Trinidad stadium row threatens England friendly

May 22, 2008

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 21 (Reuters) - England's friendly international with Trinidad and Tobago on June 1 risks being cancelled due to a domestic row over rental terms for the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

The Caribbean nation's football federation (TTFF) and Ministry of Sports are in dispute over advertising issues, rental fees and other elements of an agreement the TTFF said was changed last week by the ministry, which owns the ground.

On Wednesday, Jack Warner, a TTFF 'special advisor' and FIFA vice-president, said unless the terms were changed or an injunction against the sports minister was successful the England match would be cancelled.

'If the minister does not answer and withdraw this agreement, we have authorised (our attorney) to file an injunction to restrain the minister for imposing these conditions. If the injunction fails, the match fails, I refund people their money and apologise to the world.

'If the injunction wins, then the game is on. If the minister chooses to withdraw this today, then there is no injunction, the game is on, ' Warner, who is also joint-leader of the country's opposition party, said on local radio.

A letter from the TTFF's attorney, published in local media on Wednesday, said the conditions demanded by the ministry 'will result in a breach of contract with the English FA and may result in a cancellation of the match'.

However, an FA spokesman was quoted in British media saying: 'We have not been made aware of any threat to the game and fully expect it to go ahead as planned. This is an internal issue which we are confident will be resolved soon.'

The dispute is the latest in a series of spats involving the TTFF and comes after it was ordered this week by an arbitration panel in London to pay its 2006 World Cup squad extensive bonuses.

The players, who have been refusing to play for the national team due to the nearly two-year long dispute, were told by the panel they should receive half the country's participation money and commercial revenues and income from pre-tournament friendly matches.

The players' England-based attorney, Michael Townley, said on Wednesday he intended to file for an interim award of US$7 million to be split among his clients based on the 'limited information made public by the TTFF'.

It would mean each player would be entitled to about US$280,000. The TTFF initially offered them US$910 each in October, 2006.

'At the moment, the players have not received a single cent and it is important to have some money flowing from this exercise,' said Townley.

Trinidad and Tobago sports minister Gary Hunt is confident the friendly will go ahead as planned.

Hunt told the Trinidad Express: 'The government has entered in talks with the TTFF with a position that we would like the game to go on.

'They (the TTFF) are willing (to talk).

'There is legal posturing, but they are willing. That is the impression left with me today.'