Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) has suspended the men's division II playoffs to pave way for a case filed at the Sports Disputes Tribunal by World Hope basketball club.
The club is aggrieved after missing out on playoffs courtesy of two forfeited games. Zetech University and Nebulas from Kakamega have already played two games in the best-of-five final series.
The other leagues are not affected by the decision with two games slated for this weekend in the women’s Premier League.
United States International University- Africa (USIU-A) and Equity Bank will face off at the Nyayo National Stadium gymnasium on Saturday and Sunday in the semifinals.
Postponement of the playoffs was by World Hope at the tribunal. But, they immediately read mischief from the federation since they acted barely hours to their hearing scheduled for Thursday evening.
Samuel Muthomi Gichunge, the counsel for World Hope said the timing was suspect. “We received the email confirming this postponement yesterday (Wednesday) at 10 p.m which is beyond the official working hours. The respondent has pre-empted my application by suspending the playoffs now,” he submitted.
“We read mischief on their part because after all the time we have tried to stop the playoffs in vain, they see it fit to do that now.”
The club also opposed the idea of returning the issue to the KBF appeals and complaints committee as proposed by the federation and supported by the tribunal.
“We appreciate that the committee did not meet but they have said they will now meet. The decision that the committee will make is the same decision that this tribunal was to make,” John Ohaga, the tribunal’s chairman said.
“I propose that you allow the committee to hear the appeal and if you are not satisfied, you can then come back to the tribunal. That is the most practical solution.”
KBF ready to hear dispute
In their five-point preliminary objection to the case proceeding, KBF stated they are ready to hear the matter and give a determination within 14 days.
But, World Hope insisted on the matter proceeding before the SDT. Gichunge said the club wrote to KBF on November 8, 2016 through George Namake and another follow-up letter on November 9 but there was no response.
He added that his client paid Sh.3,000 required to lodge an appeal. “We took this matter to the appeals committee and they had 21 days to render a decision. They failed to respond and silence is a decision,” Gichunge explained.
“The challenge we have is that for the entire time we have raised this issue, the respondent has chosen not to respond to my client. In this instance, my client's case will be prejudiced because we have already accused the appeals committee of being non-committal.”
He further cast doubt on whether the appeals committee will be impartial in their decision. “One cannot be the judge and lawyer at the same time. We are accusing an official of the respondent and we are accusing the respondent whose officials will sit in the appeals committee.”
Martha Ogutu, who was holding brief for KBF’s counsel, said the committee could not sit since secretary general Vitalis Gode who has powers to convene was away on official duty in Maputo, Mozambique.
That did not go well with the tribunal. “We don't accept the position that one person runs the federation and when he is away, activities ground to a halt. The appeal was copied to Joseph Amoko and Steve Nyakina, where were they?” Ohaga queried. The next hearing is on February 14.
In yet another point of objection, KBF questioned the legal standing of Gichunge to represent his client before the tribunal.
Ogutu claimed that Gichunge was not a member of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) by the time he filed the appeal. Consequently, she told the tribunal that Gichunge was not an active counsel.
“He did not posses a valid certificate of practise. He has not put in papers showing he is representing World Hope so we don't know how he is here. Our main objection is that by the time of filing this appeal, he was not a practising advocate.”
In defense, Gichunge admitted to not being a practising advocate when he filed the appeal. But, he added that no section of the Sports Act demands one to be an advocate to appear before the tribunal and represent a client.
“Her argument holds no water. I am one of the few sports lawyers in the country, I have studied sports law and am well conversant with matters to do with regulation. I am competent enough to represent my client.” Ohaga overruled the objection saying it was not enough to impede the case of a petitioner.
“In future, we might be forced to determine competence of counsels appearing before us,” he said.