by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: FIFA’s Member Associations Committee finally seems to have had enough. And that could mean that the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) dispute is finally resolved, despite a looming FIFA ban.
With Pakistan football having come to a standstill for the last two years, and with seemingly no progress made since FIFA gave the PFF faction led by Faisal Saleh Hayat a two-year mandate to ratify statutes and hold fresh elections in September 2015, it’s Member Associations Committee has put its foot down and called for stringent measures for a similar directive.
It comes following a request by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to the world’s football governing body in May to give Hayat’s PFF two more years so that “meaningful reforms can be undertaken”.
“It was discussed that the potential extension of the deadline [from 30 September 2017 to 30 June 2019] to revise the PFF statutes and organise elections will be conditional on the strict implementation of an action plan and a regular reporting mechanism,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn on the discussions that took place during the committee’s meeting last week.
The Member Associations Committee, however, also pointed out that an administrator has been appointed by the court to manage PFF affairs. And that, it said, could be grounds for a ban.
The PFF dispute began after a controversial election of the Punjab Football Association (PFA) in April 2015 that saw the country’s football governing body split into two factions heading into its presidential poll in June.
With both factions heading into elections, the Lahore High Court intervened and ordered a stay on the elections but the Hayat group went ahead and conducted the election in the presence of an AFC observer. It was a move that saw the LHC appoint an administrator to control the PFF affairs until the matter is resolved.
“The Committee pointed out that, while court proceedings are still ongoing, the court appointed administrator continues to occupy the PFF offices and to control its accounts,” added the FIFA spokesperson.
“Therefore, the Committee decided that if the PFF offices and access to the PFF accounts are not returned to the PFF leadership — led by Mr Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat — by 31 July 2017, it would recommend to the FIFA Council to suspend the PFF for contravening its obligations under articles 14 and 19 of the FIFA Statutes.”
The relevant clauses seem to be regarding third party influence but member associations are also required to “ratify statutes that are in accordance with the requirements of the FIFA Standard Statutes”.
One of the major reasons for the PFF splitting into two factions were several changes made to the PFF constitution, with Hayat’s opponents claiming they were meant to keep him in power, and on a seat he’s held on since 2003.
It remains to be seen whether the Bureau of the FIFA Council, which has the FIFA president and presidents of all six continental confederations, goes forth with the ban.
For the last few years, the AFC has been pressing its support to keep Hayat in power and a ban could detrimental for that plan despite the faction led by him repeatedly threatening that it would be coming.
A FIFA ban usually leads to an interim committee being formed to conduct the elections. Till the election date is finalised, football activity is resumed while there are also integrity checks on election candidates.
The News adds:
When the federal minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Riaz Pirzada was contacted he said the IPC ministry and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) had distanced themselves from the issue. “You may recall suspension was looming as a result of the conflict between the PSB and Pakistan Olympic Association (POA). We prevented Pakistan from suspension by striking a deal with the world sports governing body. We also pledged that IOC charter would be thoroughly followed and we did that and recognised the POA. We only recognise those federations which are affiliated with their International Federations (IFs),” Pirzada told this correspondent.
“We had also written to FIFA that the sports ministry does not violate its (FIFA) charter. We respect FIFA. Our legal counsel has also told Lahore High Court (LHC) that IPC and PSB have no involvement in the matter. We also said the court should resolve the football issue in the light of international laws,” Pirzada said.
He said that PFF had had issues with the PSB but those had been resolved. “We are totally against FIFA ban. I request FIFA to send its delegation and try to resolve the issue. My humble request to FIFA is that as the matter is in courts, so please respect our courts,” the minister said.
He said that he would tell the PSB Director General to write another letter to FIFA to tell it that Pakistan government had no involvement in the whole episode.
When asked about some influential people in the government who had allegedly played a role in manipulating the extraordinary congress in Islamabad and the occupation of PFF headquarters in Lahore in June 2015, the minister said that Hafiz Salman Butt and a “mafia” were behind that. “They had also done so against former PFF president Mian Azhar. Faisal Saleh Hayat and General Arif Hasan, the POA chief, were brought in by General Musharraf,” Pirzada said.
He said that Faisal had also created problems for himself. “He is stuck because of his own wrongdoings. Some of the federating units rose against him as he failed to run the system in a transparent manner,” Pirzada said.
The PFF case will be heard after summer vacations in September.
On April 6, 2017, the Supreme Court set aside the LHC’s decision of February 2, 2017, and referred the case back to the LHC double bench with the instructions to decide it on merit.
In August 2015, FIFA sent a fact-finding mission to Lahore. Upon its report, the world body gave two years to Faisal’s group to revise the PFF constitution and hold fresh elections of the PFF by September 2017.
However, nothing has been done in that direction. Following the AFC Member Association’s task force recommendation in May this year in Bahrain, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) wrote to FIFA on May 17 for extending the PFF mandate for two years, until 2019.
FIFA recently suspended Sudan’s football body over a similar issue.
A FIFA letter says that the suspension would only be lifted once the decree of the undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice of June 2, 2017, was declared null and void and the Board of Directors of the SFA with its President, Dr Mutasim Gaafar Sir Elkhatim, was reinstated.
Published in The News, 13 July 2017