FIFA Upholds Ban on Giwa & 4 Others

FIFA has today announced that it has upheld the five-year ban earlier imposed on Chris Giwa, Muazu Suleyman, Yahaya Adama, Sani Fema and Johnson Effiong by the Disciplinary Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). The implication is that the ban will now have a worldwide effect.

Similarly, CAF had last year written a letter to the NFF (dated May 27th 2016, signed by its General Secretary, Hicham El Amrani) confirming the extension of the ban to take effect at continental level.

The five men were, on 12 May 2016, banned by the NFF Disciplinary Committee from taking part in football activities for breaches of the NFF Statutes and the FIFA Code of Ethics. The ban is fallout of the 2014 NFF elections and the ensuing NFF leadership battle between Chris Giwa and Amaju Pinnick, with the board  of the latter being accorded recognition by FIFA.

Based on this latest development, it remains to be seen how Mr. Giwa can effectively assume leadership of the NFF or be recognized by FIFA, even if he wins the case in court. The Giwa and Pinnick rival factions are still in court over the validity of the 2014 NFF elections.

Now that FIFA has dissolved its Anti-Racism Task Force


The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has come under a lot of criticism lately, due to its decision to dissolve its Anti-Racism Task Force. The decision has been described as “shameful”, “a betrayal”, etc. by anti-racism campaigners, football stakeholders, players and even people associated with the task force. The criticism stems from the perception that the move indicates and abandonment by FIFA of the fight against racism. However, the FIFA General Secretary has sought to clarify that the taskforce had a specific mandate which it has fully fulfilled and its recommendations are being acted upon.

Perhaps FIFA could have dissolved the task force with more finesse, such as adequately publicising the full extent of its implementation of the task force’s recommendations or its next line of action in the fight against racism. For instance, as part of the implementation of the task force’s recommendations, last year FIFA launched a new system of the use of “match observers” to observe and report on incidents of racism and discrimination ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifier matches. The observers’ mandate is to look out for racism-related incidents and report them to FIFA, which will then take disciplinary action.

Of course, one agrees with Mr. Osasu Obayiuwana, a member of the task force, that the problem of racism in football remains a burning issue, which needs continuous attention. However, from my chat with Lolia Tom-George of sportssin.blogspot.com.ng, one also agrees that the problem of racism is largely a European/UEFA problem. Indeed, racism does not emanate from other Confederations the way is does under UEFA; so, perhaps UEFA should step up and be the avant-garde in the fight against racism. This is not to downplay the fact that racism has a global impact or the responsibility of FIFA as the world football governing body. Indeed, racism in one corner generally undermines the basic tenets of equality and social justice which are fundamental to the global game of football.

The point however is simple – while FIFA must not relent in its fight against racism, UEFA should acknowledge itself as the neighbour who breeds the nuisance and therefore having a major responsibility to tackle this vice of racism that is a scourge on the global game.

Understanding FIFA’s ‘No Court’ Rule

The ‘Giwa vs. Pinnick’ battle for the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Presidency has resumed and resurrecting with it is an order of the Federal High Court, Jos Division, which set aside the NFF election of 30th September, 2014 that brought the Amaju Pinnick-led board into office. On 11th April, 2016, FIFA issued a letter to Mr. Pinnick – whom it recognizes as the President of the NFF – warning that the implementation of the court decision “would likely be considered as an interference in the internal affairs of the NFF” (contrary to FIFA regulations), as a result of which sanctions would be considered, “including the suspension of the NFF”.

Many have reacted to the letter from FIFA with defiance, insisting that FIFA’s regulations cannot supersede Nigerian laws or judicial process. Such views are incorrect and this post aims to clarify why there is no attempt to subjugate national laws by the FIFA regulatory requirements of independence, non-interference and prohibition of recourse to regular courts.

The FIFA ‘No-Court’ Rule Explained

The FIFA Statutes prohibit members from taking disputes to regular courts of law, except where it is specifically provided for in the FIFA regulations (article 68(2)). Such exceptions include employment-related disputes as contained in the FIFA Regulations on Status and Transfer of Players.

Similarly, the NFF Statutes also include this ‘no-court’ rule in article 69(1).

It is important to understand that this rule does not deny a party with a complaint from seeking justice before a judicial body. The way the rule operates is, simply put – instead of going to a regular court, the aggrieved party should take the dispute to the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism. The operation of the rule is similar to an ‘arbitration clause’ in a civil agreement, where the parties entering into a contract agree that in the event of a dispute, they will make recourse to arbitration rather than to a regular court. In fact, thIS FIFA rule must be read together with article 68(3), the latter part of which states that –

“Instead of recourse to ordinary courts of law, provision shall be made for arbitration. Such 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 aim is simply to ensure that football disputes are taken to specialist (sports-specific) tribunals, where they will be determined not only speedily but also with proper appreciation of the governing rules and the specific nature of sports.

The Rule and National Courts

Contrary to what some have argued, the FIFA ‘no-court’ rule does not in any way imply that FIFA regulations supersede national laws or seek to undermine the national judicial process. Rather, as stated earlier, it merely operates like an ‘arbitration clause’ in a civil contract. Thus, it should be enforced just as a court would enforce an arbitration clause which stipulates that disputes arising from the contract will be settled by arbitration rather than taken to the court.

Participation in association football could be viewed as a contract between the members/stakeholders to be self-regulated and be bound by the rules of the association.

Therefore, while it is not the case that the ‘no-court’ rule seeks to strip a national court of its powers or that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, the court usually enforces the agreement by directing the party to take the dispute to the relevant sports tribunal.

Just as parties are encouraged to seek ADR in commercial disputes, the business of professional sport has necessitated the recourse to sports-specific ADR for speedy and specialist resolution of sports disputes.


If we must put an end to the frequent recourse to courts, it is crucial that there exists a viable alternative dispute resolution mechanism within the football (and sports) industry.

This is in two levels:

Firstly, within the football administration, there must be a national Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC).  The NFF Statutes state that NFF shall provide the necessary institutional means to resolve any internal dispute that may arise between Members, Clubs, Officials and Players of NFF – article 4(3). It is on this basis that the statutes further envisage the establishment of an Arbitration Tribunal in article 68. It would suffice to say that this tribunal needs to be a full-fledged, specialist and independent arbitration tribunal.

Secondly, for sports in general, there is the need for the establishment of a national sports arbitration tribunal. On 25th May, 2012, the Planning Committee inaugurated by the National Olympic Committee to develop the legal framework/guidelines for the establishment of a Nigerian Court of Arbitration for Sport (NCAS) submitted its report, the implementation of which is still pending.


It is difficult to doubt that the establishment of a standard alternative dispute resolution mechanism for football will not only curb the frequent recourse to regular courts, but will also induce the courts to see that there is indeed an effective internal mechanism within the industry, to which court-goers should be referred.

The situation is aptly depicted by Adokiye Amiesimaka (Chairman of the NCAS Planning Committee) thus: “In the absence of an independent, neutral and reliable body in the prevailing sports structure to fairly and definitively resolve sports-related disputes, it is commonplace for athletes, administrators and other participants in sports to seek redress in civil courts”.


Russia, Racism and 2018 Hosting Rights

The anti-racism campaign was rocked recently when fans of Russian club, Locomotiv Moscow acted in what was widely regarded as a racist manner. At a match, played shortly after Nigeria’s Peter Odemwingie was sold to West Brom of England, the Locomotiv fans displayed a large banner on which was inscribed the words “Thanks West Brom”; but the striking effect was the picture of a banana in the middle of the banner. The innuendo pointed firmly to the racist reference to a blacks. The player involved expressed his displeasure and reiterated that black players in the Russian league were often exposed to racism and that the officials did not do enough to curb it. Apart from Locomotiv Moscow, Zenit St. Petersburg is infamous for racist behaviour by its fans and was fined £38,000 a couple of years ago when its fans targeted black players from Marseille with racist chants. The situation was reported as being so bad that Andre Bikey of Cameroon had to carry a gun to protect himself from irate racist fans while playing for Locomotiv.
The head of Russia’s 2018 World Cup bid, Alexei Sorokin insists that the act of Locomotiv fans did not constitute racist abuse. According to his explanation, the banana is symbolic of a ‘failed test’ – in apparent reference to Odemwingie’s poor display in his final months at the club. He further opined that the fact that the disciplinary body of the Russian Football Union did not sanction the club shows that the banner is not to be regarded as racist. Of course, this defence was hard to swallow as criticism still came pouring in from various quarters and countries with rival 2018 hosting bids sought to capitalize on it. It is easy to believe that racist acts – such as the Locomotiv banner is believed to be – coupled with the fact that Russia is regarded as one of the most racist countries as far as football is concerned, would be enough to scuttle Russia’s chances of hosting the World Cup in 2018. Indeed it could, but:
It is trite that one of the objectives of FIFA is to prevent any form of abuse and combat racism and discrimination. While it is easy to regard denying Russia a hosting chance on account of its racist notoriety as a means of stamping this objective, the reverse could be a more rewarding perspective. The point is that if Russia were to win the hosting right, the influx of divergent football cultures that the World Cup brings would broaden the minds of domestic Russian fans and make them more receptive to foreigners, including blacks. This would be better achieved with specific campaigns tailored towards this purpose. Lost amidst the success of the hosting of the 2010 World Cup by South Africa are the fears that South Africa has had a history of xenophobia. The hosting right to such global events could actually be a tool to achieve the objective of promoting the game, free from vices such as racism. With at least a quarter of foreign players in the Russian league being reported to be Africans, coupled with the increased sponsorship which empowers the clubs to look outside for football imports, Russia is increasingly becoming home to black and foreign players. Therefore, new measures must be thought-out and implemented to kick racism out.