Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1182, (30 January - 5 February 2014)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1182, (30 January - 5 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Tempers run wild

As the row between Ahli Club and the Sports Ministry continues to spiral out of control, a suspension of football activities in Egypt by the International Football Federation looms ahead, Inas Mazhar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Just when the dispute between Ahli Club and the Ministry of Sports appeared to calm down for the time being following the prime minister’s decree to freeze the decision of the minister of sports to dissolve the federation, a letter from the football world governing body FIFA has ignited the fire once more.

The Ahli Club has been putting together papers and documents of defence. Both Ahli’s board and that of Zamalek, which was dissolved last December, sent a letter of complaint to the Egyptian Football Association (EFA),in its capacity as the official governing body running football in the country, protesting against the dissolution by an interfering government of the two elected boards and the denial of the general assemblies of the two clubs to withdraw its vote of confidence. Obliged to go through national federations to contact the International Football Federation (FIFA), the two clubs asked the EFA to forward their complaint to the world governing body.

FIFA’s letter displayed concern regarding Egyptian football’s state of affairs and disapproval of all the actions and decisions taken by the Egyptian Ministry of Sports. The letter, copied to both the Confederation of African Football and the International Olympic Committee, was addressed to the General Secretary of the Egyptian Football Association. It read as follows:

“We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 23 December 2013, which we received on 10 January 2014, as it was sent to a wrong address, as well as your letter dated 21 January 2014 with regard to the current situation faced by the clubs Ahli and Zamalek and we have duly taken note of their respective contents.

“Based on your above-mentioned correspondence, we understand that the Egyptian Ministry of Sports has indeed taken some unilateral decisions, which, amongst others, appear to prevent the general assembly of Egyptian clubs such as Ahli from taking place. We have also taken note of other alleged decisions from the ministry with regard to the dissolution and/or appointment of new boards for four clubs affiliated to the Egyptian Football Association, namely Tersana, Zamalek, Shams and Tram Club in late 2013.

“By doing so, the Ministry of Sports appears to have acted in contradiction with the commitments made in front of the International Olympic committee [IOC] last year as reported in the correspondence sent by the IOC to the minister of sports on 9 December 2013. In addition, the decisions are not compliant with the obligation of all FIFA member associations to manage their affairs independently and with no influence from third parties, as stipulated in Article 13 and Article 17 of the FIFA Statutes. As such, the dissolving of the boards of sporting clubs in Egypt may be considered as an undue interference and an infringement of the FIFA Statutes.

“In this regard, we would also like to draw your attention to Article 3 of the EFA statutes, which states that the EFA vows to respect and prevent any infringement of the statutes, regulations, directives and decisions of FIFA, of CAF as well as the laws of the game and to ensure that these are also respected by its members.

“Finally, we must also underline the relevance of Article 18 Paragraph 2 of the FIFA statutes which stipulates that every member shall ensure that its affiliated clubs can take all decisions on any matters regarding membership independently of any external body. This obligation applies regardless of an affiliated club’s corporate structure. In any case, the member shall ensure that neither a natural nor a legal person (including holding companies and subsidiaries) exercises control over more than one club whenever the integrity of any match or competition could be jeopardised.

“Due to the aforementioned, FIFA urgently requests that the EFA commence procedures with the Egyptian Ministry of Sports so that the aforementioned undue interferences cease immediately. An account on the progress of the situation shall be sent to FIFA by 5 February 2014.

“Finally, we would like to stress again that should the current situation persist, we would have no choice but to refer the case to the appropriate FIFA bodies for consideration and possible decision, including sanctions which might lead to a suspension of the EFA.”

On this ominous note, the FIFA letter signed by FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke ended, sparking a renewal of furore and mayhem in the house of sports. The situation escalated as both sides resumed their verbal tug-of-war — a war described by the media as “the war of bones breaking”.

In response, Sports Minister Taher Abu Zeid has replied to FIFA to explain why the ministry had taken such measures. Abu Zeid said that all correspondence letters between Ahli and FIFA were full of mistakes and that Ahli intended to hide some real and decisive facts that, if mentioned, could clear the ministry of charges of governmental intervention.

“The Ahli board did not mention to FIFA that they are no longer an elected board because their actual term has expired and the ministry has renewed it for them for three months. When the ministry discovered the financial and administrative irregularities, the dissolution decision was taken. And by the way, all international laws that international federations abide by prohibit government intervention except in cases of corruption and financial irregularities,” Abu Zeid said.

Abu Zeid clarified that the ministry had pointed out to the IOC the fact that Egyptian clubs are all affiliated to the government under the penal laws, and, therefore, their money is regarded as public funds and monitored by government institutions. “Therefore, Egyptian clubs do not follow the Olympic Oath in the same way as the rest of the clubs all over the world do because they are public institutions established on lands owned by the government and not private ones. The IOC has therefore called for amendments to the Egyptian law so these clubs can become private. It is now necessary that these clubs legalise their institutions, pay for the lands and depend on themselves if they want independence from government control. Ahli has ignored this key point in their letter while only focussing on government intervention,” Abu Zeid said.

Even though FIFA’s letter seemed to back Ahli, the club’s management was upset by its content, considering the threat to impose sanctions and suspend football an insult to Egyptian sports. In a statement published on the club’s website, Ahli opened fire at the EFA, first for sending the letter to the minister, then for sending it to a wrong address, as mentioned in the FIFA letter’s first paragraph. The statement added that the EFA has not abided by FIFA statutes according to Article 18 since, instead of backing the club, they have worked against the club and allied with the ministry.

According to Ahli Club board member Khaled Mortagi, the club will fight for its rights. “We are preparing a file that includes all documents and correspondence concerning the club’s ‘crisis’ with the Ministry of Sports. This file will be presented to Egyptian President Adli Mansour and it will include a full report against the EFA for intentionally hiding their complaint to FIFA for three days and sending it to a wrong address.”

Meanwhile, the Zamalek Club board has joined Ahli in voicing its disapproval of the FIFA letter. According to the newly-appointed club president, Kamal Darwish, the FIFA letter contained false information. “First, the Zamalek board was not dissolved; its term ended last year in May and this new board was appointed to run the club temporarily until we call for elections. Second, Egyptian clubs are government-owned, so there is no interference involved. The Ministry of Sports has the right to intervene in cases of corruption.”

Another board member, Hani Zada, told Al-Ahram daily newspaper that Zamalek’s board has sent a letter to FIFA, via the EFA, in objection to the two cases filed by the former club president, Mamdouh Abbas, one against the new board of directors and the other against the Ministry of Sports. Zada said Abbas sent false information to FIFA claiming that the ministry dissolved the previous board, which it did not. “The previous board’s term ended last May. Former sports Minister Al-Amri Farouk extended the term and when the new minister, Abu Zeid, came into office he decided to end the extension and appoint a new board.”

With both sides remaining stubborn and the issue escalating, it looks like it is going to be another tough week for Egyptian sports. The latest political developments in the country and rising speculation regarding a cabinet change have caused rumours to surge once again. According to media reports, the cabinet will witness some key changes, including to the position of the prime minister himself. The position of the late minister of military production is set to be filled, as well as the post of Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaaeddin, the minister of international cooperation, who has officially resigned.

With the ongoing mayhem in the sports scene, a number of reports claim that a viable way out would be to sideline the minister of sports by merging the ministries of youth and sports together into one body named the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The current Minister of Youth Khaled Abdel-Aziz, who has been quite active during the past months since his appointment in July, is the favoured candidate to lead the proposed new body if it materialises. Abdel-Aziz is no stranger to the sports world being a former board member of the Egyptian Tennis Federation and tournament director to both the African Cup of Nations in 2006 in Cairo and the FIFA World Youth Cup 2009, as well as FIFA and CAF General Match Coordinator.

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