Instances where FIFA has banned Football Associations after court interference

The apex governing body of football had previously banned football federations when courts had ordered a civil-servant to run a body…

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has approached the Supreme Court (SC) of India to seek an extension of term for the current Executive Committee. 

The committee’s term is set to end on 21st December 2020 but the lack of a Constitution that purportedly does not conform to the National Sports Code has meant that the Indian FA are unable to hold elections to form the next Executive Committee. 

The AIFF went on to approach the Supreme Court against the decision, arguing that India was in danger of being derecognised by FIFA which only allows an elected, independent body to run an affiliated FA. 

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The FIFA statutes state that: 

Recourse to ordinary courts of law is prohibited unless specifically provided for in the FIFA regulations. Recourse to ordinary courts of law for all types of provisional measures is also prohibited.

The associations shall insert a clause in their statutes or regulations, stipulating that it is prohibited to take disputes in the association or disputes affecting leagues, members of leagues, clubs, members of clubs, players, officials and other association officials to ordinary courts of law, unless the FIFA regulations or binding legal provisions specifically provide for or stipulate recourse to ordinary courts of law. Instead of recourse to ordinary courts of law, provision shall be made for arbitration.

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ARBITRATION: disputes shall be taken to an independent and duly constituted arbitration tribunal recognised under the rules of the association or confederation or to CAS. The associations shall also ensure that this stipulation is implemented in the association, if necessary by imposing a binding obligation on its members. 

The associations shall impose sanctions on any party that fails to respect this obligation and ensure that any appeal against such sanctions shall likewise be strictly submitted to arbitration, and not to ordinary courts of law.

Previously, there are a couple of instances when FIFA had actually banned a national football federation when a court of law had appointed an ombudsman or a civil servant to run operations. 

In 2010, the Venezuelan Supreme Court had to overturn its decision which directed fresh elections under revised laws as FIFA threatened to ban the nation’s governing body. FIFA believes that allowing an ordinary court to interfere in a matter governed by its international rules constitutes a violation of its statutes. FIFA stated that it would not recognise the revised electoral process ordered by the court.

Similarly, in 2014, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) was suspended after a court ordered the Sports Minister to appoint a civil servant to head the federation. The NFF was later reinstated after the court order was revoked. 

More recently, in 2017, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) was suspended after the Lahore High Court appointed an administrator to take control of the sports body. FIFA recognised this as a ‘third-party interference’ and implemented the ban. This prevented Pakistan from playing in any FIFA recognised international competitions. It also meant that PFF was left out from benefiting from various FIFA development and training programmes.

It was only after PFF had “successfully taken back control of the PFF offices along with the PFF accounts” the suspension was lifted in March 2018. 

FIFA remains strict that all member federations must be free of any government and judicial interference in their respective countries to carry out footballing activities independently. 

With the term of the Praful Patel-led Executive Committee set to wind down, the Indian FA are in a tight bind. They are unable to conduct fresh elections due to the lack of a constitution (still not finalised by the court-appointed committee). If the term of the current committee expires and the court appoints an ad-hoc administrator to take charge of Indian FA, there is a high chance of FIFA banning India which would prove detrimental to the progress of football in the country. 

And since the old constitution has been ruled as not conforming to the National Sports Code, the AIFF cannot conduct elections as per it. 

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