KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The credibility and even viability of the Court of Arbitration for Sport is starting to appear questionable after another apparently illogical verdict in a high-profile sports politics case.
In December a CAS panel vindicated the findings of the World Anti-Doping Agency in its condemnation of the Russian authorities over the obstructive tactics of its own anti-doping authorities in the long-running cover-up scandal. Yet it cut in half the punishment imposed by WADA.
Now another CAS has vindicated a complaint by, Mariyam Mohamed, a female Maldives football official over Asian Football Confederation elections in 2019 yet refused to impose any sanctions – even though one of her complaints concerned the use of inducements, ie bribes.
The illogicality of the verdict, on the surface at least, can only be explained by the CAS panel’s admission of its own limitations.
A further factor undermining the validity of the judgment is the fact that the CAS panel was chaired by Australian John Boultbee even though the Australian football federation is a member of the Asian Football Confederation.
CAS was set up in 1984 with headquarters in Lausanne, the so-called ‘Olympic capital’. The purpose was to provide a forum in which sports disputes could be settled without the damaging, costly and complex need to resort to civil courts.
All major international federations have signed up to the jurisdiction which operates under the legal aegis of the Swiss Federal Court to which dissatisfied parties have a further right of appeal.
In the latest case Mariyam Mohamed had stood in vain for election to the AFC executive committee at its congress on April 6, 2019, in Kuala Lumpur.
At the time Mohamed identified Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, one of the most powerful figures in the Olympic movement, of warning her that she had no future in football if she did not withdraw from the elections to the FIFA Council. In the event she lost 31-15 to Mahfuza Akhter Kiron of Bangladesh.
Hence she lodged two complaints with CAS on the base of both gender discrimination and third-party interference and sought an order that the elections should be re-run.
A CAS statement explained:
The first proceedings concerned the decision taken by the AFC Electoral Committee to reject and/or refuse to investigate a discrimination complaint lodged by Mariyam Mohamed in relation to the 2019 Elections.
The CAS Panel ruled such decision invalid and declared that:
the 2019 elections were conducted on the basis of procedures and practices that amounted to a breach of the prohibition against gender discrimination enshrined in the FIFA and AFC Statutes, and
the AFC failed to fulfil its obligation to promote the full participation of women in the 2019 AFC elections.
However the CAS panel made up of Boultbee, Michael Beloff (United Kingdom) and Luigi Fumagalli (Italy) judged it was beyond its formal remit to refused to accede to Mohamed’s requests either to annul the results of the Elections, and/or order that they be re-run and/or tell the AFC to amend its anti-discrimination statutes.
In the second proceedings, the CAS panel ruled that the AFC disciplinary and ethics committee’s failure to complete the preliminary investigation initiated following Mariyam Mohamed’s third-party interference complaint within a reasonable time frame resulted in a denial of justice and declared that the 2019 elections were subject to improper influence by a third party in a manner contrary to the applicable AFC and FIFA regulations.
The CAS Panel, with the same reasoning as for the first proceedings, did not uphold Mariyam Mohamed’s requests for an order annulling the results of the 2019 AFC elections or for an order that the 2019 Elections be re-held.
The Panel noted that the attempts to influence the 2019 Elections through inducements were not effective, in that Mariyam Mohamed did not withdraw her candidature.
Thus, even the apparent involvement of bribery was not enough to alter the effective status quo.
Mohamed has the right to appeal to the Swiss Federal Court though this rarely countermands a CAS verdict.
In the meantime the powers and authority of CAS will come under further scrutiny.