Confusion reigns as FIFA seemingly takes 180-degree turn in PFF case [Dawn]

Confusion reigns as FIFA seemingly takes 180-degree turn in PFF case [Dawn]

by Umaid Wasim

KARACHI: Three years after taking a decision that revealed its concerns regarding the way in which the 2015 Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) elections were conducted, the world’s football governing body FIFA has seemingly upheld them. Faisal Saleh Hayat now has 18 months — until March 2020 — left to conduct fresh elections of the PFF, according to the latest decision taken by FIFA’s Member Associations Committee.

The Pakistan issue was on the agenda of the MA Committee, which met last month, and while it accepted that the PFF Statutes needed to be brought in line with the FFA Statutes in order to have free and fair elections, it surprisingly admitted that the PFF Executive Committee had a mandate till June 2019. The admission comes after FIFA’s then-Executive Committee had given the PFF two years to ratify its statutes and hold fresh elections in September 2015.

“During its discussions, the Committee underlined that the original mandate of the PFF Executive Committee [i.e. June 2015 until June 2019] should in principle be respected,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn on Friday.

But FIFA did not immediately respond to Dawn when asked on Saturday if it meant that this statement meant that it had indeed upheld the PFF elections of 2015.

Those controversial elections mired Pakistan football into crisis, in which it still remains despite Hayat being restored as the PFF president by the Supreme Court — which itself has ordered a fresh election — and Pakistan being banned by FIFA for a period of six months until it was lifted in March this year.

The PFF has also taken some questionable decisions regarding football since getting back in power, most notably the one regarding the promotion of a few teams to the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL).

After the election controversy first broke FIFA sent a mission to Pakistan in August 2015 and the Hayat-led PFF faction, with the country’s football body having split following the election dispute, had complained to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) that it was ‘utterly disappointed’ with its conduct.

Reliable sources had told Dawn then that the mission wasn’t satisfied with the way Hayat-led body had conducted the presidential election and it was only thanks to AFC’s persistence that FIFA gave Hayat’s faction a two-year mandate to ratify its statutes and conduct fresh elections. In May last year, the AFC Executive Committee had requested FIFA to give PFF a further two-year extension to its mandate.

Hayat met Gianni Infantino at the Home of FIFA in Zurich last month and Dawn was the first to report that he had asked the FIFA chief for an extension to his mandate.

In a news conference last month in Lahore, Hayat denied he had asked for any such thing. But the MA Committee decision, which sees Hayat being given an extra nine months to hold elections after what the committee now claims is his mandate is a vindication that an extension was indeed asked for.

“However, it [MA Committee] acknowledged that certain important steps needed to be taken to ensure that the PFF elections are carried out properly,” added the FIFA spokesperson. “In particular, the Committee noted that the PFF Statutes need to be aligned with the requirements of FIFA and the FIFA Statutes as well as that the clubs eligible to participate in the electoral process have to be scrutinised.

“Based on the aforementioned, the Committee decided that the PFF needs to revise its statutes in order to align them with the requirements of FIFA and the FIFA Statutes and, in parallel, carry out the scrutiny of the clubs. Once these steps have been completed, elections of a new PFF executive committee shall be held in a timely manner, but at the latest by the end of March 2020. The Committee further mandated the FIFA administration to elaborate a roadmap laying out the aforementioned steps and taking into account the input of the PFF.”

FIFA disclosed the decision of the MA Committee to the media more than a week after its meeting on Sept 26 with the PFF being informed about it first. The PFF did not disclose anything regarding the decision till Friday.

“It wanted a longer extension which it didn’t get,” a source close to the matter told Dawn.

FIFA did not also mention anything regarding the election of the Punjab Football Association (PFA) held by the PFF on the orders of the Supreme Court. Hayat’s close ally Sardar Naveed Haider Khan was elected PFA president in an election in May. The SC, in its April judgment, had also ordered the PFF election following the PFA poll. FIFA terms any court or government interference in matters of its member association a contravention of its Statutes.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2018