February 10, 2018
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), in a decision issued on 9 February (Swiss time), has ended the ban imposed by FIFA on Dr. Mong Joon Chung and also vacated a CHF 50,000 fine saying that FIFA’s financial penalty was “unconscionable.” As such, Dr. Chung is “free to take part in any football related activity (administrative, sport or any other) at national and international level.”
CAS reduced the 5 year ban that FIFA had imposed on Dr. Chung to 15 months and also found that the ban had already expired as of January 7, 2017. CAS made it clear that it was because of FIFA’s “excessive and unjustified delays” that Dr. Chung “had to serve a longer suspension than the Panel finds to be warranted.”
Dr. Chung expressed regret that CAS did not fully nullify FIFA’s sanctions, saying “the past 4 years was a painful period in which my honor was violated.” Still he vowed, “I will do my part in helping FIFA regain the love and respect of football fans around the world.
Starting in 2014, the FIFA Ethics Committee had opened their investigation alleging that former Vice President Chung had engaged in “vote trading” and that he had given the “appearance of offering benefits.” However, unable to produce any evidence, the accusations were dropped at the very beginning of the so-called investigation.
But rather than dropping the case altogether, the FIFA Ethics Committee then took issue with former Vice President Chung having sent letters explaining Korea’s Global Football Fund (GFF) to his fellow Executive Committee members during the bid for World Cup 2022. It charged that Dr. Chung “failed to cooperate” with the investigation and that he sent in his answers late. For this, they imposed a five-year ban. During this appeal process, the FIFA continually delayed submitting the documents that Dr. Chung needed to appeal his case to CAS, delaying his appeal by more than a year-and-a-half.
In its decision, CAS said that “the Appellant’s negligible delay in providing the answers… must be juxtaposed with FIFA’s own delay in conducting the proceedings, which far exceeded it and had far greater implications.” It went on to say “The pot cannot fairly call the kettle black, especially when it itself is blacker.”
CAS also said that FIFA had tried to impose punishments that were “evidently and grossly disproportionate.”
As for FIFA taking issue with Dr. Chung having sent letters to President Blatter during the investigation, CAS said “The panel considers that the Appellant sought only to complain about what he believed in good faith to be an unfair and politically-motivated proceeding.”
In its ruling, CAS took special note of Dr. Chung’s longstanding “public stance against corruption within FIFA” and “the meritorious services he provided to FIFA and football over the years.” It vacated FIFA’s ruling that Dr. Chung had improperly objected to the investigation of his conduct, and rejected several grounds on which FIFA accused him of failing to cooperate with investigators.
CAS did rule, however, that two sentences in Dr. Chung’s letter to co-members of the FIFA Executive Committee promoting South Korea’s World Cup 2022 bid were inappropriate because they were not included in the public versions. Nevertheless, CAS specifically found that Dr. Chung “subjectively did not believe that he was engaging in unethical conduct.”
CAS also concluded that Dr. Chung could have cooperated more closely with investigators on occasion, but that none of these instances was a “major infraction.”
Dr. Chung said, “From the start, I had steadfastly maintained that the whole process was a plot of former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, designed to keep me from FIFA.” He said that it is regrettable that “even while noting my views that FIFA’s investigation was an ‘unfair and politically-motivated’ as well as intentionally delayed proceeding, CAS arbitrators nevertheless did not review the case on that basis.