Mohamed Bin Hammam’s original concern to obtain a quick verdict from the Court of Arbitration for Sport so he can defend his power base within the Asian Football Confederation has gone out of a Swiss window.
Originally the Qatari had intimated he wanted speedy process from CAS in his bid to overturn the life ban imposed by FIFA over bribery allegations – which he denies – in last year’s FIFA presidential contest (co-starring the CFU, CONCACAF, Jack Warner, Chuck Blazer, John Collins, Louis Freeh, an assortment of Caribbean federations, etc).
His reasoning was based on the window of opportunity handed to him by the statutes of the Asian confederation. These signalled it could not move to elect a presidential successor until May of this year. Hence China’s Zhang Jilong remains ‘merely’ interim president.
Bin Hammam had talked initially and optimistically about having sport’s supreme court overturn the FIFA ban in time for him to regain command of the AFC, or at least freeze any immediate prospect of it moving to elect a successor.
But CAS, after a two-day hearing of Bin Hammam’s appeal on Wednesday and Thursday this week, indicated it would be two months before the verdict emerged and, in any case, that neither Bin Hammam nor FIFA had asked it to rush to judgment.
Bin Hammam had always professed his confidence in the independent status of CAS; he had not expected FIFA’s appeals committee, last autumn, to do anything more than support the world federation’s original punishment.
So what has changed?
Sources within the Asian football community suggest that Bin Hammam, having had an appeal for an interim ban on Zhang’s promotion already rejected by CAS, may be losing faith in any form of sporting justice; that he now sees going to CAS as merely a step on the inevitable road to the Swiss federal court.
CAS heard from, and cross-examined, 10 witnesses. Bin Hammam was not present to state his own case. Some legal systems allow the judges or magistrates or juries to “take a view” on silence. How this plays with CAS is an open question, depending on what was said in court (which remains confidential).
In the meantime, the absence of an early decision means Bin Hammam’s would-be presidential successors within the AFC can step up their electioneering plans.
** CAS hearings are closed to public and media with little information emerging beyond the basic facts. The CAS panel was chaired by Jose Maria Alonso (Spain) supported by Englishman Philippe Sands (Bin Hammam’s nominee) and Belgian’s Romano Subiotto (FIFA’s nominee).
Afterwards Mohamed Bin Hammam’s American lawyer, Eugene Gulland, read a prepared statement. He said Bin Hammam had “presented a strong case and he looks forward with great hope that the court will find … that FIFA has not proved its charges against him.”
He added: “Mr Bin Hammam has always insisted on his innocence, and he has always rejected the charges of vote-buying and bribery that FIFA brought against him.”
Gulland did not address the issue of Bin Hammam’s absence.
By Keir Radnedge