Voting process for 2017 Africa Cup of Nations is up to shady FIFA standards

Voting and soccer seem to have a complicated relationship. People vote for soccer things and then other people are like, “That’s a really terrible way to vote.” People complain, platitudes are delivered, and then the broken relationship just seems to fall into old patterns, continuing with the laughable status quo.

Over the last year, the world has been fixated almost exclusively on FIFA and the voting process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. So, in the interest of change, let’s take a quick break and spend a few moments with the Confederation of African Football (CAF). Change is good.

Randy Abbey, a member of Ghana’s 2017 African Cup of Nations bid committee and former Ghana Football Association spokesman, is questioning CAF’s voting process to determine the hosts for the 2017 tournament.

On Tuesday, CAF announced that Gabon had won the right to host the biennial showcase, beating out Ghana and Algeria to replace Libya, who pulled out as hosts in August 2014 because of an “unstable security situation in the country.” Abbey, who was in Cairo during the voting, was less than impressed with the level of transparency.

Abbey told Joy Sports‘ Nathaniel Attoh:

“There was something, and I’m sure in the coming hours or days you’ll hear, especially from the Algerians, the way the voting for this one was conducted.

Even the executive committee who cast their votes, they don’t know the results of the vote. Only two of them were called by [CAF president] Issa Hayatou to look at what the votes were, and they were all ushered into the conference room where the media and the other three countries were.”

This, according to Abbey, and logic, isn’t the best way to vote:

“In this case, we didn’t know who got what. We were told that it was Gabon. They got 5, 6, 10, 13, 14 [votes], nobody knows. Even the Executive Committee members who cast their votes, were not told of the results.”

He continued:

“The president of CAF showed a paper that Gabon had won. I found that quite embarrassing, in 2015. Maybe that is the value and the culture here. Like they say in strategic management, that is how business is run here.”

It’s kind of shocking that “votes are cast, man walks into a dark room, man walks out with a piece of paper and declares winner” is still a way to vote for something as big as a continental tournament worth lots of briefcases of money. But then again, we all know that it isn’t too shocking.

Algerian officials backed Abbey’s account. Algeria’s Minister of Sports, Mohamed Tahmi, shared his views on the vote:

“CAF’s decision shocked us and we can’t accept it till now. Our bid was the best among all, but the CAF president gave it to Gabon. With all respect to Gabon, but that was illogical.”

Algerian Football Federation vice president, Mohamed Meshrani, took an even harsher tone, saying, “I dare if anyone can tell us about the number of votes that Gabon had. I have the answer; no one knows that. We will not stop here. We will ask CAF how they ignored our offer, till now I can’t believe,”

Ghana FA president Kwesi Nyantaki shared similar misgivings about the voting process with Citi FM, stating:

“Unlike previous occasions even as recent as September when we went to Ethiopia to choose the hosts for 2019, 2021 and 2023, the hosts were chosen on the basis of votes counted and declared publicly at least before the membership of the executive committee so we knew but on this occasion it was not so.

“The two non-voting members of the executive committee were entrusted to handle it so they went and counted the ballots and declared the results to the president who announced it publicly.

“For me, as a member of the executive committee, I heard the winner the first time when Issa Hayatou announced it at the press conference which I considered not to be good enough.

“To that extent I fully subscribe to the view that there was limited transparency.”

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of all these conversations about transparency in soccer governance is the relative ease in which the processes could be made transparent. But it’s almost as if certain people have no interest in real transparency. It almost makes you wonder why one might lack the motivation to usher in an era of transparency.

You can listen to Abbey here:

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