Having been a footballer and an academic in sport for over two decades, I understand the confusion that may exist when you score an own goal. To win the game of football you are required to score more goals than the other team. However, those goals should be scored in the opposing net not your own. Despite this, nothing stops you from scoring in your own net. It still counts as a goal scored by you, just not for you.
That is how I see the constantly evolving situation with regard to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFA) and FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). We have scored an own goal now arguing with a crowd referee that the goal scored by us should be for us. Those are not the rules, nor can the crowd referee change them in the middle of the game.
The game has already started and the rules of engagement and disagreement were previously decided. Arguments abound that FIFA is a corrupt organisation and the issue is William Wallace standing up against corruption. Or corruption has been happening in TTFA for years and FIFA did nothing about it. All those arguments do not change FIFA’s ability to act within their rules. It is like a corrupt police officer who for years has permitted an errant driver to avoid penalties.
One day the police officer for whatever reason decides to enforce the law. He is in his right to do so as the law remains the law. It is not up to the errant driver or a new driver to say when the police officer should or should not enforce the law. Similarly, Mr Wallace is naïve to think as a new president, FIFA does not now have the right to enforce its rules of a Normalisation Committee.
With respect to Clyde Weatherhead’s arguments in the Express yesterday (Page 12), he firstly suggests that TTFA is created by an Act of Parliament and any attempt by FIFA to deny our matter being heard in the local courts through external pressure is disregarding our rule of law and governance. Additionally, he suggests that FIFA is trying to tell our Parliament to change our rules to be in line with theirs and that situation is untenable.
Unfortunately, those arguments are being made in sport without context of the impact and related correlation to other matters. FIFA is the world governing body for the sport of football. FIFA in terms of membership is more global than the UN. To participate in international football, you need to be a member of FIFA in good standing. Finally, any policy with regards to the sport of football is made from FIFA and implemented by its membership.
Therefore, FIFA is just not any external body it is the governing body that the TTFA has agreed to be a member. Therefore, it is not an issue of changing the rule of law but continuing within the rules of membership or association.
In another context, between 2016-2018 much of the parliamentary terms were spent on the issue of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA). For those who are not aware of FACTA, it was a global model for combating offshore tax evasion and promoting transparency. It was a new position of the US government requiring international compliance. Our relationship/association with the US government required compliance, however, our rule of law and governance did not. Facing non-compliance, the Legislature passed the Tax Information Exchange Agreements Bill.
In the TTFA matter there was no army at our gates threatening our democracy and rule of law. FIFA did not implement some new policy/position requesting our renewed compliance nor was FIFA’s approach unfamiliar to us. However, we panicked at a Normalisation Committee and scored an own goal; impacting our sport industry in the short and long term; damaging our relationships internationally; applying the rules conveniently; and claiming a victory for nationalism and rule of law when those were never threatened.
Mr Weatherhead and others should recognise that the defence of our governance is not based on own goals. As a country we should know where and how to score- when it counts.