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FIFA SUSPENDS TTFA

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has been officially suspended as a member of the world governing body FIFA with immediate effect and until further notice.

Thursday's letter of suspension signed by FIFA's general secretary Fatma Samoura reads in part:

Dear Sir or Madam,

We inform you that, based on the decision taken by the Bureau of the FIFA Council on 24 September 2020, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has been suspended with immediate effect and until further notice, in accordance with article 16 of the FIFA statutes.

The decision was as a result after the TTFA failed to meet Wednesday's 3:00 pm deadline which set by FIFA on September 18, for the United TTFA team to withdraw their legal matter from the T&T High court.

However, the embattled TTFA president William Wallace and team withdrawal application was made and stamped at 15:23.57 (3:23 pm) on Wednesday which was after the deadline of 15:00 AST (21:00 CET) time as outlined in the FIFA letter.

Guardian Media Sports understands that while the group's legal team filed an eight-page notice of the application to withdraw the case, in an attempt to beat FIFA's revised ultimatum, the matter will not be actually be withdrawn until the application is dealt with by Justice Carol Gobin, who is presiding over the case. The matter is still awaiting a hearing date.

The United TTFA team comprises Wallace and his three vice presidents — Clynt Taylor, Joseph Sam Phillips, and Susan Joseph-Warrick, who were elected on November 24, 2019, and includes associated Keith Look Loy, the president of the T&T Super League (TTSL) and Anthony Harford, the president of the Northern Football Association (NFA).

The FIFA media release reads:

"The Bureau of the FIFA Council today suspended the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) with immediate effect due to grave violations of the FIFA Statutes.

The suspension was prompted by the former leader of the TTFA lodging a claim before a local court in Trinidad and Tobago in order to contest the decision of the FIFA Council to appoint a normalisation committee for the TTFA. This course of action was in direct breach of Article 59 of the FIFA Statutes, which expressly prohibits recourse to ordinary courts unless specifically provided for in the FIFA regulations.

A normalisation committee was installed by the FIFA Council after it was established that the former leadership of the TTFA had engaged in various acts of serious mismanagement. The decision of the former leadership to go to a local court to contest the appointment of the normalisation 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.

The relevant parties were initially given until 16 September to withdraw the case but failed to do so. This deadline was then extended until 23 September, which was not respected either.

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 recognising the legitimacy of the appointed normalisation committee and bringing its own statutes into line with the FIFA Statutes."

Former TTFA president Wallace and his three vice presidents — Clynt Taylor, Joseph Sam Phillips, and Susan Joseph-Warrick were removed from office on March 17 by FIFA which claimed: Under these serious circumstances, and in accordance with article 8 paragraph 2 of the Fifa statutes (which foresees that executive bodies of member associations may, under exceptional circumstances, be removed from office by the Fifa Council in consultation with the relevant confederation and replaced by a normalisation committee for a specific period of time), the Bureau of the Council decided, on 17 March 2020, to appoint a normalisation committee for the TTFA.

Ten days later FIFA installed a normalisation committee which comprised businessman Robert Hadad as chairman, attorney Judy Daniel, deputy chairman and retired banker Nigel Romano as a member.

Disappointed with FIFA's decision, the United TTFA took their matter to CAS in April but withdraw it in May as they could not pay the 40,000 Swiss francs (TT$276,000) in associated costs. Their decision was partly due to FIFA's policy to not pay its share of the fees and CAS's rules, which require the other party to pay the full costs when the other fails in its obligations.

The matter was then lodged in the T&T High court on May 18. After the case was filed, FIFA applied for it to be struck out as it claimed that the TTFA by virtue of its membership with FIFA agreed to forgo all legal action in local courts in favour of proceedings before the CAS.

The application was initially blanked by justice Carol Gobin, who ruled on August 13, that the local courts were the appropriate forum to resolve the dispute.

FIFA appealed with a hearing set for October 21.

While the appeal was still pending, Gobin set the date for the trial of the case for October 9 and gave FIFA an extension to file its defence. FIFA failed to meet the deadline as it maintained its position that it did not accept the jurisdiction of the court in the matter.

Wallace and his team also obtained an injunction against the normalisation committee after it attempted to facilitate an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) among members to vote to withdraw the case and recognised the NC as the administrators of T&T football.

The injunction, which will remain in place until discharged by Gobin, was not opposed by FIFA and was granted.

Wallace and his colleagues are being represented by Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle, Crystal Paul, and Jason Jones, while Christopher Hamel-Smith, Jonathan Walker and Cherie Gopie are appearing for FIFA.

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