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4 Years on, FIFA Still Deciding if it Will Follow its Own Rules

FIFA Says Decision on Israeli Clubs Playing in West Bank Settlements is ‘Premature’

Football field in Givat Ze’ev. © 2016 Human Rights Watch

The FIFA Council, the governing body of the world football federation, just recommended that FIFA postpone, for another year, a decision on whether to instruct its Israeli affiliate to stop holding games in West Bank settlements.

The issue is still expected to come before FIFA’s Congress or general assembly tomorrow, where the agenda includes a resolution to instruct the Israel Football Association (IFA) to stop sponsoring games in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. But FIFA’s leadership is pushing for delay.

Settlements are unlawful under the Fourth Geneva Convention and contribute to serious human rights abuses. Six IFA clubs are based in settlements and host their official home matches there, on land unlawfully taken from, and off-limits to, Palestinians.

FIFA’s own rules require respect for human rights and bar any member from playing football on the territory of another member without permission. FIFA treats the West Bank as being within the territory of the Palestinian Football Association.

So it is not clear why FIFA needs yet another year to decide whether or not to follow its own rules.

The FIFA Council announced on May 9 that a decision on the fate of the six IFA settlement clubs would be “premature,” after hearing a presentation by Tokyo Sexwale, chair of a special committee that FIFA established to address the issue, which has been in dispute since 2013.

But Sexwale himself said late last year that the issue was almost in “extra time”, and FIFA President Gianni Infantino promised a decision months ago. In a report presented in March, Sexwale wrote that continued negotiations would be futile given the gap between the sides and the failed attempts to reach consensus so far.

Sexwale has not spoken publicly on the issue since the council recommended deferring the decision yet again this week. Delegates at tomorrow’s congress will be keen to hear his position on the matter, given his promise at the last year’s congress to resolve the issue within “months”.

Enough of the stonewalling. When FIFA’s Congress meets tomorrow it should vote to order the IFA to stop sponsoring games in Israeli settlements, period. Continuing to sponsor games on stolen land flouts the human rights commitments FIFA so recently reaffirmed.


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