Caribbean: Update on the state of football in Trinidad and Tobago

By Dr Justin Koo, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago

The state of football in Trinidad and Tobago has been under intense scrutiny in recent months with a number of ongoing disputes.

Issues have arisen on a wide range of topics including:

  • the administration of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA);
  • ownership of the national football team nickname ‘Soca Warriors’; and
  • financial struggles with sponsoring the domestic football leagues.

This turmoil has unsurprisingly (coincidentally or not) manifested itself in very poor showings from the men’s national football team at the recently concluded CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage.[1]

Consequently, calls have been made for changes to all facets of Trinidad and Tobago football.

TTFA Presidential Turmoil

The President of the TTFA, David John-Williams, has been drawn into a public battle with various groups and individuals familiar to the local football scene.[2]

John-Williams has been accused of administrative and financial mismanagement furthered by an absence of transparent transactions, particularly tied to the development of the ‘Home for Football’ project.[3]

This has led to legal action being taken by TTFA Director, Keith Look Loy, for the disclosure of information related to the project.[4] It is likely the case that members of this ‘football coalition’ will aim to dethrone John-Williams at the next TTFA elections in November, in what they say is a move to restore good leadership and avert the football crisis.[5]

In the meantime, calls for John-Williams to resign continue, with a petition to the same effect circulating on social media (at the time of writing there were just over 1,600 signatures).[6]

Trademark in ‘Soca Warriors’

Former sports commentator Selwyn Melville, who claims to have coined the term ‘Soca Warriors’, has begun legal proceedings against the TTFA concerning ‘ownership’[7] of the phrase.

It has been reported in the local news that an attempt was made to trademark the phrase ‘Soca Warriors’ at the Intellectual Property Office. However, it is alleged that the grant of any trademark rights is pending resolution of the ‘ownership’ issue.[8]

Readers should be reminded that one cannot own words or phrases. Thus, it is the author’s opinion that the issue relates solely to the granting of the trademark in the phrase ‘Soca Warriors’ and the consequent value in the mark given its symbolism in Trinidad and Tobago football.

Domestic Football Leagues

For a long-time, domestic football in Trinidad and Tobago has suffered from a lack of funding.

In fact, this author, a national football referee, is still being owed money for national referee services conducted during the 2017 season.

More than this, it is an annual news item that there is no financing to begin the domestic leagues, and this year is no exception with the status of the newly established ‘T-League’ uncertain in the absence of government funding.

However, it is not all doom and gloom as the new ‘Ascension Football League’ is due to start on 12 July.

The Ascension League, funded by a North American clothing brand, will officially kick off Trinidad and Tobago’s senior competitive football season.[9] However, as with anything football related in Trinidad and Tobago, the new league has created conflict with the TTFA, who have distanced themselves from the Ascension League by virtue of an indemnity clause ensuring that the TTFA is not legally responsible for any on-goings of the League.

Dr Justin Koo may be contacted by email at ‘Justin.Koo@uwi.sta.edu

[1] https://newsday.co.tt/2019/06/24/ttfa-must-be-held-accountable/.

[2] https://www.trinidadexpress.com/sports/local/hislop-among-those-calling-for-ttfa-head-to-resign/article_0c8b75e6-a2ba-11e9-af0a-b3ed4372a45d.html; https://www.trinidadexpress.com/sports/local/new-rift-between-ttfa-executive-members/article_a585a4f8-8d73-11e9-9c58-2ba4d24ea5a8.html.

[3] http://guardian.co.tt/sports/look-loy-goes-back-to-court-6.2.874084.ec5097c0d6; https://newsday.co.tt/2019/06/05/ttfa-decision-against-government-policy/; https://newsday.co.tt/2019/06/27/look-loys-legal-battle-against-ttfa-intensifies/; https://newsday.co.tt/2019/06/24/ttfa-must-be-held-accountable/.

[4] Other lawsuits include actions brought by the national Futsal team and ex-referee Ramesh Ramdhan.

[5] http://guardian.co.tt/sports/football-coalition-vs-johnwilliams-ttfa-6.2.879413.b1fbcb29ba.

[6] https://www.change.org/p/ttfa-board-of-directors-david-john-williams-must-step-down-as-the-ttfa-president.

[7] It is unclear at the time of writing what the actual dispute entails.

[8] http://guardian.co.tt/sports/melville-takes-ttfa-to-court-over-soca-warriors-name-6.2.872101.ea6101eb59.

[9] http://guardian.co.tt/sports/23m-ascension-league-to-fix-football-6.2.883484.d4be0ce788.