Monday, 5 November 2007

Eligibility arguments and déja vu

If there appear to be similarities in the debating techniques of Irish language extremists and the most adamant of those contesting the actuality and legality of FIFA’s decision preventing further poaching of Northern Irish players by the FAI, those similarities are not purely coincidental. These inane contentions frequently issue from the same people, and the motivation of their arguments is certainly identical. You may be able to detect the guiding hand of a particular political party in the formulation of their assertions.

Unionist Lite features a deconstruction of the anti-IFA flannel advanced by ex-IRA man Jim Gibney. Gibney’s views are a confused distillation of the arguments against FIFA’s rules being upheld and an air of déjà vu may afflict those who have been following the language debate.

In the debating of such matters a specious contention must first of all be framed in the context of a perceived “human right”, no matter how flimsy and fatuous the basis of such a “right” may blatantly be. Subjectively comparing the equivalence of these supposed rights, it has to be said the right to complete one’s car tax form in Irish seems almost inalienable and concrete in comparison to the right “to play football for your country”. In fairness, leaving aside the disputatious formulation at the end of this innovative “right”, I’m sorry I didn’t invoke it years ago to demand my inclusion in at least one international squad. Damn the IFA and successive managers for their inhuman infringement of my right to play international football for my country.

Having invented some manner of “right” it is then necessary, by means of sophistry and if necessary downright lies, to conceive some manner of legal pretext by which this “right” can be defended and enforced. This can involve the absolute mangling and disingenuous conflation of concepts which have no connection or equivalence. It can also involve the fevered citation of any number of legal constructions bearing no relevance, carrying no jurisdiction and having never been intended to cover, the matter at hand. So, in a dispute involving two football governing bodies, in which the requirement is merely that the world governing body clarify the workings of their statutes we have invocations of: the European Convention of Human Rights, UN Resolutions, Swiss domestic law, the Bosman Ruling and (most frequently) the guiding gospel of all matters anywhere, the Good Friday Agreement.

The bald facts that none of these treaties, laws or conventions has any remit over the matter at hand, do not mention or aspire to include in any of their formulae the issue of international football eligibility, nor that FIFA is not a signatory (nor being a sporting organisation could it be a signatory) to any of them, does not seem to fizz on any of those frenziedly referencing their irrelevant clauses. Not being eligible for selection in a football team is framed as a denial of nationality, despite the fact that FIFA neither have the jurisdiction, nor the intention of ruling in matters of nationality.

The subtext of all these arguments, which those who advance them are quite aware are disingenuous, is that there are two different ethnic and cultural nationalities living in Northern Ireland. One of these is seen as legitimate; the other has to be tolerated on some level (for the time being) simply to enable the invidious vocabulary of the difference / identity fetish. Any notion of a shared identity, of nuanced identity, of a plurality of identities is a deep threat and must be denied. The way to do this is to emphasise what separates, rather than what connects people in Northern Ireland. To this end it is necessary to conflate entirely the notion of Irishness with the Southern state and deny the expression of the same in a Northern Ireland context. This is very basic and prescriptive ethnic nationalism.

What FIFA have ensured is that the difference fetish will not be indulged in our sport. Football will not be segregated in this country.

3 comments:

O'Neill said...

"So, in a dispute involving two football governing bodies, in which the requirement is merely that the world governing body clarify the workings of their statutes we have invocations of: the European Convention of Human Rights, UN Resolutions, Swiss domestic law, the Bosman Ruling and (most frequently) the guiding gospel of all matters anywhere, the Good Friday Agreement."

I doubt it'll be debated on the floor of the UN but there is a possibility to take a civil actio against FIFA under Swiss law. If the Irish government decided on this course it would be setting a dangerous precedent from FIFA's point of view as it would be the first time a government had taken such an action out.

But the possibility is there as is a private action, with no doubt a Sinn Fein front group putting up the vast amount of readies required.

I think that's why FIFA are taking their time making the official announcement, they're checking that their case is watertight against a possible action brought by a lawyer who may be slightly more au fait with the matter than Uncle Jim Gibney or the various Slugger Internet Warriors.

Chekov said...

I'm no expert on Swiss Civil Law, but I've yet to hear it explained what basis in Swiss law there would be for such a challenge or how a decision which will not be enforced within Switzerland can be under the jurisdiction of a court there. FIFA is as a private company subject to Swiss law, but this has nothing to do with FIFA carrying out its business from Switzerland. None of these players are employed by FIFA for a start.

If someone can establish what the basis of this fabled action in the courts in Switzerland might be, I will begin to take it seriously.

O'Neill said...

If someone can establish what the basis of this fabled action in the courts in Switzerland might be, I will begin to take it seriously.

I'm also not a lawyer (thank god) but I'll give it a go....

I googled last week on this and it looks like FIFA has had cases over the last years in the Swiss courts, involving amongst other things, a player suspended for drug abuse. My understanding for such a civil case to work in this kind of example it needs to be proven that FIFA has employed its own rules in a non-consistent or discriminatory way, the actual rules are neither here nor there- completely FIFA's own business, it's how they are employed which is the key.

Bearing in mind the amount of mist and fog over this issue concerning the relevant FIFA Article (I think) 15, there's gaps of uncertainty presently there which could be exploited by a decent lawyer- obviously because that's what the FAI have been doing over the last three years. In criminal law it's black or white, did you commit the crime?, in civil law it's grey, whoever has the most decent lawyer is usually the winner.

I think FIFA wants these gaps tightened (because if he doesn't then it leaves itself wide open in a host of other similar cases throughout the world). If it does competently enough then it's not worth FAI taking it on. Solely for the sake of pr I can still imagine a SF backed action (rolling on a wave of faux indignant nationalist Irish emotion).