KICK-OFF is July 29 for first submissions as to whether the Trinidad and Tobago Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear the claim brought by former executives of the TTFA against football’s governing body, FIFA. An oral submission will be made before local justice Carol Gobin to determine whether the local court is the right place to decide the dispute.
The former TTFA executives—deposed president William Wallace and vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Sam Phillip were headed for legal battle in the T&T high court, challenging FIFA’S decision to replace them with a normalisation committee headed by local businessman Robert Hadad.
According to FIFA’s statutes, member Associations are forbidden to challenge it in a local court and must instead resolve issues in the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. FIFA contends that the TTFA accepted its statutes when it joined FIFA in 1964.
However, the TTFA maintains it was formed by a constitutional act of the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament and that it is their sovereign right to take the matter to court, and that right supersedes any claim.
The local firm of M. Hamil Smith & Company, represented by attorneys Christopher Hamil Smith and Cherie Gopie, is acting on behalf of FIFA while Dr Emir Crowne and Matthew Gayle, will represent the ousted TTFA executives.
“Two or three weeks ago now, FIFA entered an application essentially challenging the jurisdiction of the court. We had until Friday gone to file TTFA affidavits in response. Thereafter, there are two weeks for FIFA’S lawyers to file their submissions; after that, a further two weeks for us, the TTFA lawyers, to file their submissions,” Gayle stated.
The former TTFA executives are seeking a declaration, through the local courts, that FIFA’s decision to remove them from office on March 17, 2020 is null and void. They also sought an injunction preventing FIFA and/or its agents from interfering in the day-to-day management of the TTFA, including the its bank accounts and property. However, Hamil Smith countered with FIFA’s own injunction application, citing FIFA interests and challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter.
Despite the impending hearing, and maintaining confidence in the strength of their case, the TTFA legal team has still left the door open for a mediated solution to the impasse.
“There has been some initial exchange of courtesies between lead counsels for both sides. I am hopeful that those initial professional courtesies will be able to develop into something resembling formal mediation,” said Gayle.