FIFA intends to send delegation to assess PFF situation

Updated March 27, 2019

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"The delegation will meet with all relevant stakeholders and listen to their views."— AFP/File
"The delegation will meet with all relevant stakeholders and listen to their views."— AFP/File

KARACHI: Global football body FIFA intends to send a delegation to Pakistan to assess the situation of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in a move that is hoped to be the first step in resolving the long-running crisis in the country’s football governing body.

FIFA’s intention, after nearly four years of Pakistan football being beset by problems off the pitch, was confirmed in an email, seen by Dawn on Tuesday, sent to PFF vice-president Sardar Naveed Haider Khan by FIFA’s Head of Member Associations Governance Services Luca Nicola.

Sardar, the president of the Punjab Football Association (PFA) had sought to meet FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura in Zurich to apprise her of the situation of the PFF following elections ordered by the Supreme Court that saw longstanding president Faisal Saleh Hayat toppled from his post.

“Please kindly be informed that it is the intention of FIFA to send a joint FIFA/AFC delegation to Pakistan shortly to assess the situation of the PFF in view of the developments that have occurred over the last months,” Nicola wrote in the email. “On that occasion, the delegation will meet with all relevant stakeholders and listen to their views. Consequently, we deem that the mission will be the right platform for engagement.”

Last week FIFA had said that the PFF situation was on the agenda of FIFA’s Member Associations Committee which meets next month.

Asked about the delegation, a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn on Tuesday: “For the moment the situation of the PFF will be discussed at the upcoming FIFA Member Associations Committee meeting on 3 April. Further updates may follow thereafter.”

Dawn understands that FIFA’s Member Associations Committee will take the final decision on sending the delegation. It has been learnt that Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa played a vital role in FIFA deciding to send a mission.

At the moment, FIFA recognises the PFF of Hayat but the body he leads isn’t recognised domestically after the Supreme Court ordered fresh elections of the country’s football governing body that saw Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah elected as Pakistan’s football chief last December.

That election saw Sardar Naveed desert longtime ally Hayat and support Ashfaq. Sardar was elected PFA president in another court-ordered election earlier last year.

The PFF election did bring to a close a long-running legal wrangle but a final decision rests in the hands of FIFA which called the court-ordered polls as “third-party interference” in the affairs of its member association. In October last year, FIFA’s Member Associations committee had given the Hayat-led PFF an 18-month period — until March 2020 — to hold fresh elections.

After a controversial PFF election in June 2015, that sparked a dispute in the football body, Hayat was earlier given a two-year mandate in September 2015 to ratify the PFF statutes and hold fresh elections. The Hayat-led body made no headway into those issues.

The PFF was banned for six months for “third-party intervention” before FIFA lifted the suspension in March last year after Hayat was restored as the PFF chief on the orders of the Lahore High Court, which had appointed an administrator to oversee PFF affairs in 2015.

The case went to the Supreme Court the very next month with the country’s apex court ordering fresh elections. Ahead of the SC-ordered election, FIFA had warned that the PFF faces possible suspension.

Our Sports Reporter from Islamabad adds: At a news conference earlier on Tuesday at a local hotel after the PFF Congress meeting, Ashfaq, along with PFF vice-presidents Mohammad Amir Dogar and Syed Zahir Ali Shah, was hopeful that a resolution of the PFF matters was in sight.

“We’re hopeful that the Member Associations Committee will finalise a mission to visit Pakistan so that all the PFF-related matters are sorted out,” he said.

He also informed that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had started an investigation into PFF corruption and had summoned the office-bearers of the previous regime.

Football activity in the country has come to a halt due to the current situation of the PFF as well as the previous regime returning FIFA and AFC funds following the election.

Ashfaq, meanwhile, rejected the notion that the Senate Committee constituted for the promotion and development of football had an influence on PFF affairs. “We are working independently,” he said. “I’m glad however that Chairman Senate Mohammad Sadiq Sanjrani, who is heading the committee, is making all-out efforts for the game.”

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2019