Fink: Bin Hammam verdict raises questions

ESPNSTAR.com columnist Jesse Fink believes questions should be asked of the FIFA ethics committee which dragged Mohamed Bin Hammam 'through the mud'.

Football News: Sepp Blatter, Les Murray

Singapore-based academic James M. Dorsey, whose excellent blog The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer gets regular plugs in this column (do yourself a favour and read it), spells it out plainly in his latest post.

"The Court of Arbitration for Sport's dismissal of bribery charges against ousted FIFA vice-president Mohamed Bin Hammam paints a troubling picture of the status of good governance, accountability and transparency as well as ethical and moral standards in world soccer,"he writes. 

"It portrays FIFA's banning of Mr Bin Hammam for life from involvement in professional soccer as having effectively been based on flimsy evidence, inconclusive investigations and witnesses whose credibility is in question."

Or in the words of the CAS report itself: "FIFA's acceptance of ‘absolute discretion' and ‘personal convictions' as an evidentiary standard of proof is contrary to the standards of due process" and didn't go anywhere to meeting the "standard of proof" of "comfortable satisfaction" to be able to arrive at an adverse finding against the currently suspended president of the Asian Football Confederation.

In court, Bin Hammam's lawyers argued there was "lack of probative evidence showing that Mr Bin Hammam orchestrated cash gifts to influence voting".

The CAS agreed.

It was "not convinced" Bin Hammam "made monies available to delegates attending the CFU meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago on May 10 and 11, 2011, for the purposes of inducing them to vote for him in the election for the presidency of FIFA".

Which should have been plain enough when this lamentable saga started over a year ago. FIFA's own hopeless Code of Ethics, full of holes and escape hatches, was never going to be enough to collar Bin Hammam.

Section 11.1, the part dealing with bribery, stipulates: "Officials may not accept bribes; in other words, any gifts or other advantages that are offered, promised or sent to them to incite breach of duty or dishonest conduct for the benefit of a third party shall be refused."

How was it ever to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Bin Hammam intended "to incite breach of duty or dishonest conduct for the benefit of a third party"?

The Port of Spain incident that sparked these proceedings might have appeared iffy - and it still does; no one has categorically "cleared" Bin Hammam and suspicions will remain - but appearances or simple hunches shouldn't have been sufficient to convince FIFA's ethics committee of his guilt and led to the ultimate sanction of a lifetime ban from football. The CAS was not persuaded to find him guilty. A "personal conviction" and a legal conviction are two different things.

Which now raises the question of what is going to be done about the people who banned Bin Hammam in the first place.

In my view, all members of the ethics committee that had a hand in Bin Hammam's ban should be stood down and grilled by new ethics committee chairmen Michael Garcia and Hans-Joachim Eckert before being allowed to take their places in either the committee's new investigatory chamber or adjudicatory chamber.

If they couldn't follow their own code to the letter, why are they being rewarded with new roles?

They are Petrus Damaseb of Namibia (investigatory chamber), Les Murray of Australia (investigatory chamber), Juan Pedro Damiani of Uruguay (adjudicatory chamber) and Robert Torres of Guam (adjudicatory chamber).

If FIFA wants to start with a clean slate, it's time for a full explanation on how Bin Hammam was dragged through the mud.



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