Kuwait police seize sports offices as power struggle boils

Kuwait City—Kuwaiti authorities ordered police to seize the Gulf state’s football association and Olympic committee offices, in the latest round of a sporting power struggle.
The action on Sunday heightened a standoff that has seen Kuwait suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and world football’s governing body FIFA since October.
The country did not take part in this year’s Rio Olympics and will not contest the qualifiers for football’s 2018 World Cup.
The move came after the government’s sports commission ousted Sheikh Talal Fahad Al-Sabah as head of the Kuwait Football Association (KFA) and the national Olympic committee.
Fawaz al-Hassawi, who was named as new head of the football association, is the owner of English Championship side Nottingham Forest.
Police seized the offices of the football association but failed to take over the Olympic committee headquarters.
At a press conference after the football offices were seized, Hassawi promised increased prizes in the Kuwaiti championship.
However, the ousted head said authorities had used “threat and intimidation” in an official notice demanding that the KFA offices be handed over.
The sheikh, in a statement released by KFA, said he had been accused of “financial violations”, over which he demanded an investigation by Kuwaiti prosecutors.
The government action raised question marks over the “rule of institutions” in the oil-rich state, he said, charging that it was a “personal” campaign.
“They have to understand that what was taken by force from us today shall be taken back tomorrow by the rule of law and the justice of the cause and the support of the international and local Olympic movement.”
The sports commission is headed by Youth and Information Minister Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Homud Al-Sabah, who has sought greater control over Kuwait’s sports bodies.
The IOC and FIFA suspended Kuwait last October over a law giving the government the right to intervene in sports bodies.
A new law was passed in June but the IOC said this only increased government powers.
The IOC and FIFA maintain that Sheikh Sabah is the legitimate head of the two associations.
Sheikh Sabah is a brother of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, a member of the IOC executive and FIFA’s ruling council as well as president of the Olympic Council of Asia.—AFP

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