FIFA Gives Serious Warning to The Gambia

Football’s world governing body, FIFA, has written to the President of The Gambia Football Federation on the matter between the Federation and the National Sports Council, giving the authorities until Monday 27th November, to reverse its decision to suspend the leadership of the GFF or the country faces further action which may include a possible suspension.

FIFA also said it repeatedly tried to meet with the Minister of Youth and Sports, Henry Gomez, to discuss the matter, as part of their new approach to engage authorities on such matters before resorting to punitive measures, but to no avail. In a letter signed by the Secretary General of FIFA, Fatima Samura, the second most powerful person in world football said the purported investigations of the internal matters of the Federation and the suspension of the President, his vice presidents and a co-opted member are seen as an undue third party interference of the GFF matters, which it said is against their statutes.

“We refer to the decision of the National Sports Council (NSC) dated 9 November 2017 to suspend you as well as the First Vice President, the Second Vice President, the Third Vice President and a co-opted member of the Executive Committee of The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) on the basis of an alleged refusal to recognise and cooperate with an investigation panel established by the NSC following “allegations of financial fraud, GFF constitutional violations on the Regional Football Associations Elective Congresses, Match Fixing Allegations” and “disregarding directives of the Council to suspend the second division match until the outcome of the investigations” and in order to enable the NSC investigation team to carry out “the investigation without interference from the suspended officials,” the letter read.

“FIFA, including myself, have repeatedly tried to meet during the week from 7 to 12 November 2017, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Henry Gomez, under whose authority the NSC appears to be, in order to discuss the aforementioned matter, but to no avail. In this context, we remind you that in accordance with art. 14 par. 1 let. i), and par. 3, and art. 19 par. 1 of the FIFA Statutes all member associations, including the GFF, are obliged to manage their affairs independently and without undue influence from any third party.”

The letter added that failure to meet these obligations may lead to sanctions as provided for in the FIFA Statutes, including a possible suspension, even if the third-party influence was not the fault of the member association concerned. The aforementioned decision of the NSC dated 9 November 2017, FIFA stressed, seems to go against these principles and, if implemented, would most likely be considered as an undue interference in the affairs of the GFF.

“Consequently, we kindly ask you to share this message with the Minister and indicate to him that if the decision is not withdrawn until Monday, 27 November 2017 the matter would be automatically submitted to the Bureau of the FIFA Council for consideration of further measures in accordance with the FIFA Statutes. In the meantime, we remain at the full disposal of the Gambian authorities to discuss, jointly with the GFF, the issues at hand amicably and in a spirit of constructive partnership.”

A FIFA suspension of The Gambia as a Member Association will attract severe consequences for the country, its athletes, officials and domestic clubs. As well as suspending all its financial support and projects in the country, our national teams will be thrown out of both CAF and FIFA competitions and with the Women U-17 Team on the verge of securing a place at the 2018 World Cup, a FIFA suspension would be catastrophic. Domestic league clubs Gambia Armed Forces and Hawks would equally be thrown out of continental competitions and our officials will not participate in any FIFA recognised competition, thus threatening three-time African Referee of the Year Papa Gassama’s participation at the 2018 Russia World Cup.