(JMD interviewed on ABC)
Posted about 3 hours ago
One of only two international sporting heavyweights to have been awarded the Australian Olympic Committee's (AOC) Olympic Merit has this week resigned from all world football positions after being implicated in the ongoing US Department of Justice probe into FIFA bribery and corruption.
Kuwait's Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah is known inside the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and world football circles as 'the king maker'.
He announced his resignation from several FIFA posts after being identified in as a co-conspirator in US court documents where the head of Guam's Football Federation, Richard Lai, pleaded guilty to receiving graft worth almost $1 million from a senior member of Kuwait's Football Association.
Sheikh Ahmad denies any wrongdoing but over the weekend also withdrew his candidacy for upcoming regional FIFA elections.
He also holds several senior positions inside the IOC, including head of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), chair of the IOC's Solidarity Commission — in charge of distributing television rights fees to member nations — and president of the Olympic Council of Asia, with which the Australian Olympic Committee has recently strengthened its ties, allowing Australian athletes to compete at selected Asian Games.
An IOC statement suggests Sheikh Ahmad's current troubles have nothing to do with the Olympic movement so there is no expectation for him to stand down from his Olympic posts, although he did alert the IOC's ethics and compliance officer of the allegations implicating him.
One senior IOC insider said: "There have been checks and the Sheikh is ok".
Long-time follower of football politics, James M Dorsey, a senior fellow at Nanyang University' school of international studies and author of blog The Turbulent World of Middle East Politics says the IOC's position is unsustainable.
"For one we are only at the beginning of the legal proceedings in the United States, and I would assume there is more to come," he said.
"Sheikh Ahmad has denied the allegations very vigorously but those allegations have certainly not been disproven and so there is a shackle that hangs over him and I can't see how organisations like the IOC and ANOC can simply ignore that."
In 2013, Sheikh Ahmad was presented with the Olympic Merit by AOC president John Coates, in front of ANOC guests and members of the Olympic Solidarity Commission meeting in Sydney.
The AOC's executive approved the award for the Sheikh's "remarkable contribution to the development of sport".
The Kuwaiti Parliament has been debating the issue over the past two days with some calling for the country's anti-corruption body to investigate.
Sheikh Ahmad is a member of the ruling royal family. He is a former government minister, head of OPEC and national security advisor.
For a number of years he has been embroiled in an internal family dispute linked to his political ambitions which has resulted in both FIFA and the IOC suspending Kuwait's membership.
At the Rio Olympic Games, athletes from Kuwait marched under the Olympic flag rather than that of their country.
"The suspension of virtually all Kuwaiti sport by virtually all international sporting associations is a fallout of the power struggle within the family," Dorsey said.
"In other words, the IOC, at Sheikh Ahmad's behest, accused the Kuwaitis when rolling out a new sports law of essentially politically interfering in sports affairs."
"That new law was in many ways designed to oust Sheikh Ahmad and his brother from any positions within Kuwaiti sports.
"It is a power struggle within the Kuwaiti royal family being fought out in national and international sports."
National Olympic committees, such as the Australian Olympic Committee, rebuke all forms of government interference, preferring to be free of domestic politics — a call that is central to the incumbent, Mr Coates, in the current presidential race to be decided at this weekend's AOC AGM.