In a 2-1 decision today, the Court of Arbitration for Sport - or Tribunal Arbitral du Sport if you'd prefer - overturned the lifetime ban which FIFA had placed on disgraced former Vice President Mohammad Bin Hammam.
The brilliant Keir Radnedge quipped: "Just like the best soap opera this is FIFA's equivalent of Bobby Ewing walking back out of shower in 'Dallas'"
The CAS, while stating that
"it is more likely than not that Mr. Bin Hammam was the source of the monies that were brought into Trinidad and Tobago"
...nevertheless ruled in Bin Hammam's favor, calling it "...a situation of 'case not proven,'" because FIFA didn't have documentation of monies being transferred and thus "the investigation was not complete or comprehensive enough to fill the gaps in the record"
Underlining the point, the court added that it "is not making any sort of affirmative finding of innocence in relation to Mr. Bin Hammam"
Rather, “The panel is doing no more than concluding that the evidence is insufficient in that it does not permit the majority of the panel to reach the standard of comfortable satisfaction in relation to the matters on which the Appellant was charged.”
Which is not, unsurprisingly, the way Bin Hammam is playing it. In a revolting AFP interview, the Qatari zillionaire did a victory dance:
“The truth has been established after this long procedure and my conscience is clear”
“I always said that I was innocent during the process. I was sure that when the affair went before an independent body, the truth would come out, and that’s what’s happened."
“I’m very happy because I’ve been able to prove that all the allegations against me were false ”
The fact that not a single word of that bears the slightest resemblance to what the Court actually said is apparently of no interest.
As for the CFU delegates, virtually all of whom admitted to FIFA that they did, indeed, take Bin Hammam's money he had this to say:
“I’m even more happy because my colleagues from CONCACAF, who were at my side, see their honour restored after their names were dragged through the mud due to these unfounded accusations”
“They have also been victims of a great injustice but the CAS decision has cleaned their honour."
Does this mean we can look forward to all of them marching back to Zurich and announcing that they really didn't take the money?
When asked what he's going to do now, he told the reporter
"I'm going to Disneyworld" “Going forward I’ll see with my lawyers. All options are open.”
(If you're a glutton for punishment, check out the media release from the CAS, courtesy of Pablo Chicago)
The court's ruling is of course due to the fact that Bin Hammam has steadfastly refused to hand over his bank records and thus there is no physical evidence of a money transfer.
Which is why Bin Hammam never testified - never even set foot in the courtroom - during the proceedings. Neither did Jack Warner or Chuck Blazer or, really, much of anyone else. All that was presented was a copy of the Freeh investigation, which concluded that if it looks like a bribe and talks like a bribe and smells like a bribe then it's a bribe.
The CAS took a more formal view, based on the sound, well-established legal premise that the money may have been dropped from the sky by Leprechauns flying large winged warthogs.
As predictably as the sun rising in the East is, of course, Jack Warner claiming "vindication" based on the decision:
“I waited a little more than a year for this day and now I feel, not only in a sense relieved, but I feel comforted,” Warner said, adding that a few friends, including Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, never lost faith in him during the difficult time.
That this is an example of what is technically referred to as "bare-assed-lying" is made clear by what the court actually said, to wit:
"Mr Warner arranged for each of the members present to be offered a personal gift of $40,000 [in unmarked envelopes from a suitcase] and said that the gift was from the CFU. The following morning, at an urgent meeting, Mr Warner changed his story, telling those present that the gift was from Mr Bin Hammam."
Warner finds this "comforting" and claims it as "vindication". Of course, since the lapdog media down there won't point this out, that's likely exactly what the story will be.
Furthermore, Warner wants everyone to know that this whole thing was a Blatter plot to destroy him personally in order to reduce the power of the Caribbean footballing countries, but he doesn't hold a grudge against those poor deluded federations who testified against him:
“When last you hear anything about the CFU? I would say Father forgive them for they know not what they do”
Warner told the media that Blatter has taken the bigger countries in CONCACAF out from under the control of the Caribbean feds, thereby destroying the region as a football power, before adding, in classic Warner style:
“And I will tell you that no weapon formed against me shall prosper, none whatsoever”.
As a practical matter, thankfully, the ruling changes nothing.
Despite the announcement by the President of the UAE federation that Bin Hammam should be restored to the Presidency of the AFC, that's really not going to happen, for three reasons:
First, despite what his lawyer says, everybody knows this decision did not declare him innocent of a damned thing and not much of anyone in the AFC, where a lot of people were sick to death of him anyway, has any desire to piss off Zurich by putting him back in charge.
Second, in response to the decision, FIFA announced yesterday that their brand-spanking new Ethics Committee will be asked to fully investigate the whole thing again. They'll fight him every step of the way.
Third, just last week - probably in anticipation of this kind of decision from the CAS - the AFC announced a new investigation of a whole pile of accusations against the former President, including "financial mismanagement" and bribery.
All of which is probably why Bin Hammam told the media yesterday that "My wish now is just to quit and retire".
For all concerned, we can only hope that's true.