Following the decision of the Court for Arbitration in Sports (CAS) two weeks ago to proceed with the arbitration brought before it by Liberian Musa Hassan Bility contesting the FIFA-CAF hostile takeover, it has ruled that both CAF and FIFA should file their responses by this Friday 20th December 2019.
It must be remembered that FIFA and CAF delayed the start of the arbitration by making some preliminary objections to some of Bility’s prayers to the CAS, namely asking for the matters to be divided between the separate parties (depite the fact that it was FIFA that had enjoined itself in the matter before CAS) and also weakly denying that there was any formal agreement needed between CAF and FIFA that would legally set out each individual partners rights and obligations in the takeover.
Earlier in year, Bility had requested that CAS compel both CAF and FIFA to produce a formal signed agreement between the parties. A similar request had been made by UEFA President Aleksandr Ceferin to FIFA President Gianni Infantino when he (Infantino) had initially approached his own FIFA Bureau of the Council to provisionally allow the FIFA takeover of CAF.
The FIFA Bureau to the Council is the grouping of the Presidents of FIFA Confederations, who also double as the Vice-Presidents of FIFA.
However, the administrative and procedural delays appeared to be over when CAS gave CAF and FIFA the deadline to file responses, state their expert witnesses, file any defenses for lack of jurisdiction etc.
Apparently however, CAF and FIFA have returned to CAS asking for an extension of the deadline to file their responses.
We see this as another delay tactic to allow both CAF and FIFA to continue taking some of the most detrimental and irreversible decisions on behalf of CAF in the intervening period, considering too that CAS did not issue any preliminary orders barring FIFA from taking over CAF during the subsistence of the arbitration.
This had enabled FIFA to swoop in on CAF and make some radical changes, for instance FIFA compelled the 54 member associations to sign away their broadcast rights to the FIFA World Cup qualifiers from 2019 all the way to 2023.
FIFA and CAF together unilaterally terminated the 12-year, $1 Billion minimum commercial contract between CAF and French agency Lagardère Sports and Entertainment (LSE), citing rulings of the Egyptian competition authority (ECA) that this contract was signed without the benefit of an open tender.
This case was filed in the Egypt by local firm Presentation Sports (PS), who claimed that they had placed a higher bid for $1.2 Billion, even though CAF was adamant that PS had declined to grant this offer of $1.2 Billion as a minimum guarantee, complete with supporting bank documents.
Apparently also, PS had approached Lagardère Sports and Entertainment for a sub-licence to broadcast matches in the Middle East and North-Africa region, but Lagardère sold those regional rights to the large, Qatari-owned broadcaster BeIn Sports.
PS obviously felt inclined to file their case before the ECA simply because CAF headquarters are domiciled in Cairo, Egypt for the last couple of decades.
The ECA subsequently referred the matter to the Egyptian Economic Court (EEC) which in 2018 bizarrely found the former CAF President Issa Hayatou and his GS Hicham El Amrani were guilty of flouting Egyptian competition laws and therefore fined them a combined sum of $55 million, while simultaneously absolving CAF (the beneficiaries of the contract) from any blame despite the agreement being endorsed first by the CAF Executive committee (Exco).
It is this bizarre ruling of the EEC that FIFA and CAF now cite as the reason for unilaterally terminating the LSE contract.
CAF continues with its abysmal stewardship of the African game and a weak defender of itself in that it did not file an urgent and automatic appeal against this decision by the EEC on various obvious grounds, with the Ahmad Darw-led organization quite happy that the ruling touched personally on their “political enemies”.
We have been quite critical of LSE of their “ostrich” (head in the sand) approach to their running of CAF affairs, quite content that they had transitioned their corruption from the Hayatou to the Ahmad eras seamlessly.
In the process, LSE despite being the ones holding the commercial bag of CAF would not comment when things were going haywire with the clownish leadership of Ahmad, and with the LSE Africa boss Idriss Akki happy to hob-nob with him even to the very intimate religious pilgrimages (Umrah) in Saudi Arabia.
Akki mistakenly assumed that everything was hanky-dory as long as he had both President Ahmad and GS Mouad Hajji on speed dial, until they dumped him like a bottle-cap or a “piece of lint”.
Left with no option, LSE filed for emergency arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), seeking preliminary orders barring CAF and FIFA from terminating the contract.
Unfortunately, the ICC single arbitrator last week declined to grant the request for temporary reliefs sought by ICC, meaning that LSE now will be forced to fight for compensation instead.
In the meantime, the CAF contract appears all but likely to go to Infront Sports & Media, a subsidiary of Chinese firm Dalian Wanda which trade-off is a quid pro quo for the unilateral granting of the hosting rights to China of the 2021 expanded Club World Cup.
Note clearly that the termination of the LSE contract with CAF has been a red herring to distract the whole of Africa from the massive looting of CAF reserves by Ahmad and his cronies, by claiming that the shortfall in the funds has been occasioned by lower revenues from a poorly negotiated commercial contract.
More money from Dalian Wanda (Infront) simply means a new round of the most corrupt practices Africa has ever seen from Ahmad, and when these bribes are eventually cascaded downwards to African FA Presidents, would likely see him re-elected to the CAF Presidency once more in 2021.
Obviously, the “war room” inside CAF has been bullish after the ICC decision last week, spreading the misinformation that CAF had won the case filed against the termination of the LSE contract, going by the press release from the organization.
So bullish in fact, that CAF has decided to move swiftly and replace Musa Hassan Bility from the CAF Exco during its next Ordinary General Assembly in April next year to be hosted in Yaounde, Cameroon.
The removal specifically of Bility would follow his so-called FIFA ban from all football activity for a period of 10 years by the FIFA Ethics committee and despite his appeal of this ridiculous nonsense to the CAS.
FIFA DELAYS CAS CASE AND ARRANGES TO THROW OUT BILITY
Infact, Bility has two appeals pending before the CAS, namely the opposition to the FIFA hostile takeover and also the decision of the Ethics committee adjudicatory chamber to ban him from all football activity.
The impunity within CAF and FIFA continues to be self-evident once more, that they would not be worried about pending cases before the CAS, and would go ahead and remove Bility before a decision has been handed down.
In a very illuminating interview last week by the website www.insidefootball.com with former CAF Vice-President Suketu Patel, he had some very unflattering words to say about the current CAF President Ahmad Darw, whom he has known for quite some time and served together with on the CAF Exco.
“I have known him from day one and have always tried to help him over the years. Ironically, I even went to Madagascar, on behalf of FIFA, when he was in serious trouble with his government.
Even in 2013, it was normal that as Indian Ocean people we showed solidarity, as he was also President of the Indian Ocean Regional Football group.
I am however ashamed, but not surprised, of how he has wasted a wonderful opportunity to serve African football and brought shame on CAF, an organization I worked tirelessly to give credibility.
His integrity and mannerisms has been questioned and well publicized lately. Knowing him, and his accusers, I am inclined to believe the latter.
He says he wants to reform CAF… That sounds great but what exactly does that mean?
Developing and reforming football is not organizing a couple of make-believe events for the sake of the media. He was at CAF for eight years with me – I cannot think of one instance where he put forward a proposal to advance the game”.
No one doubts that by the time Ahmad Darw is through with African football, we will all be walking among its ruins, unless either providence or a concerted effort to remove this shabby little man from the position come to fruition.
We here promise not to abandon our posts in the same way that majority of African FA Presidents apparently have, happy to live large on the bribes and brown envelopes handed to them, all the while African football continues to limp painfully, heading to nowhere!