Football Alive

What might the future hold for Australian football? – An in-depth look at FIFA Normalisation Committees around the globe

It could serve as the start of a bad joke – what’s the common link between a Cameroonian embezzler, a Greek arsonist and a Thai forger? The answer is FIFA, world football’s governing body, or, more specifically, FIFA normalisation committees.

 

It seems inevitable now that FIFA will take over Australian football, as the November 30 deadline looms large with no resolution over a new Congress model in sight. It’s time now to turn our attention from if to when, and to consider what a normalisation committee could look like, and how they could operate, based on the experience of other footballing nations.

To skip ahead and read about a particular nation’s experience, use the following hyperlinks:

 

Why are we here?

 

First, a recap. The current FFA Congress model has 9 votes for the state federations and 1 for the A-League clubs. FIFA proposed a new 9-3-1 model – the same 9 votes for the state federations, 3 for the A-League clubs and 1 for the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA). FIFA claimed that this model had the support of 80% of the current Congress members (with the clubs and Football NSW against it), above the 75% required for the model to pass – but FIFA stepped in and ruled that this model was undemocratic. (Note: The FFA congress is rather undemocratic in that congresses of other FAs around the world have tens if not hundreds of representatives/delegates with voting rights, compared to the FFA’s 10). It’s unclear whether FIFA was telling the truth too, as it was revealed that this model was also unsupported by Football Federation Victoria (FFV) and the PFA. These four parties wanted a 9-5-1 model, with extra votes for the clubs.

For a reminder as to why Australian football fans aren’t best pleased with the FFA, re-visit this 2015 article from David Davutovic and Matt Windley (which is badly in need of an update): https://www.foxsports.com.au/football/a-league/how-ffa-scored-32-own-goals-in-18-months-and-ceo-david-gallop-still-kept-his-job/news-story/b53bedbf39ee441ba5d8ac804ddf9e3a

 

The FFA now proposes a 9-4-1-1 model, with four votes for the A-League clubs and one for women’s football. The clubs and PFA, however, prefer a 9-5-1-1 model, for a simple reason. A 60% majority is needed when voting on whether somebody is to be elected to the FFA board. A 9-4-1-1 model, with 15 votes, gives the state federations the power to elect a board member without needing a vote from the A-League clubs, PFA or women’s football representatives (9/15 = 60%). They would need one such additional vote under a 9-5-1-1 model.

 

Note: With just the clubs, out of the current 10 FFA Congress members, holding out on the new model, there is 90% support for the 9-4-1-1 model and thus more than the 75% required to pass it. However, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura has indicated that the sport’s governing body will only accept a model that all parties (state federations and clubs) agree with, and this is why we remain at an impasse.

PFA Chief Executive John Didulica

 

A visiting FIFA/AFC delegation earlier this year (including a North Korean official who came here to lecture the FFA on democracy) failed to resolve anything (AFC is the Asian Football Confederation). A seven-hour meeting in Melbourne at the end of last month also failed to break the impasse. In a last-ditch attempt to pass its 15-vote model, the FFA has called for an Extraordinary General Meeting on November 1. However, the legality of this is uncertain, as FIFA originally had its Annual General Meeting (AGM) scheduled for November 15, and as a result an EGM had to be held 21 days prior (on October 23), with notice for the EGM given by October 2. Instead, this EGM was called on October 11, to be held November 1. FFA chairman Steven Lowy believes that, under Corporations Law, the FFA can delay its AGM right up until the November 30 FIFA deadline, but it has to be shown whether the announcement and timing of the EGM were done legally. Indeed, the clubs have threatened to sue the FFA for announcing the EGM, as well as threatening to launch an injunction to prevent it from occurring.

 

Adding to the drama, the Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) are now campaigning for a seat at the table too, after being told (at a meeting with the visiting FIFA/AFC delegation, the FFA, state federations, A-League clubs and PFA) that they would be incorporate into the Congress over time, but then receiving no subsequent information on how this would happen.

AAFC Chairman Rabieh Krayem

 

FIFA is convinced that a normalisation committee will have to be implemented in Australia, as evidenced by the fact that they have already (reportedly) approached at least one individual to be a part of this committee. Given its inevitably, now is the time to look at how normalisation committees have worked when implement overseas, and whether they have helped or hindered the countries where they have been implemented.

 

What is a normalisation committee?

Here’s how FIFA’s statutes refer to normalisation committees. Article 8 Paragraph 2 of the FIFA statutes reads “Executive bodies of member associations may under exceptional circumstances be removed from office by the [FIFA] Council in consultation with the relevant confederation and replaced by a normalisation committee for a specific period of time.” Essentially they are a committee put in place for a short period of time to take charge of football in a particular country. FIFA puts a normalisation committee in place when it believes that a member association’s (country’s) football association (FA) is not upholding its obligations, as outlined in the FIFA statutes. FIFA’s statutes can be found here: http://resources.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/generic/02/78/29/07/fifastatutsweben_neutral.pdf.

 

The committee’s role can vary from country to country, but generally it is charged with managing the day-to-day football operations of the country, reviewing and updating the FA’s statutes in line with FIFA’s statutes and relevant national law, and facilitating the election of a new FA committee by a specific date. The normalisation committee ceases its operations after this election is held, as it hands control of the FA over to the newly elected committee.

 

Cameroon

Starting with the most recent example, on the 24th of August this year FIFA put in place a normalisation committee to run Cameroonian football. They did this after “recent failed attempts by FIFA to reconcile the football stakeholders in Cameroon and overcome the current impasse” – sound familiar? The impasse resulted from the annulment of the 2015 FECAFOOT (Cameroon’s FA) elections, a decision which was confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). FIFA held a meeting in June with all relevant stakeholders, which failed in its attempt to bring about a resolution – just like the aforementioned meeting here in Australia earlier this year.

 

The normalisation committee consists of five members, all Cameroonian (pictured below). The president and vice-president are both barristers, whilst the three other committee members are: a magistrate and a holder of a PhD in economic sciences; a holder of a Master’s Degree in Business Administration; and a sports journalist. For more information on them, visit http://crtv.cm/fr/nouvelles/top-news-24/fecafoot-normalisation-committe-the-faces-in-the-committee-20087.htm.

There is added pressure on the committee to perform efficiently, and get Cameroonian football back on track as best they can, because Cameroon is scheduled to host AFCON 2019.

As of 3 October, the normalisation committee is efficiently carrying out its work, on track to have fulfilled their objectives completed by the deadline of 28 February 2018, and a new FECAFOOT committee lawfully elected that month. The committee has established plenty of new commissions to assist with the running of the game (including ones to assist with the functioning, amelioration and electoral processes of FECAFOOT), and has even appointed a new Secretary-General for the FA. However, some context is necessary before this is dismissed as a good news story.

 

This is not the first time a normalisation committee has been appointed in Cameroon. FECAFOOT was suspended on the 4th of July 2013 after its president was re-elected despite being detained in jail as he awaited trial (he was later sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for embezzling more than A$30m). FECAFOOT’s own election appeals committee voided his election in the month after it was announced.

 

To restore Cameroonian football, FIFA appointed an 11-member normalisation committee (mostly lawyers and former government ministers) to run FECAFOOT. They began work on 22 July 2013, and the ban on FECAFOOT was lifted the same day, allowing the Cameroonian national team to complete World Cup qualification (they did so successfully, but finished bottom of Group A in Brazil after losing all their group games. Alex Song did give the tournmanet one of its more memorable moments though, as pictured below). For more information on the 2013 normalisation committee members, visit: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/23405627.

The normalisation committee was appointed to run Cameroonian football until 31 March 2014, at which stage a new FECAFOOT committee was due to have been lawfully elected. This was extended until 30 November 2014, so the committee would stay in place throughout Cameroon’s World Cup campaign. (With this precedent it’s not hard to see an Australian normalisation committee given a mandate that lasts beyond July of next year, should we qualify for Russia 2018). This was extended again until 28 February 2015, after all FECAFOOT presidential candidates, bar one, were deemed ineligible to stand in the November elections. Two Cameroonian government ministers even made the trek to FIFA headquarters in Zurich just to cite their concerns over the elections. The individual reasons given as to why all of the other candidates were not deemed eligible to stand can be found here: http://lions4life.com/?p=8434.

 

This was extended again until 30 September 2015 (reasons unclear). By this time FIFA had had enough – they threatened to suspend FECAFOOT once again if elections were not held by the 28th of that month. FECAFOOT duly held its elections and avoided the ban. Suspiciously, many presidential candidates were once again deemed ineligible to stand (five in total), leaving just Tombi A Roko Sidiki (a former FECAFOOT secretary general and the man who was set to be elected unopposed in the November elections, pictured below) and Atah Robert Behazah (a technical director at the FECAFOOT technical centre) to battle it out. Sidiki won by a margin of 59-2 and vowed to “bring everybody to the project to work together to make Cameroonians proud of the football we all love.” That worked out well, didn’t it?

It remains to be seen whether Cameroon will follow a similar path once again, or whether the current normalisation committee can truly reform football governance in the nation and restore the nation’s footballing pride in time for AFCON 2019. Watch this space.

 

Greece

Greece also serves as a very recent example, with a normalisation committee having been in place in the Mediterranean nation earlier this year. Just over a year ago, on the 14th of October 2016, FIFA announced it would be imposing a normalisation committee in Greece to run HFF (Greece’s FA – they are also referred to by their Greek initials of EPO, but FIFA uses HFF and so it will be used in this article too). In a fax, FIFA said “The FIFA Council was briefed on the different issues faced by the Greek federation in recent months, such as the tense relationships with the authorities, due partly to discrepancies between national laws and the independence of the federation…[Other issues included] the resignation of the president and other members of the federation’s executive committee due to judicial procedures, the allegations linked to refereeing, as well as the difficulties surrounding the management of ethics cases.” The normalisation committee was established with a mandate lasting until May 31 2017, by which time new HFF elections were to have been conducted.

 

The Greek government gave FIFA the green light less than a month later, welcoming the normalisation committee as a means of reducing corruption in Greek football. The five members of the committee were appointed by a joint FIFA and UEFA delegation led by Cyprus FA chief Costakis Koutsokoumnis. (UEFA is the European Football Confederation). The committee, similar to Cameroon’s two, was headed up by two lawyers. More information on the members here (in Greek): http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1164914/anakoinothike-i-epitropi-eksomalunsis-tis-epo.

Within 48 hours of meeting, on November 7, the committee already had a crisis on their hands – all three members of the new Central Refereeing Commission, which was established by the normalisation committee, resigned, after one of them, referee Ioannis Tsachilidis (pictured above), was visited at his house by strangers who threatened his safety. In response, the normalisation committee published a statement in which they warned, in the event of further threats against referees, that “…the operation of all national football tournaments will be suspended for as long as necessary, even if this entails subsequent disqualification of our teams from international competitions.” Two days’ later, a referee’s empty holiday house was set ablaze, which prompted a suspension of all Greek domestic football competitions (lasting until the 22nd of November).

 

The normalisation committee did make some meaningful progress in cleaning up Greek football. For example, they hired private investigators who found evidence of the HFF using listening devices and hidden cameras to spy on their employees. A subsequent statement read “The committee with anger, deep disappointment and with the feeling of shame makes public and hands over to judicial authorities new findings confirming the operation by [HFF] of mechanisms to monitor its employees at [HFF] headquarters as well as international players and national coaches at the training centre, which were placed for several years.”

 

However, once again the committee failed to achieve its key objectives on time. The reason for this was “because the Greek sports laws, which are currently still infringing upon the autonomy of the HFF, need to be revised before proceeding to elections.” The committee’s mandate was extended until 31 July 2017, and then again for another month (reasons unclear). The committee finally ceased its operations after the HFF election on 18 August 2017, which saw lawyer Evangelos Grammenos (pictured below) elected president until 2020.

However, not content with the committee’s progress, FIFA announced (in the month prior to the election) that it would be establishing a monitoring committee “to ensure oversight of the operations and processes of the Hellenic Football Federation (HFF) for at least 12 months following the upcoming HFF elections.” Unlike the normalisation committee, the monitoring committee consists of no Greeks, but rather an Austrian, a Maltese and a Spaniard, all with experience working at their nation’s FA. This statement, and implementation of the monitoring committee, are an admission themselves that the normalisation committee was not successful in its attempts to reform Greek football. The full statement can be found here: http://www.fifa.com/about-fifa/news/y=2017/m=7/news=fifa-appoints-monitoring-committee-to-ensure-oversight-of-greek-fa-2902045.html.

 

This conclusion is backed up by evidence. According to recent Sportradar data, unusual betting patterns, potentially indicative of match fixing, were observed on up to three quarters of Greek second-division football matches. In fact, former Portuguese referee Vítor Melo Pereira, the head of the HFF’s Arbitration Committee, had to warn “I will be relentless. A referee should not dare to engage in something like this. I do not want to see one of you in a police car.” The normalisation committee might have tidied up here and there, but it’s clear it failed to achieve the spring clean that it, and the Greek government, so desperately wanted.

 

Argentina

Argentina is another case of a normalisation committee arising from an erroneous FA election. In December of 2015, AFA (Argentina’s FA) held a presidential election, which ended in a 38-38 tie. There was one major issue with the 76 votes being split – only 75 delegates were eligible to vote! It’s unclear where the extra vote came from.

 

With new leadership not being provided, FIFA decided to step in on the 24th of June 2016 and establish a normalisation committee to run the AFA. This four-person committee (pictured below) was headed up by a club chairman, and consisted of two lawyers and another football administrator. It had a mandate that lasted until 30 June 2017. More information on the normalisation committee here: http://www.fifa.com/governance/news/y=2016/m=7/news=composition-of-normalisation-committee-for-the-argentine-fa-confirmed-2812253.html.

The implementation of the committee was not met without resistance. An Argentinian judge ruled against allowing the committee to run the AFA, a ruling which was communicated to FIFA via the AFA itself. Fernando Mitjans, head of Argentina’s disciplinary committee (and also himself suspected of corruption), was so unhappy he convinced FIFA president Gianni Infantino to force the normalisation committee to report all their decisions to the disciplinary committee. Earlier this year too, FIFA threatened to suspend the AFA after they changed their statutes so that AFA presidential candidates would be vetted by the College of Lawyers of Buenos Aires, and not CONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation.

However, despite all these obstacles, it appears that the normalisation committee was at least partially successful in its objectives. A new AFA president, Claudio Tapia (pictured above), was elected on the 29th of March, a full month ahead of FIFA’s deadline. A players’ strike over unpaid wages, beginning in early February, was resolved just over a month later. The committee ceased its operations with AFA employees being paid on time and the AFA being up to date generally with its financial commitments. Argentina shows that a normalisation committee can have a positive effect on a nation’s FA, and leave it in a better state than they found it. More information on the normalisation committee’s achievements (in Spanish) here: http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1998766-un-paso-adelante-en-la-gestion-un-paso-atras-en-la-conflictividad&usg=ALkJrhi4JQkzbeFbPOORGKk7tTEso-hSLA.

 

Thailand

The FAT (Thailand’s FA) was due to hold elections on the 17th of October 2015, with incumbent Worawi Makudi heavily favoured to remain in power. However, he was handed a suspended 16-month sentence in July for forging documents in an attempt to (illegally) amend the FAT’s statutes. The election was postponed, and FIFA banned Makudi from all football-related activities for 90 days.

 

As a result of the election postponement, FIFA established a normalisation committee in Thailand on the 16th of October 2015, with a deadline to conduct new FAT elections by February 15 the following year. The six-person committee was chaired by an admiral, and also featured a lawyer, a football administrator and a businessman. More information on the normalisation committee can be found in FIFA’s statement here: http://www.fifa.com/governance/news/y=2015/m=10/news=normalisation-committee-appointed-for-the-football-association-of-thai-2717685.html.

Just as there was in Argentina, there was resistance to Thailand’s normalisation committee with the FAT failing to recognise the dismissal of their current committee. It also emerged that Makudi (pictured above, on the left) would be eligible to contest the election, with his ban being lifted the day prior to registration documents being due. However, Makudi was handed another 45-day ban and then another 90-day ban (and a fine of 3,000 Swiss francs) for unduly remaining involved in the FAT’s affairs, and the election went on without him. (He has since been banned from football for 5 years for his attempts to amend the FAT statutes, and fined an additional 10,000 Swiss francs, although he is appealing the decision).

 

Moreover, the election was conducted to schedule too, albeit inside a stadium with 500 police present due to security concerns, with the normalisation committee successfully fulfilling all its duties by the February deadline. On the 11th of February last year, former police chief Pol. Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung (pictured below, middle) won a landslide vote over his main rival Charnwit Phalajivin, and four other contenders. Somyot’s election was seen as a turning point in Thai football, as he was supported by fans, many Thai domestic clubs and King Power Group, the owners of Leicester City FC. In contrast, former national team coach Charnwit had strong links to Makudi. He went so far as to defend Makudi as no charges against him had (at that stage) been proven and to hint that Makudi may be offered an advisory role at the FAT, should he prevail in the election (this was while Makudi was suspended from all football-related activity). Charnwit was viewed largely as a puppet of Makudi, and as a candidate submitted in haste after it was confirmed that Makudi would not be allowed to run, both allegations that he denied.

Somyot’s election was hailed as “future-defining”, with the new president voted in on a mandate of change. He pledged “changes in the presidential post of the Thai Premier League Company, the Regional League and the refereeing committee… I would look at what the previous administration did whether it was the management work or the commercial benefits they had with others. If it was done correctly, I would keep it. On the other hand, if it was not right, I would correct it…But, I can give you a guarantee that every club whether they supported me or not would receive the same benefits, especially the money to support each team.”

 

Not only did he pledge “We will keep our promises and our work will be transparent”, but he lived up to this too, ushering in a new era for Thai football. He has made the Thai national team a priority, with his first casualty being coach ‘Zico’. This was despite Thailand’s 2016 Suzuki Cup win. Somyot stated at the time “Should we be satisfied with winning the Suzuki Cup and the SEA Games? And then when we play against the real top teams in Asia we lose 3-0 or 4-0. Are the fans OK with it? Maybe some people are fine with that but for me it’s embarrassing. I can’t and I won’t accept these results.” He brought in Serbian manager Milovan Rajevac to take charge of the national team, who has, in the words of Australian journalist Jason Dasey, “made the Thais more compact, and harder to break down”. His full report on the revamped Thai national team can be found here: https://www.pressreader.com/malaysia/the-borneo-post/20170908/282608852967386

 

He has also expressed interest in co-hosting the 2034 World Cup with Indonesia, and has set World Cup qualification in 2026 (when the tournament is expanded) as a realistic target. The FAT is also downsizing the country’s top-flight football competition from 18 to 16 teams in 2019, to help with player fitness and national team performances (all Thai national team players called up in the last 12 months, bar one, are based in Thailand). These reforms may well have played a part in Thailand taking out the awards for best national men’s, women’s and futsal team at the AFF awards last month.

It is not just the senior national team undergoing reform either. Somyot is also ensuring that managers with relevant experience and expertise are appointed to lead the country’s youth teams, rather than “non-technical, high-society representatives”. It appears that Thai football, both off and on the park, is in a much better state than it was before the arrival of FIFA’s normalisation committee, proving that such a committee can have a beneficial impact on a footballing nation. This is an extremely positive example for Australia, as we also FA leadership that is reluctant to relinquish power (although ours has no links to corruption). If we undergo a similar experience, then FIFA’s intervention could be the kick-start that Australian football needs, and one that propels us into a becoming a major football power.

 

I’ll leave the last word on new FAT president to the Bangkok post. “Looking back at Somyot’s performance so far, one can say it isn’t the Thai team alone which looks a lot more organised but rather the entire national football structure has an orderly look about it.” Their full report on Somyot can be found here: https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/sports/1334419/somyot-putting-the-fat-house-in-order.

 

The Maldives

After the collapse of the FAM (the Maldives’ FA) Congress in September 2014, and the resignation of several FAM executive committee members, FIFA established a normalisation committee in the Maldives in December of the same year. The five-person committee had a mandate which ran until the 30th of September 2015, and was chaired by the current President of the Maldives Olympic Committee, whilst also featuring a lawyer, a national team physician and two former national team players. FIFA’s statement announcing the normalisation committee can be found here: http://www.fifa.com/governance/news/y=2014/m=12/news=normalisation-committee-appointed-for-the-football-association-of-mald-2486998.html.

 

The committee achieved some good progress whilst in office. For one, they brought back the POMIS Cup, after it went uncontested from 2004 to 2014. (The cup is an international invitational football club competition). They also reformed and rebranded the nation’s domestic football competition, introducing season tickets for the first time.

However, the committee was unable to achieve its objectives by FIFA’s deadline. Its mandate was initially extended by a month, to the end of October 2015, and then once again to the end of 2015. The reason for this second extension was due to allegations of bribery and vote buying surrounding a proposed election on the 22nd of October. The committee initially refused to postpone the vote, with chairman Mohamed Shaweed (pictured above) offering this justification (which hasn’t aged well) “For example look at FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter. The FAM’s work should not be compromised due to allegations.” Interestingly, Shaweed was set to run opposed for the office of FAM president (after being subsequently cleared of the aforementioned bribery and vote buying allegations). However, the election was cancelled at the 11th hour, with the Maldivian home ministry rendering it illegal due to FAM’s new charter not being registered, even though this charter was delivered to the home ministry during the previous month. The AFC had threatened that such government interference could see the FAM suspended (both by itself and FIFA), but FIFA opted not to go down this route in the end.

 

FIFA then extended the mandate once again to 31 March 2016, for the same reason as the previous extension, namely “to enable the association to complete the registration process for their new statutes in order to organise an elective congress.” The normalisation committee appointed a new chairman, Bassam Adeel Jaleel (pictured below, left), on the 24th of March 2016, and the FAM was warned by FIFA that it would be automatically be suspended if no elections were held by 31 May 2016 (it’s unclear why the deadline was extended from the end of March). The Maldives avoided this ban by holding FAM elections on the deadline day, with Ahmed “Tom” Thoriq (pictured below, right) being elected president.

However, the story doesn’t end here. After the election, five members of Thoriq’s executive committee resigned, prompting new elections to be held as per the FAM’s new statutes. These statutes avoided a re-installation of a normalisation committee (which of course occurred in 2014 for this very reason – due to the resignation of FAM executive committee members). A new election was called for late November, where Thoriq lost to Jaleel (the former chairman of the normalisation committee) by a margin of 3 votes. For more information on the November election, visit: https://www.maldivesfootball.com/story/Bassam-and-Thariq-Who-will-be-the-winner–23.

 

Thus, the Maldives had a mixed experienced under the rule of a normalisation committee. The committee did achieve significant reforms on and off the park, and the passing of new statutes to guide Maldivian football into the future. However, the committee failed to ensure that a new executive committee was elected promptly and lawfully, leading to a process which was much more drawn out and painful than it could – and should – have been.

 

Guyana

Unlike most countries that have had normalisation committees imposed, Guyanese press were calling for FIFA’s help after the GFF (Guyana’s FA) failed twice to hold an Extraordinary Congress in 2014. Local outlet Kaieteur News wrote “In fairness to FIFA/CONCACAF these two institutions have given Guyana enough time to restore order within the football fraternity and what the principal actors have done with this time is to continue to display contempt and disregard for the recommendations and statutes of the two governing bodies and it is time that a heavy price be paid for the continuous lack of respect. It might be the right time to install new faces in the administrative arm of the sport, those that have the genuine interest of the players at heart and not self-aggrandizement.” (CONCACAF is the North and Central American Football Confederation)

 

FIFA responded in October of 2014, establishing a normalisation committee with mandate to reform Guyanese football governance, that lasted until September 2015.  The five-member committee (pictured below, missing a member) was chaired by a businessman, also featuring the vice-president of the Guyanese Olympic Association and a former squash player. For more information on the normalisation committee, visit: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sport/Guyana-businessman-to-head-FIFA-s-normalisation-committee_17834581.

The committee made great initial progress, especially with regards to Guyana’s national team. A friendly was organised for the national team, away to Barbados, their first in two years. (Guyana took a 2-0 lead but the match finished in a stalemate at 2-2). Guyana’s manager praised the committee’s work, and its effect on Guyanese football, saying “the enthusiasm is so high with what the Normalisation Committee has brought to Guyana’s football so far, in terms of how they deal with the players, how they deal with the staff and the pathway they are setting forward.”

 

The GFF (successfully) held an Extraordinary Congress in June of 2015, where they adopted a new constitution. After failing to meet their September deadline, FIFA extended the committee’s mandate until 30 October 2015. Team Integrity (pictured below) was successfully elected to led the GFF, with Wayne Forde (third from the right in the picture below) becoming the federation’s president, vowing to work hard in developing Guyanese football. For more information on Forde’s election, and his first few months in office, visit: https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2016/07/12/challenges-abound-but-gff-president-confident-of-advancement-of-the-sport/.

It must be noted that whilst the normalisation committee appeared to have a positive effect on Guyanese football, their financial management has since come into the spotlight. Sources close to the GFF believe that the normalisation committee received “the most amount of money that Guyana ever received [from FIFA] in any year by a far margin.” Some believe this amount could be around US$1m, part of which was used to service the GFF’s debts of over US$300k.

 

An audit by PwC “identified a number of red flags forcing FIFA to place Guyana under conditional funding, thereby creating limited access to developmental funding.” In response, the chairman of the normalisation committee called on Forde to release any and all evidence pointing to the existence of these red flags. Forde has yet to do so. For more on this story of alleged financial mismanagement, visit: https://guyanachronicle.com/2017/09/25/show-evidence-urling-tells-gff-president.

 

Gambia

In 2012, after the national team lost 2-1 to Algeria in AFCON 2013 qualifying, the Gambian government opted to dissolve the country’s FA (then named GFA but now GFF). As a consequence of this action, FIFA threatened the country’s suspension from world football, but instead, on the 21st of March, opted to establish a seven-person normalisation committee (pictured below) to run Gambian football. It had a mandate that lasted until the end of September 2012. Its duties included “streamlining of the constitution, restructuring the league…[culminating] in a proper congress in which a new executive would be elected.” (Seedy Kinteh, the GFA president at the time of dissolution, was later proven to have received $10,000 from Mohammed bin Hammam, another gentleman who has been banned for life from football-related activities, which secured his vote for bin Hammam to become the next FIFA president. Their email correspondence can be read here: http://features.thesundaytimes.co.uk/multimedia/news/fifaemails/15.%20Brotherly%20help.pdf and here: http://features.thesundaytimes.co.uk/multimedia/news/fifaemails/16.%20Gratitude%20of%20Seedy%20Kinteh.pdf)

FIFA later extended the normalisation committee’s mandate to the 31st of March 2013, and then again to the end of June of the same year. The first extension was due to the GFA not being ready to hold its Congress in September 2012, whilst the second was for a very similar reason, so that the committee would have “ample time to complete the roadmap leading to the election of new office bearers.” This deadline was extended again to the end of June, and then again to the end of July. GFF elections were held on the 31st of July 2013, with Mustapha Kebbeh emerging victorious and winning a four-year term as president. Kebbeh had big dreams for Gambia, outlining them in an interview with FIFA.

 

 

However, his election did not result in a ‘happy-ever-after’ scenario for Gambia. Far from it. Another normalisation committee was established in Gambia in 2014, after the nation was suspended by the CAF for two years for knowingly fielding overage players in a CAF U-20 Championships qualification match. (CAF is the African Football Confederation). Further, Kebbeh’s administration, as commented by FIFA, had “lost the confidence of several major stakeholders who are playing a major role in supporting football activities in Gambia. As such, it seems any decision taken by the current board would be perceived as biased and therefore could only worsen the situation.” For more information on the establishment of this second normalisation committee, visit: http://www.fifa.com/governance/news/y=2014/m=7/news=normalisation-committee-appointed-for-gambia-football-federation-2403244.html.

 

Despite introducing this new normalisation committee, FIFA was seemingly frustrated with their interference in Gambian football to that point, as they tasked the committee with organising new GFF elections by the 15th of September (despite the fact that the committee was only appointed on the 10th of July). Amid allegations of vote rigging, Lamin Kaba Bajo was elected as GFF president in September 2014. His administration managed to lift Gambia’s ban, allowing the national team to return to competitive football in June of 2015, and they contested 2017 AFCON qualification as a result. However, it is alleged by local press that Bajo is suppressing his opponents and attempting to buy his re-election in 2018.

 

Other nations

FIFA established a normalisation committee in Guinea to run the FGF (Guinea’s FA – short for FEGUIFOOT) on the 29th of April 2016, to resolve “the internal wrangles currently affecting the FGF and that have brought all football competitions in the country to a halt.” Limited information is available about the normalisation committee, although the initial statement outlines that the committee was to have 5-7 members and was tasked with organising FGF elections by 28 February 2017. In July of 2016, the committee appointed a new national team coach and technical director. It was successful too in meeting its stated deadline, with new FGF president Antonio Souaré elected in late February of this year. FIFA’s statement announcing the normalisation committee can be found here: http://www.fifa.com/governance/news/y=2016/m=4/news=normalisation-committee-appointed-for-the-guinean-fa-2783386.html.

On the 18th of December 2015, after FENAFUTH’s president was indicted by US authorities on allegations of corruption (he has since been banned for life from all football-related activities), FIFA established a six-person normalisation committee in Honduras. The committee includes former Honduras World Cup defender Jaime Villegas, who declared that the purpose of the committee is to make FENAFUTH transparent. The committee’s mandate was extended from 30 September 2016 to 31 July 2017, “in order to allow enough time for FENAFUTH to bring its statutes into line with FIFA and CONCACAF requirements.” However, this mandate was extended once again until January 20 2018, to allow time for FENAFUTH’s new statutes to be approved prior to elections being held. Coincidentally enough, Australia’s playoff ties against Honduras might serve as a good occasion for Australian football officials to learn about the ins and outs of normalisation committees. More information on the extension of the committee’s mandate can be found here (in Spanish): http://www.latribuna.hn/2017/05/17/fifa-amplia-mandato-comision-normalizadora-fenafuth/.

On the same day (18 Dec 2015), citing the same indictment (but against FEDEFUT officials), FIFA decided to put a normalisation committee in charge of football in Guatemala. The committee’s mandate, like Honduras’, was set for 30 September 2016. It was headed by Guatemalan politician Adela de Torrebiarte, who had previously served as the presidential commissioner for police reform and who had run for president herself in 2001. The committee came into effect on the 5th of January 2016, and instantly made progress, filing a complaint over US$1m of FIFA money disappearing from FEDEFUT, and finding that broadcasting contracts awarded to Mexican media magnate Angel Gonzalez were severely undervalued, and “excessively unfavourable” to FEDEFUT.

 

The committee’s mandate was extended until 31 July 2017, “in order to allow enough time for FEDEFUT to bring its statutes into line with FIFA and CONCACAF requirements,” a statement identical to the one regarding FENAFUTH above. However, on the 6th of September last year, a Guatemalan tribunal opted to suspend the committee for six months, after four players suspected of doping complained of being unfairly treated. Further, the FEDEFUT general assembly voted against this extension, prompting FIFA to ban FEDEFUT three days after this vote, on 28 October 2016. According to the football’s world governing body, “The suspension will be lifted only once the FEDEFUT general assembly ratifies the extension of the normalisation committee’s mandate until 31 July 2017 and the new statutes of FEDEFUT approved by FIFA are adopted by the FEDEFUT general assembly.”

 

Delegates at the 2017 FIFA Congress in May voted to retain this suspension, meaning the normalisation committee has been powerless since 7 September 2016. The Guatemalan national team hasn’t played since 6 September 2016, when they came from behind to defeat Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 9-3. (That was the final matchday of the fourth round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, but had Guatemala earned enough points to progress to the fifth round they presumably would have had to forfeit their place). Guatemala remains suspended to this day. For more information on the suspension of FEDAFUT, see: http://www.fifa.com/governance/news/y=2016/m=10/news=suspension-of-the-guatemala-football-association-2847078.html

In September of 2015, FIFA set up a normalisation committee in Benin, with a strangely worded mandate that ran until April of the following year, and read “to normalise the situation of the national teams and to organise elections which will be open to all candidatures…” The committee initially had seven members, but two were removed in December of the same year after they allegedly refused to cooperate with the other committee members, and sought to directly prevent the committee from carrying out its work. This mandate was extended (reasons unclear), however the FBF (Benin’s FA) was eventually suspended by FIFA in May of 2016, after a court ruling in Benin earlier that month prevented the FBF from holding elections. This ban was later lifted as FBF elections were held on the 10th of June 2016. The elections went ahead despite an injunction ordering their suspension, granted partially due to a complaint against the holding of elections from 20 domestic football clubs in Benin.

 

Following this vote, Benin’s domestic football league resumed after a two-year break. However, on the 14th of July 2016, arrest warrants were issued for the FBF’s executive committee, as well as the FIFA and CAF observers that oversaw the June 10 elections, for defying the aforementioned injunction. These warrants were presumably withdrawn as the FBF was not suspended by FIFA once again, but proof of this is hard to come by. The FBF still appears to be in disarray to this day, with FIFA threatening their participation in AFCON 2019, should they fail to pay wages owed to former national team coach Didier Olle-Nicolle. For more information on the FBF election in June of 2016, visit: https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1038331/fifa-lifts-benin-football-federation-suspension-after-elections-held-before-deadline.

A normalisation committee was put in charge of the footballing affairs of the Solomon Islands in 2013, due to the SIFF’s (the Solomon Islands’ FA) financial difficulties. However, unlike other nations in this article, these woes arose due to poor accounting practices rather than fraud or corruption. The five-person committee was initially chaired by current Northern Queensland United NPL head coach Ian Shaw and also featured a lawyer, business leaders and a public servant. The committee was given a one-year mandate, mainly to improve the federation’s financial position and practices, but failed to meet all their objectives by this deadline. However, the committee did improve the SIFF’s financial position significantly enough that the Solomon Islands was able to participate in all OFC competitions in 2015. (OFC is the Oceanian Football Confederation). The SIFF held its 24th Congress on the 28th of March 2015, with William Lai elected to lead the federation until 2019. The committee, despite staying in place longer than intended, left the Solomon Islands in a much better state than when they arrived, with president Lai praising their efforts. “I wish to thank the SIFF normalisation committee for lifting football from despair. You have done an excellent job.” For more information about the SIFF, and its Congress, visit: https://www.siff.com.sb/about-siff/administrative-structure/. For information on the normalisation committee, visit: https://www.siff.com.sb/archives-221/.

FTF was plagued with internal issues in the second decade of the 21st Century, prompting FIFA to establish a normalisation committee to run football in Togo. The seven-member committee was appointed on the 9th of November 2014, although two of its members were dismissed just over a month later due to “irreconcilable internal conflict.” The committee’s mandate lasted until 30 November 2015, however it was later extended by FIFA to the end of 2015. It was extended again into early 2016, until Colonel Kossi Akpovy was elected as the next president of the FTF, listing his priorities as getting FTF’s finances in order, organising national team matches, relaunching Togo’s domestic football competitions (men’s, women’s and youth), fostering relationships with sponsors, government and football authorities, and reconciling major Togolese football stakeholders. Indeed, he did relaunch domestic football in Togo, as the men’s competition begun in September of last year and the women’s competition commenced in March of this year. For more information on Akpovy and his ambitions, visit (in French): http://www.focusinfos.net/index.php/interviews/item/1106-interview-colonel-guy-kossi-akpovy-president-de-la-federation-togolaise-de-football-ftf.

Samoa’s FA was suspended from FIFA in December of 2008, with a normalisation committee put in place shortly afterwards. Under the committee’s guise, Samoa’s national football complex underwent renovations and Samoan domestic football competitions resumed in September 2009. A new FA was established, the FFS, which held elections on the 19th of March 2011, ending the normalisation committee’s rule of Samoan football. For more information on the FFS’ history, visit: https://www.footballsamoa.ws/about-ffs/.

Their next-door neighbours underwent a similar experience too. In 2005 a normalisation committee was set up in American Samoa, which saw “the construction of International standard football pitches, National Headquarters and a Technical Centre.” A new FA, the FFAS, held its founding Congress in November of 2007 (Archie Thompson was probably not invited). Elections were held the following month with Iuli Alex Godinet successfully running for president. Godinet has since been re-elected twice, and still serves as FFAS president. For more information on the FFAS’ history, visit: https://www.oceaniafootball.com/american-samoa/.

 

Which path should Australia follow?

The cases above give Australia many examples of what-to-do and what-not-to-do when a normalisation committee is established here next month. Australian football fans must hope that these lessons are heeded, so that the process is as efficient and productive as possible, and that new FFA leadership can be elected to effectively lead Australian football in the years to come.

 

A few key lessons to heed are as follows:

  • Ensuring that the 3-4 week appointment process of normalisation committee members is conducted openly and transparently, with all key stakeholders consulted to ensure that the best possible committee is selected
  • Setting a reasonable deadline for new FFA elections (and the cessation of the normalisation committee’s rule), and sticking to it – Note: It has been rumoured that the committee will be in place for 6-10 months
    • It is likely that a deadline will be set after the conclusion of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but it needs to be workable and achievable as if an extension is needed then FIFA will likely set any new date to be after the conclusion of the 2019 Asian Cup
  • Ensuring that the committee members are predominantly Australian and with a solid grasp of Australian football and the issues it faces, along with the opportunities before it
    • Greece’s example, however, suggests that it may not be the worst thing to have 1-2 non-Australian committee members, outsiders who also possess an in-depth knowledge of football in this country and who may be able to act more objectively
  • Ensuring that the appointment of any follow-up commissions to help run Australian football (as is currently the case in Cameroon) is conducted openly and transparently as well, and that all who are appointed have the required expertise that will allow them to effectively assist the reformation of Australian football
  • Ensuring that the new FFA elections are conducted openly and fairly, with all candidates treated fairly and equally
    • All voters should be given plenty of information on each presidential candidate and their aims/ambitions, as well as ample time to ensure how to direct their vote (they should also be given all necessary information for the other positions up for election too)
  • Not allowing members of the normalisation committee to stand in the new FFA elections

 

Hopefully these measures will ensure that the normalisation committee is able to effectively lead, reform and restore Australian football, to leave it in a much better state than the one it currently finds itself it.

 

Finally, Australian football fans should also hope that the media keeps a tight leash on FIFA, the AFC, the FFA and its new normalisation committee whilst this whole process goes on, questioning their actions and motives as much as possible. Keeping these parties accountable in the press will go a long way to ensuring that they are open and transparent, and act in the best interests of Australian football.

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