Sport and Community Development Minister Shamfa Cudjoe in an emergency virtual meeting of all major stakeholders of football on Thursday clearly articulated the Government’s expressed concern on implications of the debacle between the T&T ousted executive of the T&T Football Association (TTFA) and FIFA, the governing body for the sport.
Thirty-nine persons representing various clubs and interest groups attended the meeting which represented a wide spectrum of stakeholders and membership of the TTFA.
The invitation for the meeting was also extended to all members of the former TTFA executive including president William Wallace, however, neither he nor the other executive members which included vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Joseph Sam Phillip attended as was reported by Guardian Media Sports, yesterday.
Following the decision taken and subsequent communication by FIFA in a letter on Wednesday to Robert Hadad, chairman of the Normalisation Committee of the TTFA, the issue of the future development of football and the loss of return on years of investment in the sport is under severe threat.
In its letter, FIFA clearly outlined its position on the claim between TTFA and FIFA at the T&T High Courts and drew attention to Article 59 of the FIFA Statute, which expressly contains the prohibition of recourse to ordinary courts unless specifically provided for. In the letter, FIFA underlined that the failure to meet these obligations may, according to Article 14, paragraph 4, of the FIFA Statutes, “lead to sanctions as provided for in the FIFA Statutes, including a possible suspension.”
Such sanctions can and will have a devastating impact on football in T&T.
At the meeting, chairman of the Sport Company of T&T, Douglas Camacho shared his interpretation of the implications of a decision of suspension by FIFA, the most critical of which would be on local athletes.
Firstly, a decision to suspend T&T’s membership will mean youth national teams to senior national teams cannot participate in any international football competition including friendlies.
Players would not have the opportunity to compete in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers forcing some players into retirement and the marketability of players will be affected with youth national players not being afforded the scouting opportunities at these qualifying matches.
According to Comacho, youth teams will not be able to travel to compete in sanctioned club tournaments outside of T&T, example the Dallas Cup. Scholarship opportunities will also be impacted as players who play at the CONCACAF Under-17 to U-20 tournaments are positioned to be seen by North American college scouts.
There will be a loss of investment from the private sector, resulting in TTFA's continued indebtedness.
Local clubs will not be allowed to compete in the CONCACAF Champions League, no opportunity for referee appointments, match commissioner appointments at any international tournament and T&T will not have access to development programmes from FIFA, CONCACAF, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) or any confederation or Member Association which will subsequently affect its FIFA rankings.
When the floor was opened to the members, those who spoke shared their concerns about the situation, indicating that the actions taken by the four individuals of the United TTFA were without the support of the membership and that they were not approached for their position before these legal proceedings began.
They expressed that this situation had to be looked at from the athlete’s position and it was their duty to support the FIFA Normalisation Committee and the sustained development of the sports sector.
The Sports Minister called on the members to “take action and let good sense prevail in the matter.” She reminded them “about the work and investment that the Government has and continues to make in football and the campaign for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the opportunities that will be lost for economic expansion through sports tourism and the loss in the potential, that sport and in particular football, has for addressing the ills in many communities”.
According to Minister Cudjoe, the situation that the TTFA now finds itself, with the appointment of the Normalisation Committee, is as a result of years of poor management in football administration, and the continued indebtedness that the association is now in, and that what was now required is vision, strategy, financial prudence, sound management and structure.
This is the purpose of the Normalisation Committee and FIFA's suspension and sanctions will push T&T’s position back decades to the detriment of all and especially the young ones.
Cudjoe said that it will be “ludicrous for the football fraternity to expect the government and hard-working taxpayers to bail out TTFA after years of mal management or for the private sector to continue to make an investment when there is no clear direction or opportunities for growth and prosperity.” She, therefore, called on the right-thinking stakeholders at the meeting “to step up; your action or inaction can shatter the dreams of our athletes and our youth.”