The "Soca Warriors" are making it clear that they have not settled the matter of World Cup 2006 bonuses, currently before the local courts, and they are not going to give up.
Seven of the 13 players embroiled in the four-year legal battle held a press conference yesterday at the President's Box of the Queen's Park Oval— along with their London-based lawyer Mike Townley—to address what they claim are statements by Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) special adviser Jack Warner on the hustings that the matter has been settled.
Present yesterday at the press conference were goalkeeper Darlington FC goalkeeper Kelvin Jack, Sunderland FC striker Kenwyne Jones, USL First Division defender Atiba Charles, North East Stars FC CEO Brent Sancho, Anthony Wolfe, Aurtis Whitley and Cyd Gray.
Of the original 16 players taking legal action against the Federation, 13 are still awaiting a judgement on the matter. The UK-based arbitration body Sports Dispute Resolution Panel handed down a ruling two years ago Wednesday, that awarded the players 50 per cent of corporate receipts from the World Cup, after they took legal action against the TTFF for unpaid bonuses promised by Warner.
A day later, the Trinidad Guardian reported the results of the arbitration, which had been placed under gag order. Since September 2008, that matter has been in the local courts. The players said that after two delays, a judgement on it was expected in November last year. So far, none has been forthcoming.
"There's a phrase… 'justice delayed is justice denied'. Well we have no justice. We can delay this forever (but) that means we get no justice," Townley told the media. Townley added that he has had no update on the case since October 2009, and has written a letter to the Chief Justice's office. A lack of response to his letter in the coming weeks, he feels, will send the signal that "something's up".
The players deny the press conference yesterday was politically motivated, despite its timing right in the heart of a heated election campaign. Townley described this as an "appropriate" time.
"This press conference is not about the elections," he stated. "It is about us not getting paid. It has been called at this time because statements have been made that we've been paid and we haven't been paid." The players also denied that the People's National Movement (PNM), who are contesting the elections against Warner's UNC coalition, are behind the conference.
But Warner has dismissed their claims as PNM tricks, and nothing more than a political tactic.
"I am in the middle of campaigning for an election, (and) if the players think they can distract me from that they are mistaken," Warner told the Express yesterday.
He said they had the option to settle out of court, and that "some players accepted, some did not".
"But I have no problem with that, I expect to see more problems than that," the UNC chairman added. "That's a PNM trick. I heard they're bringing (Andrew) Jennings too."
"Let them go ahead, I wish all of them luck if they believe they could politicise this and drag it into the gutter."
Jennings is a British journalist who has on a number of occasions confronted Warner, accusing him of backroom financial dealings inside and outside of FIFA, of which Warner is a vice-president.
The players say the TTFF got $82,245,113.15 from government and $88,165,000 from corporate sponsors, and the latter is the sum they are contesting. This, they said, would amount to $1.9-$3.4 million per player.
Jack (Kelvin) called on Warner to be accountable for the World Cup funds and accused him of being "greedy" and "arrogant".
"…Mr Warner has been trying to discredit us," the ex-T&T custodian said. "He has been saying we are greedy, but you tell me: who is the greedy party here. Who's the greedy person?" He added that Warner "probably thinks he is above the law."
He accused senior national coach Russell Latapy and ex-captain Dwight Yorke of abandoning the team, who had played as a "unit" in Germany, pointing out that they were two of the more vocal players at the beginning of the standoff.
"Why didn't they stand up with us as senior players?" he asked.
Sancho also said the players' current stand has become about more than money. He related that in his time as a footballer, he had heard a lot of "shocking" stories about players being victimised in the 1970s and 1980s.
"If we have to be the martyrs for this then so be it. But at the end of the day, this (intimidation) has to stop."