KARACHI: The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) faction led by Faisal Saleh Hayat regularly received funding from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in the intervening years since the dispute first broke out in the country’s football governing body till the ban imposed by global body FIFA for ‘third-party interference’ in October.

The Hayat faction, which is recognised by FIFA, put a stop to football activity in the country citing a lack of funding since the PFF split into two factions ahead of its presidential elections in June 2015 that led to the Lahore High Court (LHC) intervening and appointing an administrator to oversee its affairs.

Not only did the Hayat faction not organise the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) and the second-tier Pakistan Football Federation League (PFFL) but it also prevented the national teams from participating in Asian and regional competitions. It also moved the court to stop the administrator from holding events.

Yet during all that time, they were receiving funding from the AFC. “As a suspended member by FIFA, the PFF have had their funding stopped by AFC,” AFC’s spokesperson told Dawn in an email exchange spanning several days. Asked if that meant the funding was only stopped after the ban, the spokesperson replied: “That is correct.”

In July, Dawn exclusively reported that, with the PFF accounts in control of the court-appointed administrator, the AFC was asked to channel funds into a private account in the name of Nadiq Naqvi, the former PFF finance director who left in 2011 before emerging out of nowhere to take a women’s seat in a contentious election held by Hayat despite the LHC having ordered a stay.

Then the AFC said it “didn’t comment on private correspondence between member associations” and it, while adding that it’s policy “isn’t to give out details of payments to individual member associations”. This week, however, the AFC said it “doesn’t share information about PFF’s bank account”.

The AFC added that “all funds to PFF were audited by AFC” when asked how it maintained an oversight over the usage of its funds in a personal account where individuals have sole control. “The audit was in line with the AFC Member Association auditing procedures and is independently verified,” said the spokesperson. Yet the bank account to which the funding was transferred wasn’t disclosed. “Information on bank accounts etc can only be provided by the Member Associations,” the spokesperson added.

The funding from the AFC comes under the guise of the Asian Financial Assistance Programme (AFAP). Allegations of corruption in distributing the AFAP funding came to the fore two years ago during an emotionally-charged news conference by former Pakistan coaches Nasir Ismail and Gohar Zaman.

The funding comprised salaries of local coaches and while Nasir claimed the amount he was due was taken back by the PFF, Gohar claimed he was sidelined from football for his refusal to hand back the salary. It was at that news conference where Nasir showed letters where PFF staff and coaches had “donated” their salaries back to the PFF.

Nasir claimed his signature had been forged in that letter in which he declared that he “authorised PFF to retain” his AFAP salary for “the development of football based upon transparent financial policy”. He told Dawn this week that he was going to “follow up with the AFC on the issue and decide the next plan of action”.

There were also similar letters from Sajjad Mehmood, Pakistan’s current head-coach, and Shahzad Anwar, the PFF’s current technical director. Both Sajjad and Shahzad are not recognised by the court-appointed PFF administrator but are listed on the FIFA website in their afore-mentioned posts as they have been appointed by the Hayat faction despite no football activity taking place. They are the only ones who remain in a ‘paid’ capacity apart from secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi, media manager Shahid Khokhar and integrity manager Fahad Khan.

Following the dispute, the Hayat faction had fired manager competitions and development Rauf Bari, group coordinator Shams Pervaiz, IT manager Mohammad Amin Tahir, and manager clubs Mian Faisal Mahmood. The sacked quartet are now part of the management under the court-appointed administrator. Bari, according to the documents, was giving 31 percent of his salary as donation. “I never signed that letter,” Bari told Dawn this week. “There were only two people who signed those letters while the others were forged.”

With the coaches, Nasir said the Hayat faction used a trick to recoup the money because they had to show the AFC that the amount had reached the intended recipients. The coaches were asked to give a signed blank cheque and after transferring the amount into their account they took it back via the cheque they already had.

Sajjad, however, denied any such thing took place. “We used to receive our salaries of the AFAP prior to the dispute,” he told Dawn, while denying there was no such thing as donating their salaries. He did not get back to Dawn after he was sent a copy of the letter in which he allowed the PFF to retain his AFAP salary. Shahzad did not respond to Dawn.

With no football activity taking place and even their appointed head-coach not receiving his salary, it raises questions on where the funding over this two-year period was used. Intriguingly, though, the AFC spokesperson said that AFAP is “for a wide range of activities and not just salaries”.

During this time, though, football development came to a total halt. On the other hand, the national team — bereft of competitive matches having fallen at the first hurdle of the combined 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers — was pulled out of events claiming a paucity of funding.

The AFAP funding for a year is $250,000. The AFC spokesperson added that only the PFF could tell “how they used the money from AFC”. In October last year, Dawn first reported that FIFA had began withholding its development funding to the turmoil-hit PFF. There are questions that need to be answered. The PFF spokesman did not respond to request for comment by Dawn.

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2017

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