The GFA Disciplinary Committee has declared Berekum Chelsea as losers of all their matches from February 4 until they settle their indebtedness to WAFA SC in relation Solomon Asante’s transfer to TP Mazembe.
This decision is in accordance with the automatic forfeiture of matches under Article 39(8)(d) of the GFA General Regulations despite the dismissal of Asante Kotoko’s protest against Chelsea on the same issue.
The Committee found as follows: 1. that on November 8, 2013, the Respondent(Berekum Chelsea) was directed by the Player Status Committee of the Ghana Football Association to pay WAFA (then Feyenoord Academy) an amount of US$59,722.23 being WAFA’s share of the contract sum for the transfer of player Solomon Asante to TB Mazembe on or before February 1, 2014.
2. that Berekum Chelsea failed to pay the said amount.
3. that the General Secretary of the Ghana Football Association wrote and gave Berekum Chelsea a fourteen-day ultimatum for the settlement of the said debt failing which it would suffer sanctions in accordance with Article 63(1)(c).
4. that the 14-day ultimatum expired on February 3, 2015.
5. that Berekum Chelsea has to date not settled its indebtedness to WAFA.
The Disciplinary Committee was of the view that nothing stops it from adverting its mind to Articles 16(1)(c) and 16(2) of the GFA Disciplinary Code and/or Article 39(8)(b) of the GFA General Regulations which founds the basis for the application of sanctions against the Respondent for failing to comply with a Decision of the Status Committee of the GFA and/or the Directive of the GFA on the payment of its just debt.
In view of the recent amendment to the GFA General Regulations, the GFA or any of its judicial bodies can suo motu apply sanctions against a defaulting member upon the expiration of the ultimatum. Indeed, this was the very essence of the amendment made to Article 39(8) of the General Regulations of the GFA at the last Congress held on December 30, 2014, the relevant portions which now reads;
39(8)(b) “Without prejudice to any provision in these Regulations to the contrary, a Club, its players or officials shall pay all amounts, including but not limited to, fines, costs, debts imposed by the GFA or the judicial bodies of the GFA not later than 14 days excluding Saturdays, Sundays and Public holidays after such amount has been communicated by the Association on the GFA website, GFA notice board, GFA newspaper, GFA newsletter, National Newspaper and/or through the GFA email to the official emails of the Club”.
39(8)(d) “A Club that fails to pay its fines, costs or debts on or before the stipulated due date shall automatically forfeit its subsequent matches until such time the fines and/or costs are fully paid”.
On the other hand, Article 63(1)(c) and 63(2) of the Disciplinary Code of the GFA states the following in relation to clubs which fail to pay their fines, costs or debts:
63(1)(c) “... will be warned and notified that, in the case of default or failure to comply with a directive within the period stipulated, points will be deducted or demotion to a lower division. A transfer ban may also be pronounced”.
63(2) “If a club disregards the final time limit, the GFA shall implement the sanction threatened”.
There is indeed no doubt in the mind of the Committee that the Respondent, Berekum Chelsea has failed to comply with the decision of the Player Status Committee as well as the ultimatum given by the General Secretary of the Ghana Football Association.
It is our considered view that the foregoing regulations leave no lingering doubt about the predicament of the Respondent. However, one needs to consider the arguments advanced by Berekum Chelsea in its defence and ascertain whether they save the club from the prescribed sanctions.
EFFECT OF AGREEMENT TO EXTEND 14-DAY DEADLINE
From the reading of the Statement of Defence, the Respondent seems to argue that once it reached the agreement with WAFA to extend the deadline for the settlement of its indebtedness to WAFA, it was immune from the application of any sanctions after the lapse of the14-day deadline.
It must be made clear to all and sundry however, that once the deadline was given, the only option left for the party in debt was the fulfillment of full settlement of the debt one way or the other within the stipulated time. It should be clear to all clubs as members of the GFA by now that, no official of the Ghana Football Association (e.g. the President, General Secretary), Club, Committee (e.g. the Executive Committee), Competition organising committee or board of the GFA (e.g. the PLB or DOLB or FACC) has the mandate to extend the fourteen (14) day deadline.
It is only the actual full payment of the amount in question or any agreed sum in full and final payment on or before the deadline that can save the party to which the ultimatum is directed from the sanctions prescribed. It is worthy to note that the burden of proof of payment also rests on that defaulting party; hence, submission of a receipt and/or a letter from the other party to the GFA or indeed, payment through the GFA itself may be the plausible options rather than a purported deadline extension. It is our position that the deadline once issued by the GFA, cannot be altered, changed or extended by the concerned parties.
We therefore hold that the Agreement entered between Berekum Chelsea and WAFA to extend the deadline from February 3, 2015 to February 14, 2015 was invalid and of no legal effect in view of Article 39(8)(b) of the General Regulations and Articles 63(1)(c) of the Disciplinary Code of the GFA as the said Agreement cannot by any stretch of imagination supersede the Regulations of the GFA.
Again, no club (WAFA in this instant case) in initiating the process for the recovery of a debt shall have the mandate to manipulate the GFA Regulations to its advantage. In effect, once the process is triggered and initiated by the letter from the General Secretary in respect to an outstanding fine, cost or debt, the party to be paid is only required to confirm receipt of the full payment one way or the other in order to bring the matter to a closure.
ENHANCEMENT OF ARTICLE 63(1)(C) OF DISCIPLINARY CODE BY ARTICLE 39(8)(D) OF GENERAL REGULATIONS
It is the view of the Committee that both Article 63(1)(c) of the Disciplinary Code and Article 39(8)(d) of the General Regulations (as amended) are aimed at ensuring fulfilment of the financial responsibility of members of the GFA and can be applied together.
The Committee holds that there is no conflict between the two regulations. It is rather the view of the Committee that the two regulations complement and enhance each other towards the attainment of financial prudence by members of the GFA and can be used together to effect positive change in attitudes.
It is important to note however, that under Article 63 of the Disciplinary Code, there are a number of sanctions available (deduction of points, demotion and transfer ban). Consequently, it is required that the exact punishment must be threatened in order for Article 63(2) thereof to apply the threatened sanction.
In the instant case, however, there was no threatened sanction mentioned in the said letter and hence Article 63(2) is rendered ineffective. Hence, Chelsea is caught in the web of only Article 39(8)(d) of the General Regulations of the GFA which sanction does not require a prior threatened sanction but rather has only one sanction, to wit, automatic forfeiture of all subsequent matches.
It must be noted however, that this is not a forfeiture under Article 34 of the General Regulations which requires a beneficiary club to benefit only as a consequence of a Protest duly filed within the time limit for filing same after the match [see Article 34(7) of the General Regulations].
In this respect, Articles 31(1) and 31(2) of the GFA Disciplinary Code explain what to be done as follows: 31(1) “A team shall be sanctioned with forfeiture and as such deemed to have lost the match 3-0”.
31(2) “if the goal difference at the end of the match is greater than three (sic - in favour of the benefiting club), the result on the pitch is upheld”
Finally, it is our view that until debt is fully settled, the matches of Berekum Chelsea should not even take place to the deceit of the fans and each opposing club and the match officials should be informed in advance by the GFA or through either the Premier League Board, the Elite Clubs Cup Committee or the FA Cup Committee that the matches shall not take place due to a forfeiture by Berekum Chelsea.
IN RESPECT OF THE AUTOMATIC APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 39(8)(d) OF THE GENERAL REGULATIONS AGAINST CHELSEA
a. That for failing to pay its debt of US$59,722.23 to WAFA being its share of the transfer fee for Solomon Asante to TP Mazembe on or before the 14-day deadline given by the General Secretary of the GFA, Berekum Chelsea has acted in violation of Article 39(8)(b) of the General Regulations (as amended) and shall forfeit all its matches played after February 3, 2015 until it fully settles the said indebtedness in accordance with Article 39(8)(d) of the General Regulations of the GFA.
b. That having been found to forfeit its matches from February 3, 2015 until the debt of US$59,722.23 is paid to WAFA, Berekum Chelsea shall be considered as having lost all its matches and accordingly, three (3) points and three (3) goals are hereby awarded in favour of its opponents in accordance with Article 39(8)(d) of the GFA General Regulations and Article 31 of the GFA Disciplinary Code.
c. That in respect of the matches played prior to the delivery of this Decision, the Premier League Board is hereby ordered to immediately effect the following changes to the results in accordance with Article 39(8)(d) of the GFA General Regulations:
i. Match Day 5 - Chelsea 0-3 Olympics played on Feb 4, 2015 ii. Match Day 6 - Medeama 3-0 Chelsea played on Feb 7, 2015 iii. Match Day 7 - Chelsea 0-3 Bechem Utd played on Feb 11, 2015 iv. Match Day 8 - Liberty 3-0 Chelsea played on Feb 22, 2015 v. Match Day 9 - Chelsea 0-3 Kotoko played on Feb 25, 2015 vi. Match Day 10 - Edubiase 3-0 Chelsea played on Mar 8, 2015
The Elite Clubs Cup Committee and the FA Cup Committee are also hereby ordered to award three (3) points and three (3) goals to opponents who have played against Berekum Chelsea between February 4, 2015 and today, March 20, 2015.
i. MTN FA CUP -Chelsea 0-3 Edubiase played on Mar 18, 2015
d. That in respect of the matches scheduled to be played by Chelsea subsequent to the delivery of this Decision, the club shall forfeit the said matches and the opposing teams shall accordingly be awarded three (3) points and three (3) goals in accordance with Article 39(8)(d) and Article 31 of the GFA Disciplinary Code of the GFA General Regulations.