Court overturns African soccer leader Hayatou’s ban by FIFA
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Long-time African soccer leader Issa Hayatou won an appeal ruling Saturday to overturn a one-year ban for alleged commercial wrongdoing imposed by FIFA where he was once interim president.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport said it upheld Hayatou’s appeal because “there was insufficient evidence” of misconduct in a Confederation of African Football marketing and media rights deal.
Hayatou was the president of CAF for 29 years until being unseated in a 2017 election where his opponent was supported by FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
The court announced its verdict on the eve of the final of CAF’s marquee African Cup of Nations tournament hosted in Hayatou’s home country, Cameroon.
He was a vice president of FIFA as Africa’s most senior soccer official, and its stand-in president for about four months after the suspension of Sepp Blatter in late-2015 until the election of Infantino.
Now 75, Hayatou had been out of soccer for several years when the FIFA ethics committee banned him last August after investigating a CAF contract with a France-based sports agency.
FIFA-appointed judges said Hayatou broke loyalty rules in the governing body’s code of ethics by signing “an anti-competitive agreement” with Lagardère Sport.
The 12-year deal was worth a reported $1 billion and gave exclusive rights to CAF competitions including the Cup of Nations and African Champions League through 2028. It was canceled after Hayatou left office.
CAS said Saturday its panel of three arbitrators, who held a hearing by video link in December, overturned the ban and a fine of 30,000 Swiss francs ($33,000).
The FIFA case did not affect Hayatou’s honorary membership of the International Olympic Committee. He got honorary status after his 15-year membership ended in 2016.
Hayatou’s successor as CAF president, Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar, was also banned from soccer by the FIFA ethics committee. His sanction for financial wrongdoing was cut in an appeal to CAS but still ruled him out of seeking re-election. It expires at the end of the year.
CAF is now led by Patrice Motsepe, a billionaire mining magnate from South Africa who has become Infantino’s closest ally in FIFA politics.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports