Kuwait amends sports laws, but MPs say bans likely to remain

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KUWAIT CITY: Kuwaiti lawmakers have approved sweeping changes to the country’s sports laws likely to prolong bans imposed by international football and the Olympics.

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World football’s governing body FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended Kuwait in October over laws that allow government interference in sports.

Several other international federations have also blacklisted Kuwait, which risks missing the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

Sports organisations have demanded Kuwait amend its laws to prevent interference, and Kuwaiti parliamentarians voted 40 to six on Sunday to repeal all sports laws approved between 2007 and 2015.

Kuwaiti sports legislation from 1978 was reactivated but with amendments, including giving the government the power to dissolve sports clubs and federations, as well as Kuwait’s Olympic Committee. Sports bodies can challenge dissolutions in court under the law.

During debate, several Kuwaiti lawmakers said it would not satisfy the country’s critics.

“This legislation is not a solution because it does not end the sanctions against Kuwait. Under the law, the government has bigger control over sports,” independent MP Khalaf al-Enezi said.

This law “is a dangerous indication of the government’s interference in sports and could prolong the suspension,” MP Saleh Ashour said.

Kuwait officials have blamed Sheikh Ahmad Fahad al-Sabah, one of the most powerful men in sport, for the Gulf state’s isolation from international competitions.

In a lawsuit launched in January, authorities accused the sheikh — a member of the FIFA executive committee, a top International Olympic Committee member and head of Asia’s Olympic body — of deliberately causing the suspensions.

Several lawmakers repeated the allegations against Sheikh Ahmad during Sunday’s debate, also laying blame on his younger brother, Sheikh Talal, the chairman of Kuwait’s Olympic Committee.

“For how long will Sheikh Ahmad and Talal continue to undermine Kuwaiti sports?” asked MP Abdullah al-Turaiji.

Speaking to parliament, State Minister for Youth Sheikh Salman al-Humoud Al-Sabah denied any government interference in sports.

“The suspension will end when the head of the Kuwait Olympic Committee tells international bodies that there is no complaint and there is no government interference in sports,” he said.

“If the law does not achieve the lifting of the suspension, it will at least not reward federations that contributed to the imposition of sanctions,” the minister said. AFP

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