Liberia: Women's clubs pull out en masse from current soccer season

Monrovia, Liberia (PANA) - The Liberian Football Association (FLA) president, Musa Bility, who failed eligibility tests to stand for the FIFA presidency, is under renewed pressure in Liberia with the women’s football league clubs pulling out en masse from the current season after multiple promises of financial support for the clubs never materialised.

A letter sent to the LFA general secretary, Emmanuel Deah, dated 13 April and signed by the President/Secretary and the team captains of each of the eight teams in the top league, said that “after a series of pleas” to Bility, the women’s clubs “have resolved to pull out of the 2016/2017 (championship) with immediate effect".

According to the FIFA media outlet, the clubs say Bility and the LFA have failed to “meet outstanding and obligations to the clubs” from 2013 up to the present season.

At a time when women’s football is at the top of FIFA’s development agenda, the actions of Bility are in stark contrast to global funding initiatives within the women’s game. For African women in particular, the situation is particularly ominous with Bility holding a new executive committee position and his repeated boasts locally that his relationship with FIFA president Gianni Infantino gives him protection to do “whatever I like”.

Liberia’s womens clubs claim that no prize money has been paid out since 2013 for league or cup competitions and that Bility committed to give each club US$5,000 for the 2015/2016 season, of which only US$2,000 has been paid.

Bility made a similar promise of US$5,000 to clubs in 2017 after delaying the start of the league due to financial difficulties. He promised an immediate payment of US$1,000 with the balance to be paid within in 20 days, but so far no money has been paid.

The womens clubs also complained of the LFA’s poor organisation of the league with referees often arriving more than an hour after scheduled kick-off times. The clubs claim the referees “must be given the necessary incentives to attend our games”.

Bility is no stranger to controversy or criticism in Liberia and internationally. Most recently, he has been accused of false accounting and the embezzlement of FIFA funds from the Liberian FA – an accusation he denies.

He admitted when questioned on national radio of taking FIFA’s Ebola-crisis assistance money in an elaborate scheme that should have seen that money channelled through the Red Cross. It never made there but it did make it into the pickets of Liberian FA officials with US$35,000 going directly to Bility.

A candidate for the FIFA presidential election that eventually saw Infantino elected, Bility was ruled out from standing by FIFA’s eligibility committee for allegedly having a criminal record. Bility then threw his very vocal support behind Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein and subsequently behind Infantino.

That he has escaped further censure from FIFA’s Ethics body is remarkable considering the seriousness of the allegations and the evidence available. That Bility so publicly claims he is protected by Infantino raises a whole set of other governance concerns for Africa and FIFA’s credibility re-building process generally.
-0- PANA VAO 19April2017

19 april 2017 13:49:14

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