Monday, July 18, 2011

Belize Wins . . . . For Now

Last month I commneted on a conflict between Belize and FIFA over the Belizean government's desire to hold its football federation accountable to national laws related to corruption. At the time I argued that FIFA should not be in a position where it places itself about the enforcement of domestic laws.  Apparently there must be some in FIFA who agree, because FIFA recently temporarily lifted its suspension of the federation, allowing a World Cup qualifying match to take place yesterday against Montserrat, which Belize won 3-1.

A new organization has sprung up in Belize seeking to become recognized as the nation's official football association for purposes of FIFA membership.  The issue is going to court and FIFA is sending a delgation to try to help sort things out.  Here is a local perspective:
On July 7th the Minister of Sports wrote to FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, urging FIFA to “respect the sovereignty of our nation and not impose its will on our people.” This came after FIFA allowed a selection of players to play a game in Trinidad as team Belize even after the government decided not to recognize the organization, FFB, commissioning the athletes. Then again FIFA has decided to allow the team to represent Belize in an upcoming “home game” in Honduras. FIFA’s disregard of the government’s decision is complete disrespect to the country and disregard for its laws. Their decision may be liable in court. However, before the court gets involved, dialogue is often the best solution and FIFA has agreed to dialogue. According to a press release from the National Sports Council, the Ministry of Public Service, Governance Improvement, Elections & Boundaries and Sports received a letter from FIFA dated July 11th, 2011 addressed to the Honorable John Saldivar and signed by Deputy Secretary General, Markus Kattner. The letter stated that “a high ranking FIFA/CONCACAF/UNCAF delegation” will arrive in Belize on July 19th to discuss the current issues at stake with different stakeholders in football.
FIFA's lifting of the suspension of Belize is only until August 15, but nonetheless is a victory for the exercise of national sovereignty in the context of FIFA's tight grip on international foolball. How this situation is resolved will have some important implications for FIFA governance and its relationship to national governments.


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