by Tony Attwood
As you may well know (at least if you have been paying attention) Untold has a certain interest in the evil doings of Fifa not to mention the work of the arch-demon Mr Infantino (currently engaged in legal proceedings in Switzerland, along with the now disgraced head of the legal system for the whole country). So when our eagle eyed Untold reader “Seismic” spotted the article “Fifa Guilty as Charged” in Josimar – an independent magazine and website covering Norwegian and international football, we started reading.
And unlike the numerous articles we’ve run about the court cases in Switzerland, this one, which we originally missed on our radar, has reached a conclusion. A conclusion in which Justice Carol Gobin said, “Fifa’s claim that it remains neutral in matters of politics (within the sport) is demonstrated to be patently false.”
We have touched on the battle between Fifa and the FA of Trinidad and Tobago a couple of times, but clearly Josimar has been able to do it in far more depth than we have, which is why you should turn to their work to pick up on the details. The article Fifa bullying backfires is a superb analysis of that long running case and I heartily recommend it to you.
I’ll just give a quick summary, in order to pick up on the background, because I think there could be further ramifications all round.
Fifa suspended the Trinidad and Tobago association (TTFA) after it took a dispute through the country’s High Court. Fifa rules say that football matters must only be dealt with by football bodies like Fifa, and not in the courts of the country. (This obviously gives Fifa a problem as Infantino prepares to be pulled before the Swiss courts, but we will leave that for later).
So when TTFA did go to court, Fifa dissolved the Trinidad and Tobago association and put in its place a “normalisation committee” because, they said, TTFA had engaged in acts of mismanagement.
OK we might pause for a moment to consider Fifa saying that a football association had “engaged in various acts of serious mismanagement”, (and indeed to stop laughing at the irony of that) given that that is what Infantino himself is accused of in the Swiss courts. But let’s calm down and move on.
Which they did. But what has got everyone so excited (except of course the UK media which utterly refuses to touch anything that seems to criticise Fifa, just as it cravenly refuses ever to criticise PGMO) is what the judge then said.
As reported by Josimar, the judge said Fifa had made “a mockery of the proceedings” and that the installation of a “normalisation” group to take over football in Trinidad and Tobago was unreasonable.
The argument was that Fifa had allowed what one might call erratic financial mismanagement to continue under its watch, and Fifa audits did nothing to sort out the issue. Thus the claim that Fifa helped TTFA gets its accounts in order and hold new elections was less than credible.
In short the judge concluded, that the “normalisation order” was “a contrivance to subvert the outcome of the [TTFA] November 24th elections… Fifa’s claim that it remains neutral in matters of politics (within the sport) is demonstrated to be patently false”.
The Trinidad and Tobago FA admitted that it had not proceeded properly but was putting its house in order. Fifa, they argued, was punishing the association because as part of its take over of the association Fifa had put in power David John-Williams, whom Josimar calls “a key ally of Gianni Infantino in the region”.
But the judge was not finished for as Josimar continues, “Throughout the proceedings Fifa has… demonstrated a disregard for the rule of law”.
Now Fifa find itself in a bind. Fifa regards the courts of its individual members to be below itself – it is the Supreme Ruler of All Matters Football. As such it would not dirty its hands by defending itself in a trial in Trinidad and Tobago, because Fifa, as the supreme entity, is not subject to the laws of Trinidad and Tobago.
Certainly the FA of Trinidad and Tobago have shown far more strength of character than the English FA which has endlessly bowed down in craven tribute to Fifa – even when it became aware that the last world cup for which the FA bid (using as we alone have noted many time, taxpayers money), was fixed.
(There is also the issue of the next world cup being held in stadia built by slave labour, and our hope that “Black Lives Matter” might take up that issue, but that movement seems curiously silent on the subject, so we’ll leave that for a moment).
Supported by newspaper journalists whose prime interest is getting tickets so they can go and watch football matches for free and stay in splendid hotels at sponsors’ expense, no criticism of Fifa will ever reach the eyes and ears of those interested in the sport in England.
But now they might have to, because as Josimar is pointing out, “TTFA v. FIFA” is being seen as a test case. And it is happening just as Fifa itself is on trial in Switzerland.
The question has always been, is it reasonable for a self-appointed sports body to be above the laws of the land of the country in which it holds court?
For if Fifa is the first and last arbiter of all decisions, all the associations within Fifa bow down to its rules. This is what we see in England, and because the FA is funded by the state, we, the taxpayers, end up keeping this autocratic dictatorship in power and can’t stop the FA handing over vast amounts of our money to Fifa.
Now as Josimar points out, it has been shown in a high court that even Fifa’s dictatorship has a limit to its powers – it cannot override primary legislation in the country of one of its members. Thus finally it is established that (in the case of England) the FA is subject to the laws of England primarily, not to the laws of Fifa. That should always have been obvious (given that the FA is funded by grants from government, which itself is funded by the taxpayer). Now it has been set out.
The FA has been shown to be subject to British law – as when the Charity Commissioners slaughtered it over the FA’s abject failure to keep proper records of the money it claimed it was giving away as a result of the “Charity Shield”. It’s response was simply to avoid the issue by renaming the competition to “Community Shield”. Repeated requests from Untold Arsenal to the FA asking for detail of where the money from that competition went to, remained unanswered.
Fifa was shown to be subject to Swiss law in 2015 (you might recall our article from 22 January of that year to which I have alluded in the past: Switzerland take a greater interest in Fifa – at last)
As we reported there was at that point a “change to the law in Switzerland, which allows the authorities to scrutinise bank accounts held by sporting governing bodies and their leaders.” What I got wrong was that I predicted that Fifa would follow the IOC which had immediately moved its 2017 vote on Olympic venues to Peru. Fifa thought it was above everything, carried on in Switzerland, and the arrests followed.
But what now? Fifa clearly can claim that all disputes go through Fifa. But it’s leader is being charged with corruption in a Swiss court. And as Trinidad and Tobago has shown, if the FA of a country is instituted within the law of that country, then that football association is subject to the law of country, NOT the law of Fifa. Meanwhile the cases in Switzerland are showing that Fifa officials are subject to the law of Switzerland, not the law of Fifa.
But now here’s a wonderful thought which Josimar has come up with. If this is the case then the Court of Arbitration for Sport is “not the only legitimate recourse for a member of Fifa which was involved in a dispute with the governing body.” Nor indeed for members of Uefa. Something which might interest Manchester City.
Because again as Josimar says, “To say otherwise would be to accept that Fifa could overrule an Act of Parliament; and to accept that would be to surrender national sovereignty.” Because that course of action means that Fifa is a law unto itself, and the Swiss courts are currently very busy showing that this is not the case, and will not be allowed to be the case.
Maybe, just maybe, this is the turning point.
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