Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
THE never-ending Herentals drama could further delay the start of the 2020 Premiership football season even when the lockdown is finally lifted.
The season has been forced into a two-month hold due to the nationwide lockdown aimed at curtailing the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
But, the rescheduled kick-off date, supposed to be mid-May, is set to be affected again as Herentals’ appeal on their dismissal from the top-flight is still to be determined.
The Students have lodged an appeal with the ZIFA Appeals Committee, in which they are challenging their ouster from the top-flight league, for taking football matters to ordinary courts.
Herentals were expelled from the Premiership by the Premier Soccer League disciplinary committee last month.
They were accused of breaching the league’s regulations by taking football matters to ordinary courts.
The Students dragged the PSL to the High Court as they sought the court to implore the PSL disciplinary committee to afford them a chance to be legally represented in their match-fixing case.
Herentals had been denied legal representation by the PSL disciplinary committee in a case they were being accused of having attempted to manipulate their league match Black Rhinos last season.
The team was subsequently found guilty, and had three points forfeited from their 2019 points tally, which meant they would drop out of the top-tier league.
The judgment was, however, overturned by the ZIFA Appeals Board which picked some gross omissions in the process to convict and punish the club.
Ironically, the appeals board highlighted the decision to deny the Students legal representation as one of the flaws of the process in which they were found guilty.
But, that was before the PSL disciplinary committee sat down and decided to throw Herentals out of the top-flight league for having dragged the league to the ordinary courts.
The Students’ appeal with ZIFA means the season will not start until their case is finalised.
And, given the previous appeal by the same team, to the same committee, took close to more than three months to be resolved, the start of the 2020 season could as be in jeopardy.
Even if the Students’ appeal is dismissed, by the ZIFA Appeals Board, they also could take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the institution independent of any sports organisation, which provides services in order to facilitate the settlement of sports-related disputes through arbitration or mediation.
“The CAS has the task of resolving legal disputes in the field of sport through arbitration. It does this pronouncing arbitral awards that have the same enforceability as judgements of ordinary courts,’’ the organisation says on its website.
“It can also help parties solve their disputes on an amicable basis through mediation, when this procedure is allowed.
“The ordinary procedure lasts between 6 and 12 months.
“For the appeals procedure, an award must be pronounced within three months after the transfer of the file to the Panel.’’
Four years ago, the domestic Premiership clubs took their dispute with ZIFA, over relegation, to the CAS.
Lawyers who were representing the PSL — Coghlan Welsh and Guest — wrote to ZIFA notifying them they had taken their dispute with the domestic football mother body.
“We write to advise that we have been instructed by our client and filed a request with the Court of Arbitration for Sport,’’ wrote Coghlan, Welsh and Guest.
“We have requested CAS to arbitrate in the dispute between the parties and you will be receiving communication from CAS anytime from now.
“The issues for determination will be served on you together with a copy for request of the arbitration.’’
The ZIFA Appeals Board, led by lawyer Stead Kachere, will also be handling another case involving ZIFA vice president Gift Banda, which was the first to be lodged before it.
Kachere refused to comment on the matter save to confirm that his committee was set to deliberate on the Herentals matter after the lockdown.
ZIFA communications officer, Xolisani Gwesela, couldn’t comment further than saying, “the appeal hearing will be done after the lockdown.”