Sports Legal Blog

FC ZOO KERICHO CASE STUDY ON MATCH-FIXING AND MATCH MANIPULATION

FC Zoo Kericho, a Kenyan Premier League side that prides itself on the achievements they have made since its inception in 2009, has found its form off in 2020-2021 both on and off the pitch.The Kenyan Premier League side was first embroiled in a tussle with the Football Kenya Federation over their lack of endorsement […]

May 31, 2021

Steven Chiuri

FC Zoo Kericho, a Kenyan Premier League side that prides itself on the achievements they have made since its inception in 2009, has found its form off in 2020-2021 both on and off the pitch.
The Kenyan Premier League side was first embroiled in a tussle with the Football Kenya Federation over their lack of endorsement of the television rights deal with Chinese Pay Television company StarTimes. 1The standoff between the Federation and the club led to the
club being suspended from the top-flight league for non-endorsement of the television rights deal. However, the club got a reprieve when the Sports Tribunal stayed the decision to relegate the club with the Federation ordered to reinstate the club to the Kenyan Premier League.
On May 5th 2021, the Kericho based club was sanctioned by the International Football Federation ‘FIFA’ over multiple series of violation of sporting integrity and were held liable for match manipulation of football matches by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee. The sanction imposed was the expulsion and relegation of the club to the lower league. In this comment, we shall examine the disciplinary process that informed FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee Decision.

ISSUES
The circumstances that led to the investigation by the FIFA Integrity Department was as a result of conduct between Zoo Kericho v FC Sofapaka and Zoo Kericho v FC Wazito the events purportedly leading to the charge in which Zoo Kericho lost the matches 2-1 and 4-1 respectively. The question that arose was whether the club was in violation of the integrity of the game through match manipulation.

RULE OF LAW AND ANALYSIS
One of the guiding principles for FIFA is the promotion of integrity and preventing match manipulation or corruption. Thus, the creation of FIFA Integrity whose purpose is to establish preventive measures to protect FIFA competitions, by conducting preliminary investigations in connection with match manipulation and integrity. The FIFA Integrity Department was tasked with investigating the match manipulation by the club.

After investigation, the club was found in violation of FIFA’s Disciplinary Code. Article 2 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code, governs every competition that is under FIFA’s jurisdiction which gave
the FIFA integrity and Disciplinary Committee the inherent jurisdiction over the matter as the Kenyan Premier League is a competition organized by Kenya Football Association and it is governed by FIFA.

Article 6 of the Code provides for the type of sanction that can be prescribed and imposed to an infringer of the Disciplinary Code and in this case, the Disciplinary Committee deemed that relegation to a lower league was the appropriate sanction.

Article 8 of the Code creates a responsibility for various stakeholders in the sport where a breach of duty, creates a liability whether the act committed was deliberate or it was an act of negligence. Thus, the Code prescribes element of vicarious liability unto Clubs and Associations over the acts of its members that infringes on the Integrity of the sport whether they are the employees, players, or officials.

The Club was found in violation of Article 18 of the Disciplinary Code which seeks to restrict any acts of match manipulation and match corruption. Article 18 states that if anyone who directly or indirectly, by an act or an omission, unlawfully influences or manipulates the course, result or any other aspect of a match and/or competition or conspires or attempts to do so by any mean shall be upon conviction be held to have committed an offence. Article 18 additionally
creates vicarious liability upon the club and association which the player/ officially belongs to, which thus hands the Disciplinary Committee discretion to take necessary measures to protect
the integrity of the sport.

Article 24 of the Disciplinary Code provides for the criteria in which the Disciplinary Committee will be guided when prescribing the appropriate sanction, it shall be in accordance with the objective and subjective elements of the offence, taking into account both aggravating and mitigating circumstances. In this case, the Committee must have looked into the circumstances before prescribing relegation as the appropriate sanction to the club for its breach of duty.

Conclusion
The Club released a statement that they intended to appeal the decision of the Disciplinary Committee whose legal basis of the appeal stems from Article 56 of FIFA Disciplinary Code. It states that the Appeal Committee shall be responsible for hearing appeals of the decisions by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee. However, the Club reiterates that the actions of the players and the subsequent sanction against the players should be enough to absolve the club from liability. The Club reiterates that the players responsible for match manipulation were subsequently sanctioned and fired after internal investigations and they were Sammy Sindani, Norman Werunga, and Martin Elungat.

The Club has a right to appeal as the subsequent relegation creates a serious ramification on the Club’s financial, economic and social standing. We are pro-sporting integrity and it must be protected at all costs and those who are found in breach of that duty, ought to be sanctioned to act both as deterrence and retribution. Thus, the sanction that ought to be imposed must be commensurate to one’s actions taking into account both aggravating and mitigating
circumstances.

We are going to follow closely on the developments of the appeal process by the Club giving an analysis of the decisions made thereafter.