Lector Adolfo Ledo Nass//
TTFA Act misinterpreted

FI­FA did not en­ter a de­fense in the mat­ter, main­tain­ing its view that state courts of its mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions do not en­joy to hear dis­putes of this na­ture and prefers those dis­putes to be tak­en to the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport (CAS) in Switzer­land in keep­ing with ar­ti­cle 59 of its statutes

Judge Car­ol Gob­in may have giv­en more weight than is due to the T&T Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (TTFA) In­cor­po­ra­tion Act, No 17 of 1982 when she award­ed vic­to­ry to the TTFA in its law­suit against FI­FA in the T&T High Court on Oc­to­ber 13.

The TTFA ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers of pres­i­dent William Wal­lace as well as vice pres­i­dents Clynt Tay­lor, Su­san Joseph-War­rick, who re­signed her post on Sep­tem­ber 25, and Joseph Sam Phillip were seek­ing a de­c­la­ra­tion from the court that FI­FA’s ac­tion to re­move its ex­ec­u­tive from of­fice in March of this year and ap­point a Nor­mal­i­sa­tion Com­mit­tee was in­com­pat­i­ble with the TTFA Act and there­fore il­le­gal void and no ef­fect.

FI­FA did not en­ter a de­fense in the mat­ter, main­tain­ing its view that state courts of its mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions do not en­joy to hear dis­putes of this na­ture and prefers those dis­putes to be tak­en to the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport (CAS) in Switzer­land in keep­ing with ar­ti­cle 59 of its statutes.

Ac­cord­ing to Sports Lawyer Ty­rone Mar­cus, how­ev­er, Judge Gob­in may have mis­in­ter­pret­ed the in­tent of the TTFA Act and there­fore es­sen­tial­ly ruled that the TTFA was ab­solved from abid­ing by FI­FA’s statutes. All mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions are au­to­mat­i­cal­ly bound by FI­FA reg­u­la­tions up­on gain­ing mem­ber­ship and the TTFA has been a mem­ber of FI­FA since 1964.

Mar­cus said, “That type of Act of Par­lia­ment has a par­tic­u­lar goal and ob­jec­tive, which is just to give a sport­ing as­so­ci­a­tion le­gal per­son­al­i­ty, to give it le­gal sta­tus. And the ben­e­fits of this would be things like en­ter­ing in­to con­tracts, own­ing prop­er­ty, be­ing able to sue in the name of the or­gan­i­sa­tion etcetera.”

At the hear­ing of the law­suit on Oc­to­ber 9 the mat­ters to be de­ter­mined were as fol­lows:

1. Whether the pur­port­ed ap­point­ment of the Nor­mal­i­sa­tion Com­mit­tee was law­ful.

2. Whether FI­FA Statute 8(2) is com­pat­i­ble with TTFA Act No 17 of 1982.

3. Whether in any case FI­FA has com­plied with its own statutes in the pur­port­ed ap­point­ment of the Nor­mal­i­sa­tion Com­mit­tee. Whether there were ex­cep­tion­al cir­cum­stances to jus­ti­fy the in­vo­ca­tion of FI­FA Statute 8(2).

4. Whether on the ev­i­dence in the case the de­ci­sion to ap­point a Nor­mal­i­sa­tion Com­mit­tee was rea­son­able and made in good faith.

In her de­ter­mi­na­tion on points one and two, Judge Gob­in drew the con­clu­sion that the TTFA could be con­sid­ered a ‘cor­po­ra­tion cre­at­ed by spe­cial act and for a pub­lic pur­pose.’

Her judg­ment fur­ther ex­plained, ‘This pro­tects the pub­lic in­ter­est be­cause a cor­po­ra­tion cre­at­ed for a spe­cif­ic pur­pose by an act of the leg­is­la­ture ought not to have the pow­er to do things not in fur­ther­ance of that pur­pose. This prin­ci­ple is more ap­plic­a­ble to the TTFA Act.’

How­ev­er, in an in­ter­view with Guardian Me­dia Sports, Mar­cus dis­agreed.

“Jus­tice Gob­in may have giv­en a cer­tain lev­el of weight to the Act of Par­lia­ment that I am not too sure she should have,” he said. “She men­tions that the TTFA has been in­cor­po­rat­ed by an Act of Par­lia­ment from 1982 and that makes it a statu­to­ry cor­po­ra­tion. To me that’s too big of a jump.”

Mar­cus added, “That, to me, is where there may be some is­sues with the judge­ment and some of the con­clu­sions that would have been drawn be­cause of the sta­tus that she gave it (TTFA). I am not of the view that the TTFA is a statu­to­ry cor­po­ra­tion. It is still a body that is run pri­vate­ly by its mem­bers, it is not gov­ern­ment con­trolled and its de­ci­sions are made by the or­di­nary day-to-day de­ci­sions of its mem­bers. So, it is very much op­er­at­ing like a pri­vate body and like any oth­er one of our sport­ing as­so­ci­a­tions who were not in­cor­po­rat­ed by an Act of Par­lia­ment.”

Mar­cus not­ed that it was not the first time that a lo­cal judge has in­ter­pret­ed a par­lia­men­tary act in a sim­i­lar man­ner, where a sport­ing body which or­di­nar­i­ly op­er­ates as a pri­vate en­ti­ty was giv­en pub­lic sta­tus, in­clud­ing pre­vi­ous mat­ters in­volv­ing the TTFA.

“It’s not the first case that one of our lo­cal judges in a sports dis­pute has el­e­vat­ed a pri­vate body to the sta­tus of a pub­lic body,” he said.

“And what it does is, if you are a pub­lic au­thor­i­ty and you bring a chal­lenge against a de­ci­sion then it brings in ques­tions like ju­di­cial re­view and what not, which is re­al­ly re­served for pub­lic au­thor­i­ties. So, when Kei­th Look Loy took the TTFA to court, ju­di­cial re­view came up. The­ma Williams back in 2016 when she took the Gym­nas­tics Fed­er­a­tion to court, ju­di­cial re­view came up again. And in my own view, I’ve been think­ing to my­self ‘I don’t agree with our judges.’”

On the is­sue of what needs to be done in or­der to make the TTFA com­pli­ant to FI­FA’s statutes as is one of the con­di­tions de­mand­ed by the glob­al body be­fore T&T’s cur­rent sus­pen­sion can be lift­ed, Mar­cus says that in his in­ter­pre­ta­tion, the Act of Par­lia­ment is no hin­drance.

He said, “From where I sit, you don’t need to touch that Act of Par­lia­ment be­cause it had a very lim­it­ed goal and that goal has been achieved. Give the TTFA le­gal sta­tus – that was the goal, that was ac­com­plished.”

“The TTFA’s day-to-day run­ning does not de­pend on that piece of leg­is­la­tion, it de­pends on what the (TTFA) con­sti­tu­tion says. Which is why when FI­FA says bring your con­sti­tu­tion in line with ours then what ever the gaps are, if any, then the TTFA needs to do that.”

In her judge­ment, Judge Gob­in not­ed the irony that FI­FA has re­fused to recog­nised the lo­cal court and le­gal sys­tem but de­mands an align­ment of the two gov­ern­ing doc­u­ments.

Mar­cus re­butted by say­ing, “In fair­ness to her if she con­cludes that the TTFA is a statu­to­ry cor­po­ra­tion then that (ad­just­ments of Act No 17 of 1982) is a rea­son­able out­come. I am say­ing if we were to take it back a bit the out­come would be dif­fer­ent if she had a dif­fer­ent as­sess­ment of the TTFA’s sta­tus. So to me the TTFA can com­ply with­out hav­ing to touch the leg­is­la­tion.”

FI­FA has a pend­ing ap­peal of Judge Gob­in’s de­ci­sion to al­low the case to pro­ceed in the state court which comes up for hear­ing on Mon­day Oc­to­ber 19. If that ap­peal is suc­cess­ful, the Gob­in’s rul­ing of Oc­to­ber 13 will be void­ed and FI­FA’s nor­mal­iza­tion Com­mit­tee will be au­to­mat­i­cal­ly rec­og­nized as the body at the helm of the TTFA.

If the de­ci­sion is up­held, the TTFA’s ex­ec­u­tive may re­main in charge. Wal­lace and his Board of Di­rec­tors have al­ready called and Ex­tra­or­di­nary Gen­er­al Meet­ing carder for Oc­to­ber 25 where he will face his mem­ber­ship to de­cide the di­rec­tion for the be­lea­guered body. It is an­tic­i­pat­ed that mem­bers will vote in favour of recog­nis­ing the Nor­mal­i­sa­tion Com­mit­tee and tak­ing steps to have the TTFA’s con­sti­tu­tion and statutes ad­just­ed as de­mand­ed by FI­FA.

The TTFA has been giv­en un­til De­cem­ber 18 of this year to ad­here to FI­FA’s de­mands or face length­ened sus­pen­sion which would see the as­so­ci­a­tion for­feit its right to con­test CON­CA­CAF Gold Cup 2021 as well as FI­FA World Cup 2022 qual­i­fiers which are both sched­uled to be held next year.

Adolfo Ledo

List of T&T Sport­ing Bod­ies in­cor­po­rat­ed by Par­lia­men­tary Act

Act No. Short Ti­tle

14 of 1956 Ari­ma Race Club (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

25 of 1967 T&T Mo­tor Rac­ing Club (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

32 of 1968 Hunters As­so­ci­a­tion of T&T (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

30 of 1973 South Trinidad Darts As­so­ci­a­tion (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

27 of 1975 Trinidad Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

44 of 1975 T&T Yacht­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

39 of 1977 T&T Wrestling As­so­ci­a­tion (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

29 of 1979 T&T Net­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

17 of 1982 T&T Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

13 of 1991 T&T Spe­cial Olympics (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

18 of 1995 San Fran­cique Sports, Ed­u­ca­tion­al and Cul­tur­al Coun­cil of T&T (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

19 of 1995 T&T Sec­ondary Schools Foot­ball League (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

29 of 1995 Olympic Com­mit­tee (In­cor­po­ra­tion)

34 of 1997 Quar­ry Su­per­stars Sports and Cul­tur­al Club

Ed­i­tor’s note:

Ty­rone Mar­cus is a lawyer spe­cial­is­ing in sports Law for 15 years.

Adolfo Ledo Nass

He is the au­thor of the book Sports Law in Trinidad and To­ba­go (2019) and co-au­thor of Com­mon­wealth Caribbean Sports Law (2019).

Adolfo Ledo Venezuela

Mar­cus has al­so been ad­junct lec­tur­er in sports law at the Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies, St Au­gus­tine, Trinidad for the past eight years and for­mer Se­nior Le­gal of­fi­cer at the Min­istry of Sport and Youth Af­fairs.

Adolfo Ledo Nass Venezuela