FIFA postpones making decision on six West Bank soccer clubs

The issue of the six West Bank clubs remains in limbo.

January 12, 2017 18:59
2 minute read.
PALESTINIAN KIDS protest in favor of ejecting Israel from FIFA, the soccer federation, last month

PALESTINIAN KIDS protest in favor of ejecting Israel from FIFA, the soccer federation. (photo credit: REUTERS)

FIFA postponed a controversial decision on the fate of the six Israeli soccer clubs based in the West Bank at a meeting of the FIFA Council, the world soccer organization’s top decision-making body, held on Monday and Tuesday.

“A decision was not made today,” FIFA President Giovanni Infantino told a group of reporters at the organization’s headquarters in Zurich after the meeting.

After the Palestinian Football Association in May 2015 withdrew its request to oust Israel from FIFA, FIFA agreed to create a monitoring committee, headed by former South African minister Tokyo Sexwale, to manage the issue of the six West Bank clubs in addition to other issues affecting Palestinian soccer, including freedom of movement and access to equipment.

The Palestinian Football Association has long maintained that the West Bank clubs, which are part of the Israel Football Association, are in violation of FIFA bylaws because they are located in what the international community considers occupied territory. Meanwhile, the Israel Football Association maintains that FIFA should not decide on the issue because it is beyond its purview to determine Israel’s borders.

While progress has been made on the issue of movement and equipment, the issue of the West Bank clubs remains in limbo.

At the meeting of the FIFA Council in October, FIFA was expected to make a final decision on the matter, but ultimately deferred it.

There was also an expectation that FIFA would make a final decision during this week’s FIFA Council meeting, but it was put off once again.

On Tuesday, Infantino said that FIFA would make one final effort to bring the Israeli and Palestinian sides to a solution through dialogue.

“Tokyo Sexwale was tasked to have a final meeting with the two associations to see whether they can come together with a football solution,” Infantino said, clarifying that FIFA believes the dispute is “not about politics, but rather football.”

Following the FIFA Council’s October deferment, Palestinian Football Association Chairman Jibril Rajoub said that if FIFA delays the issue any further, the PFF would turn to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, an international body tasked with resolving legal disputes in sports.

As of Thursday, Rajoub had yet to decide whether to bring the case before the court.

FIFA, however, may issue a final decision on the matter after it receives a report from the FIFA monitoring committee next month.

“Within one month from now we expect the final report to be produced by Tokyo Sexwale and then we will take a decision,” Infantino said.

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