by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: For the last two years, they’ve been claiming they have no funds. Citing that, they’ve withdrawn national teams from international competitions. That has seen Pakistan football plummet to unprecedented depths, now placed 200th in the FIFA rankings.
All that has come in the wake of a controversial presidential election, held against a court order after earlier twisting of statutes saw the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) break into two different factions. It led to an administrator being appointed by the court to handle PFF affairs while world’s football governing body FIFA gave the faction led by Faisal Saleh Hayat — PFF chief since 2003 — a two-year mandate to ratify the statutes and conduct fresh elections in September 2015.
Despite FIFA’s unwillingness at first, as Dawn has revealed in the past, crucial to Hayat’s faction getting that two-year mandate was an unflinching support from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which in May sought a two-year extension to that mandate.
Last week, FIFA’s Member Associations Committee laid strict rules for the Hayat faction to get that extension while threatening a ban on the PFF.
“The FIFA decisions regarding the PFF have been taken by the respective FIFA bodies in line with the applicable processes,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn on Tuesday, when asked if the world body was being pressured by AFC into giving the Hayat faction another two years.
The past two years have seen football come to a standstill in Pakistan. The PFF administrator was given access to the accounts but the Hayat faction moved the court to stop him from conducting football events. With the administrator not recognised by FIFA or the AFC, he couldn’t send the team to international events. The Hayat faction could, but cited lack of funds.
As Dawn reported in October last year, FIFA has stopped its development funding to the PFF in wake of the turmoil. But now, Dawn can exclusively reveal that in a breach of its own rules the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has transferred funds into a private account of a PFF Congress member elected in that controversial presidential election in June 2015.
That congress member is Nadia Naqvi, referred to as PFF’s finance director in a letter written to the AFC by PFF’s secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi asking for funds from the AFC Financial Assistance Programme (AFAP) to be remitted into her account. Dawn has a copy of that letter.
Naqvi, according to a PFF media release, was elected as one of three women congress members ahead of its contentious poll in which an AFC observer was also present. She served as PFF’s finance director from 2006 to 2011. But its unclear how she can still be employed at that post while being an elected member of congress.
The letter by Lodhi refers to a meeting with AFC officials, head of development Stuart Larman and development officer Essam Al Suhaibani “regarding approval and reimbursement” of PFF’s administration expenses out of the AFAP amount unspent by PFF. For the period of July-August 2015, as the letter reveals, the PFF asked for Rs13,72,572 (US$13,726).
In what is a clear breach of its own regulations, AFC, without any exception, requires member associations to “open an AFAP-specific account for “the receipt and disbursement of the AFAP Grant”. It adds that member associations “shall not be eligible to receive the AFC Grant until the details of AFAP account are submitted to the AFC General Secretariat on the prescribed form”.
The AFAP regulations also call for a strict audit of the account — something that certainly can’t be done in a personal account where individuals have sole control with no accountability where the funds are used even if the payments are being made by way of reimbursement of alleged expenses or costs incurred by the federation.
The AFC was asked how, in a breach of its own rules, it could transfer funds to the PFF in a private account that can’t be audited but its spokesperson told Dawn last month: “The AFC does not comment on private correspondence between member associations and the AFC.”
The AFC has a non-disclosure policy regarding its AFAP funding. “It isn’t AFC’s policy to give out details of payments to individual member associations,” an AFC spokesperson told Dawn in June 2015. The PFF has been accused of withholding a portion of salaries of coaches and officials that come through the AFAP. Those who don’t comply are systematically banished from the game.
The corruption scandal that has engulfed FIFA and its confederations over the last several years in which a number of high profile officials have been banned has been inextricably linked to funds being transferred to private accounts. In April, AFC ethics committee member and a member of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee Richard Lai from Guam was suspended after pleading guilty to bribery charges in a US court. He also took funds for football development, which included getting a coach, in a private account.
FIFA’s guidelines for development funds, like the AFAP regulations, see transactions channelled in the account in the name of the member association.
The new Forward Development Programme has enhanced oversight controls to keep a check on the spending. A source in world’s football governing body told Dawn that it is “imperative that the AFC should follow FIFA’s rules when it comes to distributing development funding”.
The PFF is yet to be a beneficiary of the new programme that sees increased funding. “Given the current situation, FIFA is still withholding development funding to the PFF,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn last month.
FIFA did not comment when asked whether AFC transferring funds to a private account of a PFF official was a breach of rules or not. But that’s certainly something the world body would never do, especially after the biggest scandal in its history.