to start in March 2021.
As of now, it is simply a waiting game to see what will be the future of the TTFA.
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