CAS announced, on July 13, that it would deliver a final verdict by today, July 31. The announcement elicited mixed reactions of uncertainty and hope within the immediate circles of the two clubs, Morocco’s Wydad and Tunisia’s Esperance Tunis. Both teams claim that they have been wronged and deserve to win this year’s African Champions League.
Instead, CAS’ verdict, even as it strongly overrules the previous rematch ruling made by CAF, the governing body of African football, has come with more doubts than answers. In its ruling, CAS is adamant that Wydad’s conclusions are wrong and that CAF’s call for rematch is “null and void.” But it does not say whether EST should be the winner, once again delaying the final answer which it said it would provide today.
After recounting the circumstances that led the two clubs to seek an intervention from CAS, the body explained, in a statement published earlier today, that the executive committee of the African Confederation of Football (CAF) does not have the legitimate authority to decide as it did on June 5— on a rematch of the second leg in neutral stadium.
“The CAS team tasked with this issue has decided the CAF executive committee was not competent to rule for a rematch of the second leg of the final and has therefore decided to annul that decision,” CAS announced.
Referring to both clubs’ opposition to a rematch, the statement added: “The two clubs’ conclusions have been partially admitted.” In their separate requests, both Wydad and EST claimed they should win the trophy.
EST pointed out that it was winning 1-0 when the referee ended the match after tense disagreements over Wydad’s equalizer, which the referee had wrongfully ruled out for off side.
By contrast, Wydad, also claiming to be the legitimate winner, built its case around the fact that they had no prior knowledge of the defective state of the VAR system at the Rades Stadium.
On this point, CAS’ partial verdict sided with EST. “All other conclusions that WAC reached [except for its opposition on CAF’ rematch decision] have been definitely rejected, while those of EST will be taken into account in the final verdict.”
As the statement went on to explain the “concrete” meaning of the decision, however, there came no clear answer to the question that everyone has been asking: Who will be champions if CAS rules out the rematch option? CAS’ answer was as confusing as its rejection of CAF’s rematch ruling was unmistakable.
“Concretely, it is now CAF’s competent bodies’ responsibility to decide on the incidents that occurred at the Rades Stadium on May 31, to take adequate disciplinary measures, or rule whether the second leg of the final should be played again,” the statement noted.
Having overruled CAF’s rematch decision because its executive committee lacked legitimacy to rule on the ETS-Wydad case, CAS is again asking “competent bodies” from the same CAF to decide on what should be next.
In the meantime, while CAF takes time to decide, “CAS will continue to deliberate” by taking into account EST’ requests and CAF’s final decision, the statement concluded.
The verdict leaves EST in a far comforting position than Wydad, but the confusion over CAF’s role—the fact that the final verdict will take CAF’s decision into account—means that this EST-Wydad saga is anything but over. If anything, a fierce power battle should be expected within CAF institutions in the coming weeks.