Bin Hammam Upbeat Despite Losing FIFA Appeal; Lengthy Legal Battle at CAS

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Bin Hammam: "My next step is to go to CAS where from now on, I will be equal to my rival."
(WFI) FIFA today rejected Mohamed Bin Hammam's appeal against a lifetime ban. The Qatari says he didn't bother to make a big effort to prove his innocence because of bias against him and will "confidently" take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport - the first independent body to adjudicate on bribery charges against him.

The 62-year-old Qatari wrote on his blog tonight that he felt "relieved because for the last three months I felt helpless and was sure that all the efforts, time and money I am spending was just a waste".

"Of course, today’s outcome from the appeal committee was not unexpected or surprising. To be fair to the appeal committee members though, as a consequence of our experiences with the ethics committee, we didn’t make serious efforts to prove my innocence this time around," he said.

"We even thought to write to FIFA to ‘skip’ the appeals procedure and to have a directly guilty verdict from the appeal committee in order for us to go directly to CAS."

Remaining upbeat about clearing his name, Bin Hammam added: "Anyhow, I can now see, at last, light at the end of the tunnel and I am heading confidently towards it.

"My next step is to go to CAS where from now on, I will be equal to my rival."

The FIFA Appeal Committee, under the chairmanship of Ecuador's Francisco Acosta, met on Thursday for seven hours before upholding the ban handed down by the ethics committee on July 23, which found him guilty of seven counts of misconduct.

The 62-year-old Qatari was punished for allegedly offering $40,000 bribes to Caribbean football officials in May during his campaign to oust Sepp Blatter in the FIFA presidential race. Blatter was re-elected for a final four-year term on June 1.

"The appeal made by Mohammed bin Hammam has been rejected and the decision of the FIFA Ethics Committee confirmed. The sanction of being banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at national and international level for life has therefore been maintained," said the FIFA statement.

FIFA's original ethics committee report had said there was "compelling" evidence that the Asian football boss together with former CONCACAF chief Jack Warner had bribed Caribbean Football Union members.

Bin Hammam, who has denied any wrongdoing and vociferously criticised FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the
ethics committee process in recent weeks, always expected to lose the appeal.

He claimed he was the victim of a kangaroo court after he was slapped with the lifetime ban in July.

Commenting on today's ruling, his American lawyer Eugene Gulland said in a statement carried by AP: "Mr. Bin Hammam has already gone on record stating that he was not optimistic of justice prevailing from the FIFA appeals process but this was a protocol to enable him to obtain access to CAS."

Bin Hammam is also upset about the appointment of China's Zhang Jilong as acting president of the Asian Football Confederation amid the Qatari's battle to clear his name; he had been re-elected as Asian Football Confederation president for another four-year term in January.

Gulland said a separate legal proceeding was being taken to CAS challenging the right of FIFA to designate Zhang Jilong as Bin Hammam's replacement at the helm of the AFC and allowing him sit on the FIFA Executive Committee, which next meets Oct. 20 to 21.

"These decisions infringe the Asian Football Confederation's constitution," Gulland said.

"We also continue to champion the need for transparency and call on FIFA to publish the transcripts of the appeals panel as well as that of the Ethics Committee proceedings in July."

Lengthy legal fight ahead for Bin Hammam
FIFA's appeals body is expected to provide Bin Hammam with the written decision for its ruling in the coming weeks; he did not receive the ethics committee's explanations for his July 23 ban for nearly a month after that decision.

A CAS spokeswoman told INSIDER that Bin Hammam's case had been "on our radar" for some time.

She said a hearing could be slotted in among existing cases before the end of the year but certain procedures had to be observed.

Once Bin Hammam receives FIFA's written reasons for rejecting his appeal, he would then have 10 days to offer his statement of appeal to the Lausanne court.

This would briefly set out his arguments for contesting the ruling and he is invited to nominate an arbitrator from a CAS list. FIFA will also choose an arbitrator, with CAS installing a third person to complete the arbitration panel.

Under CAS procedures, she said a further 10 days would be granted for Bin Hammam to assemble and submit a larger dossier of evidence - known as an appeal brief - including witness statements.

FIFA would then have 20 days to respond by filing its own dossier of evidence before any CAS hearing.

Assuming FIFA's written decisions arrive in Bin Hammam's hands by the end of September, the very earliest Bin Hammam's case would be heard at CAS is the middle of November. This seems optimistic. With the possibility of extensions being granted at different stages, further delays to Bin Hammam's day of judgement are to be expected and the case could easily roll into 2012.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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