Wed | Nov 25, 2020

FIFA bans Haitian soccer president for life for sexual abuse

Published:Friday | November 20, 2020 | 11:05 AM
In this file photo dated Thursday, May 21, 2020, Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mask, arrives for a court hearing regarding allegations that he abused female athletes at the country's national training center, in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. In a verdict announced Friday, November 20, 2020, the FIFA ethics committee has found Jean-Bart guilty, banned him from the sport for life and fined him US$1.1 million, following accusations of systematic sexual abuse of female players. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery, FILE)

GENEVA (AP) — Haitian soccer federation president Yves Jean-Bart was banned from the sport for life on Friday following accusations of systematic sexual abuse of female players.

The FIFA ethics committee found Jean-Bart guilty of “having abused his position and sexually harassed and abused various female players, including minors” from 2014 until this year.

He was also fined one million Swiss francs.

Jean-Bart has denied the allegations, which involve national team players.

The accusations were first revealed by British newspaper The Guardian in April.

An appeal will be filed at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a spokesman for Jean-Bart said in a statement.

“FIFA’s decision is a travesty of justice and purely political move to avoid further controversy and bad press following a series of high-profile scandals,” spokesman Evan Nierman said.

The abuse is said to have happened at the country’s national training center at Croix-des-Bouquets, which FIFA helped fund. It was known as “The Ranch.”

As the head of Haitian soccer since 2000, Jean-Bart “wielded huge power … and has high-level connections into the government, political, and legal systems,” Human Rights Watch said.

Haitian state authorities have been urged by the advocacy group to investigate the allegations and protect the players, who also said they were intimidated and threatened.

“This is not a case of one bad apple,” Human Rights Watch global initiatives director Minky Worden said ahead of the FIFA verdict.

“Athletes have testified that many other officials in the Haitian Football Federation — officials responsible for their safety — either participated in sexual abuse or knew and turned a blind eye.”

Three more Haitian federation officials have been suspended from work while FIFA investigators gather evidence, technical director Wilner Etienne, national center girls’ supervisor Nela Joseph, and assistant coach Yvette Félix.

Federation officials are accused of being “principals, accomplices or instigators” in the systematic abuse, FIFA said Friday.

Jean-Bart had been “actually investigated and cleared” by the judicial system in Haiti, his spokesman said.

“FIFA failed to review actual evidence which is why Dr Jean-Bart expects to be fully exonerated and reinstated after appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” Nierman said.

Since the allegations were revealed, FIFA has pledged to work on safeguarding players in an agreement with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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