Wednesday 21st May, 2008

 

Cloud hangs over England match

TTFF heading to court

 
 
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BY FRANCIS JOSEPH

THE international friendly dubbed A Score to Settle between T&T and England scheduled for June 1 is now in jeopardy.

This is because of a new dispute between the Minister of Sport Gary Hunt and the T&T Football Federation (TTFF) over the use of the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

The Minister of Sport has submitted a new draft lease agreement for the use of the stadium. But this has not gone down well with the TTFF, who insists there was a binding agreement made on March 15 that the TTFF used to negotiate for the June 1 encounter with the English Football Association (FA).

Lawyers acting for the TTFF have given the Minister of Sport until Friday morning to resolve this matter, failing which they intend to take the matter to the High Court to seek injunctive relief.

The cancellation of the T&T vs England match could also lead to legal action being taken by the English FA for losses incurred, sources said last night.

The match was organised to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the TTFF, and the healing of wounds between FIFA vice president Jack Warner and the English FA over comments made last year.

‘Same terms’

Om Lalla, attorney for the TTFF, in a three-page letter to the Minister of Sport yesterday pointed out that his client approached the Ministry by letter dated February 18 requesting the use of the stadium for the England match.

Lalla said a written response, dated March 11, was received from stadium manager Wilfred Stephen agreeing to the use of the facilities subject to the rescheduling of certain events at the stadium.

The TTFF, he added, was also informed that the rental charges would be forwarded at a later date.

TTFF general secretary Richard Groden met with Stephen on March 15 when it was agreed that the stadium was available for use by the TTFF and the only issue to be agreed upon was the rental cost.

Lalla said Stephen agreed that the terms of the rental of the stadium would be the same terms on which the TTFF had rented the stadium over the past 20 years for national and international matches.

The Guardian was informed that, in recent years, the TTFF was called upon to pay a rental of $3,000 plus VAT or ten per cent of the gate receipts, whichever sum was greater, plus $2,000 and VAT for electricity.

Having received oral confirmation, Groden entered into an agreement on behalf of the TTFF with the English FA on March 17 for the hosting of the game at the stadium.

According to Lalla, the terms and conditions of the agreement dealt with the use of the stadium for the purposes of advertising, tickets and access.

He said the TTFF also hosted officials of the English FA to the stadium in March and conducted an examination of the facility.

Lalla, in his letter, said the TTFF sent a letter dated April 12 requesting a waiver of the fees agreed to in March for the use of the stadium. He said the local federation withdrew the request by letter dated May 5 due to a lack of co-operation from the Minister.

‘Markedly different’

Lalla said the TTFF executive was shocked to receive a draft lease agreement from Stephen on May 15. He said the draft lease agreement contained terms and conditions that were markedly different to those agreed upon at previous meetings.

The Ministry of Sport, in a media release yesterday, said among the conditions contained in the draft lease agreement were:

n a rental sum of $150,000 plus VAT or ten per cent of the gross gate receipts, whichever sum was greater;

n a refundable deposit of $45,000 towards damage;

n provision of advertising space, at a cost, within the television arc; and,

n prohibition of alcohol and tobacco advertising.

Lalla said Groden sent off a letter yesterday to the Minister seeking an urgent determination of this matter. The TTFF attorney reminded Hunt that the contract entered between the parties on March 15, was binding.

“To renege therefrom would amount not only to a breach of contract, but will have serious consequences of loss, embarrassment and liability to my client,” he said.

“My client agreed to use the facilities of the national stadium solely on the basis of the agreement entered into on or about the 15th of March 2008.

“This 11th-hour draft release, which does not reflect the agreement between your Ministry and our client, with less than ten days before the scheduled game, is not only disingenuous, but will cause irreparable damage to the reputation of the TTFF and subject each and every citizen of T&T to shame and humiliation and will result in a breach of contract with the English FA and may result in a cancellation of the match.”

Lalla said the TTFF advertised and sold tickets locally and internationally for the match.

The Port-of-Spain attorney reminded Hunt that the match was scheduled to be televised worldwide.

“As a consequence, it is imperative that personal and political differences are buried at this crucial hour and the joint efforts of your Ministry and our client are mobilised in the national interest,” Lalla wrote.

  • Ban on alcohol ads baffles Carib

Colin Murray, sponsorship and events manager at Carib, said his company had entered into an agreement with the TTFF for billboard and other advertising at the stadium.

As the official beer of the match, Murray said Carib had no agreement with the Ministry of Sport.

He could not understand the prohibition of alcohol advertising at the stadium, saying Heineken and Carling featured prominently in the English Premiership, while other alcohol companies were main sponsors for sport around the world.

  • Warner: No more matches at stadium

FIFA vice president Jack Warner said last night the T&T-England match on June 1 would be the last international game at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

Commenting on the sudden increase in rental at the stadium, Warner said Minister of Sport Gary Hunt wanted to put his back to the wall, “but he cannot do that; I am going after him, mark my words.”

Warner said the last sports minister Roger Boynes had waived the fees at the stadium for the World Cup qualifying matches for the 2006 campaign.

“Look at what this minister has done,” Warner said.

“He has asked for a rental of $150,000 or ten per cent of the gate receipts.

“This match is costing us $15 million. We have sold $7.8 million in tickets, that means he wants $780,000 for the rental of the stadium.

“Where is the rest of the money going to come from?”

Warner said the Ministry was charging $10,000 for each of the 32 advertising billboards within the television arc and $5,000 for other advertising.

“We agreed for the English FA to come with six boards, what are we to do now?” he asked.

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