Former chairman of the 2014 FIFA Normalisation Committee appointed in Guyana, Clinton Urling, says that there are some things certainly not normal about FIFA’s recent takeover of the T&T Football Association (TTFA).
In an extensive interview with Guardian Media Sports on Friday, Urling drew attention to the fact that FIFA had appointed the TTFA’s Finance manager, Tyril Patrick, as interim manager of the organisation.
“They have to do exactly what they did in Guyana’s case. You have to bring impartial voices, impartial vision to this matter to bare. Folks who have not been a part of the problem for want of a better word,” said Urling.
Patrick has since declined FIFA’s offer having been advised by the legal representatives of the disbanded administration not to accept FIFA’s request.
A source within the TTFA has confirmed that Patrick has been the association’s financial manager for at least the last three years, hired in 2017 under former president David John-Williams, who was replaced on November 24.
Upon entering office, new TTFA president William Wallace and his administration claimed to have found over TT$50 million dollars in debt incurred by their predecessors.
In T&T’s case, FIFA noted with great concern that a recent fact-finding visit “to assess, together with an independent auditor, the financial situation of TTFA”, uncovered “extremely low overall financial management methods, combined with massive debt, have resulted in the TTFA facing a very real risk of insolvency and illiquidity.”
FIFA concluded that the situation required that corrective measures be applied with urgency.
Wallace’s administration has since vociferously claimed that well before that FIFA/CONCACAF fact-finding team arrived in February, it acknowledged and addressed the association’s lack of financial best practices in writing to FIFA, emphasising that these deficiencies existed before he was voted into office. On arriving in T&T, the visiting contingent was presented with a detailed audit of the accounts as well as what the new TTFA called a detailed debt-eradication proposal to fix the situation.
Urling also noted that while FIFA possesses broad powers to intervene in the administrative affairs of any member association under “exceptional circumstances”, he questions FIFA’s timing with respect to T&T.
“I know FIFA has the authority to set up these normalisation committees and article 8.2 gives them broad powers to do it. Sometimes we forget that the member associations are creatures of FIFA and the member association succumbs to the rules and regulations of the statutes of FIFA,” Urling said, before adding, “But what I’ve read that for me seems to be an anomaly, is that the Trinidad federation recently held elections and a new body took over.
“I assume that FIFA would have given that new body a year or so to assess the situation and see if the situation was getting better. So, I don’t know if a normalisation committee was warranted in this case.”
Whenever FIFA sees a need to intervene in the administrative affairs of one of its member associations, it almost always cites one or a combination of two statutes which guide the operations of all its affiliate members.
Article 8 of FIFA’s statutes, in accordance with which it made its decision to descend upon the TTFA on March 17, is thought to deal specifically with the conduct of bodies, officials and others.
The FIFA Council’s email correspondence from its secretary general Fatma Samoura to the TTFA, more specifically cited paragraph two of Article 8, which states that once FIFA deems that ‘exceptional circumstances’ exist within any member association’s execution of its business, it is well within its right to remove the executive of that association and install a normalisation committee.
FIFA Statutes – General Provisions
1 All bodies and officials must observe the Statutes, regulations, decisions and Code of Ethics of FIFA in their activities.
2 Executive bodies of member associations may under exceptional circumstances be removed from office by the Council in consultation with the relevant confederation and replaced by a normalisation committee for a specific period of time.
3 Every person and organisation involved in the game of football is obliged to observe the Statutes and regulations of FIFA as well as the principles of fair play. Nine official languages.
Of the ten or more times that FIFA has appointed normalisation committees in member association countries within the last five years, it has more often than not, wielded either Articles 8 or 14 as its rod of correction.
Where the circumstances are more egregious, that is, where constitutional or political discrepancies exist, FIFA can take similar action in accordance with another piece of literature, Article 14 paragraph 1(a).
FIFA Statutes – Membership
1 Member associations have the following obligations:
a) to comply fully with the Statutes, regulations, directives and decisions of FIFA bodies at any time as well as the decisions of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) passed on appeal on the basis of Article 57 paragraph 1 of the FIFA Statutes.
It is instructive to note that, while neither of these articles defines exactly what may dictate FIFA’s action, only when that action is taken does the Council usually outline what prompted it.
FIFA’s reliance on this Normalisation Committee remedy has become more and more apparent within recent times. In fact, within the past ten years, there have been more than a dozen cases around the world. A quick study of some of these cases suggests that there is no real consistency to the circumstances pre-dating the set-up of bodies tasked with normalisation and or reform.
However, in most of the instances where FIFA draws upon Articles 14.1 (a) in particular, there usually seems to be instances of political unrest or interference, constitutional collapse or electoral manipulation within the member association.
<FIFA in Ghana, Egypt, Uruguay>
For example, when a normalisation committee was appointed in Ghana in August 2018 it was as a result of rampant corruption throughout the hierarchy of the Ghana Football Association with charges against several members including the then president of the association.
In August 2019 in Egypt, a normalisation committee was appointed to steer the Egyptian FA following the sudden resignation of its entire board after that country’s elimination from the African Cup of Nations.
And after a FIFA committee was appointed in Uruguay in August 2018, it was in response to, “particularly the fact that the electoral process for the position of AUF president is not in accordance with the requirements of transparency as outlined in the FIFA and CONMEBOL statutes.”
<FIFA’s NC functions as the receiver>
Urling, a Guyanese entrepreneur and business owner, noted that no two cases may be identical to T&T’s, or Guyana’s situation at the time of his appointment in 2014 on a two-year mandate but he stated that the work of any normalisation committee is generally a standard operation.
“When the normalisation committee comes in, it functions as the receiver in accounting terms. The head of that committee he or she assumes the role as the CEO of the association or what you all an Executive Director to ensure that the organisation runs in a certain way and sets up systems and processes which are what the new executive will inherit.”
In Guyana, constitutionally due elections had repeatedly been delayed as in-fighting within the various levels of football administration took hold. His normalisation committee apart from managing the day-to-day running of the country’s football was tasked with amending the then constitution of the GFF one and to organise elections according to the new constitution.
Constitutional reform will form a part of the TTFA’s normalisation committee and the overall mandate does not differ significantly.
FIFA has tasked it with the following:
- to run the TTFA’s daily affairs;
- to establish a debt repayment plan that is implementable by the TTFA;
- to review and amend the TTFA Statutes (and other regulations where necessary) and to ensure their compliance with the FIFA Statutes and requirements before duly submitting them for approval to the TTFA Congress;
- to organise and to conduct elections of a new TTFA Executive Committee for a four-year mandate.
<TTFA faces ban from FIFA family>
Having also taken issue with some of FIFA’s decisions and even going as far as to question the political motive of FIFA, former FIFA vice president Jack Warner told Guardian Media Sports that the development was still an indictment on the state of football in the country. Warner stated that it was the lowest point for the sport and “the end of the rope”.
Urling agrees but says that the situation should not be looked upon as all doom and gloom.
“It’s the point before the same FIFA says ‘you are no longer a part of the FIFA family’ or bans the entire member association. But I think the normalisation committee throughout T&T should be seen as an opportunity, a hope that things could and will get better.
“If you look at Guyana now, you see a federation that’s flourishing. You still see some pockets of issues obviously but the whole organisation turned around and I think for T&T a similar occurrence will or could happen.”
Re-iterating that it is FIFA’s general practice to appoint persons with no close ties to the sport or the particular issues facing it, Urling forewarned against any deviation from the norm.
“It is essential that individuals are selected that the entire football fraternity has trust in, believes in their management competencies and capabilities.”
He added that once the committee operates transparently with regular input from all of the sport’s stakeholders across the entire normalisation process, football should be the winner at the end of FIFA’s prescribed period of engagement.
“Even the executive body that just got replaced has a chance to come back at the end of the normalisation process. As much as they may think that the process is unfair, support the process, maybe in a year or two let’s say the same group runs again and wins again, they come into a situation where there are new processes in place and without that noose of debt around their neck. They can say ‘give us a chance, we did not lose the last election and were not replaced because we weren’t the problem.”