FIFA normalisation committee steps-in when stakeholders ‘wrangle’
Experience suggests that normalisation committees do get the job done, even in extreme circumstances28 November 2017 | FT Editor
With the prospect of a ‘Normalisation Committee’ installed by FIFA hanging over Australian football, what is it exactly and what would such a committee do?
There are four other football associations, out of FIFA’s 212 members, with recent or current experience of a normalisation committee: Argentina, Cameroon, Greece and Guinea.
Argentina has been largely leaderless since the death of former longstanding FIFA senior vice-president, Julio Grondona (who was recently named as someone allegedly receiving a bribe in the inaugural ‘FIFA trial’ in a Brooklyn Court). His replacement, Luis Segura, was elected to the top job by a 75-person Congress that produced a 38-38 vote.
If that wasn’t enough to raise eyebrows in Zurich, then the indictment of Segura by US authorities was and FIFA stepped-in to attempt to manage the warring factions of the cash-strapped Argentine football federation in June 2016.
A new president was elected in April this year, after eight months of a normalisation committee, but not before a threat of suspension from the World Cup qualifiers, a players’ strike for non-payment, and a four-match suspension for Lionel Messi. The new president, Claudio Tapia, is the former president of a Third Division club. Tapia is joined on the new Board by, amongst others, the president of Boca Juniors and Independiente.
A normalisation committee was necessary in Greece in an attempt to address extensive poor governance issues in the Hellenic football federation. The federation came on FIFA’s radar after the Greek Sports Ministry cancelled the final of the Greek Cup in 2016 following crowd violence.
FIFA, in turn, threatened to suspend Greece because of government interference, which led to the Greek government eventually allowing the game to proceed behind closed doors. The start of the 2016-17 season was then postponed due to a long-running dispute between Greece’s top clubs, and the federation and the government (!) over the selection of referees. FIFA finally intervened in what might be termed a 'basket case' of a federation by way of a normalisation committee in October last year.
After threats to one committee member and an alleged arson attack at another, normalisation was eventually restored with the Hellenic federation conducting fresh elections in August this year, after 10 months of being run by FIFA. The new executive committee of the federation is continuing to be monitored by FIFA for at least another 12 months.
Cameroon and Guinea
The cases of Cameroon and Guinea are closer to those of Australia.
A normalisation committee was put in place in both countries in an attempt to stop the “wrangling” of the stakeholders, because they were unable to agree on basic issues around electoral process and stakeholder representation. Sound familiar?
The normalisation committee is charged with:
- running the daily affairs of the football association
- drafting new statutes that fulfill the requirements of FIFA statutes as well as the national law
- review the statutes of regional federations and the domestic league competition to ensure their alignment
- identifying the representative bodies to form the Congress, as well as in regional federations, and
- conducting elections to form a new Board.
The normalisation committee in Guinea was brought-in in April 2016 and completed its task 11 months later with the adoption of a new Constitution towards the end of last year, and the election of Antonio Souare as president in March 2017. The Congress of the Guinea football federation comprises:
- all clubs in division 1
- all clubs in division 2 (Guinea has promotion and relegation)
- all clubs in the amateur league competition
- regional assocations, and
- representatives of women, futsal, beach soccer, players, former international players, arbitrators and sports medicine specialists.
There are 14 teams in division 1, but we have not yet confirmed the number of clubs in division 2, the amateur league competition or the number of regional associations. However, on the assumption that each of those group has 10 members, the Guinea Congress numbers in the vicinity of 51 people.
We have not been able to obtain registered player numbers in Guinea, but by way of comparison of scale, Guinea's population is 12.5 million people and football is the most popular sport in the country.
The Cameroon normalisation committee was established in September this year. FIFA says it is not expected to extend beyond February 2018.
Australia put itself on FIFA's radar in November 2015 when Steven Lowy was parachuted into the position of president, replacing his father Frank. From a FIFA perspective, this smacks of entitlement and prompted them to look more closely at FFA's governance processes. Incredulity was the overwhelming view when a country of almost 25 million people was only able to nominate one person for the role of FFA president - the outgoing president's son. More than one FIFA insider has remarked that 'If the same thing happened in Zimbabwe, we'd move in and sort it out.'
However, whether or not a normalisation committee is introduced in Australia depends on the outcome of Thursday’s vote at the AGM/EGM of FFA.
As has been documented previously, the ‘wrangling’ – to borrow a FIFA word – is essentially over one position, but one that makes the difference about whether one faction has the balance of power. We have previously mentioned that the FFA Congress, whether it comprise 10, 16, 17 or even 25 people, is significantly smaller than similar, like-minded nations and their football congresses, as well as a recent instance where FIFA installed a normalisation committee (Guinea).
The prospect of such a dilution of power of the faceless men who run (most of) the state federations perhaps explains their strong wish to maintain the status quo.
The suggestion is that, if the President of Football Federation Victoria Kimon Taliadoros, goes against his own board and votes with the Lowy faction, a normalisation committee may be avoided. Even if it’s not, the rumour mill suggests that FFA has a ‘war-room’ ready to fight FIFA on the basis of Corporations Law v the FIFA Statutes.
If Taliadoros votes with the wishes of his board, which is aligned with the A-League clubs, the PFA and the NSW federation, a normalisation committee will be a fait accompli once the FIFA Member Associations Committee and the Bureau of the FIFA Council meet in the early part of December.
On the basis of those named on normalisation committees in other countries, it is expected that the members of the committee – which is, in effect a time-limited administration – may include a mix of people with experience in football, politics, government and the commercial sector.
This article was updated on 28 November to include the members of the Congress of the Guinea Football Federation.
ffa governance, fifa