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Update on SKNFA Premier League Stalemate

The St. Kitts Nevis Football Association (SKNFA) wishes to inform the Football fraternity in St. Kitts and Nevis, in particular the players, patrons, sponsors and other stakeholders that it is working diligently to resolve the current impasse between the Association and three (3) of its member clubs. To this end, the Association in a letter dated 16th January, 2013 through its legal adviser, Mr. Sylvester Anthony, informed Dr. Ken E. Ballantyne, legal advisor for the claimants that the SKNFA is minded to agree to an arbitration panel comprising three (3) persons if it would assist in moving the matter forward. In this regard, the SKNFA proposed that the arbitration panel should comprise representation from each of the parties, and representation from the St. Kitts Nevis Olympic Committee (SKNOC) to serve as Chair of the panel. Further, in order to have the matter resolve speedily, the SKNFA proposed a deadline of seven (7) days be set for reaching agreement on the selection of the panel.

The stalemate, which is currently preventing the commencement of the Premier Division competition stemmed from a protest brought by S.L. Horsfords St. Pauls following the completion of the 2012 football season. The protest claimed that the SKNFA had violated the Rules and Regulations of the Final 4 competition in determining the two teams that competed for the championship. The protest was lodged by S.L. Horsfords St. Pauls ten (10) days after the competition had ended and as such was ruled out of time by the SKNFA. The S. L. Horsfords St. Pauls subsequently submitted a request for Arbitration on the matter, which was later, supported and joined by Conaree FC and UDC Garden Hotspurs.

Around the month of October 2012, in an effort to have the matter resolve through arbitration, the SKNFA proposed to invite the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) to nominate someone to adjudicate the matter. CFU is the governing body, recognized and supported by CONCACAF and FIFA, for football in the region. The CFU and CONCACAF have sorted out disputes within member associations in the best interest of football during time of disputes in the past. Just recently, a delegation from CONCACAF and CFU was successful in getting the Guyana Football Federation and the Georgetown Football Association to reconcile their differences for the progress of football in Guyana. Hence, the SKNFA respectfully disagreed with the arguments advanced against the intervention of CFU in this matter. In 2012 alone, the CFU successfully resolved disputes in the British Virgin Islands, Grenada and Haiti. It is interesting to note that the majority of these disputes took place on the eve of impending elections in those member associations. Election for the new SKNFA Executive body is due in 2013.

Around the middle of November 2012, the SKNFA convened a meeting with all ten (10) Premier Division Clubs to, inter alia; update them on the status of the intended arbitration hearing and to get feedback from the Premier Division clubs in regards to the commencement of the league. The SKNFA proposed that the Premier League commence notwithstanding and without prejudice to the outcome of the matter currently in dispute. Further, the SKNFA gave the clubs the assurance that it will use its best efforts to have the intended arbitration completed in a minimum of two (2) weeks at soonest or maximum of one (1) month at most. All, but three (3) of the clubs present indicated a desire to commence the Premier league immediately (with approximately two weeks for preparation) on the condition aforementioned. To the contrary, S.L. Horsfords St. Pauls, Conaree FC and UDC Garden Hotspurs indicated that they did not wish to take part in the Premier League until the matter of the intended arbitration was fully resolved. One other club indicated that while it had a desire to see the league commenced immediately it also wished to see the matter of the intended arbitration resolved at the same time.

On 7th January 2013, the SKNFA through its legal representative notify Dr. Ken Ballantyne, lawyer for the claimants that “we note that the clubs (claimants) conceded that the SKNFA has the jurisdiction to create an Arbitration Tribunal to deal with the internal disputes involving the SKNFA and themselves, as some of its members. However, your letter complains that in absence of the regulations contemplated by article 32 of the constitution regarding the composition, jurisdiction and procedural rules, that somehow it is a breach of natural justice for the clubs to be required to attend such a Tribunal.

We respectfully disagreed.

It is our view that in the absence of regulations created by the SKNFA, the provisions of the Arbitration Act, 1950 apply and the arbitration envisaged by the constitution can therefore proceed. What is first required is for agreement on the composition of the panel.”

The SKNFA is of the opinion that a panel consisting of a single arbitrator is sufficiently adequate to deal with the matter that is disputed. In this regard, the names and resumes of two (2) individuals were submitted to the lawyer for the claimants in said letter dated 7th January 2013 for consideration; either of which is acceptable to the SKNFA. To date, the SKNFA has not received any response. The names submitted to the claimants for consideration are Mr. Lyndon Cooper, President of St. Lucia Football Association and 2nd Second Vice President of CFU and Ms. Navine Fleming (lawyer), Legal Advisor and Chairperson for Disciplinary Committee of Anguilla Football Association.

Around the first week in January 2013, the SKNFA received a letter signed by the Presidents of S. L. Horsfords St. Pauls, Conaree FC and UDC Garden Hotspurs containing what appeared to be a proposal in respect of the composition of the intended arbitration panel. There was no indication from the clubs whether or not they had dismissed their lawyer as the contents of the letter appeared to contradict the position taken by their lawyer earlier. Moreover, the SKNFA found it impossible to proceed on two tracks.

Nonetheless, and out of abundance of caution, and so as to not cause any further delay, the SKNFA instructed its lawyer to respond to the contents of their letter through their lawyer. A copy of the response was also sent to respective clubs. The SKNFA is of the view that a three member panel is unnecessary for the matter which is in dispute. However, it will agree to such a large panel if it would assist in moving this matter forward. The SKNFA indicated, however, that it was not in agreement with the proposal that nomination from the Bar Association serve as Chair but instead the SKNFA proposed that representation from the SKNOC to serve as Chair to the panel. One may recall that such precedent already exist in connection with similar disputes between the SKNFA and its member clubs. One such example took place back around 2005-2006 during the infamous Final 4/Final 5 debacle, where the SKNOC successfully adjudicated the arbitration then.

The SKNFA is anxious to move this matter forward towards resolution in order to ensure the prompt resumption of football competition in the Federation. And such, is hopeful that the claimants will agree to the composition of the Arbitration Tribunal as proposed herein.


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