The first vice-president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation (SVGFF) has accused the executive — of which he is a member — of improper conduct in the handling of communication from FIFA regarding the expiration of former SVGFF President Venold Coombs’ ban from the sport.
“Well, I don’t think that they would have basically acted properly,” Otashie Spring said at a press conference in Kingstown on Monday, at which Coombs was the other member of the head table.
“I would basically like to hear from them as to the response as to basically what transpired on their part,” Spring said.
During the press briefing, Spring resorted to verbal contortions in his attempt to speak solely as president of SV United and not at first vice-president of the SVGFF eve amidst apparent conflict of interest.
He accused the SVGFF officials of suppressing information from FIFA — football’s world governing body — that Coombs’ ban has expired and he can return to football-related activities, including administration.
However, Spring said that while he has considered resigning, he would remain a member of the executive because their tenure is about to end.
The tenure of the current executive ends this month, but the SVGFF told iWitness News on Tuesday that FIFA has given until Dec. 31 to postpone the vote, pending the conclusion of ongoing constitutional reform, which must be completed by the end of the year.
Devron Poyer, general-secretary of the SVGFF, told iWitness News that this does not mean that the vote will be held on Dec. 31.
“FIFA is saying it needs to be completed by December 2023 and we’ll have elections by then. If the process is completed next week, we can have the elections the week after,” Poyer explained.
On the issue of resigning, Spring said:
“Well, in all honesty, the thought has crossed my mind. But we’re pretty much at the end of the road as it concerns our term. And so, it serves very little relevance at this juncture here.”
Told that resigning would show that he a principled person, Spring said:
“I think very much. I am. Yes, in that — again, I really don’t want to address much as to what … transpired in different forums. But as I said, I mean, I tried to basically operate within my lanes and do not go beyond the ambit of such.”
He did not agree that his statement at the press conference would hurt the sport.
“I don’t think so. I don’t agree. The matter of football, football has to be the bigger winner. Either at an executive, administrative level or, I mean, where you basically have to just be an honest affiliate,” Spring said.
“Yes. I think at the executive level, I mean, I basically would express there and then as to my take in our organisation’s handling of this matter, but where I’m sitting here as the president of SV United, I mean, I’m basically here expressing again, how, I mean, as an affiliate, how it feels with respect to what has been unfolding. I’m not holding back any words. I’m pretty sure that as much as how I am passionate here now, I’ll be passionate in that forum as well.”
In July 2018, FIFA imposed an immediate two-year ban on Coombs, who was then president of the SVGFF, from all football-related activities — administrative, sports or otherwise.
Further, the adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee of FIFA fined Coombs US$40,000 for selling 2014 World Cup tickets at a “profiteering mark-up”.
Spring confirmed at the press conference on Tuesday that in August 2022, FIFA imposed an additional six-month ban on Coombs, which expired in March 2023.
He said that SV United, having received information that Coombs’ ban had expired, informed the SVGFF that Coombs had been appointed as an executive member of the club and was their preferred officer to attend an affiliates’ meeting scheduled for Oct. 30.
“We … received correspondence from the Football Federation to the effect that Mr. Venold Coombs’ ban is still pretty much in effect and that they will have no dealing with Mr. Venold Coombs,” Spring told the press conference.
“And so, SV United … replied, speaking to the fact that documents that we [had seen, spoke] otherwise and that the actions [were] … incorrect.”
Spring said that SV United later received communication from the SVGFF saying that if such a document was presented to the SVGFF, Coombs would be cleared to take part in all football-related activities.
“A second correspondence was sent thereafter … around the fourth of November to FIFA where Mr. Venold Coombs again … asked FIFA to basically let us know, or ‘Let me know with no uncertainty what is my status’,” Spring said.
He said “the actions” of SVGFF on Oct. 30 was reported to FIFA, whose legal counsel responded on Nov. 7 and spoke to a correspondence sent to the SVGFF “as per an inquiry by the Football Federation”.
Spring explained that there were multiple subsequent correspondences between Coombs and FIFA.
“To Venold’s surprise and my surprise, the Federation [had] been interfacing with FIFA, as it concerns Venold’s eligibility …”
He said that FIFA emphasised that Coombs’ ban had expired “and the series or the list of events that were basically deemed as events that speak to a breach and even futuristic events as it concerns Mr. Venold, in terms of wanting to contest the election, they basically stated that the federation ought to be advised that Mr. Venold Coombs is not to be precluded from any of the activities listed”.
Spring said from an SV united standpoint, it was a little bit distasteful. And it was a little bit sad, in a nutshell, because the documents that we [had] been privy to that [had] basically led us to embrace Mr. Venold Coombs who we see as somebody who was very instrumental where footballing development in St. Vincent”.
Asked if, as first vice-president of the SVGFF, he was aware of these issues, Spring said he was at the press conference in the capacity as president of SV United.
“I basically would defer answering those questions within a different forum … But right now, I’m actually here in the capacity of President of SV United. I’m a part of an executive. But I’d prefer not to answer a question here and now… Maybe if this was a football federation executive press conference.”
He was asked if he was comfortable being part of an executive committee and chastising that committee.
“Being here, I’m also an affiliate and really and truly, as an affiliate, I’m very much passionate. As an affiliate, I’ve respected the body even while I’m part of the current administration. I mean, I’ve basically stand clear where I need to stand clear and all them sort of stuff. And that is where I’m actually addressing from an affiliate standpoint. The most that I could say is that learning now what … transpired. It is distasteful but. I’m not quite bashing myself.”
Meanwhile, Coombs said “bashing” was a strong word.
“I am not going to agree with that. That is not bashing. The situation that is a club got involved — no fault of the club. So, they got involved so it is incumbent on the club to be involved in this particular setting here.”
Spring said there was no inherent conflict of interest in the situation and pointed to her prominent members of CONCACAF and FIFA who are also club leaders.