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State picks up US$1.3m tab for footballers
Former national football player Brent Sancho was brought to tears as Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar agreed to pay the Soca Warriors the outstanding US$1.3 million for their role in the 2006 Fifa World Cup campaign in Germany. That figure represented the sum owed to the players by the T&T Football Association. Some of the players accepted lower sums while Sancho and the others demanded the full payment. Yesterday, Persad-Bissessar, during a hastily arranged news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, promised the footballers the remaining money. She said the matter was discussed and approved by Cabinet.
Apart from Sancho, Stern John and others attended the event. She said the government was under no legal obligation to make any payment to the players. “We are not unmindful of the long and protracted legal battles waged by these football heroes of ours,” she added. She said the team had brought the nation together when it qualified for the finals. They were “still owed and entitled to a payment from an entity, in the TTFF, that is unlikely to be in a position to pay,” she said but added that the payment would in no way prejudice any other course of action being pursued by the players.
Sancho, who spoke on behalf of the players, said they were committed to the legal challenge against the TTFF and when they succeeded and were paid they would repay the Government.
He said the players were overwhelmed by the decision by the Government to pay them. “This moment means more than we can describe,” he added. He recalled the humiliation, torment and even blacklisting of the players since they made the demands and said the careers of some of the Soca Warriors had ended prematurely. John spoke with reporters afterwards, saying administrators must take the footballers more seriously and treat them with more respect.
In many instances, he said, administrators travel comfortably while the players were cramped for space but the footballer must be treated with more respect if the sport is to be rebuilt in T&T.
Meanwhile, Persad-Bissessar also announced she was leaving for Brazil yesterday to attend the World Cup semifinals and finals on Sunday on a private trip with her grandson. She said the trip was privately funded.
Soca Warriors Timeline
• October 2005: T&T national senior football team, Soca Warriors, qualifies for the 2006 World Cup in Germany after a two-leg playoff with Bahrain.
• June 2006: Fifa vice-president and T&T Football Federation special adviser Jack Warner promises the team a bonus of 50 per cent of all World Cup revenues of US$3 million (TT$19.23)
• May 2008: The London-based Sport Dispute Resolution Panel rules Warner’s promise was a binding contractual agreement which must be upheld.
• November 2008: TTFF applies to High Court judge Devindra Rampersad to stay the decision of the panel.
• July 2010: Justice Rampersad dismisses the TTFF’s application and orders it to pay the outstanding bonuses.
• May 2011: TTFF makes a first interim payment of US$1.1 million (TT$7 million).
• February 2012: Players levy on TTFF’s headquarters at Dundonald Street, Port-of-Spain, seizing all removable items in an attempt to recover a TT$4.2 million (US$655,000) second payment ordered by Rampersad.
• May 2013: Current T&T Football Association president Raymond Tim Kee announces that his newly re-branded organisation is in talks with the players to bring an end to the dispute.
• July 2014: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announces that Government will pay the remaining US$1.3 million (TT$8.33 million) owed to the footballers.