Former FIFA governance chair Maduro questions legality of Samoura’s African gig

By Osasu Obayiuwana

August 15 – Miguel Maduro, the immediate past chairman of FIFA’s Governance Committee, has questioned the legitimacy of the appointment of Fatma Samoura as FIFA’s General Delegate for Africa, while the Senegalese still functions as the Secretary-General of football’s world governing body. 

“There seems to be no legal basis for the decision taken by both FIFA and CAF, under their respective statutes, to create this new position, as a ‘General Delegate for Africa’,” Maduro (pictured) told Insideworldfootball on Wednesday.

“This is particularly so, because she does not have a simple advisory role. She will, notably, ‘oversee operational management of CAF’,” observed Maduro, once a Visiting Professor of Law at Yale University and a Fulbright Visiting Research Scholar at Harvard Law School.

“The exercise of a position, with decision-making powers, requires a clear legal basis under the [FIFA and CAF] statutes,” Maduro went on.

“If that is not the case, then there’s a Rule of Law problem: it is a core aspect of any Rule of Law system that no power can be exercised without an empowering rule.

“Secondly, holding these two positions creates a potential for conflicts of interest.”

The 52-year-old Portuguese was removed from his FIFA post in May 2017, barely a year into what was expected to be a four-year tenure.

Maduro and his committee refused, in March 2017, to clear Russia’s Vitaly Mutko to contest the FIFA executive committee elections, at the end of his previous four-year term, on the grounds on conflict of interest.

As a member of the Russian government – being the country’s Sport Minister – it was regarded as incompatible with the need for FIFA executive committee members to be independent of political interests.

Maduro is very critical of the role of Samoura, in FIFA’s current plan to take control of the sale of media and marketing rights, of the 54 national federations and associations that make up the Confederation of African Football (CAF), for the qualifying matches of the 2022 and 2026 World Cups.

Under the centralisation arrangement – which will be irrevocable, once signed by any African federation – FIFA has proposed that: “All media rights (first, second and third-party) including live, delayed and highlights coverage, and on all distribution platforms to all matches of the FIFA African Qualifiers 2022 and 2026 (including the playoffs), to be centrally marketed by FIFA.”

“The issue of the centralisation of broadcasting rights is a good example [of a conflict of interest],” Maduro observes.

“Their centralised management could be given by the FAs to either CAF or FIFA, so there are potential competing interests that put the FIFA Secretary General in a conflict of interests.

“Her dual role as Secretary-General of FIFA and the de facto leader of CAF (overseeing it) seems to run contrary to the strict separation of powers between the administration and the political leadership of football, that was one of the core principles of the 2015 Governance Reform.”

Maduro, says that the FIFA Governance Committee, now headed by Indian Mukul Mudgal, with whom he served, has a duty, under its “general powers”, to examine the ethical propriety of Samoura’s current position.

“[While] the Governance Committee has no power to review specific decisions taken by the FIFA Council – it can only issue binding decisions in matters involving elections and eligibility to FIFA committees – it could, under its general power to advise the Council and to deal with FIFA Governance matters, issue a recommendation regarding this matter.

“It could also consider that the new role played by the Secretary-General, as General Delegate to Africa, would put into question her eligibility to remain as Secretary-General.”

However, Maduro warned that the intervention of the governance committee does not come without its risks.

“It (their involvement in examining Samoura) would be a controversial interpretation of the powers granted to the Governance Committee.

“In principle, the rules seem to assume that eligibility checks [to assess a person’s suitability for office] are done only before someone takes up office.

“[But] once that happens, any subsequent event that would affect the eligibility criteria (such as a potential conflict of interest) can (and should) be assessed by the Ethics Committee.

“The hypothetical question was raised, during my tenure as Chair of the Governance and Review Committees, as to whether this Committee could also not revoke the eligibility in such cases. But no case appeared before us that required us to actually decide on that, so the issue remained purely hypothetical at that time.

“It would be inappropriate for me to say what the Governance Committee would have decided [in this situation] if I were still the Chairman, since that would always involve my colleagues, the majority of which left with me too.”

With FIFA President Gianni Infantino being directly responsible for the premature end of Maduro’s term, as a result of his displeasure over the Vitaly Mutko affair, one would expect the Portuguese to have harsh words for the man that removed him.

But he surprisingly has a somewhat measured view of the Swiss-Italian, as he argues that fundamental flaws within the football governance system, which go beyond individuals, are responsible for the disturbing state of affairs.

“President Infantino is no different than past, and likely, future Presidents of FIFA, with regards to independent committees.

“The political cartel that dominates football creates a set of incentives whereby the expectation is that a President is supposed to control such independent bodies and be made responsible for their decisions.

“This creates incentives for the Presidency to interfere with such independent committees or to replace them when they actually act independently.

“It’s a systemic problem with football governance culture that will not change by simply changing the President.”

The independence and integrity of FIFA’s judicial bodies – the prosecutorial and adjudicatory chambers of its Ethics Committee – have come under close examination, since the July 24 decision to ban Liberian Musa Hassan Bility, the CAF executive committee member, for 10 years, after it found him guilty of misappropriating FIFA funds.

While the FIFA Ethics Committee arrived at its verdict on February 12, it mysteriously took them over five months to announce the verdict and issue the ban to Bility.

“I’ve no knowledge of the facts [of the Bility case], in order to comment. I’ve been, however, a long time defender of the position that the Ethics Committee should be more transparent about its work calendar and the reasoning behind its verdicts.

“There are complaints that it never provides any feedback on its cases or provides details on whether it has closed a case or not. This is not good practice, in terms of the Rule of Law.”

Contact the writer of this story, Osasu Obayiuwana, at moc.l1601202252labto1601202252ofdlr1601202252owedi1601202252sni@o1601202252fni1601202252