Jack Warner may have walked from football but that does not mean the five-year-long dispute between the Trinidad football authorities and its 2006 World Cup players has been resolved. Or that Warner’s long shadow has been dispelled.
Quite the opposite. The case comes back to court next month still dogged by the financial mystery which has soured the memory of the Soca Warriors’ one and only appearance in the World Cup finals, in Germany.
Since then Warner, a former general secretary and later consultant to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation, president of CONCACAF and vice-president of FIFA, has quit the football after being accused of bribery over Mohamed Bin Hammam’s infamous election bid conference in Port of Spain.
Before the 2006 World Cup, the players and federation had agreed to a 50/50 split of the TTFF’s World Cup income.
Afterwards the TTFF declared a net surplus of TT$282,952 [£28,295] and offered each player TT$5,600 [£560]. The players protested, the TTFF revised the surplus to TT$950,000 [£95,000], raising the per-player proposal to TT$18,800 [£1,880]. The players were rebuffed in a request to examine the accounts and the TTFF has dragged out the case ever since.
World Cup goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, reflecting on both the dispute and Warner’s scandal-enshrouded walkout on FIFA, CONCACAF, the TTFF and football in general, said: “What happened with Jack Warner has been coming for a long time. When you abuse power for as long as he has then inevitably it catches up with you, the chickens come home to roost.”
Hislop – building a new career as a pundit on the ESPN football discussion show ESPNsoccernet Press Pass – added: “He has the running of Caribbean football – if not CONCACAF – all to himself and no-one could make a decision without his rubber stamp.
“When you are in a position of absolute power, as he was for as long as he was, then what happened in the end didn’t surprise me. I saw it at first hand. I lived it. Literally. I grew up playing football there when Jack Warner was running the TTFF so I know how it can get.”
A core issue in the bonuses row is that the players have not been able to force into the open either the true figures or what happened to the monies.
Hislop said: “We never knew the figures. That is what we are still trying to discover. Jack Warner made this promise to us that he would share the revenues from qualifying for the World Cup with the squad then, when we came back from Germany, we were offered just over £500 apiece.
“I’m no accountant but something had to be wrong here. So we challenged that and he reacted the way he did because of his arrogance and because no-one had ever challenged him before. He got on his soap box and called us a bunch of names which was distasteful.
“We considered ourselves just as grown men who had football’s best interests at heart. Then he started to call us mercenaries and say that our mothers should be ashamed of. So we responded quite strongly ourselves in the media. Of course then it became a case of a rock and a hard place, with us battling between each other. I can be every bit as arrogant as Jack Warner.”
The players followed up with a request, under the Freedom of Information Act, to reveal the surplus according to official government figures and were amazed to be told it might be as much as £22m.
The trouble is, as Hislop says: “Nobody knows where the money is. The TTFF readily admits that it is near-insolvent. Hopefully, by the end of this year, we’ll get some answers. But it has certainly opened my eyes about football finances.
“A country as small as Trinidad and Tobago . . . and you are talking about that kind of money. It boggles the mind. Really it does.”
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