This week’s decision by Township Rollers to file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Lausanne in respect of the recent Ofentse Nato ruling has thrown a spanner in the works of operations at the Botswana Football Association (BFA).
An aggrieved Rollers management on Tuesday also demanded that all league programmes be suspended pending the outcome of their appeal. This effectively cancelled the launch of the beMOBILE Premiership Awards nominees at the eleventh hour and threw the programme of the scheduled weekend matches in limbo.
Rollers pinned the BFA to a corner by drawing the association’s attention to the principle of law that could deem the local football governing body in contempt of court should they proceed with the remaining programmes of the league. At press time on Wednesday, both the premier league board and the BFA had not taken a decision on whether the league programme would continue this weekend or not.
However, BFA CEO Kitso Kemoeng revealed that an emergency meeting had been called for this Thursday morning (yesterday) for the BPL Board members to determine what to do in relation to the Rollers’ demands. Rollers have also asked that no league trophy handover be conducted until conclusion of their appeal. This also means that the Awards ceremony that was set for later this month will not take place as well. Neither will the BPL Annual General Assembly that is constitutionally held before the end of May after the conclusion of the season.
There was a concern among the football authorities however that even if the games may continue there could be poor attendance as most people seem to have lost interest in the games. A case in point was the weekend match between Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Nico United attracted a pitiable crowd even when the hosting team’s supporters knew that their club was now on pole position to win the league after the ruling that docked Rollers ten points. Equally, there was also concern that some of the BPL Board members may not be able to attend the emergency meeting called for Thursday as it was scheduled on emergency.
It however remains unlikely that the BPL and the BFA will allow the weekend matches to proceed even if the Thursday morning meeting could succeed. This is because the outcome of the Rollers’ appeal could come back with costly repercussions should FIFA rule that Nato is not a defaulter and Rollers get back the ten points taken away from them.
Rollers who were on the verge of winning the league are challenging the BFA Disciplinary Committee’s ruling that Nato is a defaulter. The BFA’s ruling was also challenged by Nato’s agent Paul Mitchel who wondered why his client is deemed a defaulter this year when he was also registered last year by Gaborone United under similar circumstances to this year.
A highly-placed source within the SADC regional football also cast aspersions on the ruling of the DC, saying arguments used to declare Nato a defaulter could fail at CAS. “The judgement questioned the validity of the player’s International Transfer Certificate (ITC), even calling for it to be cancelled. That is absurd. FIFA would not release the ITC without due diligence. The fact that the ITC was released means FIFA satisfied themselves with all relevant transfer processes,” the source said.
With Nato’s professional contract with his Indian club Atletico de Kolkota expiring in December 2015, the player became a free agent and could register outside the transfer window. After the player and Rollers initiated the application for his ITC on February 9 this year, FIFA issued the certificate on February 12, which was close to two weeks after the closure of the transfer window on January 31. It is reported that in processing Nato’s transfer, the BPL Secretariat then backdated the date stamp as License Plus - a registration software used to transfer players - is defective and would not accept any information entered after Botswana’s transfer window closing date of January 31.
The BFA DC found this action of backdating the stamp to be fraudulent and hence ruled that proper procedure in his transfer was not followed. But the source in question poured scorn on that decision, saying even FIFA is aware of the License Plus defect that has forced associations the world over to backdate stamps depending on the respective national transfer window closure dates tied to it. “It is for this reason that we have seen some players like Thiery Henry and Frank Lampard going back to play in the Barclays Premier League outside their transfer windows.
Even in South Africa, a player called Delron Buckley came from Germany to play in the ABSA Premiership outside the transfer window. Such players were never labelled defaulters,” he said, adding that “something must be wrong with your country’s interpretation of the rules.”In the week leading to the Mascom Top 8 final between Rollers and Orapa United, two local football officials Steven Maleka of the BFA and Olebile Pilara of the BPL were enrolled in a FIFA Connect Programme meant to improve record keeping and database management by the Football Associations in the SADC region.
The workshop which was also attended by representatives from 11 other regional countries, is an improvement on the current player and stakeholder registration processes and was largely hailed as a tool that would help associations arrest the dating problems associated with the defective nature of the License Plus software. “At such workshops that have been taking place the world over since they started in Singapore, FIFA Connect was described as a programme that would bring to an end the practice of doing backdates. That should say to anyone that what happened in your country is a common occurrence,” the source said, adding that Rollers have a bigger chance of winning their case.