Football’s world governing body — FIFA is currently assessing the actions of the T&T Football Association (TTFA) general membership, as well as the ruling by the Court of Appeal of T&T, with a possible intent to remove the suspension handed down on September 24 and accept the TTFA back into the fold of the FIFA family.
FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura delivered this information in a letter on Wednesday, pointed out that on October 23, the Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Appellate Judge Nolan Bereaux overturned a ruling by High Court Judge Carol Gobin made on October 13 to recognise the United T&TFA’s team of William Wallace (president) and vice presidents Clynt Taylor, Joseph Sam Phillip and Susan Joseph-Warrick, as the legitimate managers of football in T&T.
The TTFA had challenged a decision by the FIFA in March to appoint a Normalisation Committee to replace the Wallace-led T&TFA for putting the country’s football on the brink of insolvency. The T&TFA first went to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Switzerland, before deciding to challenge the matter in the local High Court, which was a violation of the FIFA Statutes, citing constitutional bias at the CAS.
However, Justice Bereaux concluded that the TTFA constitution prescribes that all disputes between itself and FIFA should be dealt with by CAS.
He said: “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.”
Archie, on the other hand, said “It was neither prudent case management nor an economical deployment of judicial time and resources to attempt to finally determine the substantive issues and to deliver a judgement less than a week before the scheduled hearing of the interlocutory appeal…Zeal is commendable but it must not obscure the need for caution,” Archie said.
In the judgement, it was determined that the litigation contravened the Judiciary’s Civil Proceedings Rules, as it was served on FIFA via email when Swiss law does not permit such a method for service of a lawsuit.
The ruling was followed by an Extraordinary General Meeting on October 25, at which the TTFA members agreed to drop all the court matters with the FIFA if the TTFA were to be accepted as a member again, and thereby be allowed to play in all FIFA-sanctioned events.
The TTFA was also required to accept the normalisation committee as the organisation to run the affairs of the sport in T&T, as well as bring its statutes in line with that of the FIFA.
Samoura in a letter to Robert Hadad, chairman of the normalisation committee dated November 4, acknowledged the attempts made the sport’s membership and the court of appeal, saying: ” FIFA acknowledged receipt of the decision of the T&T Court of Appeal in the case to which FIFA was a respondent party. In this context, the decision of the Court of Appeal ruled that the former leadership of the TTFA had acted unlawfully by appealing to a local court to contest the appointment by FIFA of the Normalisation Committee for the TTFA.”
She added: “In addition, the Court of Appeal stressed that in accordance with art. 57 par. 1 of the FIFA Statutes and art. 67 of the TTFA statutes, the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) is the only recognised path to resolve such dispute. Furthermore, the FIFA administration acknowledges the receipt of written proof that on 25 October 2020 a meeting was held among the TTFA members. In this context, we duly take note that the members of the TTFA expressed themselves and decided that “(…) the way forward for the TTFA is: for the TTFA to fully comply with its obligations as a member of FIFA, recognising the legitimacy of the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee, and; bringing its own statutes in line with the FIFA Statutes, and; to fully cooperate with the Normalisation Committee in the fulfilment of its mandate as stated in FIFA´s letter of March 17th, 2020; be it further resolved that all court matters existing between the TTFA and FIFA shall be immediately brought to a stop”.
According to Samoura, FIFA welcomes both decisions and is assessing the matter internally, promising that an update will be provided in due course.
The Confederation of North, Central America and the Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) which made it known it wanted T&T in its main draw for the CONCACAF Gold Cup on September 28, later gave the T&TFA until December 18 to sort out its matters with the FIFA or miss the tournament in 2021.
FIFA later also gave the FIFA T&TFA the same deadline to drop all the court matters against it and bring its constitution in line with FIFA’s, if T&T was to have a chance to contest the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.