The 18-month long dispute between the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) and the Georgetown Football Association (GFA) ended yesterday with the inking of a FIFA-mediated agreement which will see all constitutional rights being restored to the GFA and elections for the executives of both organizations.
The inking of the “binding’ agreement was witnessed by president of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Football (CONCACAF) Jeffery Webb, and Thierry Regenass of the Federation International de Football Association (FIFA). Yesterday, separate meetings were held at the Pegasus Hotel with officials of the GFF and GFA followed by a joint meeting later in the afternoon with both parties.
“At that meeting we were able to come to a formal agreement and a short term way forward for Guyana Football Federation. Both parties entered into our agreement and they both executed terms of agreement,” said Webb at a joint press conference last evening. The FIFA officials also met with other sub-associations and members of the national team which included players and management.
Under the terms of agreement, both parties agreed to nine conditions.
The GFA agrees to permanently withdraw all legal actions lodged before the ordinary courts of Guyana against the GFF by 14th January 2013 and, in turn, the GFF agreed to immediately reinstate all membership rights to the GFA upon withdrawal of all the legal actions. The taking away of the voting rights of the GFA by the GFF had sparked the dispute in 2011.
The document also states that upon signing of the agreement, the GFA agrees to offer to reinstate all membership rights to Alpha United FC, Western Tigers FC and Pele FC. Those clubs will be granted until 16 January to accept reinstatement and to make nominations for the upcoming GFA Executive Committee Elections. The GFA has agreed to hold an Electoral Congress on 19 January 2013 for the election of its Executive Committee and that congress will be monitored by the GFF.
Meantime, the GFF agreed to hold its annual Ordinary Congress by 15 April 2013, at which elections for its Executive Committee will be held. The agreement states that the GFF shall take all necessary steps to create as soon as possible but no later than 31 January 2013, an Electoral Commission comprised of three independent persons to oversee and supervise its electoral process in accordance with the principles of the FIFA Standard Electoral Code. The nominations will have to be confirmed by FIFA.
The GFA had also agreed to reimburse to GFF all reasonable expenses associated with the May 2011 annual ordinary Congress upon presentation of the respective invoices. In case of dispute in relation to the relevance of an invoice, the matter will be submitted to FIFA and CONCACAF for a decision. The GFF had also agreed that it will offset all amounts owed to the GFA from the aforementioned expenses linked to the May 2011 annual Ordinary Congress.
Meantime, according to the agreement, both the GFF and GFA acknowledge that recourse to ordinary courts is prohibited under the provisions of FIFA, CONCACAF and GFF statutes and expressly guarantee not to seek such recourse to ordinary courts to settle disputes in the future. “GFF and GFA are aware of the potential sanctions that could be imposed by FIFA and CONCACAF in case of breach of the aforementioned provision,” the agreement states.
Webb said that both parties came with a willingness to put the past behind them and move Guyana football forward. “I think both sides looked at it and decided what is in the best interest of Guyana’s football and how do we move Guyana football forward and the situation that existed since May of 2011 was not helpful for Guyana’s football fraternity and at the end the ones who are punished are the teams, clubs and players because you kill, of course, their aspiration, hopes and take away their dreams. So we see it as a crossroad in the history of football in Guyana and what we agreed to and that the course has been set forward today that both parties and all entities will ensure that this is fulfilled,” he said.
GFF’s President Franklyn Wilson said he was pleased that the two international bodies showed such interest in the affairs of Guyana’s football.
“Of course the matter has been dragging on for some time and of course as Webb said ever since December 2011 I would have reported to the Meeting of Presidents of the Caribbean Football Union on the situation here. I think one of the reasons that would have stretched it out this long is the fact that around the same time the CFU and CONCACAF had their own challenges. But nonetheless I think today is a big day for football in Guyana in charting a new course forward for our continued development. The fact that the GFA and the GFF was able to sit finally and agree to chart the way forward in the interest of football development I think is something great,” said Wilson.
According to him things will get better given the both CONCACAF and FIFA have committed to seeing the process through in terms of the implementation of the points agreed.
GFA’s President Vernon Burnett said while he is pleased that the matter has been finally resolved, he is of the view that it could have been resolved a long time ago. “We believe it is the beginning of a premise for the development of football in Guyana as has been said and we think that we would have met an amicable solution to all our differences. We will abide to all we have agreed to today and embrace the process to the end,” he asserted.
The GFA, Burnett said, will always put the development of football in the forefront and he believes that what has transpired will enhance the development of football in Guyana.
Asked whether a decision could have been arrived at before the intervention of CONCACAF and FIFA, Webb said yes. “I would think that the situation could have been resolved with mediation in some cases, I think the Minister of Sports attempted, you could have had the Olympic Association but for whatever reason the level of mistrust that exists is very unfortunate but I think that we are happy that we were able to bring all parties together and definitely my being here is a testament to the level of respect that Guyana football, the history of Guyana football and as a valued member to FIFA and CONCACAF is something we saw as an important paramount that we wanted to put behind us,” he said.
Quizzed on why it took more than a year for the two international bodies to get involved, Webb said: “I can’t speak to a year or eighteen months ago, but I was first told (of the Guyana situation) at a CFU meeting at the Presidents conference among all the association presidents of the Caribbean. I am sure we would have appreciated that over the last year there have been some trying times for Caribbean football and CONCACAF as well and I am not sure as to the timing but I am sure at that time CONCACAF must have been operating with an interim president and at that time, myself was elected in May of last year.”
The CONCACAF president said that none of the parties will be sanctioned as the matter had not reached the disciplinary committee of FIFA “but I can’t speak to as to why they were not, but I can assure that based on the spirit of today FIFA has agreed that they will not pursue any sanctions in regards to what has transpired in the months.”
The GFF and GFA have been at loggerhead for close to two years over the revocation of GFA’s voting rights. The GFA after trying several avenues, sought redress in the courts and the matter is currently being heard. Following the public airing of several concerns, a five-member team from FIFA and CONCACAF arrived in Guyana between Wednesday and yesterday with the aim of finding a resolution to the impasse which was affecting the development of the game locally.