PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 9, CMC – Lawyers for embattled former football president David Wallace have questioned whether the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland is fit to preside over the dispute with football’s world governing body, FIFA.
Reacting to CAS’s request for 40 000 Swiss francs (US$41 000) in order for the case against FIFA to be opened, legal counsel for Wallace and fellow disgruntled Trinidad and Tobago Football Association executives, Dr Emir Crowne and Matthew Gayle, accused the Switzerland-based organisation of “institutional bias”, arguing that the latest move created “real doubts” about its ability to fair adjudicate the matter.
In a letter dated April 30, CAS told Crowne and Gayle 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”, meaning that Wallace and his TTFA colleagues needed to “pay the entirety of the advance of costs”.
Further, FIFA also wrote CAS requesting that its deadline for submissions be suspended until Wallace was able to pay the associated costs to kickstart the trial.
In a strongly worded response, however, Crowne and Gayle slammed the fee as “exorbitant”, pointing out CAS had provided no breakdown especially since the usual associated travel costs would be eliminated in the current environment of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“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,” Wallace’s lawyers wrote to CAS.
They added: “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’.
“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.”
Crowne and Gayle also said CAS’ participation in FIFA’s “ gamesmanship” had led to a tripling of arbitration 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,” they argued.
“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 latest hiccup threatens to derail the challenge to FIFA’s move to forcefully remove Wallace and his executive last March and install a normalisation committee to run the affairs of the TTFA.
Wallace, who has maintained that FIFA lacks the authority to remove a duly elected executive, said he and the ousted executives members were mulling over their next move.
“We are meeting and we will decide what is the next step,” the Express here quoted him as saying.