Bosnia rejects FIFA statute, faces suspension

The Bosnian football federation has rejected a request from FIFA

and UEFA to cut its three presidents to one, leaving the country

facing a ban from international matches.

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s federation reflects the political setup of

the country and its ethnic division after the 1992-95 war. It

consists of two associations: One for Bosnian Serbs and another

shared by Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats. Together they are headed by

a three-member presidency, made up of a Bosniak, a Croat and a


Just like in politics, the Bosnian Serbs do not agree with the

concept of one president because they fear it might jeopardize

their autonomy. All Bosnian Serb delegates and a number of Bosnian

Croats voted against the change on Tuesday.

Bogdan Ceko, the head of the Bosnian Serb association, said he

”does not feel personally responsible for this but we can talk

about a collective responsibility.”

Bosnian Serbs base their refusal on the country’s constitution

written in 1995 during peace negotiations in Dayton, Ohio. The

peace agreement ended the Bosnian war but divided the country along

ethnic lines and prescribed a three-member presidency for the

country – a setup that has proven ineffective as all three have to

agree in order to pass a decision.

The three-member football presidency and other provisions of the

Bosnian statute that did not conform to FIFA’s standards were

tolerated for years because FIFA and UEFA were aware of Bosnia’s

political problems.

But last October both agencies told Bosnia that 15 years after

Dayton the transition period was over and that if the country did

not conform to the rules by the end of March it would be suspended.

Back then, the Serbs said they wouldn’t change the setup, but

proposed the three presidents rotate as chairman every 16


A suspension would effectively punish those in Bosnia who voted

for FIFA’s and UEFA’s rules and will reward those who voted against

them because people in the Serb half of the country don’t support

Bosnia’s national team. They view the national team of neighboring

Serbia as their own, and would not be unhappy to see the Bosnian

team suspended.

”It’s hard. I’m taking this very hard,” said Muhidin Rascic, a

Bosniak member of the federation’s executive board. ”Only I know

how much of my life I have invested into all of this and now it’s


FIFA and UEFA said Bosnia’s suspension from world football will

be triggered ”with immediate effect” if Thursday’s deadline

passes without change.

Along with suspension from international football for all teams,

a country’s officials are also excluded from international football

business, and funding from FIFA and UEFA is frozen.

The dispute threatens Bosnia’s promising prospects of qualifying

for the 2012 European Championship – which would be its first

appearance at a major tournament as an independent team.

Its next international qualifier is scheduled for June 3 in

Romania, which it beat 2-1 in Zenica last Saturday. Bosnia is

scheduled to host Albania on June 7.

The matches could still go ahead if Bosnia backs down in the

coming weeks and meets the demands of FIFA and UEFA.

UEFA said it has not officially discussed options for Euro 2012

if Bosnia cannot fulfill its fixtures.

However, the European body could yet be faced with expelling

Bosnia and wiping its results from the Group D records. That would

deny current leader France its 2-0 win in Sarajevo last


FIFA and UEFA met with Bosnian clubs last month to explain the

consequences of a suspension.

”They do not want to be victims of people who do not want to

take care of the future of football,” FIFA said on Tuesday in a


In the national league standings, Borac Banja Luka from the Serb

region has an eight-point lead and faces being denied a first entry

into UEFA’s Champions League next season if no compromise is


If the standoff continues, Bosnia also would lose the right to

attend the FIFA Congress on June 1 in Zurich, where up to 208

national associations are scheduled to vote in the FIFA

presidential election.

AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this