Longtime African football leader Issa Hayatou won an appeal decision on Saturday to overturn a one-year ban for alleged commercial wrongdoing imposed by FIFA, where he was once interim president.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport said it upheld Hayatou’s appeal because “there was insufficient evidence” of misconduct in a Confederation of African Football marketing and media rights deal.
Hayatou served as CAF president for 29 years until he was overthrown in a 2017 election where his opponent was backed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
The court announced its verdict on the eve of the final of the showpiece CAF Africa Cup of Nations tournament held in Hayatou’s home country of Cameroon.
He served as FIFA’s vice-president as Africa’s highest-ranking football official and its alternate president for about four months after Sepp Blatter was suspended in late 2015 until Infantino was elected.
Now 75, Hayatou had been out of football for several years when FIFA’s ethics committee banned him last August after investigating a CAF contract with a sports agency based in France.
FIFA-appointed judges said Hayatou breached the loyalty rules of the governing body’s code of ethics by signing “an anti-competitive agreement” with Lagardère Sport.
The 12-year deal was worth $1 billion and gave exclusive rights to CAF competitions including the Nations Cup and African Champions League until 2028. It was canceled after Hayatou left .
CAS said on Saturday that its panel of three arbitrators, which held a hearing via video link in December, overturned the ban and a fine of 30,000 Swiss francs ($33,000).
The FIFA affair did not affect Hayatou’s honorary membership in the International Olympic Committee. It was granted honorary status after its 15-year membership ended in 2016.
Hayatou’s successor as CAF president, Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar, has also been banned from football by the FIFA ethics committee. His sanction for financial misconduct was reduced on appeal to CAS, but still ruled him out of his re-election bid. It expires at the end of the year.
CAF is now led by Patrice Motsepe, a billionaire mining tycoon from South Africa who has become Infantino’s closest ally in FIFA politics.
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