The Observer (Kampala)

17 January 2013

Uganda: What If Fifa Banned Uganda?

Everyday and another story-line. Since Jessica Alupo, the minister of Education and Sports, made a directive in December that she wants Fufa and the Uganda Super League (USL) to forge a way forward to have one top-flight League by January 31, so much has been making the rounds.

By insisting that it should be the league with sponsors, it appeared like she was already siding with the USL that has SuperSport and Bell as its sponsors. Inevitably, some Fufa officials expressed disquiet to what they viewed as a leading statement.

Some, whom I have talked to, say Alupo's move is tantamount to government interference, which could lead to a Fifa ban.

So, what if Uganda is banned?

If that happened, The Cranes would be out of the 2014 World Cup or Chan qualifiers this year. In addition, Ugandan clubs would be closed out of any Caf competition. Ugandan players would, therefore, miss out on any international exposure and they wouldn't be able to make moves to foreign and better-paying leagues.

See, once a country is banned, by extension, players would have no chance of securing an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) since the system that ensures player transfers from one national league to another is coordinated by Fifa. The current Fufa administration too would be out of office until the ban is lifted.

This would mark the end of the Fufa Super League. And the USL? It would be difficult for the USL to keep its sponsors. Without Fifa recognition, it's unlikely SuperSport, a Fifa partner, would continue telecasting games without any continental significance. In essence, neither Fufa nor the USL stands to benefit from a Fifa ban. But then again, does Fifa just ban nations without substantial reason?

When former Minister of Education and Sports Namirembe Bitamazire disbanded the late Dennis Obua's Fufa's executive for financial mismanagement and maladministration, Fifa didn't ban Uganda. While the move would have earned a ban, it wasn't interpreted as interference. Fifa realises that its member associations must abide by the laws of the land in which they are situated.

So, following Bitamazire's action, Fifa instead instituted a Normalisation committee to run the game in the interim that year, headed by Dr James Sekajugo. This is because Fifa's "standard cooperation agreement" recognises governments as their first line of involvement with any nation. The football association comes second. Fifa adds in this agreement's article 39 of dispute resolution that national laws and relevant Fifa laws shall apply.

So, Alupo's directive must be seen in this light as intervention and not interference. Just last February, Charles Bakkabulindi, the state minister of sports arbitrated in a meeting between Fufa and the USL at the Oasis restaurant in Lugogo. Bakkabulindi, who is Alupo's deputy, passed a directive with six listed points that the USL had to abide by if the league they run was to go on with Fufa approval.

One of the things the USL had to do was to repeat all games that were played without using Fufa appointed referees while the other was to follow the football rules as sanctioned by Fufa, among other things. Fufa was delighted by that move - it put the USL in check until the league ended in June. This of course wasn't interference - it must have been intervention.

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