Dr Elisabeth Steiner

STRONG RESPONSE: Dr Elisabeth Steiner defended the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) dealt out a scolding to the executives of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), while also confirming the official termination of their action against the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

William Wallace was also informed that CAS will keep the 1,000 francs deposit, which his financially-challenged group had lodged to register an appeal before the international court two months ago.

Operating as United TTFA, sidelined Football Association president Wallace and his three vice-presidents filed an appeal to CAS on April 6 challenging FIFA’s intervention in Trinidad and Tobago football, when replacing the TTFA executive with a normalisation committee on March 17. United TTFA subsequently withdrew the appeal on May 18.

Yesterday, CAS delivered the official termination notice of the matter between the TTFA and FIFA. Rendering the termination notice, Dr Elisabeth Steiner, deputy president of CAS’s appeal division, took the opportunity to defend the international court.

“I confirm that the Court of Arbitration for Sport is independent and impartial from all parties; the CAS’s independence has already been confirmed by several national and international tribunals,” Steiner declared.

“Any statement to the contrary, such as the ones which have been published in some media, is totally unacceptable,” added Steiner, who is an attorney-at-law in Austria.

United TTFA attorney Dr Emir Crowne had written CAS’s head of arbitration Antonio De Queseda, on May 7, noting irregularities in the procedure against FIFA. Crowne also questioned the 40,000 Swiss Francs advance cost of the proceedings, of which FIFA refused to pay its half-share up front.

“I write to you to formally raise our clients’ very grave concerns over a number of irregularities which have arisen in these proceedings. These irregularities have caused our clients to believe their right to a fair hearing has been impugned,” Crowne had said.

“On its face, therefore, the CAS appears to be a willing participant in the respondent’s (FIFA) gamesmanship, especially if the CAS had Institutional knowledge that the respondent — an entity with immeasurable financial resources — would not be advancing their share of the arbitration costs, and especially since it was the respondent themselves who asked that the matter be heard before a three-person panel, thereby tripling the cost of the proceedings.”

“To be clear, even if our clients applied to the CAS for legal aid, it would still not remedy the apparent institutional bias that has arisen. As it stands, there are very real doubts that the CAS remains an appropriate and fair forum for the resolution of this dispute.”

In an earlier correspondence, via De Queseda, CAS’s response was that those allegations were untrue. “Whereas on 8 May 2020, the CAS Court Office sent a letter to the parties which relevant part reads as follows: As an initial matter, the alleged irregularities raised by the appellants (United TTFA) are rejected.”

And the CAS defended its decision to use a traditional three-member arbitration panel instead of the single arbitrator requested by TTFA attorneys -- given the legal complexity and sensitivity of the case. Further, CAS shifted blame to the TTFA representatives.

“More importantly, in view of the fact that the counsels for the appellants (United TTFA) failed to provide a single reason to justify their request to submit this matter to a sole arbitrator,” CAS had stated.

Yesterday’s final correspondence between Wallace’s team and the Court of Arbitration confirmed that the case is now closed. CAS further announced that because no arbitration panel was yet formed, the TTFA’s costs will be limited to just its registration fee.

“Consideration that the present order is rendered without costs, except for the Court Office fee of CHF 1’000 which was paid by the appellants and which is retained by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” Steiner explained. “The appeal filed by the appellants shall be deemed withdrawn and the procedure CAS 2020/A/6915 Trinidad and Tobago Football Association et al. FIFA shall consequently be terminated and deleted from the CAS roll.”

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