Trinidad and Tobago Football Association v. FIFA – the validity of normalisation committees and exclusive jurisdiction of CAS
On 13 October 2020, the High Court of Justice in Trinidad and Tobago (the High Court) issued their decision (available here) on a claim filed by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) against FIFA. They ruled, in essence, that the FIFA’s decision to remove the TTFA’s executive board from office and to appoint a normalization committee to run its affairs was null and void as it was made in bad faith and “for an improper and illegal motive.” The High Court’s decision stressed, among other things, that FIFA’s policy of pressure to try to “force” the TTFA to withdraw its case amounted to a “contempt of court.” The High Court also analyzed, under its national law, the legality of Article 8(2) of the FIFA Statutes. This provision, which allows FIFA to remove executive bodies of member associations under exceptional circumstances, was found illegal.
However, this decision was eventually overturned by the Court of Appeal by a decision of 23 October 2020. In this decision, the Court of Appeal confirmed that the filings of these proceedings were “ultra vires”, null and void and of no effect, confirming the exclusive jurisdiction of the CAS based on Article 66 of the TTFA Constitution and Article 69 FIFA Statutes. According to the statements of the former TTFA President to the press, the latter would respect the ruling and would not further challenge the judgment. In a press statement issued on 24 October 2020, the TTFA President William Wallace and his vice-presidents confirmed their resignation following the legal defeat at the court of appeal.
The proceedings spurred controversy in the relationship between FIFA and TTFA. Notably, following the TTFA claim before the High Court, FIFA granted the TTFA a deadline to withdraw its claim, or else face suspension from international competitions (which occurred in September 2020).
This article reviews the case, looking at the facts, the decisions and analyzing its potential repercussions for sports arbitration more generally.
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- Tags: Arbitration | Court of Arbitration for Sport (FIFA) | Dispute Resolution | FIFA | Football | Normalisation Committees
Dr. Despina Mavromati is an attorney at the Swiss law firm BianchiSchwald and an arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). She has extensive experience in international sports law and arbitration. She represents athletes, clubs and federations and advises on regulatory and sports governance matters, including the recognition and enforcement of awards and freezing of assets in Switzerland. Despina has acted as counsel, co-counsel, expert or arbitrator in numerous sports arbitrations, involving contractual, governance, doping-related and other disciplinary and ethics matters. Recognized as a Thought Leader by Who’s Who Legal in Switzerland every year since 2018, “Despina Mavromati is “brilliant and accomplished” and “an amazing lawyer with immense knowledge and expertise when it comes to disputes before the CAS” (Who’s Who Legal 2023).