Kuwait government declares war on FIFA with legal action over suspension

By Matt Scott

April 29 – Kuwait’s government has launched legal action against FIFA and other international federations implementing its ban from international sporting competition.

Last year FIFA joined several other global sporting bodies in suspending Kuwait from international events and competitions over government interference in sporting affairs. Now the Kuwaiti government has ratcheted up its campaign against the suspension from international football and Olympic sport to an altogether new level.

A report prepared by the Kuwaiti minister of information and youth affairs, Sheikh Salman Al-Hamoud, and published in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas sets out a strategy to fight back against the international federations implementing the ban, with the key element being court cases against sports governing bodies.

That has put FIFA, whose Kuwaiti executive-committee member Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah has been personally criticised by MPs in his homeland, in the crosshairs.

The report states: “The government appointed a number of experts and legal specialists from Kuwait and outside Kuwait in regard to proceed with a number of the legal court cases to be present at the competent court.”

It goes on: “A foreign law firm has been contracted from outside Kuwait. [It] took all necessary action and filed legal court cases to cancel the IOC and FIFA decision of the suspension of Kuwait and request compensation against the suspension.

“[It also] took all necessary action to file legal cases in the Kuwait court and filed a financial claim against the national sports organisations (Kuwait Olympic committee, Kuwait football federation, Kuwait swimming federation, Kuwait Basketball Federation, Kuwait volleyball federation).

“Seven cases have been filed against the International Olympic Committee and FIFA at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and outside Kuwait.”

Kuwait insists the legislation it brought in last year which led to the FIFA ban is consistent with FIFA statutes and the International Olympic Committee Charter. However it required the intervention of the United Nations to mediate talks between the IOC and Kuwait over the suspensions.

Even so, Kuwait did not carry out the resolutions agreed on in those talks, one of which was to desist all court cases against federations imposing the bans.

The roadmap set out by the United Nations stated: “All court cases brought against the IOC by the GVR of the state of Kuwait and against the KOC and national federations before local courts in the state of Kuwait will be withdrawn.”

Salman Al-Hamoud’s report states: “Kuwait’s government reject to sign the roadmap which was proposed by the IOC, there is no conflict between the laws and Olympic charter.”

Yet Kuwait proposes abolishing its national sporting federations altogether, replacing them with “clubs” more easily controlled by the government. Salman Al-Hamoud’s report proposes “studying [how] to establish specialised clubs to be a replacement for the current national federations.”

There is concern that if Kuwait is permitted to return to the international sporting fold without substantial changes to its sports legislation it will send out an approving message and set a precedent that could endanger the principle of sport’s autonomy.

At the same time as Kuwait launches its legal action it is extending a heavy media and lobbying campaign, which FIFA member associations can expect to receive ahead of the FIFA Congress next month.

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