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FIFA Rejects Bin Hammam’s Appeal Against Lifetime Soccer Ban

Mohamed bin Hammam, who challenged Sepp Blatter for the presidency of soccer’s governing body, lost an appeal against his lifetime ban from the sport, FIFA said today. He’ll now appeal to sport’s top court, his lawyer said.

The Qatari, who was head of the Asian soccer confederation, was banned in July after being found guilty of buying votes for the FIFA leadership contest against Blatter. Bin Hammam said the ban was politically motivated and that he had the resources to fight for years to clear his name.

“The appeal made by Mohammed bin Hammam has been rejected and the decision of the FIFA Ethics Committee confirmed,” FIFA said in an e-mailed statement. “The sanction of being banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at national and international level for life has therefore been maintained.”

The Zurich-based body’s three-member appeal panel was led by Ecuadorian Francisco Acosta and included officials from Argentina and Senegal.

FIFA’s decision to expel Bin Hammam came after an investigation led by former Federal Bureau of Investigation director Louis Freeh into claims he offered Caribbean soccer officials envelopes containing $40,000 while campaigning in the region. FIFA vice president Jack Warner, who arranged Bin Hammam’s visit to the Caribbean, was also suspended and quit the sport before the end of Freeh’s inquiry. He denied wrongdoing.

Bin Hammam had said he didn’t expect FIFA to accept his appeal, accusing the organization of being biased against him, and said he would take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. His lawyer Eugene Gulland of Covington & Burling LLP confirmed the plan today.

‘Not Optimistic’

“Mr. Bin Hammam has already gone on record stating that he was not optimistic of justice prevailing from the FIFA appeals process but this was a protocol to enable him to obtain access to CAS,” Gulland said in a statement. “History seems to bear him out as the FIFA appeals process has rarely interfered with the decisions of its football colleagues in other FIFA internal panels.”

The papers will be lodged with the Lausanne, Switzerland-based court once Bin Hammam receives a full written statement from FIFA explaining its latest decision, Gulland added.

“I will continue my battle until I prove my innocence and that my suspension was a political decision and an absolute abuse of power to deprive me of my right to contest for FIFA presidency,” Bin Hammam wrote on his personal blog last month.

Bin Hammam’s legal team has also lodged a separate action with CAS that challenges FIFA’s right to designate China’s Zhang Jilong as “acting president” of the Asian Football Confederation and appoint him to sit on the FIFA Executive Committee, Gulland said.

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