Attorneys representing sidelined Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) executives have accused the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport of institutional bias, after being told they would have to pay a 40’000 Swiss francs (approximately TT$275,000) advance to have their matter against football’s world governing body, FIFA, heard.
The CAS demand has prompted quick objection from attorneys Dr Emir Crowne and Matthew Gayle, who yesterday wrote Antonio De Quesada, CAS’s head of arbitration, seeking to highlight discrepancies in the process.
“By way of letter dated April 30th, 2020, CAS advised the Appellants that the cost of the arbitration would be CHF 40,000 (40,000 Swiss francs). No breakdown of this exorbitant fee was provided, particularly since the hearing would have likely taken place by video conference and the usual travel costs of the panel and the CAS’ counsel would have been eliminated. Instead, the fee seems to have been unaffected,” the T&T lawyers argued.
“To that end, we are genuinely unsure how the CAS facilitates access to justice with such extravagant fees. The Appellants (TTFA) are not from the developed world, nor are they as well-financed as the Respondent.”
Should Wallace’s team not be able to meet the advance costs, their matter against FIFA will have to be withdrawn or be thrown out by CAS before it even begins. Contacted yesterday afternoon, Wallace would not say whether he was withdrawing the protest.
“We are meeting and we will decide what is the next step,” he briefly said, before referring further comment to his legal team which is also representing TTFA executive members Clynt Taylor, Joseph Sam Phillip and Susan Joseph, who filed a CAS appeal on April 6, after FIFA set up a normalisation committee headed by local businessman Robert Hadad.
The lawyers accuse FIFA of manipulating the process so that the costs become exorbitant and out of the reach of the TTFA executives.
Also known as United TTFA, Wallace and his colleagues have so far only been able to raise US$4,220 to date through their online funding-raising effort.
Yesterday’s correspondence to De Quesada addressed previous CAS correspondence to the Wallace team. The CAS letter to the TTFA of April 30, 2020 also stated:“However, I must inform you that, as a general rule, FIFA does not pay any arbitration costs in advance when it acts as a Respondent in a procedure before CAS, which is admissible to CAS pursuant to Article R64.2 of the Code. This means that, according to the same provision of the Code, the Appellant has to pay the entirety of the advance of costs.”
In addition, FIFA also issued a letter to the CAS indicating that their deadline to file submissions must therefore be suspended until the TTFA executives settle the entirety of the advance fees.
“To sum up, the Respondent and the CAS caused the arbitration fees to triple. The arbitration fees themselves are excessive per se, especially since the proceedings were likely to take place by video conferencing due to the CAS’ Emergency Guidelines,” the TTFA’s lawyers wrote.
“On its face, therefore, the CAS appears to be a willing participant in the Respondent’s 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. “
The TTFA’s lawyers are arguing that by procedure, both parties would have been required to pay 50 per cent of advanced costs, and without FIFA making its position known on advanced cost payments, CAS had already made a decision that the TTFA, being the ones who brought the challenge, had to pay all of the advanced costs.
“We note, with concern, that the Respondent did not give any indication as to its position on the advance costs, but instead it was the purportedly independent tribunal administrators who took it upon itself to inform the Appellants that “as general rule, FIFA does not pay any arbitration costs in advance,” Crowne and Gayle said. “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.”