A civil law court in Liberia issued an injunction that stalled the run-off election of the Liberia Football Association (LFA). With none of the three candidates getting the required 50% + 1 vote, a run-off was announced between the candidates with the two highest votes. The third candidate, George Solo then obtained a court injunction on the ground that one of the presidential candidates (Mustapha Raji) did not possess a college degree – an eligibility requirement for the office sought. The argument being that the LFA Elections Committee had certified Raji as eligible to contest in the elections, in violation of the election guidelines.
This is somewhat reminiscent of the court battles between Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa in the 2014 Nigeria Football Federation presidential election and just like it played out then, the outgoing LFA President, Musa Bility is reported to have stated that Solo’s decision to take the matter to the civil law court is against football rules and that action would be taken against him. However, there is an important issue to take lesson from and properly understand the general rule that football matters are not to be taken to civil law courts.
It is important for sports governing bodies and stakeholders to understand that the rule prohibiting football matters from being taken to civil courts does not and cannot remove the supervisory powers of courts in ensuring that justice is done. Although sports federations and stakeholders are deemed to have agreed to adopt a specific alternative dispute resolution mechanism, there are instances where a court of law would exercise its supervisory authority and entertain a suit challenging the decision or action of a sport governing body. These instances include where the sport governing body has acted unlawfully, beyond its powers or in a matter that is unfair or contrary to natural justice.
In the Liberia FA instance, the supervisory role of the civil court would be to ensure that the LFA (or its Electoral Committee) did not violate its regulations in certifying Mustapha Raji as eligible to contest the election. Therefore, sport governing bodies have a responsibility to ensure that their actions or decisions are lawful and within the limits of their regulations.