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FFIRI taking AFC and Saudis to court.

Mehdi Taj, the President of Iran’s football association FFIRI has announced that a delegation headed by Ali Kaffashian will proceed to Switzerland to present Iran’s case against the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and Saudi Arabia.

After the breaking of political relation between the two countries, the Saudi Football authorities refused to allow its teams to travel to Iran citing security fears. The AFC , which is led by a Bahraini Shaikh, and no doubt influenced by dominating Arab lobby in the Asian Ruling body, immediately accepted the Saudi argument and ordered both countries to play their matches against each other on neutral ground. This move, not only put a huge burden on Iranian teams which are already suffering financial hardship but also deprived them from that world-famous passionate support they usually receive in Azadi stadium.

Iran’s FFIRI grudgingly accepted the AFC ruling initially , however, it consulted several law firms and international legal consultancies to determine the legitimacy of the ruling by AFC. Neither United Nation nor FIFA or any other world bodies for that matter, has announced that Iran is a war zone or it is an unsafe venue for football or other  sport activities. The Saudi move was purely politically motivated and AFC had failed to execute its due diligence when it issued the ruling against Iran. The AFC ruling was against AFC’s own principles about politics in football. 

As recently as last month, the AFC has written to its Member Associations reiterating that all stakeholders involved in Asian football must respect the principle of political neutrality.

The letter sent by the AFC stressed that the principle is a cornerstone of both the AFC and of the international sports movement, and is reflected in Article 3.2 of the AFC Statutes, which states: “the AFC is neutral in all matters of politics and religion”.

In the case that FFIRI has lodged in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ,  the Iranians are demanding that AFC reverse its ruling and allow Iranian teams and clubs to exercise its right to play at home grounds in front of its own crowds,  in addition to a demand  for compensation for all the expenses incurred by travelling Iranian teams and officials. The defendant is AFC and its head, Shk. Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, 

The case put forward by FFIRI will be quite interesting for Qatar. There is very little doubt that Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain teams will refuse to play in Qatar putting due to the recent break of relationship. As such this will put immense pressure on the AFC to obey the Saudi lobby and traet Qatari teams the same as it treated the Iranians. Qatar, like Iran , is a safe country and will be hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022.  No doubt that the Saudi lobby will claim some terrorism allegation for its case against Qatar.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS; French: Tribunal arbitral du sport, TAS) is an international quasi-judicial body established to settle disputes related to sport through arbitration. Its headquarters are in Lausanne(Switzerland) and its courts are located in New York City, Sydney and Lausanne. Temporary courts are established in current Olympic host cities.

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