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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

African soccer executives oblivious to winds of change


Issa Hayatou: oblivious to change (Source: The Guardian)

By James M. Dorsey

African soccer executives, apparently oblivious to the winds of change that have already toppled three North African leaders, forced constitutional change and elections in Morocco and regularly spark protests in Algeria, this week reinforced structures that ensure that the continent’s governing football body remains a closed shop.

In a landslide vote, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) at its congress in the Seychelles adopted controversial amendments to the election laws for the body’s presidency presented by Algerian football federation president Mohamed Raouraoua.

The new rules accepted by 44 to 6 votes bar anyone outside the CAF executive committee, from running for the organisation’s presidency and effectively pave the way for the re-election of Issa Hayatou viewed by many as an example of the problems rocking world soccer. The rules disqualify potential challengers Danny Jordaan of South Africa and Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast.

Mr. Anouma, widely viewed as a strong challenger, had already announced his candidacy for next year’s CAF presidential election despite not being an elected member of the soccer body's executive committee. Mr. Anouma, a 58-year old accountant, enjoys the backing of the government of the Ivory Coast.

Keeping with world soccer tradition in which executives once elected stay in office for decades, Mr. Hayatou has been running African soccer since 1987. Critics view the new rules as a bid to keep him in power.

The new rule that amends CAF’s statutes stipulate that “all candidates for election to the presidency of CAF, in addition to necessary competence, must be or have been a member of the Executive Committee of CAF.”

The minority of opponents of the amendment have denounced it as out of line with the winds of change sweeping the continent and the north in particular. It contrasts starkly with efforts of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to clean house, eradicate corruption and ensure greater accountability and transparency as well as investigations into the worst corruption scandal in world soccer body FIFA's 108-year old history that have already forced the demise of several senior officials.

Ivory Coast sports minister Philippe Legre described the amendment as a “political ruse.” Senegal football federation president August Senghor charged that it was a setback for democracy if the new law was adopted, while former Cameroon international goalkeeper Joseph Antoine Bell said it was “misleading and a shame”.

FIFA was last year forced to backtrack on its appointment of Mr. Hayatou as chairman of the organising committee of the London Olympics soccer tournament because he was being investigated by an independent ethics commission of the International Olympic Committee for corruption. Mr. Hayatou had been accused in a BBC documentary of accepting kickbacks from sports marketing company ISL.

Mr. Hayatou was reprimanded by the IOC commission after he admitted receiving payments, which according to minutes of a 1998 CAF meeting and a 2011 certificate of the group’s finance director, were used to fund CAF 40th anniversary celebrations. The commission "noted that the documents produced by the person concerned, drawn up a long time after receipt of the funds, do not guarantee that the payments were indeed made into the CAF accounts. It considers that personally accepting a sum of money in these conditions constitutes a conflict of interests."

A recent independent auditor’s report of disgraced soccer official Mohammed Bin Hammam’s financial management of the AFC said that the Qatari national had used an AFC sundry account managed according to Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) as a personal account to pay in 2008 $4,950 for suits for Mr. Hayatou.

Mr. Bin Hammam has been suspended as FIFA vice president and AFC president on charges of having sought to bribe Caribbean soccer officials to secure their votes in his failed bid last year to challenge Sepp Blatter in FIFA presidential elections. Both FIFA and the AFC are investigating Mr. Bin Hammam.

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

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