Vague disciplinary rules blamed for latest chaos

Fawaz Al-Hassawi Fawaz Al-Hassawi

KUWAIT: Kuwait football entered yet another dark tunnel Sunday night after the head of the football association resigned after just over three months in office and one of its top teams withdrew from league competition. Another team is expected to follow suit shortly. Both teams are dropping out after complaints regarding the league's chaotic disciplinary system.

Fawaz Al-Hassawi, the owner of English Championship side Nottingham Forest, was appointed in August after authorities dissolved the Kuwait Football Association amid a clampdown on sports governing bodies that triggered strong international criticism. Hasawi announced his resignation on Twitter late Sunday without giving a reason, but his decision came only hours after the competitions committee at KFA rejected complaints by two league teams over allowing two sides to field suspended players. News reports late yesterday said Hasawi had withdrawn his resignation, but this could not be immediately confirmed.

The controversy started two weeks ago, after Al-Arabi Sports Club filed an official protest to the KFA, claiming that rival Kuwait Sports Club fielded a suspended player during a match between the two sides as part of the VIVA Football League. Kuwait won 2-1. Kuwait's defender Fahd Al-Hajri had received a red card during a Nov 2 match between Kuwait and Kazma Sports Club, held as part of the Crown Prince Cup. Red cards result in an automatic one-game suspension, but because he argued with the referees, he was suspended for an additional game.

The automatic suspension was handed out according to the KFA's competition regulations. But the second-game suspension came from the KFA's disciplinary committee, and was announced on Nov 6. The disciplinary committee can choose from at least two different clauses regarding the additional game suspension. One such clause bars Hajri from playing a second game in any tournament. But another clause bars him only from a second game in the same tournament.

So a problem arose when Hajri played in the VIVA tournament. Arabi argued that Hajri was officially suspended and therefore they should be awarded the match as a walkover 3-0 win. But Kuwait argued that the suspension was only applicable to the Crown Prince Cup and doesn't apply to the VIVA League. The KFA's disciplinary committee supported Kuwait's position and agreed that the suspension is only applicable to the Crown Prince Cup.

KFA's disciplinary committee said it has the sole authority to determine the type, duration and other effects of a suspension. It also pointed out that in case of a conflict, the disciplinary committee's decision is to be followed. As a result, the disciplinary committee rejected Arabi's claim, the committee's chief Saad Al-Bughaili explained to the press. Salmiya Sports Club also filed a very similar complaint against Jahra Sports Club for fielding what it claimed were two 'suspended players'. The disciplinary committee rejected Salmiya's complaint for the same reasons.

After losing the appeal, Arabi announced on Sunday that it was officially withdrawing from the VIVA League. "We are convinced that honorable people in Kuwait's sports scene have become fewer, and therefore we officially announce withdrawing from the VIVA League," said Abdulaziz Ashour, Arabi's Vice President, who posted the withdrawal decision on the club's official Twitter account. Salmiya is also expected to withdraw.

"Justice and equal opportunities do not exist in your federation," Arabi also wrote on its Twitter account addressing Hasawi. "Your presence in the temporary committee tarnishes your sportive history." Hasawi later announced his resignation. Other KFA officials also resigned, including the vice president of the competition's committee Abbas Dashti, as well as temporary management committee members Hussein Al-Khadri and Saleh Al-Enezi.

The turmoil comes just months after the dissolution of KFA's previous board of directors. On Aug 28, the Public Authority for Sports dissolved the board and appointed a temporary management committee led by Hasawi. FIFA suspended KFA and all Kuwaiti teams from international competitions on Oct 16, 2015, claiming government intervention in the association and sports clubs' affairs.

By Ahmad Jabr