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Palestine v. Israel: 1:0? Palestine, Israel and FIFA: What Are the Laws of the Game? Part II

Published on June 25, 2015        Author: 

This is Part II of a two-part post. See Part I here.

Suspension of membership

A second category of FIFA membership issues related to international law relates to possible suspension of membership. Under Art. 14 FIFA Statute, it is the FIFA Congress that is responsible for suspending a member association, such suspension requiring a three-quarter majority of the Members present and eligible to vote. In case of a positive vote on such suspension, other FIFA member associations may for the duration of the suspension no longer entertain sporting contacts with the suspended member.

Although not constituting a suspension in the technical sense, it is worth noting that after World War II even after the German Football Association (DFB) had been refounded, it took until 1950 that its full FIFA membership rights were reinstated at the 1950 Bruxelles FIFA congress.

The first time suspension from FIFA stricto senso came up was in the 1950s vis-à-vis South Africa after a FIFA emergency committee had found in 1955 that the South African Football Association (SAFA), representing only white minority football clubs, did not constitute a national association within the meaning of relevant FIFA rules. It thereby somewhat foreshadowed the practice of the Credentials Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which, as is well-known, ever since 1974 had considered that representatives of the white minority regime in South Africa could not represent South Africa for United Nations purposes. On 26 September 1961, at the annual FIFA conference, the South African football association was then formally suspended from FIFA, which suspension was however lifted in January 1963, albeit only for a short time. Soon thereafter, namely in 1964, and given the increased representation from African and Asian soccer associations within FIFA, the suspension of South Africa’s football association’s membership was re-imposed before South Africa was then, in 1976, formally expelled from FIFA. Finally, the South African association was re-admitted in July 1992 in the wake of the fundamental political changes then taking place in South Africa. This demonstrates how the policy of FIFA and its member associations was, if not influenced, by then at least parallel to, the concurrent development of modern international law related to the prohibition of racial discrimination.

Yet another development leading to the suspension of a national football association occurred during the Yugoslav crisis after the Security Council had, acting under Chapter VII, adopted resolution 757 (1992), and had thereby “[d]ecide[d] that all States shall (…) [t]ake the necessary steps to prevent the participation in sporting events on their territory of persons or groups representing the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)” (see para. 8 lit. b) of the text) Read the rest of this entry…

 
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Palestine v. Israel: 1:0? Palestine, Israel and FIFA: What Are the Laws of the Game? Part I

Published on June 24, 2015        Author: 

On 12 June 1015, the FIFA Executive Committee appointed former South African government minister Tokyo Sexwale to lead a monitoring committee to oversee issues related to the development of football in Palestine, and alleged interferences, by Israel, with such development. This committee was established on the basis of the decision by the 65th FIFA Congress in May 2015 after the Palestine Football Association had withdrawn its proposal to have the Israel Football Association suspended from FIFA. While this development has largely been overshadowed by the recent developments concerning alleged instances of corruption involving FIFA officials, and the ensuing announcement by the current FIFA’s President, Sepp Blatter, to resign from his position, it sheds light on the international law underpinnings of decisions made by FIFA when it comes to the status of contested territories in which a given national soccer association is based. What is more, it demonstrates how, over the years, the practice of FIFA has changed in light of developments of international law and what impact international law has when it comes to the current dispute FIFA is confronted with.

Membership in FIFA

During its early years, the FIFA Statute had simply provided that the organization consisted of “the Associations recognized by FIFA as the Associations controlling Association Football in their respective countries, provided that only one Association be recognized in each country” (see FIFA Handbook, 1st ed. 1927, p. 15; see also H. Homburg, FIFA and the ‘Chinese question’ 1954 – 1980: an Exercise of Statutes, Historical Social Research 2006, p. 69 et seq. (71)). Since 1937, FIFA had however already admitted “associations in a colony or dominion” which could then opt for directly joining FIFA whenever the “national football association of the mother country” [sic!] had signaled its consent (ibid., p. 71), thus being implicit evidence of the limited international personality of such dependent territories at the time. In the same vein, the FIFA 1937 Statutes had also provided that “[f]or countries placed under the protectorate of another country, the same principles as for dominions for colonies will be in force.” (ibid.).

As of today, Membership in FIFA is governed by its ‘Regulations Governing the Admission of Associations to FIFA’, Principle 1 of which currently provides that “[a]ny association that is seeking admission to FIFA must put forward an application that contains detailed information on its organisation, its sporting infrastructure and its territory”. Accordingly, each and every membership organization must provide data on the underlying scope ratione loci of its sphere of activities, which in case of territories, the status of which under international law is subject to dispute, might prove difficult. At the same time, Principle 3, para. 1, lit. a) thereof, dealing with the ‘Contents of application’, provides, apart from formalities, that any application for membership must include “[d]ocuments that show that the applicant represents a country in accordance with article 10 of the FIFA Statutes.” Art. 10 FIFA Statutes in turn, dealing with the admission of nationals soccer associations to FIFA, provides in its para. 1 that “[s]ubject to par. 5 and par. 6 below, only one Association shall be recognised in each Country”. For historical reasons, para 5 then provides that “[e]ach of the four British Associations [i.e. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland] is recognised as a separate Member of FIFA”, which thereby by the same token e contrario shows that these regions would otherwise not qualify as ‘countries’ for FIFA purposes. What is more is that Art. 10 para. 6 FIA Statute further provides that “[a]n Association in a region which has not yet gained independence may, with the authorisation of the Association in the Country on which it is dependent, also apply for admission to FIFA.” It is in light of these statutory provisions that football associations from ‘territories’ as divergent as Aruba, the British Virgin Islands, ‘Chinese Taipei’, Hong Kong, the Faroe Islands, as well as New Caledonia, are as of today all members of FIFA, the lack of statehood of the respective underlying ‘territory’ notwithstanding. Read the rest of this entry…

 
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