Rwandan football is heading to its worst moment in its footballing history as the country stands to be expelled from all FIFA Competitions effective May 2019 for non-payment of an outstanding debt worth Rwf. 195m owed to former Amavubi head Coach Jonathan McKinstry.
On March 26, 2019, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee informed FERWAFA the decision passed by a member of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee on March 19, 2019.
Deborah Thuer, Deputy Secretary to the Disciplinary Committee informed FERWAFA on the decision of the member of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee related to Rwanda’s failure to comply with a decision passed by the Single Judge of the Players’ Status Committee on April 17, 2018 on the employment-related dispute between Coach Johnathan McKinstry, Northern Ireland and the Fédération Rwandaise de Football Association based on article 64 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.
After reviewing the case as passed by the Single Judge of the Players’ Status Committee and FERWAFA on April 17, 2019, the Member of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, Mr. Lord Veehala from Togo passed the following decisions:
1. The Fédération Rwandaise de Football Association (hereinafter, the Debtor) was found to have infringed article 64 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code as it is guilty of failing to comply with the decision passed by the Single Judge of the
Players’ Status Committee on 17 April 2018 according to which it was ordered to pay:
a) To the coach Johnathan McKinstry (hereinafter, the Creditor); -USD 182,000 and CHF 1,300 plus 5% interest p.a. as from 30 January 2017 until the date of effective payment.
b) To FIFA: -CHF 20,000 corresponding to the costs of the proceedings imposed by the Single Judge of the Players’ Status Committee.
2. The Debtor (FERWAFA) is ordered to pay a fine to the amount of CHF 15,000. The fine is to be paid within 30 days of notification of the present decision, meaning that the deadline for paying the total fine of USD $ 217,195 (Approx. Rwf. 195,299,149) as requested by FIFA amounting is on March 25, 2019.
On August 18, 2016, The Ministry of Sports and Culture and FERWAFA terminated a two-year contract with Coach McKinstry, barely five months after renewing his contract (March 16, 2016).
Rwanda was ranked 121st globally by FIFA down from 68th when McKinstry took over the national team.
The 30-year old Northern Irishman was hired in March 2015 on a one-year renewable contract, taking over from Englishman Stephen Constantine.
His sacking was ignited by the Permanent Secretary in the Sports ministry, Lt Col. Patrice Rugambwa who at that time was said to be focused on bringing “change to Rwanda’s football.”
In August, 2016, Guy Rurangayire, an official in the ministry of sports and culture told The EastAfrican that McKinstry was sacked because Amavubi Stars had a string of “bad performance”.
“We did not play well during important games. He has not left the team in good shape or position and it was inevitable that we part ways,”
“Although he had signed a new renewable contract in March, it was not guaranteed that he would stay for that long, especially if you look at the games we played. We had important games we lost in this short period,” he added.
Under McKinstry, Rwanda failed to win the 2016 African Nations Championship (Chan) which was held in Kigali, and was unsuccessful in qualifying for both the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Gabon and 2018 FIFA World Cup.
However, in a statement on McKinstry’s website, the Irish said that he had delivered some of Rwanda’s best performances – and that the specific reasons behind the decision to fire him were not made fully clear to him.
“Given our performance to date I am therefore both surprised and disappointed by the announcement and that myself and the team will not be able to finish what we started,’
“Had we been able to do so this young team, assembled since the decision to dispense with the use of foreign naturalised players just prior to my appointment, would certainly go on to achieve even greater success than it has already done,” he said.
Following the sacking of McKinstry, the headhunt for a new head coach kicked-off while the then assistant head coach, Jimmy Mulisa remained in charge and went on to manage a 1-all draw away to Black Stars of Ghana.
Rwanda qualified for its first Afcon in 2004, where it was eliminated in the group stages. Since then, the country has hired and fired over 10 head coaches, most of whom do not complete two years of service.
Internal Conflicts between Minispoc and FERWAFA
When Lt Col. Rugambwa replaced Kalisa Edward as the Permanent Secretary in the Sports ministry, his mission was to get rid of McKinstry his mission <of changing Rwandan football>, following a disappointing CHAN campaign where Rwanda was eliminated in the quarter final round by eventual winners DR Congo.
While former FERWAFA boss Nzamwita Vincent distanced himself from the sacking of McKinstry due to the heavy fines that would be imposed on Rwandan football, something that MINISPOC didn’t want to hear, thinking that the local courts of law would be used to resolve the case in Rwanda’s favour, which they thought they had control over.
McKinstry on several occasions, asked for an amicable way out between FERWAFA and MINISPOC, asking to be paid atleast between 4-6 months of the remaining 19 months, to avoid taking the case being taken to FIFA. A way out as proposed by McKinstry would have cost the Rwandan government/FERWAFA not more USD 60,000.
On all correspondences leading to the termination of McKinstry’s contract, Nzamwita avoided signing on any document because he envisioned the end result of this dossier.
Another factor which contributed to this state was the ignorance of the sports law and FIFA regulations by lawyers from both institutions. They only thought that such case would be handled by the Rwandan courts of law not knowing that professional coaches and players are at liberty to seek the service of the adjudicatory organs at FIFA (the Dispute Resolution Chamber or the Players’ Status Committee) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in cases related to the non execution of monetary decisions.
Contractual disputes with an international dimension
FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players 2012 (RSTP) art. 22 sub c:“Employment-related disputes between a club or an Association and a coach that have an international dimension, unless an independent arbitration tribunal guaranteeing fair proceedings exists at national level”.
An independent arbitration tribunal is uncommon therefore the vast majority of cases are submitted to FIFA in first instance.
Expected FIFA Sanctions
Should a member association (in which Rwanda currently falls) fail to automatically implement said sanctions and provide the secretariat to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee with proof of the implementation of the disciplinary proceedings – may lead to an expulsion from all FIFA competitions.
The upcoming FIFA Competitions include the 2022 World Cup qualifiers expected to start next year and the sanctions might even reach the continental level where Rwanda can be banned from 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers, 2020 CHAN Qualifiers expected to start in July this year among others.
According to news from the current management of the Ministry of Sports and Culture, they are not willing to pay for the mistakes of their predecessors simply because they don’t own to the mistake that was committed in terminating the irish’s contract and keeping mind that that amount of money can’t be gotten on a silver plate from the government coffers, hence the payment of McKinstry’s debt will be left for FIFA to clear this debt by deducting on Rwanda’s FIFA Forward operation funds as the country takes it’s time from global and continental showpiece.
Duirng that period also that Rwanda will be serving an unknown expulsion from FIFA competitions, the deducted FIFA Forward operation funds would have had had or been used to develop other aspects of the game (youth and women football as well as infrastructure).
A Recent similar FIFA ban taking effect
In March 2015, Zimbabwe was thrown out of 2018 World Cup qualifying for failing to pay its national team coach.
FIFA’s disciplinary committee said it took the action “as a result of the non-payment of an outstanding debt” by Zimbabwe’s soccer federation to coach Jose Claudinei Georgini.
Zimbabwe was initially ordered by FIFA to pay the Brazilian in August 2012. Disciplinary proceedings were later opened against the Zimbabwe Football Association on the request of Claudinei, FIFA said.
In April 2013, ZIFA was given 60 days to pay half the amount it owed Claudinei, and 120 days to pay the full amount. Zimbabwe was given a final grace period to settle the debt before being banned, FIFA said Thursday in a statement.
Because it failed to make any payments, the FIFA disciplinary committee “ordered the expulsion of ZIFA from the preliminary competition of the 2018 World Cup (in) Russia,” FIFA said. FIFA said Zimbabwe did not appeal its expulsion.
Zimbabwe’s soccer body has severe financial problems, reflecting the dire economic situation in the troubled country.
ZIFA had to sell off some of its facilities — reportedly including an artificial soccer turf donated by FIFA — to pay some of its debts. The state-run Herald newspaper said a tractor and furniture at a ZIFA training center were also up for auction. ZIFA needed the money after being ordered by a court to pay another former employee $88,000, the Herald reported.
Zimbabwe has never qualified for the World Cup. African qualifiers for the 2018 tournament are scheduled to start in October.
Where the non-payment of McKinstry’s debt leaves Rwanda will be known once the FIFA Disciplinary Committee convenes in its final session due later this month or early next month.