Mon | Oct 19, 2020

Rulings will make FIFA rethink normalisation committee – Stewart

Published:Wednesday | August 19, 2020 | 12:25 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
FIFA President Gianni Infantino
FIFA President Gianni Infantino

Harbour View Football Club Chairman Carvel Stewart believes the chances of FIFA enacting a normalisation committee to take over operations of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) in the future are low, after football’s global governing body suffered a major legal setback in their dispute with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).

Stewart’s comments come after last Thursday’s ruling which saw the Trinidad and Tobago (TT) High Court refuse FIFA’s request to elevate the legal dispute between FIFA and the TTFA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The decision handed down by court justice Carol Gobin also denied FIFA’s request for a stay of proceedings, giving them 21 days from Thursday to file their defence.

The November election of TTFA’s executive body, led by President William Wallace, and FIFA’s subsequent implementation of its normalisation committee to manage TTFA’s affairs are at the heart of the dispute.

Stewart, who was vice-chairman of the Premier League Clubs Association, believes that should Jamaica face a similar situation, the ruling could set a precedent that would make FIFA rethink taking a similar stance.

“I suspect, quite frankly, that FIFA will now be hesitant in taking such a fundamental step as literally overthrowing an elected organisation and putting in a normalisation committee,” Stewart told The Gleaner.

In March, FIFA instituted the committee because of TTFA’s poor financial outlook, which they claimed they uncovered during a fact-finding mission with Concacaf and an independent auditor. However, the TTFA in a statement in May said that FIFA was abusing its power, and argued that the financial issues were caused by the outgoing administration.

An attempt at mediation in June was unsuccessful as FIFA withdrew from proceedings, saying that they did not recognise Trinidad’s legal process in the matter, and requested to be heard by CAS.

Stewart described the ruling as ‘groundbreaking’ because of the rarity of a FIFA member association taking the organisation to civil court. He says should a similar situation happen in Jamaica, the ruling could provide reference for any future decisions.

“FIFA would not want to repeat that process because of the way the ruling has gone in TT,” Stewart said. “They (FIFA) have always seemed to operate with impunity, but this has now opened the door quite wide.”

SANCTION THREATS

FIFA has threatened to sanction the TTFA over their pursuit of the case, but attorney Crystal Paul, a member of the TTFA’s legal team, used Judge Gobin’s summation to address the possibility of such action.

“It would be wrong of me to comment on the hypotheticals except to echo the sentiments of the judge when she said ‘we do not expect FIFA to walk off the field or to take its ball and go home if, after full ventilation of the issues, the court were to confirm the primacy of an act of Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago over FIFA statutes’,” Paul said.

Another member of the TTFA’s legal team, Jason Jones, believes that the ruling forces the legal system of Trinidad and Tobago to be respected.

“Whether it’s TT, Jamaica, Grenada, [if] any sovereign nation establishes a body by an act of Parliament and that body cannot access the local courts, then certainly it raises fundamental concerns. And this ruling clears the air and settles the issue as far as Trinidad and Tobago football is concerned,” Jones said.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com