Govt firmly on NC’s side as PFF dispute nears resolution [Dawn]

Govt firmly on NC’s side as PFF dispute nears resolution [Dawn]

by Mohammad Yaqoob & Umaid Wasim

KARACHI/LAHORE: The government is firmly on the Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee’s side.

It is probably the strongest reason why global football body FIFA has extended the mandate of the PFF NC till the end of the year.

And it also explains why the court-elected PFF of Ashfaq Hussain Shah has formed a five-member committee to hold talks in order to resolve the crisis that saw FIFA suspend Pakistan in April.

The government’s decision to side with the PFF NC in the dispute was taken more than a month ago, during a meeting at the Prime Minister house on overhauling of sports governance structures in Pakistan on Sept 1, Dawn can exclusively reveal.

The first decision of that meeting was to ask the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination and the Pakistan Sports Board to engage with the PFF NC to vacate the PFF headquarters, currently under the possession of Ashfaq’s PFF, so to have the ban lifted.

However, the government has asked the NC for a timeline for the PFF elections while it will also have oversight on the FIFA funding.

“Inter-Provincial Coordination Division and Pakistan Sports Board may coordinate and engage with the Normalization Committee (NC) constituted by the Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) for the following steps a) Timeline for elections; b) Vacation of Pakistan Football Federation building at Nisthar Park c) Oversight on inflow of funds; and, d) Establishment of regulatory model in consultation with the Normalisation Committee),” a summary of the decisions taken during the meeting, a copy of which is available with Dawn, reads.

IPC minister Dr Fehmida Mirza told Dawn last week that meetings this week with both the NC and Ashfaq’s PFF, which came into power after an election held by the Supreme Court in December 2019 that wasn’t recognised by FIFA, will take the two parties closer to a resolution.

PSB director general retired Col Asif Zaman was also hopeful of a quick resolution.

“Once things mature, the matters will be resolved as we have started dialogue towards that,” he told Dawn on Tuesday.

PFF NC member Shahid Khokhar welcomed the moves by the government, as well as the oversight and government regulation of sports bodies.“The government should be a necessary stakeholder in sports federations,” he told Dawn on Tuesday. “The oversight over funding and having regulations to follow will be good for sports development.”

FIFA doesn’t allow third-party interference in matters of its member associations and Khokhar was quick to warn that “it will not be acceptable”.

Khokhar, formerly the PFF media and marketing manager during the long tenure of the FIFA-recognised president Faisal Saleh Hayat, came into the NC when it was recomposed at the start of this year following the resignation of Humza Khan as chairman and the appointment of Haroon Malik as his successor.

The NC’s initial mandate, upon its appointment in Septemnber 2019, was nine months before the coronavirus pandemic forced FIFA to give it an extension till September 2020 and eventually till the end of that year.

The Haroon-led NC was given an initial six-month mandate but after Dawn revealed that he had been given powers to amend the PFF constitution and that, with FIFA taking legal advice on the ground, an election wasn’t going to be held until 2022, Ashfaq’s group of officials seized control of the PFF headquarters.

Despite the ban, FIFA had given the NC an extension until September this year and last week announced that the NC will continue till the end of the year as, evidently, it had achieved ‘considerable progress on the judicial and government fronts’.

Ashfaq’s PFF had been counting on its vice-president, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Aamir Dogar, for some sway in its talks with the government. But now, after months of rejecting the NC — which it called ‘biased’ — it is open to dialogue.

The five-member committee proposed for holding talks includes Ashfaq and Dogar alongside Shahid Taj, Haji Saeed Takko and Chaudhry Mohammad Saleem.

However, it contends that it will only vacate the PFF headquarters if the NC agrees that it will hold elections by the end of its current mandate i.e. the end of this year.

“Right now, their mandate is until December 31, and if they agree that an election can be held by then, we will vacate the PFF headquarters,” Sharafat Bukhari, a member of Ashfaq’s PFF, told Dawn on Tuesday.

The election timeline given to the government to the NC is nine months. Khokhar contended that with the NC having to deal with the fallout of the controversial election of 2015, which saw Hayat elected PFF chief for a fourth term, it is impossible to hold a fair election by the end of this year.

“Even going by the election lists of the Supreme Court-held elections of 2018, a lot has changed,” he said. “Club scrutiny [the first step of the election] has to be carried out and that will take time. Even if we try to speed up the process, we just can’t wrap up the election in three months.

“That, in fact, would be against the PFF constitution.”

However, with the government mobilising efforts to force a resolution, it only seems a matter of time before Ashfaq’s PFF and the PFF NC come to an agreement.

The only little matter after that is the fate of the much-hyped franchise-based Pakistan Football League (PFL), which is being initiated by Global Sports Ventures.

After GSV — which has entered into a 15-year deal with Ashfaq’s PFF for rights to football events in the country — announced former England striker Michael Owen as the ambassador for the PFL two weeks ago, the NC came out with a strong-worded statement that it was an ‘illegal’ tournament. NC chairman Haroon has plans to launch a league of his own.

GSV contends that it has signed a deal with the PFF which is the recognised one according to the law of the land, and got a further boost last week when it got a green signal to go ahead with its plans by President Dr Arif Alvi.

GSV, though, isn’t concerned with what happens with the PFF with sources close to the PFL claiming that they “will work with anyone the government tells us to work with” in launching the six-team tournament.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2021