THE FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee has been blocked by the High Court from holding an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) that was scheduled to take place today.
Also, the world’s football governing body was yesterday refused an application by High Court judge Justice Carol Gobin in which it sought to have the judge grant a stay on proceedings brought against it by the TTFA pending the hearing and determination of a procedural appeal against one of Justice Gobin’s previous rulings in the lawsuit.
During a virtual High Court hearing, Justice Gobin granted an injunction to the TTFA preventing the Normalisation Committee from having the meeting. That decision came after FIFA’s lead attorney in the dispute, senior counsel Christopher Hamel-Smith, said his client was not opposing the application.
The main issue before the court is that the TTFA challenging the decision of FIFA to replace its executive with the Normalisation Committee on March 17. That action was brought after the TTFA pulled out of arbitration proceedings at the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
But while the issue is still live before the local court, the Normalisation Committee moved to have the meeting take place today – a move that was resisted by the TTFA. The meeting was set to take place just a day before tomorrow’s deadline established by FIFA for embattled TTFA president William Wallace and his executive to withdraw their challenge of the Normalisation Committee in the High Court.
FIFA was seeking to convince the High Court, in response to the TTFA’s claim, that the local court was not the proper forum for the issue of the replacement of the executive to be heard. Instead, it was arguing that the issue should be ventilated and determined at the CAS.
‘Playing for time’
However on August 13, Justice Gobin ruled against FIFA and proceeded to give directions for the filing of documents for the trial to proceed locally. FIFA was given until September 4, to file its defence.
But when the TTFA’s injunction application came up for hearing yesterday, Hamel-Smith indicated to the court that this had not as yet been done. He explained his client has since filed an appeal against Justice Gobin’s findings and that appeal was to come up for hearing on October 21.
Hamel-Smith asked for an extension of time for the filing of the defence, pointing out that if his client was successful at the appeal, the High Court proceedings could proceed no further. He added that if the defence was to be filed pending the hearing of the appeal, it could potentially prejudice his client’s case.
But Justice Gobin disagreed. She said it appeared to her that FIFA was embarking on a tactic by “playing for time.” The judge said in her view, FIFA would suffer no prejudice if the defence was filed prior to the appeal being heard.
Even though the judge granted the extension, FIFA was given only five days within which to file its defence. If this is not done by 4 p.m., on Friday, Justice Gobin said the matter will proceed to trial on October 9, during which the TTFA could seek to have a default judgment delivered in its favour.
Should FIFA comply with the court’s order, then other timelines would be set for the matter to set for trial. This however, is provided that FIFA does not succeed at the Appeal Court. Appearing on behalf of the TTFA are attorneys Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle, Crystal Paul and Jason Jones.