Less than a fortnight since being voted in as president of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), David John-Williams has been confronted with his first major challenge. Unsurprisingly money is the root of the problem, which has plagued previous administrations.
A media release sent from national team captain Kenwyne Jones yesterday proclaimed the “entire team” were pulling out of a January qualifier for the 2016 Copa America — a decision that it said resulted from the TT FA’s failure to pay outstanding match fees. The release, issued from KenwyneJonesMedia, stated: “We were promised months ago that a payment would be made to the boys after the last game (the World Cup Qualifier against USA in November).
To date, unfortunately that arrangement has not been honoured, and based on recent discussions with the TTFA, there is no indication as to when these financial matters will be settled.” Newsday understands the outstanding fees are for the two World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala and the US (on November 13 and 17 respectively) and a friendly against Nicaragua on October 13.
When contacted yesterday afternoon, John-Williams told Newsday he had not received any communication from Jones or any team representative about the decision. He said he only knew of it “by the media houses calling me.” The man best known as the owner/ chairman of the very successful TT Pro League club W Connection (a post he relinquished on assuming the TTFA presidency) added that he had just one comment to make.
“The players were promised their match fees Friday after the World Cup qualifier against the USA, which was the 19th, and I came in to office two weeks after that, and when I came into office. We were still collecting money from ticket outlets via post-dated cheques. You as the media deduce from that.” Williams explained that he did not want to appear as a president making unilateral decisions.
“I want to be consistent. That is my statement with regard to what has transpired. If I go beyond that, it would open up another can of worms, and Trinidad (and Tobago) football don’t need that right now.” The Soca Warriors are scheduled to play Haiti in a one-off qualifier for the South America championship, which will be played in the US next year. The Copa América Centenario match is set for January 8, 2016, at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, Panama.
John-Williams told Newsday he could not say whether T&T would face any sanctions if the national team failed to play the match. It is not the first time Jones and teammates have threatened to boycott a match. In 2014, captain Jones led a proposed strike of the CFU Final against Jamaica over a $10 million wage dispute with the TTFA, which was led by former president Raymond Tim Kee with Sheldon Phillips as his General Secretary.
Yesterday’s release stated that Jones was speaking on behalf of his “distressed teammates.” “Of course, we want to play. We want to represent our country to the best of our abilities. We have a talented squad that is eager to give their all. But this is also our livelihood. The conditions must change for our national athletes.
“The support that we’ve seen from supporters has only made the decision not to play even more difficult and disappointing for the team.” The release concluded that Jones and the other Senior Men’s team members are hopeful that a resolution will be swift and forthcoming.
“Above all else,” Jones added, “we never want to disappoint our fans, and we hope that they understand our decision.” David John-Williams, although concerned about the situation, urged the players to use protocol to resolve their problems.
“When the players approach me to deal with it, I will deal with it along with the board of the TTFA, which I think is the right way to do. I’m not going to be a president who, this is not a one-man show.
The board is expected to meet next week, Wednesday 16th, at which we will deal with the matter.” While declining to make any pronouncement regarding the situation, John-Williams, however, did comment on the way it was handled.