Embattled T&T Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace and his United TTFA executive team’s lawsuit against FIFA is expected to kick off on Friday with Justice Carol Gobin as referee.
During the virtual hearing, Gobin is expected to hear submissions in the case before delivering her decision or reserving it until a later date.
Guardian Media Sports understands that FIFA’s legal team attempted to make last ditched tackle on the eve of the case as they appealed to Gobin to defer her ruling earlier this week.
In correspondence to Gobin and the opposing side, attorney Cherie Gopie suggested that the expedited resolution of the case was not necessary in the circumstances as the Normalisation Committee, appointed by FIFA in March to replace Wallace and his team, had essentially ceased to function as a result of her client’s decision to indefinitely suspend the TTFA’s membership because of the case.
Gopie also reiterated FIFA’s position that active participation in the case before Gobin could compromise its position in its pending appeal over her jurisdiction to hear the substantive case on October 19.
Responding to Gopie, the TTFA’s lawyer Matthew Gayle objected to the postponement as he noted that the issues to be resolved are wider than suggested by FIFA.
He noted that FIFA had previously attempted to have the proceedings stayed on similar grounds but was denied.
Gobin eventually agreed with Gayle and rejected the proposed move.
On Monday, Appeal Court Judge Malcolm Holdip granted the TTFA’s application for security of costs for the appeal.
Holdip ordered FIFA to pay $60,000 to the court in the event that the TTFA successfully defends the appeal and is entitled to reimbursement of the legal costs incurred in defending it.
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 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 as October 9 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, 23 minutes past the deadline (3 pm TT time).
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 manoeuvre coincided with an announcement from second vice president Joseph-Warrick, that she was resigning from her post and as president of the Women’s League Football (WoLF) on September 25.
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.
Wallace and his colleagues are also being represented by Dr Emir Crowne, Crystal Paul, and Jason Jones, while Christopher Hamel-Smith, SC, and Jonathan Walker are also appearing for FIFA.