Tribunal sets ruling date as Sofapaka await KPL fate

Isaac Mutanga (right) of Sofapaka FC and John Baraza celebrate their victory against Nairobi City ...
Isaac Mutanga (right) of Sofapaka FC and John Baraza celebrate their victory against Nairobi City Stars FC during their Kenyan Premier League match at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on August 07, 2016. Sofapaka FC won 5-0. Photo/Stafford Ondego/

The Sports Disputes Tribunal will deliver a ruling on March 15 to determine the fate of Sopaka FC who are seeking their relegation from the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) reverted.

Tribunal Chair John Ohaga set the ruling date on Wednesday evening after presiding over a three-hour hearing at the SDT headquarters in Nairobi as Sofapaka made a strong case in their petition.

The hearing for Muhoroni Youth, KCB FC and Vihiga United – who were also struck off the top division pending conclusion of their cases, was postponed until the determination of Sofapaka’s case while disciplinary proceedings instituted against four KPL principals will be heard last.

Former KPL chairman, James Musyoki, his predecessor Ambrose Rachier, CEO Jack Oguda and founder Bob Munro face disciplinary action for ignoring SDT’s order instructing them to release KPL fixtures earlier in February.

The four are also accused by Football Kenya Federation (FKF) President Nick Mwendwa of of scuttling the agreement to expand the league to 18 teams.

The Wednesday session started with Sofapaka’s lawyer Mary Bonyo cross examining Football Kenya Federation’s (FKF) CAF/FIFA licensing committee chairman Prof. Edwin Wamukoya, a continuation of last Thursday’s questioning.

He was put to task on why his committee chose to rely on evidences produced by some players who claimed not to have been paid in time, without giving the parent club the right of reply which mattered in criteria A of licensing; dealing with financial status of the club.

The Sports Science professor had scrambled to explain how he the 38.5 score given to Soafapaka was arrived at which effectively ensured it fell short of the minimum for a provisional license.

Having conceded his committee did not consider that the 2009 champions had a contracted club auditor as required in the licensing criteria, Wamukoya was tasked to explain whether the score would have shifted to the safe zone had he factored in the auditor.

Sofapaka’s lawyer had proven to the tribunal that the club had an auditor since 2010, while the respondents (FKF) claimed his presence was not guaranteed at the time of submitting licensing documents.

Another bone of contention was the validity of the law compelling the clubs to be licensed in relation to timelines given to comply.

According to counsel Bonyo, the CAF manual that FKF was using to sensitize clubs on licensing was non-binding until October 15, 2016 when it was adopted in the federation’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).

While FKF’s lawyer Patricia Mitei insisted clubs were made aware of licensing criteria as early as April 2016 underscoring they had enough time to comply, Bonyo insisted her client had very short period to fulfill the demands citing peculiar circumstances surrounding him.

She reminded the tribunal Sofapaka had operated without a corporate sponsor since mid 2015 season, hence could not be compared with other clubs.

Yet still with regard to the provided timelines, which Muhoroni/Sofapaka fans’ lawyer Wafula Simiyu later underscored in his submissions, Bonyo challenged FKF to explain why they had rushed the licensing procedure yet FIFA had only introduced it in 2006.

Mitei defended the federation saying the current leadership cannot be blamed of the past regimes sluggishness. On the same note, Simiyu told the tribunal the relegated clubs are being sacrificed for the sins of FKF which had ten years to effect the licensing law only to rush in the ’11 th hour’.

Lastly, through a sworn affidavit by federation boss Mwendwa, Mitei challenged the jurisdiction of SDT to handle the current cases.

She argued once FKF’s appeals committee had heard a matter and that its decision was final.

Simiyu responded that the affidavit was an afterthought hence had no impact, saying SDT’s mandate was not challenged directly and from the onset of the case.

Ohaga asked Sofapaka’s Bonyo if she could allow more time for FKF to bring documents showing every specific detail of how Sofapaka’s score was arrived at, but she declined the request saying her antagonists had deliberately refused to avail the documents before the tribunal initially.

Agreeing that Sofapaka’s case was almost similar with Muhoroni’s, Ohaga hinted the ruling on the former would largely affect the latter’s outcome, hence the need to conclude it before progressing.

The last plea of the applicant was to have a permanent injunction barring FKF from relegating Sofapaka from the 2017 season.

This means it could take at least two more weeks to find out the final composition of the KPL and the National Super League (NSL), with Vihiga, KCB and Muhoroni still hanging far in the threads of their cases conclusion.

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Story By Jacob Icia
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