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The movement to overthrow the Court of Arbitration for Sport is growing

By Tony Attwood

Many of us have for many years been worried about CAS (the Court of Arbitration for Sport), the Supreme Court of all the sports, because of its bizarre history of rulings.  There has been a feeling for a long time that CAS is remote, and of course, as the final arbiter, it is not answerable to anyone.

But when we raised questions about CAS’ ruling that Uefa should lose its case against Manchester City over its funding, we were just told we were picking on that because we are Arsenal fans.

Which makes any serious debate about the CAS in football almost impossible to see through, because it is so easy and simplistic to say “you are only arguing because you are an Arsenal fan” or whatever.

But just consider what is going on.  The head honcho of the CAS is also a vice president of the International Olympic Committee – an overlap that immediately renders the CAS less than independent.

However, I hear you cry, is this not a contradiction of Untold’s eternal demand that the PGMO should not be totally independent?  And I do think that is a reasonable point to consider.  Do I want totally independent bodies or inter-related bodies?

The PGMO’s complete independence in terms of all refereeing matters is good in one sense because no other body is getting at it.  But there is no utterly independent court of appeal against PGMO decisions – a court that is utterly independent of the clubs, the league, the FA and of course, PGMO which can rule on footballing matters in England, doesn’t exist.

Now let’s consider the case of John Coates.  He is the head of the Committee of Arbitration in Sport, the body that let Manchester City off the hook over its financial doings.   He is also the person who allowed Kamila Valieva to compete in the Olympics after she was found with banned substances in her body.  He was the man who watered down the decision to punish Russia for their state-sponsored doping by allowing them to compete as the Russian Olympic Committee.   Oh yes, and he is president of the Australian Olympic Committee.  Australia will host the 2032 Olympic Games.  There was no competitive bidding process.

As we used to say in football, “It’s a funny ol’ game.”

Now what is happening is that each time the Olympics are devalued so the sponsors turn away not wishing to be associated with such a corrupt event.

And with CAS being the final arbiter of footballing matters, and now forever remembered for their role in allowing Manchester City to walk free in the scandal involving state sponsorship, it is being whispered that the sponsors are looking for other ways to spend their money.

There are companies wondering if ploughing money into the Olympics is really a good idea.  And maybe there are going to be companies that wonder if pushing loads of dosh into the World Cup, with all of its corruption, is a terrific way to enhance the brand.  

As the Guardian put it in a recent article, “The promoters of Olympic sport (the IOC), the police (the World Anti-Doping Agency, Wada), and the judiciary (the Court of Arbitration for Sport, CAS) of the Olympic movement are so entangled that it’s hard to tell where one stops and another begins.”

Later they add, “the entire Olympic movement has become a comedy of conflicting interests, few of which seem to involve the ultimate integrity of the Games and clearly none of which are ensuring a level playing field or justice.”

My view is that the same situation arises in football.   PGMO, the Premier League, the FA, Uefa, Fifa and the CAS are all separate bodies, but the downside of that is no one is overseeing what they do – at least not until the Americans turn up at a Fifa convention and arrest half the crew.

But there are people who could be more independent.  The media, the sponsors, the players, the leagues – they could if they so wished, stand up against the CAS with its decision making influenced by elsewhere, or against Fifa with its corruption and crazy decision making and demands, or against the FA who couldn’t organise a European cup final in their own stadium without mass rioting taking place and no one taking the blame, or the media which now determines when matches are played or…

So imagine, just for a moment, that one day, one of those groups gets so fed up with another one, it just decides to stop co-operating.  What then?  Do we turn to the corrupt CAS?  Or does someone finally say, that really is a step too far?

And if so, what happens then?

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