Sunday, July 20, 2014

Now that FIFA’s Suspension has been lifted....

Eagles line up ( pic courtesy Andrew Randa)

Now that FIFA has lifted the suspension from international football activities earlier placed on Nigeria, there are some who believe that we are back to square one awaiting the next full-blown dispute that will lead to another football crisis. There are others who look forward to the August 15 Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) elections as an opportunity to install a leadership which they believe will take Nigerian football to the next level. Personally, I look up to the National Council on Sports, the Nigerian Olympic Committee and the Sports Minister to make good on their promise to set up a domestic Court of Arbitration for Sport in Nigeria. The issues surrounding the setting up a Nigerian Court of Arbitration for Sport (NCAS) as well as the steps already taken in that regard have been discussed in a previous post. 

Indeed, NCAS would be a significant step in the development of not just football but sports in general as far as Nigeria is concerned. Summarily, there would be faster, cheaper and less acrimonious resolution of sports disputes, away from the civil courts and away from the consequent threat of the likes of FIFA sanction for ‘government interference’. Another notable point is the development of sports law jurisprudence, which NCAS would help achieve in Nigeria. As cases are decided, over time there will emerge a body of decisions that will guide stakeholders and help prevent them from falling into the same pitfalls as others before them. For one, once NCAS is in existence, if a sports dispute is brought before a civil court, what the court would ordinarily do is to send the person back to the NCAS – the principle is that you must exhaust the internal dispute resolution mechanisms before thinking of going to court. That is not to say that a person who is unsatisfied with the decision of the sports tribunal can then proceed to the civil court as an alternative channel. The decisions of the hierarchy of sports tribunals are usually final and binding; and civil courts even enforce them as such. However, it is only in exceptional circumstances that a civil court would entertain a sporting dispute, such as where the basic principles of justice have not been observed by the sports tribunal (i.e. fair hearing, neutrality, independence of the tribunal).  
The ‘judicial independence’ of NCAS is one aspect that must be adequately covered. One avenue that often leads to complication in this regard is the source of funding for the body. NCAS should have its source of funding separated as much as possible from the sports governing bodies whose decisions would be challenged before it from time to time. This is one of the issues that the international Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) set up by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had to contend with before taking its present shape. Since the Adokiye-led NCAS Planning Committee consulted with the IOC’s CAS, I do believe that this aspect of funding has been covered in their report.
As stated in the previous post regarding setting up NCAS (same link above), flowing from the job already done by the Adokiye-led Planning Committee for the setting up of NCAS, the wheels have already been set in motion and all that is needed is added momentum and genuine commitment to get NCAS up and running. This will take sports development, at least in terms of dispute resolution and sports law jurisprudence, in Nigeria to the next level. In this regards, we would join the league of the likes of EU nations and South Africa that are benefitting from adopting alternative dispute resolution as the basic means of resolving sports disputes. Perhaps there is something to be gained from the recent football crisis.

Article was written by Kelvin , a sports law consultant and owner of www.
Follow Kelvin on twitter via: @kcjine1

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