On July 23rd, ex-Fifa presidential candidate, Mohammad Bin Hammam (“MBH”) was banned from football related activity for life. He is the most senior official to be banned by Fifa in its 107 year history. For the uninitiated, Fifa is the governing global body for the sport of soccer. A brief factoid: Fifa has more members (208) than the International Olympic Committee; is an association established under the laws of Switzerland and headquartered in Zurich; has a motto of “For the Game, For the World” and is responsible for the organization and governance of the World Cup, the World’s largest and most lucrative sporting event.
This blog is actually more of a “prequel”, in that MBH has vowed to appeal his life-time ban to, among others, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which I am going to report on in a subsequent instalment faithful reader.
Now, soccer is no stranger to allegations of corruption, (less than 5 years ago in Italy, several prominent “squadra” were docked points for match fixing which resulted in Juventus of Turin dropping down a league) but, this latest scandal goes all the way to the top.
MBH was found guilty of trying to buy votes from Caribbean Football Union members in his recent bid to become Fifa president. MBH, who hails from Qatar [more on this later], says he will appeal against the ruling, which said he gave or offered cash gifts of around $40,000 US each to the 25 Caribbean associations. MBH went on to say (to Sky News), “This is actually the act of the dictators and you have witnessed through history the dictators when they think this or that person is a prominent one to replace him, the first thing they do is execute him.”
In The Guardian’s July 24, 2011 article, “Mohammed Bin Hammam: Life Ban from football is Sepp Blatter’s ‘revenge’ ”, MBH is quoted as:
- “I was expecting it actually … The ban for life, that shows how much these people are angry, how much they are full of revenge.”
- [on the lack of independence of Fifa’s ethics committee] “The ban for life has already been written before the investigation started.”
- [on whether the ethics committee was a kangaroo court] “Do you see any other thing? I think that is quite evident what kind of court it was.”
To rewind, on March 18, 2011 MBH announced his Fifa presidency campaign. Two months later, Fifa announced its intention to investigate 4 officials, including MBH and vice-president Jack Warner, following bribery allegations. On May 27, 2011 MBH suggested that Fifa president (4th successive term) Sepp Blatter knew about the alleged bribery payments and that there was a conspiracy to halt his campaign. Two days later, MBH withdrew his candidacy; Fifa suspended MBH and Mr. Warner from all football related activity and opened its investigation. On June 1st, Blatter was re-elected as Fifa president. On June 20th, Warner resigned his post, thereby avoiding investigation and on the 23rd MBH’s sentence came down.
It was a whirlwind saga of events which triggered several questions: why did Fifa wait until the presidential election to proceed with the investigations and, more focally, does this have anything to do with the hotly debated issue of the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar?
Subsequently, Fifa has given the Caribbean officials in question the opportunity to explain their part in the MBH scandal, and “any person who has information” but does not comply with the corruption investigations will face sanctions which could also include a lifetime ban.
In respect of the appeal, MBH noted “The first step for me is the appeals committee of Fifa which is another kangaroo court,” “Then after that when we go to CAS things are going to be much improved. At that time I think Fifa will not have the full stage themselves. Then I should go to the civil courts in Switzerland where we have full confidence to make the necessary justice.”
So, stay tuned on that front, but, in the meantime, the tremors from MBH’s ban have continued to spread. In a New York Times article a couple of weeks ago, the secretary general of Interpol, Ronald K. Noble, underlined the crisis Fifa is facing, “public confidence in Fifa’s ability to police itself is at is lowest point ever.”
Coupled with that, Fifa president Blatter says he does not have any intention of taking the 2022 World Cup away from Qatar (I told you I would get back to this) but could reconsider if new evidence comes to light. Blatter has announced that a “Solutions Committee” featuring Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger, will launch an investigation to clean up the governing body and has vowed to take action if suitable evidence arises. The plot is thickening considerably …