KARACHI: Withdrawing from the AFC Solidarity Cup has come at a cost for the Faisal Saleh Hayat-led Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) faction.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Monday slapped a US$10,000 fine on the PFF for not taking part in November’s Solidarity Cup, a tournament organised to provide competitive matches to the continent’s lowest-ranked teams.

And the fine would certainly burn a hole in the pockets of Hayat faction considering world’s football governing body FIFA is already withholding development funding due to the controversy that has engulfed the PFF since last year.

The PFF has been mired in crisis ever since it split into two factions in the lead-up to its presidential elections in June last year after a full-blown dispute over the controversial Punjab Football Association (PFA) elections in April.

With the two groups — one led by incumbent president Hayat and the other by contender and vice-president Zahir Ali Shah — heading into the polls, it saw the Lahore High Court (LHC) intervene and order a stay on the elections.

The Hayat group however went on to hold the elections and that has resulted in a drawn-out battle against the honourable court which appointed retired Justice Asad Munir as PFF Administrator till the issue is resolved and also asked him to hold fresh polls.

FIFA, meanwhile, backed Hayat in September last year and gave him two years to amend the PFF statutes and conduct fresh elections.

The impasse since has seen Pakistan miss out on international tournaments and the national team hasn’t played since crashing out in the first round of AFC’s marathon joint-qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in March last year.

COMPETITIVE ACTION

The AFC Solidarity Cup gave some hope of competitive action to the national team but the Hayat-led faction refused to enter the team even though Munir — not recognised by FIFA or AFC — was keen on participation.

“The fine shall be settled within 30 days from the date that this decision is communicated,” the AFC wrote to the PFF in the letter, seen by Dawn on Monday. “Pakistan Football Federation is informed that a repeat violation of this provision will be met with more severe punishment.”

The letter added that the AFC Disciplinary Committee had communicated only the “Terms of a Decision” and the PFF can still appeal the fine.

The AFC did not immediately respond to a request by Dawn for further comment.

Even though it has given the details for depositing the fine, the Hayat-led faction has repeatedly claimed it is cash-strapped — with FIFA stopping funds due to the crisis in the federation and the PFF accounts under control of Munir.

“Given the current situation, FIFA has been withholding development funding to PFF,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn last month. “FIFA’s Member Association Committee in collaboration with FIFA Compliance monitors the situation.”

The AFC hasn’t responded to a query by Dawn since then if it was still funding the Hayat body even though there have been reports that the Asian body is transferring funds to a private account which is enabling that faction to survive.

The AFC was again asked on Monday if the Hayat body will have to pay the fine directly or whether the amount would be deducted from its grants.

Published in Dawn November 1st, 2016

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