Social media and the press have been awash with, to put it mildly, harsh comments attributed to the president of the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA), Moses Magogo towards the Uganda Cranes players who participated in the CAF African Nations Championship (CHAN) football tournament.
Magogo in a rather vitriolic manner came out all guns blazing and scoffed at the national team football players that represented Uganda in that tournament arguing that they did not deserve to be paid for according to him, the shambolic performance that they put up or to put it more apt, the “shitty” football they played at that tournament.
Interestingly, he admitted to not paying the players that represented Uganda at that CHAN tournament and added that they would be paid at the right time.
This was against the backdrop of allegations from a section of the football community led by Mike Mutyaba, an ex-footballer who took it a notch higher and carried out a demonstration just outside the FUFA premises.
Mutyaba was beaten and arrested.
It does not matter what side of the aisle you stand or how you look at it, these allegations are grave and deserve to be put before a more serious process for determination.
These allegations speak to the need for the professionalisation of the sports industry in Uganda. Sports is serious business and even the most lightweight of allegations cannot be taken lightly.
This professionalisation of sports can best be achieved through creating certainty, predictability, trust, and consistency through a bespoke comprehensive sports disputes resolution mechanism.
The world long recognised that there should be a way of allowing sportspeople to do what they do best, which is achieving excellence on the track and field with limited interruption.
A special body of law, ‘Sports Law’ was developed. Sports law spawned a dispute resolution mechanism called ‘Sports Arbitration’.
Sports Arbitration is hand in glove with the professionalisation of sports the world over.
The world recognised that sports is too powerful and should exist on its own and as a result, even its dispute resolution processes should be specialised.
In more advanced jurisdictions, Sports Arbitration has been institutional. A good example of this is Kenya where a special dispute resolution forum for sports was created.
The Kenyan Sports Act, 2013 established a Sports Disputes Tribunal. This Tribunal is vested with the powers to handle disputes relating to contracts, those concerning disciplinary issues of athletes, doping, disputes arising from selection for international competitions, to mention but a few.
This Court has both original and appellate jurisdiction. It has original jurisdiction in disputes concerning international athletes, say over issues like doping, and has appellate jurisdiction in disputes concerning domestic and/or local athletes in appeals arising from disciplinary decisions for instance.
Appeals from the tribunal are lodged with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The intention of the legislators in creating that special court was to keep sports disputes away from Municipal Courts. The only recourse to Municipal Courts has been by way of Judicial Review which only questions the processes towards arriving at a decision and not the merits of the decision itself. They must have intended for these disputes to be resolved by and among the sports fraternity itself.
The Kenyan legislators, to their credit, must have also taken into consideration, not just the ‘Law of Sports’ or ‘Sports Law’, but also the ‘Law in Sports’.
The ‘Law of Sports’ simply sets out the institutions, rules, and standards that govern sports whereas the Law in Sports means that sports is much more; it refers to a wide range of activities that come with the sports industry-the economic and political aspects of sports.
The legislators must have noticed that sponsors who have endorsement deals with these athletes would want disputes concerning them resolved faster, that these athletes have a few years at the top of their game, and should be able to have whatever distractions that stand in their way resolved quickly.
The sports fraternity in Kenya is increasingly embracing this sports disputes tribunal.
FUFA should be applauded for putting in place a Dispute Resolution Chamber which is a step in the right direction towards bringing sports arbitration to Uganda.
This Dispute Resolution Chamber attempts to keep the Municipal Courts out of football matters by creating a dispute resolution process that leads to the CAS as the final court of appeal.
However, I am not convinced that this is enough to prevent an aggrieved party from resorting to Municipal Courts to have their matters resolved or even whether it has the wherewithal to handle a dispute like this “Magogo-Mutyaba” instant one.
Finally, the said Dispute Resolution Chamber is not created by a substantive Act of Parliament.
Uganda, therefore, needs a sports disputes tribunal composed of sports experts of the highest caliber and integrity akin to the Kenya Sports Disputes Tribunal.
Mike Mutyaba and Moses Magogo should not be trading jibes on social media or beating up and arresting each other.
They should instead be battling it out before a Sports Disputes Tribunal.
The author is a lawyer who is passionate about sports.