After months of battling off the field and in the courtroom, embattled T&T Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace and his United TTFA executive team will have to wait three more days to learn the fate of their controversial lawsuit against FIFA.
High Court Judge Carol Gobin reserved her decision in the case to Tuesday at 3 pm, after hearing submissions from lawyers representing Wallace and his team during a virtual trial, yesterday morning.
Although FIFA's local legal team was present, they did not challenge or defend against the the executive members' submissions as they maintained that they had received instructions to not play a role because of their client does not accept the court's jurisdiction to hear the case.
However, Senior Counsel Christopher Hamel-Smith, who leads FIFA's legal team, opened the hearing with a request to defer the case.
Hamel-Smith pointed out that by virtue of FIFA's decision to suspend the TTFA's membership, last month, the Normalisation Committee led by businessman Robert Hadad, which was appointed by FIFA to replace the executive in March, ceased to function.
"If they want to run the TTFA, that is entirely their business. Their is certainly nothing stopping it based on FIFA's suspension," Hamel-Smith said, as he noted the FIFA's appeal over the jurisdiction to hear the case is carded for October 19.
Responding to Hamel-Smith, the executive's attorney Dr Emir Crowne suggested that FIFA had attempted the maneuver previously and failed.
"When FIFA does not get its way it does not know what to do. They are not accustom to that," Crowne said.
Gobin questioned FIFA's claim over the excutive's ability to take control of the the association as she pointed out that it maintained that it only recognises the committee.
She also criticised it for repeatedly stating that it does not recognise the jurisdiction of local courts while using the court system to challenge her decision to continue with the case before the Court of Appeal.
"It makes a mockery of our system if a party is not willing to accept the rule of law in this country," she said before rejecting the proposal.
Presenting submissions in the substantive case, Crowne claimed that FIFA's statutes, which speak to the appointment of such committees to member federations and associations, was too vague to be considered legitimately binding as they only provide for such a process in "extraordinary circumstances".
He said that at the time of the announcement FIFA claimed that the decision was based on the association's potential insolvency but provided no further information.
"There is rampant speculation but that is not evidence," Crowne said.
He said that fairness required his clients be given an opportunity to respond before the decision was taken as they have maintained that they inherited the association's dire financial situation, when they were elected in November, last year.
"As has been shown before FIFA and fairness probably do not go hand in hand," Crowne said.
In terms of compatibility with the local legislation which established the TTFA and prescribes how it should be governed, Crowne stated that Parliament did not expressly recognise the supremacy of FIFA's laws in it.
He stated that his clients did not have the remit to change the local legislation as requested by FIFA as a condition to lifting the indefinite suspension.
"It can not be that a private oganisation in Zurich, Switzerland, overrides this country's Parliament," Crowne said.
Crowne was questioned by Gobin over his clients' decision to seek an injunction from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), also based in Switzerland, over the suspension when it challenged FIFA's claim that that body is the correct one to preside over the substantive dispute.
Crowne said that the costs for the injunction was marginal compared to the substantive case. He also noted that the suspension issue occured outside of local jurisdiction.
"It is a private arbitration body for profit. It is not a court," Crowne said.
Wallace and his colleagues are also being represented by Matthew Gayle, Crystal Paul and Jason Jones, while Jonathan Walker and Cherie Gopie appeared alongside Hamel-Smith for FIFA.
ABOUT THE CASE (SIDE BAR)
Through the lawsuit, Wallace and his three vice presidents — Clynt Taylor, Joseph Sam Phillips, and Susan Joseph-Warrick are seeking a declaration that the decision to remove them in March and replace them with a committee comprising of businessman Robert Hadad, attorney Judy Daniels, and retired banker Nigel Romano was null, void, and of no legal or binding effect.
They are also seeking a permanent injunction barring FIFA from meddling in the TTFA's affairs by allegedly seeking to circumvent the democratic process by removing duly elected executive members.
Gobin has also been asked to decide whether FIFA's statutes, under which the replacement was done, are in conformity with the local legislation, which established the association.
Wallace and his team initially brought proceedings against FIFA in the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but were forced to withdraw as they could not pay the the 40,000 Swiss francs (TT$276,000) in associated costs.
Their position 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.
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 Gobin, who ruled that the local courts are the appropriate forum to resolve the dispute.
While the appeal against her ruling still pending, Gobin set the date for the trial of the case and gave FIFA an extension to file its defence. FIFA failed to meet the deadline as it maintained it 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 a extraordinary meeting among members to vote to withdraw the case.
The injunction, which will remain in place until discharged by Gobin, was not opposed by FIFA and was granted.
Wallace and his team attempted to withdraw the case on FIFA's extended ultimatum of September 23 but filed the application to withdraw, which still had to be determined before the case could be considered officially withdrawn, two minutes past the deadline.
After FIFA's suspension the following day, Wallace and his team filed another application to withdraw the withdrawal application, in which he admitted that he was grudgingly discontinuing the case based on a majority vote during an emergency meeting between his team and stakeholders.
The legal maneuver coincided with an announcement from second vice president Joseph-Warrick, that she was resigning from her post.
The United TTFA also approached the CAS for a temporary stay of this country's suspension to allow its participation in
Concacaf's 2021 Gold Cup draw on September 28.
The hearing of the injunction application was deferred after Concacaf announced that its council had met and agreed to conditionally keep T&T's place in the draw.
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.