Football’s world governing body, FIFA, on Saturday hailed the Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal decision to squash a recent High Court ruling against them, in the controversial case brought by the embattled T&T Football Association (TTFA).
Earlier this month, Justice Carol Gobin ruled in favour of beleaguered TTFA president, William Wallace and his three vice presidents — Clynt Taylor, Joseph Sam Phillips, and Susan Joseph-Warrick (resigned), contending that the normalisation committee installed on March 27 by FIFA “was unwarranted and indefensible” and also “made in bad faith and for an improper and illegal motive”. FIFA had removed the TTFA executive on March 17 after their audit visit in February.
However, FIFA on Friday won their case in the Court of Appeal with Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Justice of Appeal Nolan Bereaux concluding that Wallace and his TTFA executive members had violated the TTFA’s constitution by challenging FIFA’s decision in the local courts instead of before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
On Saturday in a media release FIFA stated: “FIFA welcomes the decision of the Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal, which ruled that the former leadership of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) had acted unlawfully by appealing to a local court to contest the appointment of a normalisation committee for the TTFA.”
The release continued: “Among other relevant legal considerations, the Court of Appeal stressed that in accordance with the TTFA statutes and the FIFA statutes, the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) is the proper forum to resolve such disputes. The ruling, which has been served to the parties yesterday (Friday), fully recognises the established global football governance structure, which relies on the CAS as the exclusive internationally recognised tribunal for the resolution of sports-related disputes.”
It continued: “A normalisation committee was installed in Trinidad and Tobago by a decision of the FIFA Council after it was established that the former leadership of the TTFA had engaged in various acts of serious mismanagement. The former leadership of TTFA lodged a claim before the local Courts in Trinidad and Tobago in order to contest the decision of the FIFA Council. Yesterday’s decision of the Court of Appeal overturns the first-instance decision of the Local Court and concludes that should the former leadership of TTFA wish to dispute the appointment of the normalisation committee it should appeal to CAS.”
The latest move allows FIFA to proceed with the normalisation committee headed by local businessman Robert Hadad and includes attorney Judy Daniel and retired banker Nigel Romano, which was put in place last March because of what FIFA claimed were “extremely low overall financial management methods, combined with a massive debt”, leaving the TTFA “facing a very real risk of insolvency and illiquidity”.
Wallace, who had only replaced incumbent David John-Williams following elections on November 24, initially challenged the move before CAS in May but eventually resorted to the local courts on May 18, after accusing CAS of “apparent institutional bias”.
Trading as the United TTFA, Wallace and his team claimed that CAS was biased towards FIFA after it had asked them to pay the 40,000 Swiss francs (TT$276,000) in associated costs instead of asking FIFA to pay its share.
However, against the backdrop of the High Court’s ruling, Bereaux wrote in his judgement that the TTFA was bound by its constitution to resolve all disputes with FIFA before CAS.
“The fact that such a provision is enshrined in the TTFA’s Constitution means that the TTFA and its executive are bound to comply. The result is that the filing of these proceedings was a breach of the TTFA’s Constitution. Having made its choice and having bound itself by its own Constitution to comply, it cannot now act outside of its provisions,” he said.
In a further blow, the Court of Appeal also ordered the TTFA to pay FIFA’s legal costs.
Only recently, Wallace said if the Court of Appeal ruled against the FA, he would walk away without challenging the ruling before the Privy Council in London.
“If we lose this matter, that’s it for me. There is no more appealing. I [would] say, ‘Thank you very much’, and I walk away. There is nothing like that (appealing to the Privy Council). I have no intention of going beyond our court,” he said.
In the interim, Trinidad and Tobago remain under a suspension by FIFA, imposed on September 24 (T&T Republic Day) for a “direct breach of Article 59 of the FIFA Statutes, which expressly prohibits recourse to ordinary courts” in disputes by member associations.
In the event, that the suspension is not lifted by either FIFA or the CAS by 5 pm on December 18, T&T will be replaced by Antigua and Barbuda as the next highest-ranked team based on performances during the 2019 Concacaf Nations League and T&T will also miss the qualifying rounds of the 2022 World Cup.
The TTFA is represented by attorney Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle, Crystal Paul and Jason Jones, while FIFA’s legal team is Cherie Gopie and M. Hamel-Smith & Co.
LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian