Confusion at FFSL-- speculation rife
The world's most popular sport is in ' troubled waters' in Sri Lanka, according to experts, after the decision of Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) to vote in favour of the constitutional amendments tabled at the Annual Congress of the Asian Football Confederation ( AFC) on October 31 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Soon after the news broke in Sri Lanka that FFSL representatives have voted in favour, the country's Ministry of Sports warned the local football administration that it could face ' repercussions' for its decision. Minister of Sports, Faiszer Musthapha, on Thursday summoned the Exe c u t ive Committee of FFSL to further discuss on the issue, after the football administration had breached the ' foreign policy' of Sri Lanka, according to the 'recommendation' of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It is still unclear on what grounds or provisions did the Ministry of Sports gave such an instruction to an independent sports governing body on how to vote at a regional or global congress. Yet, FFSL officials still are of the view that the Ministry of Sports is the sovereign caretaker of sports in Sri Lanka, and it (FFSL) is bound to follow instructions.
At the meeting held on Thursday between the Minister of Sports and the FFSL Executive Committee, it is said that the Minister has instructed the football administration to withdraw its vote, caste on October 31. Neither the Ministry of Sports or FFSL were willing to comment on this.
According to experts, the Minister's request to withdraw a vote used, is hilarious, if such a call was made. However, further according to sources, the FFSL Executive Committee had unanimously decided to vote against, if the AFC allows an individual from a non-member country or an unelected individual from a member country is nominated as a candidate for the Presidency of AFC. This decision was made at a special meeting held after the FFSL Executive Committee met the Minister of Sports, later on Thursday.
According to the now passed amendments of the AFC, it would open the opportunity for non-members or outsiders to become members of its Executive Committee in place of elected members from member countries. Local football experts call the intended constitutional amendment as a 'breach of Foreign Policy adopted by Sri Lanka' as well as a obstruction of rights earned by the FFSL representatives of the AFC.
According to reports, the incumbent President of the AFC, Sheik Salman of Bahrain has been instrumental in bringing forward the constitutional amendments but it was adopted with a majority of 42 while only four countries -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate, South Korea and Uzbekistan -voted against.
FFSL had officially made the AFC aware of its decision in writing later on Thursday. The FFSL's new policy decision, however, would not make much of an impact as the vote to elect an AFC President is conducted through a secret ballot. Even if Sri Lanka votes against the FFSL would not ethically have the right to publicly make any announcement of their decision at a secret ballot. The AFC elections are due mid next year.
According to reports the Minister has instructed the FFSL officials to consult the Ministry of Sports at any future events when similar situations arise, to which the local football administrators have agreed to.
The Minister of Sports, Faizser Musthapha had written to the FFSL President on October 26 after media reports on the move of AFC's constitutional amendments were made public in Sri Lanka. The Minister had confirmed that 'there would not be any interference from him, but to take the best decision in the best interest for football and Sri Lanka'. Later the Minister of Sports in contradiction, after FFSL officials voted in favour of the AFC constitutional amendments, has said that he had verified matters with the Legal Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and their reply was that the amended constitutional change would allow "an individual ( Sri Lankan) not accepted by Sri Lanka could easily make the way into the AFC Executive Committee" and 'it could open doors to serious repercussions if the appointed (Sri Lankan) goes against his own country'.
Local newspapers reported that the Ministry of Sports is contemplating on dissolving the FFSL and appointing an Interim Committee, as well as removing the FFSL President, Anura de Silva and replacing him with a competent authority. But none of the speculations have been confirmed or denied by either parties.
Meanwhile Ranjith Rodrigo, the former President of FFSL, elaborating on the entire episode, explained that the situation was avoidable and the current officials were not prompt enough to take matters seriously.
"It's not easy to take back a decision already made. That's when the importance of making collective decisions work well. The AFC has all the right to table constitutional changes or amendments, and member countries have all the rights to vote in favour or against. But with Sri Lanka's position coming into a balance at that moment, the FFSL officials could have met the AFC officials earlier on, and explained their situation. They (FFSL) could have easily elaborated the AFC on Sri Lanka's stance on this and conveyed the Minister of Sports' concern. Sri Lanka could have easily abstained from voting explanations. I'm sure the AFC would understand, but unfortunately present FFSL officials didn't understand that possibility," Rodrigo explained.
If, as speculated, the Ministry of Sports decides to appoint an interim committee after dissolving the present FFSL administration, Sri Lanka could face serious repercussions from the global and regional bodies of football -- the FIFA and AFC. The matter should be seriously addressed rather than blaming just one or more sides and better explained to AFC and FIFA, instead of making stern statements, which could worsen tides of the already troubled waters of football in Sri Lanka.
Former allies Anura de Silva (L) and Ranjith Rodrigo (R) now turned foes in football