KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The reign of Ahmad Ahmad as one-term president of the African football confederation is over after he failed in an appeal against a suspension imposed by the ethics committee of world governing body FIFA.
In January the Madagascar official was ruled ineligible to stand for re-election by the CAF governance panel after having been banned from all football for five years by FIFA of which he was a vice-president.
The 60-year-old ousted Cameroon’s long-serving Issa Hayatou as CAF president in 2017 and had placed his last hopes of staying in power on an accelerated appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which was heard last week.
In its judgment the CAS panel cut Ahmad’s from five years to two years and reduced the fine to CHF 50,000 after judging insufficient the evidence on a charge relating to the infamous CAF sponsorship deal with the French company Tactical Steel.
However the net result is that Ahmad remains barred from standing in the CAF president election on March 12 in Rabat.
South African millionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe is expected to be elected unopposed after a deal with three other candidates was brokered by Gianni Infantino, the FIFA president.
Infantino will hope he has better luck this time around with Motsepe than with Ahmad who also had Infantino’s support in 2017 when landing the CAF presidency on a platform promising administrative reform, financial transparency and a potential competitions reorganisation.
All of this was soon relegated to the shadows by a damning report about the realities submitted to FIFA in spring 2019 by Amr Fahmy, then the CAF secretary-general.
Fahmy claimed he had been ordered by Ahmad to pay $20,000 in bribes into accounts of African FA presidents and that CAF had incurred $830,000 in costs by axing an equipment contract with Puma in favour of little-known Tactical Steel.
Ahmad had also used CAF funds to pay for a pilgrimage to Mecca for several members of the executive committee.
On top of all this Ahmad was accused of harassing four female members of the CAF staff, amending statutes to increase Moroccan representation within the organisation and over-spending more than $400,000 of CAF money on cars in Egypt and Madagascar, where he had set up a local office for himself.
Ahmad denied all the allegations in vain and appealed to CAS. The panel upheld the guilty verdict over the misuse of funds but not the Tactical Steel deal. It decided that no evidence existed that Ahmad had benefited personally from the sponsor switch.
Technically Ahmad has the right to appeal to the Swiss Federal Court but the timescale for that is against him.
CAS statement (1):
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has issued its decision in the appeal filed by Mr Ahmad Ahmad against the decision of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee issued on 19 November 2020 (grounds served on 21 January 2021) (the Challenged Decision).
The CAS Panel has partially upheld the appeal and has reduced the length of the suspension imposed on Mr Ahmad to two years, starting today, less the period of suspension already served between 19 November 2020 and 29 January 2021, and has also reduced the fine, fixed now at CHF 50,000.
In the Challenged Decision, the Adjudicatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee found that Mr Ahmad had committed several infractions of the FIFA Code of Ethics (FCE). A ban from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level for five years, as well as a fine of CHF 200’000 were imposed on him. In his appeal to the CAS, Mr Ahmad sought the annulment of the challenged decision.
In agreement with Mr Ahmad and FIFA, an expedited procedure was conducted and a hearing was held by videoconference on 2 and 3 March 2021.
The Panel of arbitrators in charge of the matter, composed of Mr Olivier Carrard (Switzerland), President, Prof. Thomas Clay (France), and of Prof. Massimo Coccia (Italy), after having deliberated, found M. Ahmad guilty of violating the FCE for the following offences:
Violation of articles 20 and 28 FCE: failure to record various financial transactions, acceptance of cash payments, bank transfers of bonuses and indemnities without a contractual or regulatory basis;
Violation of articles 20, 25 and 28 FCE: distribution of gifts and misappropriation of funds (use of CAF’s money to help finance an invitation to a pilgrimage to Mecca (Umrah) in favour of certain presidents of national federations, an invitation which was not directly related to football; contrary to the rest of the decision, this offence was only retained by a majority of the Panel and not unanimously).
On the other hand, the Panel cleared Mr. Ahmad of any breach of the “Tactical Steel” contracts: the Panel considers that the documents in the file do not support the conclusion that Mr. Ahmad would have received any personal benefit, in particular in the context of the transaction with Tactical Steel for the equipment for the 2018 African Nations Championship (no breach of the duty of loyalty and no abuse of power (Articles 15, 25 and 28 FCE)).
In view of the urgency, the CAS Panel issued only the decision, without the grounds, which will be notified to the parties in the coming days.
CAS statement (2):
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) provides a summary of its procedures involving candidates from the African continent for football governance roles:
Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) Presidential/Executive Committee Elections • TAS 2021/A/7723 Seidou Mbombo Njoya c. Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) Procedure ongoing.
On 4 March 2021 the Deputy President of the CAS Appeals Arbitration Division rejected a request filed by Mr Seidou Mbombo Njoya (Cameroon) to stay the execution of the decision issued on 12 February 2021 by the CAF Governance Commission in which he was declared ineligible for election to the CAF Executive Committee. Accordingly, the decision is still in force. An expedited procedure is in progress and a final decision will be rendered by 11 March 2021, at the latest. • TAS 2021/A/7717
Mamadou Antonio Souaré c. Confédération Africaine de Football Procedure ongoing.
On 4 March 2021 the Deputy President of the CAS Appeals Arbitration Division rejected a request filed by Mr Mamadou Antonio Souaré (Guinea) to stay the execution of the decisions issued by the CAF Governance Commission on 29 January 2021 and 12 February 2021 in which he was declared ineligible for election to the CAF Executive Committee. An expedited procedure is in progress and a final decision will be rendered by 11 March 2021, at the latest. • TAS 2020/A/7592
Ahmad Ahmad c. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Final decision (disciplinary procedure) issued on 8 March 2021 (see separate media release).
The CAS Panel partially upheld Mr Ahmad’s appeal against the decision taken by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee on 19 November 2020. Five-year suspension reduced to two years, commencing 8 March 2021, less the period of suspension already served. Fine of CHF 200,000 reduced to CHF 50,000. A separate appeal filed by Mr Ahmad against the decision of non-eligibility issued by the FIFA Review Committee is pending.
FIFA Council • TAS 2021/A/7678 Constant Omari c. FIFA Procedure ongoing.
On 22 February 2021 the President of the CAS Appeals Arbitration Division rejected a request filed by Mr Constant Omari (DR Congo) to stay the execution of the decision issued on 26 January 2021 by the FIFA Review Committee in which he was declared ineligible for the position of FIFA Council member. Accordingly, the decision is still in force. The CAS arbitration is ongoing. No hearing date has been fixed yet. • CAS 2021/A/7685
Khireddine Zetchi v. FIFA Final decision issued on 5 March 2021.
The appeal filed by Mr Khireddine Zetchi (Algeria) was upheld and the decision of the FIFA Review Committee dated 26 January 2021 in which Mr Zetchi was declared ineligible for the position of FIFA Council member was set aside.