By Osasu Obayiuwana
December 9 – The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has ordered the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA, football’s world governing body, to file, within 14 days, a reply to the claims made against them by Musa Bility, the former President of the Liberia Football Association.
In its preliminary ruling of December 6, CAS rejected a petition by CAF and FIFA for “bifurcation” of the arbitral proceedings – this would have meant that Bility would have been compelled to file separate cases against CAF and FIFA, on the same matter.
CAF and FIFA are joint respondents to the suit that Bility – currently banned by FIFA for ten years – filed in August, just hours before a ban on the Liberian was imposed by the Adjudicatory Chamber of FIFA’s Ethics Committee.
Had the application for bifurcation succeeded, arbitral proceedings would have become prohibitively expensive for Bility, who was recently forced to spend an additional $42,000 – after paying his own filing costs – to ensure the case is heard.
This was a consequence of FIFA and CAF’s refusal to pay their own costs to defend themselves at the proceedings, which, strangely, under CAS’s regulations, both parties are within their rights to do.
A payment from Deutsche Bank for €39,431 (which is the equivalent of $42,000) was sent by Bility’s lawyer to CAS on October 14, to cover FIFA and CAF’s filing costs.
In its recent preliminary ruling against CAF and FIFA, CAS instructed the African and world football governing bodies to file: (1) A statement of defence to Bility’s case. (2) A claim to justify their argument that CAS lacks the jurisdiction to hear it. (3) The evidence on which the two respondents intend to rely upon to argue their case and (4) Arguments against producing the documentation that Bility has demanded, as well as the list of witnesses and experts the first and second respondents intend to use, to support their case.
CAS warned both governing bodies that should they fail to adhere to its instructions within 14 days (which would be on 20 December), they would proceed with the case and deliver a judgement (formally known as an arbitral award).
Sources close to the Bility camp have told Insideworldfootball that the Liberian will object to any requests from CAF and FIFA for any extension of time, to file their briefs.
Bility, a member of the CAF Executive Committee – until his recent FIFA ban – is asking CAS to declare the world body’s six-month intervention in CAF governance illegal, arguing that it is in violation of the CAF statutes.
He is also asking for CAF’s last congress, held in Cairo, to be declared null and void, on the grounds that the requisite notice period to be issued to member associations, as stated in the organisation’s statutes, for the convening of such a congress, was not met.
FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura, who doubles as the organisation’s General Delegate for Africa, has been working, on secondment, at CAF’s Cairo headquarters since the start of August. She will remain there until the end of January 2020, at the very least.
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