Justice Devindra Rampersad yesterday expressed concern over the future of football in T&T as a result of an ongoing legal battle between the T&T Football Federation (TTFF) and 13 national footballers for outstanding fees. Rampersad made the comment yesterday as the matter before him continued, almost a week after levy action was taken against the TTFF by the players during which TTFF’s Dundonald Street office was stripped of all of its contents. During the matter which was held at the Port-of-Spain High Court, Rampersad commented on the length of time that the matter had been before the courts without being fully resolved and the effect of this on T&T’s international football reputation.
At the end of yesterday’s hearing the Federation was given a deadline of Friday to indicate to the court what action it intended to take to recover the organisation’s financial statements from former TTFF special advisor Jack Warner.
“The court gave an order for the TTFF to supply it with its accounts and this was not complied with,” Rampersad said. He revealed that the documents that were submitted to the court were incomplete. In an affidavits filed in the court’s registry last year, Warner indicated that he would supply the TTFF and the court with the requested documents.
However, when the matter was called before Rampersad, yesterday morning, a letter from Warner addressed to the TTFF was presented to the court which said that he (Warner) could provide no further documents. Rampersad allowed the TTFF multiple breaks to discuss the TTFF’s response to the letter, which he said had “deep reaching consequences.” Rampersad noted that Warner had previously sworn an affidavit and that he was not satisfied with Warner’s latest letter. After several hours, TTFF’s attorney Derek Ali returned and assured the court that “all actions necessary” would be used by the federation to recover its account documents. In their legal action the players who belonged to the team that participated in the World Cup in 2006 alleged that former Local Organising Committee chairman Warner promised them a 50 per cent share of all World Cup revenues. On May 19, 2008, the London-based Sport Dispute Resolution Panel (SDRP) ruled in favour of the group of players. On October 11, 2011, Justice Devindra Rampersad ruled similarly allowing the Federation seven days to pay an interim sum of approximately $4.2 million (US$710,000) to the 13 players. The court order was not complied with which led to last week’s levy action during which the players, accompanied by a marshal of the court and police officers visited the TTFF offices where they carted away computers and furniture and other office items belonging to the Federation. Warner’s legal team which consisted of attorneys Om Lalla and Derrick Balliram were also present in court for yesterday’s proceedings at Rampersad’s request although their client was not a party listed in the matter. Lalla told the court that he could not provide any further information relating to the matter as he received no instructions from his client (Warner). “I would prefer not to speculate, so I’m threading carefully,” Lalla said.
Lalla, who previously represented the TTFF, was replaced by Ali on February 6 after questions were raised in the court matter over Lalla representing both parties. This switch in legal representation was blamed by Ali as the cause of the short adjournments yesterday because he had not been sufficiently briefed as to the details of the previous hearings in the matter. At the start of yesterday’s hearing, Ali raised a preliminary issue, that several documents which were being stored at the TTFF’s offices were missing since the levy action which was conducted, last Thursday. Ali’s claims were questioned and denied by the head of the players’ legal team, attorney Phillip Lamont. During one of the lengthy breaks in the matter, Rampersad allowed Sancho and one of his attorneys to revisit the offices and under the supervision of staff there, photocopy any relevant documents they discovered. Six of the 13 players, who initially commenced the proceedings almost six years ago, were present in court yesterday. The players were Players’ Association president Brent Sancho, Stern John, Cyd Gray, Anthony Wolfe, Atiba Charles and Aurtis Whitley. Shaka Hislop, Kelvin Jack, Avery John, Collin Samuel, Evans Wise, Cornell Glen and Kenwyne Jones are the other players who are party to the matter. Former TTFF president Oliver Camps and current general secretary Richard Groden were also present. In an interview after the matter was adjourned, Sancho revealed that several international football organisations were currently monitoring the footballers’ court proceedings including world football’s Swiss-based governing body, FIFA. “We (the players) just want the documents to be provided and the matter completed to allow T&T football to come back on track,” Sancho said. The players are also being represented by attorneys Dave De Peiza and George Hislop while attorney Alvin Ramroop is appearing on behalf of Camps.