FIFA suspends CIFA boss

Friday March 08, 2019 Written by Published in Soccer
FIFA suspends CIFA boss

World football governing body FIFA has suspended Cook Islands Football Association (CIFA) president Lee Harmon for three months.

 

The suspension, which came into effect from yesterday, bans Harmon from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level.

He has also been handed a fine of $29,250 (20,000 Swiss francs).

Harmon, who is also the vice-president of Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and a member of the powerful FIFA Council, was found guilty of reselling tickets at last year’s World Cup in Russia, by the FIFA Ethics Committee.

However in an email to CI News, he denied receiving any personal benefit from the ticket sales, adding it was done on behalf of CIFA.

In a statement, FIFA said the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee accepted a “plea bargain” submitted by the chairperson of the investigatory chamber and Harmon.

It said the investigation into the CIFA head concerning the resale of 2018 FIFA World Cup tickets was opened on July 26 last year.

FIFA said the sanctions on Harmon was in accordance with the FIFA Code of Ethics, the “parties have mutually agreed” on the penalties handed down to him.

Harmon said the suspension involved the sale of 2018 World Cup tickets “on behalf of CIFA”.

He said he was only trying to help his federation.

“I did not receive any benefit personally. The arrangement was pursuant to a written contract, approved by CIFA and all transactions took place through CIFA’s bank account, which is audited annually,” Harmon said.

He also questioned the timing of the suspension which he referred to as “like a speeding ticket”.

“The timing of the suspension is unfortunate and is on the eve of the Oceania Football (OFC) Elections to be held in Auckland today, where I was running for OFC president and FIFA council member,” Harmon said.

“I can't understand why they started the inquiry in the middle of last year 2018 and hand down my suspension yesterday (Thursday).

Harmon also said he could resume all football duties after three months “if I want to”.

It is unclear at this stage who will head the national football body while he is serving his suspension.

Harmon has been CIFA president since 1997 and in 2011, he became OFC vice-president. Along with being on several FIFA committees, he has been a match commissioner and referee assessor at various FIFA tournaments and international matches.

In September, 2016, he became one of the 36 members of the FIFA Council which is a non-executive, supervisory and strategic body that sets the vision for FIFA and global football. According to Daily Mail, the annual salary of a council member is about $368,000 (£190,000) plus generous travel expenses.

Harmon’s suspension from all levels of football means he cannot attend next week’s FIFA Council meeting, where the members will discuss plans to revamp the Club World Cup, as well as the idea to expand the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from 32 teams to 48.

Meanwhile Harmon’s suspension comes just days after the former OFC and Papua New Guinea Football Association president David Chung was banned from all football-related activities for six-and-a-half years.

Chung, who was also the FIFA vice-president, was fined about $148,000 for offering and accepting gifts as well as conflict of interest.

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