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  • Jail Awaits Violators of New Kuwait Sports Law


    Kuwait at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. (Getty Images)
    (ATR) The government of Kuwait appears ready to take control of the country’s sports bodies; the threat of prison terms and fines await those who would violate the new Kuwait sports law. 

    The new law took effect July 11 and gives the Kuwait sports minister wide-ranging control over sport bodies. The minister has the power to dissolve sports groups, select leadership and issue final decisions of appeals.

    “All Sports Bodies shall be subject to the supervision and control of the competent Ministry in all administrative, financial and organizational aspects,” says article 27 of the new law. The law bans any payments to staff of sports bodies.

    Penalties for violators are severe: up to three years in jail and a $15,000 fine is specified in the law, believed to be the only one in the world with criminal penalties.

    Even before this legal assault on the autonomy of sport came into effect, nearly all the 16 national sport federations in Kuwait had been suspended by their international federations as a consequence of government interference.

    Last October the IOC handed Kuwait its third suspension since 2009 over autonomy issues. As a result, Kuwaiti athletes at the Rio De Janeiro Olympics will compete under the flag of the IOC, not the national flag of Kuwait.

    Suspension of the Kuwait Football Association by FIFA means Kuwait footballers cannot compete to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

    Kuwait sports minister Sheikh Salman.
    After a series of meetings this year and last, the IOC and Kuwait government remain at an impasse over the autonomy issue.

    It is believed that the root of the disagreement in Kuwait involves the collision of royal family politics with the Kuwait Parliament. In particular, Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, IOC member and president of the Association of National Olympic Committees, along with his brother who heads the Kuwait NOC, are targets of Kuwait Sports Minister Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem Al-Hmoud Al-Sabah. The tension escalated last year when Sheikh Ahmad failed to back Sheikh Salman for the presidency of the International Sport Shooting Federation.

    Some in Kuwait derisively label Salman as the “Rambo of Kuwaiti sport” over his take-no-prisoners style of leadership. Critics say not to use their names, lest they become ensnared in charges brought by Sheikh Salman.

    Sheikh Talal, the Kuwait NOC president, has paid no heed to intimidation. Around the Rings is told that Talal blasted the new law this week on Kuwaiti social media. The posts from Talal are said to describe the situation in Kuwait as an attack on human rights.

    The IOC has battled with the Kuwait government since 2009 over autonomy issues, leading to three suspensions of the NOC. The latest took effect last October.

    Sheikh Salman has insisted that the Kuwaiti law does not violate the Olympic Charter as the IOC claims.

    The Kuwait government last month filed a $1 billion lawsuit in Swiss court against the IOC and has other legal action pending, including an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

    The animus is such that the Olympic Council of Asia, headed by Sheikh Ahmad, is seeking a new headquarters location outside of Kuwait. ATR is told there are nine proposals from other countries to host the OCA offices.

    Written by Ed Hula.

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