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Friday, September 16, 2011

FIFA rejects Bin Hammam’s appeal


Mohammed Bin Hammam


By James M. Dorsey

World soccer body FIFA has rejected an appeal by its ousted, former vice president, Mohammed Bin Hammam against a lifetime ban on involvement in soccer on charges of having bribed officials of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU).

Mr. Bin Hammam, a 62-year old Qatari national and the suspended head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said he had launched the appeal as a formality in the expectation that it would be rejected so that he could take his case to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS).

Mr. Bin Hammam was banned by FIFA’s ethics committee in July following an investigation that concluded that he had bribed CFU officials to secure their support for his failed FIFA presidential campaign. Mr. Bin Hammam withdrew his candidacy in late May after he was suspended pending the investigation in the worst scandal in FIFA’s 107-year history. His withdrawal paved the way for the unchallenged re-election of FIFA president Sepp Blatter for a fourth term.

Mr. Bin Hammam, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, said he had not gone to great length to prove his innocence in the FIFA appeal process, which he has in the past denounced as biased, but was confident about the CAS proceedings.

In a posting on his blog, Mr. Bin Hammam said after the FIFA rejection that he was "relieved because for the last three months I felt helpless and was sure that all the efforts, time and money I am spending was just a waste. Of course, today’s outcome from the appeal committee was not unexpected or surprising. To be fair to the appeal committee members though, as a consequence of our experiences with the ethics committee, we didn’t make serious efforts to prove my innocence this time around. We even thought to write to FIFA to ‘skip’ the appeals procedure and to have a directly guilty verdict from the appeal committee in order for us to go directly to CAS,” Mr. Bin Hammam said.

He said he could now see “at last, light at the end of the tunnel and I am heading confidently towards it. My next step is to go to CAS where from now on, I will be equal to my rival."

The FIFA Appeal Committee chaired by Ecuador's Francisco Acosta, met on Thursday for seven hours before upholding the ban handed down by the ethics committee on July 23, which found him guilty of seven counts of misconduct.

"The appeal made by Mohammed bin Hammam has been rejected and the decision of the FIFA Ethics Committee confirmed. The sanction of being banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at national and international level for life has therefore been maintained," FIFA said in a statement.

In banning Mr. Bin Hammam, FIFA's ethics committee report said in July that there was "compelling" evidence that the Asian football boss together with former head of North and Central American and Caribbeaan soccer chief Jack Warner had bribed CFU members. Mr. Warner resigned his posts to avoid investigation.

Mr. Bin Hammam’s American lawyer Eugene Gulland said in a statement that the Qatari was also appealing to CAS against the appointment of China's Zhang Jilong as acting AFC president pending the outcome of the appeals process. The AFC has given Mr. Bin Hammam until May of next year to clear his name before moving to elect a president to replace him. The appeal against Mr. Jilong’ acting presidency is intended to pave the way for Mr. Bin Hammam to attend the next FIFA executive committee meeting scheduled for October 20 even though he was ousted from the organization.

"These decisions infringe the Asian Football Confederation's constitution. We also continue to champion the need for transparency and call on FIFA to publish the transcripts of the appeals panel as well as that of the Ethics Committee proceedings in July,” Mr. Gulland told The Associated Press.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.

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