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Gloves Off! Royal AM Saga Takes Another Twist!

According to Royal AM’s lawyer, the Court of Arbitration for Sport is ready to hear their matter on being declared lawful winners of the GladAfrica Championship.

Soccer Laduma reported last week that CAS required a little over R700 000 to cover costs for yet another mediation to deliberate on whether Judge Hilton Epstein’s ruling in May, which gave Sekhukhune United – not Royal AM – passage into the DStv Premiership, should be deemed invalid or remain legal and binding.

This saga has been dragging on for months.   

“There’s a letter already from CAS that informs the other parties that Royal AM has paid its share of the arbitration costs – SAFA, the PSL and Sekhukhune must file their answers by December 20. The arbitration panel has been compiled and a judge appointed, all of them have signed declarations. I can confirm that the funds have been transferred as of yesterday,” said Leruma Thobejane, the legal representative for Royal AM.

Epstein had stripped Polokwane City of the three points they collected in their victory over Sekhukhune on January 2, after the Limpopo-based outfit were found guilty of failing to have the full quota of five U23 players in their squad as per NSL rules.

With Sekhukhune in turn being awarded those points, they were able to leapfrog to the top of the table and then crowned automatic champions, while Royal AM had to settle for the play-offs a few weeks later.

“There are three decisions we have taken to CAS to be set aside. The first is the one taken by SAFA to deny us an arbitration on the dispute between ourselves and the PSL as well as the review of the Epstein award. The second is the decision of the PSL to refuse to implement the arbitration award on May 21, they did not have the authority or legal power to refuse as it was in violation of their own NSL handbook, in violation of the SAFA and FIFA disciplinary code and in violation of every rule,” Thobejane continued.

“Once an award has been noted, even if you want to appeal or take it on review, you must implement it immediately. So there was no reason why the PSL had to wait until they went to court. The last decision we want is to have the Epstein award set aside in totality because, as the PSL stated in their own circular on May 21 this year, it is factually and legally incorrect. That’s what we want. So the PSL must file answers on whether they were correct not to implement the award. We believe their refusal was not based on any law.”

Asked what the ramifications were should Royal AM get their way, the attorney would not speculate, but moved to further debate the merits of their case.  

“We don’t know what the PSL will do, it’s up to them to nullify the season or not. If the award is in favour of Royal AM, then the club will take it’s automatic position as being promoted to the topflight, Sekhukhune will be entitled to a play-off. What the PSL does has nothing to do with me, effectively the league could be declared null and void, but I am not saying that’s what should happen, although the consequences might be that,” Thobejane explained.

What about the fact that Royal AM subsequently bought their way up, agreeing to purchase Bloemfontein Celtic on the eve of the new DStv Premiership season?

“When you talk about promotion you must go to the rules, which tell you promotion is based on merit and on the log standings. The buying of the status has nothing to do with promotion. I’ve read your article, and people were talking about the sale of a club. My case has nothing to do with the sale of a club, it’s a side issue,” the attorney insisted.

“I don’t even know who sold what to who and for how much. If you receive points unlawfully and then there’s a sale of a club, that doesn’t change the unlawful nature of the points, that’s nonsense. The fact of the matter is that the CAS arbitration panel is called upon to decide whether the Epstein award was factually and legally correct. It was the NSL that said the Epstein findings were factually and legally incorrect, they went to go court to get a declaratory that their own handbook is not silent in respect of the sanctions. The order was granted. We want to see how they will now answer. The passing of time has not cured the incorrect decision and the sale of the club is irrelevant.”

Story by @superjourno 

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