Will Liberian Football Teams Be Like Deregistered Political Parties? A Look AtFIFA’s New Requirements

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

There is no argument that the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) is a body that is responsible for football activities throughout the world. As the governing body, the association unquestionably has to initiate and promulgate rules and regulations necessary to regulate the activities of the game worldwide.

This means that all football clubs that operate under the banner of its various associations, like the Liberia Football Association (LFA) must abide by these rules and regulations as they relate to specific aspect of the game.

Just recently, while listening to one of the sporting programs on the Liberian Women Democracy Radio, I gathered that the Federation has issued new regulations which must be enforced by LFA. Among the regulations are that teams should have an account of US$10,000, a playing pitch and must have a coach to be certified by its local affiliates.

Frankly, When I heard the report by Michael Weah, formerly of RADIO VERITAS, I was reminded of what happened to many political parties recently because I am of the conviction that these latest regulations or requirements are not practical and feasible, considering the status of about 99 percent of the country’s football teams. In discussing the requirements, the presenter said perhaps only two teamsmay meet the requirements- which he named as Barrack Young Controllers (BYC) and LISCR.

As it is an open secret, sometimes ago, it was reported that the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice has revoked the accreditation and registration of 15 political parties in Liberia.The deregistered political parties concerned are the National Vision Party of Liberia, the National Union for Democratic Progress, Citizens Unification Party, Freedom Alliance Party, Original Congress Party, Liberia Empowerment Party, Progressive Democratic Party, Liberia Destiny Party, National Reformation Party, National Democratic Party of Liberia, Liberia Reconstruction Party, National Social Democratic Party of Liberia, Liberia Equal Rights Party, Majority Party of Liberia and Progressive People’s Party.

The court’s action followed a petition by the National Elections Commission (NEC) on February 10, 2014, at the time, seeking the revocation of the registration and accreditation of 20 registered political parties.According to the petition, the political parties violated Articles 83(d) and 79 (c)(i) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia as well as Part II, Chapter IV of the Guidelines Relating to the Registration of Political Parties and Independent Candidates.

Furthermore, Article 83(d) of the Constitution of Liberia makes it mandatory that every political party in Liberia shall on September 1, of each year, publish and submit to the NEC detailed statements of assets and liabilities. These shall include the enumeration of sources of funds and other assets, plus list of expenditure. Article 79(c)(i) in relevant part mandates that no association shall function as a political party, unless the headquarters of the association is situated in the Republic’s capital.

Also, Part II, Chapter IV of the Guidelines relating to the registration of political parties and Independent candidates mandate that “each political party shall maintain an updated bank account with a balance not less than 10,000 United States Dollars or its equivalence in Liberian Dollars.

Today, I try to establish a link between what happened to those parties and what may happen to many of our football teams in keeping with the new requirements of FIFA, especially so as it relates to the issue of bank account because I know most of these clubs operate from the “pockets” of individuals, for which they are financially impotent. And so to abide by this new requirement is tantamount to asking these clubs to cease to operate.

My experience over the years have shown that in thiscountry we establish teams just for the sole purpose of entertainment or the fun, without considering the economic or business nature of the game.In fact, players played those days because of the “love for the game” and not for income.

Likewise, those selected from those first division teams that played for the national team- THE LONE STAR did so, too, for the love of the game, as the teams had not been operating in the businesslike manner, something for which they are faced with problems in an era that the game is money-making venture.

It is only in recent times, that something like compensation has been given to some of these local players and others who played for the national team.The organizers or founders of these Liberian football teams never thought about the business aspect of the game, and so, the teams have not been able to operate also as business entities to make them financially viable.

Many of the so-called big teams such as Mighty Barrolle,Invincible Eleven, and St. Joseph Warriors, founded in New Kru Town by Bro. Joseph of the Catholic Church many years ago, which should have set good examples are themselves today caught in this quagmire, as they cannot even afford to operate these teams financially, knowing the negligible amount they accrued from gate intakes.

In most instances because most of these teams lack additional income, they always face difficulties in participating in national leagues whenever the few supporters decide to discontinue their support because of the exorbitant financial burdens involved in operating these clubs. As a result, some of them have been relegated or demoted.

Others like Bame,which means, “Let’s Die” in the Kru vernacular, no longer exists because of this same financial burden. In some cases, former players, fans and admirers tried to keep the teams alive, but they always found it difficult because of the same lack of funds to operate their former clubs.

Indeed, considering the financial plight of the football teams in this country, I am concerned like the LFA of Mr. Musa Bility, as was reported in the NEWS NEWSPAPER on Monday and I am therefore joining the LFA bypleading with FIFA to relax some of these requirements and allow it enforce at least 30% which includes, among other things, havingactive bank accounts, salary structures for players and shouldoperate from an office that would be recognized as headquarters.

The LFA said three or four teams can form a partnership to own a building that would be recognized as an office. Similarly, it noted that a number of clubs can also partner to own home-ground. But the FA says exemption would be given to the clubs this season until the capacity to purchase land and develop same is demonstrated.

The LFA, according to the paper, also informed the clubs that its venues across the country would be distributed for the coming season and onward until they have the capacity to purchase land and develop same into their playing pitch. It said also that with these exemptions, the only burden the clubs are faced with is to ensure that they have at least bank accounts that would state a well laid out salary structure for their players as well as other administrative functions of the clubs should be intact.

I welcome the move by FIFA in promoting the game worldwide, but from the football clubs’ financial positions in this country, there is a need to relax some of these requirements if football is to continue here. Financially, 99 percent of the football clubs are ‘living dead’, or near collapse and so to enforce these requirements, would only be likened to pouring water on a drowning person.

Until the FIFA sees reasons to accept the plea of the LFA, the stringent enforcement of these new requirements would only see the dissolution or demise of 99 percent of the country’s football teams, including the two archrivals – Barrolle and I.E.I REST MY CASE.