FIVB accused of violating statutes to oust former presidential candidate
Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland/Flickr
The margin could not have been smaller when the Brazilian Ary Graça was elected president of world volleyball’s governing body, the FIVB, in September 2012: In order for Graça to win in the first round, he needed 103 out of the 205 votes. And he got exactly 103 votes.
But according to a letter circulating in the FIVB, instead of stretching out the hand to his two contenders, the American Doug Beal and the Australian Chris Schacht, the new FIVB president decided to revenge himself, in the first place targeting the Australian who came in third in the election.
In the letter signed by Chris Schacht and distributed in an e-mail on 18 February this year to the volleyball community, Schacht details how, on several occasions during 2013, he was sidelined by the FIVB top, and eventually pressured into stepping down from all his leading volleyball positions.
“I have given a detailed explanation of what I consider to be extraordinary events for me to be removed from international positions in world volleyball without good reason, other than personal gossip that some people didn’t like me,” Schacht writes.
In a written statement to Play the Game, the FIVB denounces Schacht’s accusations, which they call “unfounded and misleading”. The FIVB further states that they have documentation that can prove that the allegations are untrue. Play the Game has not been presented with this documentation.
In his letter, Schacht writes that Graça has carried out a number of political maneuvers and made promises of more development money to Oceania – a group with many small and poor countries all having a vote in the FIVB congress. That way Ary Graça has pursued two goals: To get more support for his own person and to push Chris Schacht out of all his international volleyball positions.
Preparing changes in Oceania leadership
When running to become FIVB president, Schacht was president of the Australian Volleyball Federation (AVF), president of the Oceania Zonal Volleyball Association (OZVA), member of the Board of Administration of the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) and member of the Board of Administration of the FIVB.
According to his letter, Schacht was ousted from his positions one by one at the request of the current FIVB president Ary Graça.
The chain of unusual events started already in March 2013, when President Graça called and paid for all national federations from the so-called 'group' 1 and 2 of Oceania to attend a meeting in Tokyo.
The FIVB confederations classify their member countries into categories according to the development level of the sport starting with category 1 as the lowest level. Category 1 and 2 countries are those whose national federations get the main consideration when the FIVB Development Fund is allocated.
A number of top FIVB officials took part in the meeting. Australia, which is a category or 'group' 3 country and the biggest member nation of Oceania, and Schacht himself, in spite of his position as president of Oceania, were not invited. Neither was the secretary general of Oceania.
“I found it extraordinary that I, as a member of the FIVB Board of Administration, AVC Board of Administration, President of Oceania and President of Australian Volleyball Association, was not invited to attend the meeting in Tokyo. Particularly as other members of the FIVB Board of Administration, other members of the AVC Board of Administration and FIVB Past Presidents and members of the Japanese Board of Administration were invited. Japan is not a member of Oceania,” the letter says.
The FIVB does not explain why an Oceania president was not allowed to take place in a meeting of Oceania countries, but merely states that “only Oceania countries from group 1 and 2 were invited. Australia was in group 3”.
Schacht decided to go to Tokyo in spite of not being invited. He was not let into the meeting until at the very end, but met with Ary Graça after the meeting:
“While I was in Tokyo I had a direct conversation with President Graça and he explained that it would be inappropriate for me as a former candidate for the Presidency of the FIVB to attend the meeting,” writes Schacht in the letter.
After the meeting, Schacht was also informed that delegates from the association wanted an immediate removal of the current leadership of the Oceania.
“I have subsequently learned that during those meetings in Los Angeles [leading up to the presidential election, ed.] President Graça and his supporters were suggesting to Oceania countries that funding would be more readily available to Oceania if certain changes were made in the leadership of Oceania,” Schacht writes.
New president of the AVF and of the Oceania
One month later, in April 2013, Schacht announced that he would be stepping down as president of the Australian Volleyball Federation and that he recommended that Craig Carracher took over the seat. Schacht wished to complete his terms in his international positions within the FIVB and the federations of Oceania and Asia.
Carracher later informed Schacht that he had been approached by Essa Hamza, AVC vice-president and member of the FIVB board, who had expressed that the FIVB wanted Schacht removed not only as Australian president, but also from his international posts.
“Mr Carracher informed me that Mr Hamza was speaking on behalf of the President of the FIVB. Mr Hamza made it clear they wanted me removed from international positions and if Australia agreed to me being removed from these positions, Mr Carracher would become the new President of Oceania,” Schacht argues in the letter.
If the upcoming Oceania General Assembly would remove Schacht, Australia could expect to receive favorable sporting considerations from the FIVB, and prospects of more financial assistance to Oceania were held out.
“During this discussion [between Carracher and Hamza, ed.] it was implied that with these changes Australia might or could receive favourable consideration from the FIVB for such things as entry into the FIVB World League and maybe even in the Women’s Grand Prix,” the letter says.
In its email to Play the Game, the FIVB denies that promises of increased development grants and sporting benefits were made to countries that would support a change of leadership in the Oceanic Zonal Volleyball Association.
When all Oceania delegates finally met on 24-25 September 2013, the meeting was attended by Essa Hamza and former FIVB president and honorary president for life, Wei Jizhong.
“This was the first time that anyone can remember senior officials from the AVC and FIVB ever attending an Oceania meeting. It was clear that Mr Wei Jizhong and Mr Hamza were there to carry out the wishes of President Graça to change the membership of the Oceania Board,” Schacht writes.
In order not to compromise his successor Carracher, Schacht decided to announce that he would in any case retire as president of Oceania volleyball. An overwhelming majority then decided to change all board positions for Oceania.
Removed from the FIVB board
During the AVC General Assembly shortly after, Schacht resigned from his post as member of the AVC Board of Administration, when he found out that the Oceania countries had decided not to support the Australian president Carracher as his replacement.
“I did this out of loyalty to the new Australian President, Australian Volleyball and in the interests that Australia, the strongest performing country in all of Oceania, should be represented on the Board of the AVC by its President,” Schacht explains.
However, Schacht had not foreseen that the AVC would also remove him from the very top of the FIVB, the Board of Administration, to which he had been democratically elected on a four-year mandate in 2011.
Schacht cites the official minutes from the AVC General Assembly meeting that say that Carracher would take over Schacht’s seat at the FIVB Board after the Australian federation had withdrawn its endorsement of him and due to a request from the Oceanic countries. The minutes further states that the AVC had received an official letter of resignation from Schacht.
This explanation is echoed by the FIVB statement:
“Following Mr. Schacht’s resignation from the Australian Volleyball Federation (AVF) and the Oceania Zonal Volleyball Association, his successor as AVF President, Mr. Craig Carracher, was elected onto the FIVB Board of Administration to replace Mr. Schacht. This election was made by the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) General Assembly, namely the same body that had elected Mr. Schacht in 2011. The replacement was in line with the FIVB constitution which provides that Continental Confederations elect (and may later replace) members to the FIVB Board of Administration,” the statement says.
However, this course of events is strongly disputed by Schacht:
“For such a decision one would and should anticipate a recorded vote. Therefore, my removal as a Member of the FIVB Board of Administration is not in accordance with the constitution of either the FIVB or the AVC. As there was no resolution from the Australian Volleyball Federation or Oceania General Assembly for my removal the reasons given in the minutes are invalid [..] The invalid reasons given and the lack of due process are further examples that the administration of world volleyball appears to not be open, transparent or democratic,” Schacht writes in the letter.
Gives up complaing
According to the FIVB, Schacht filed a complaint letter against the decision to replace him, but later pulled out.
“The FIVB, in accordance with its Regulations, submitted Mr. Schacht’s appeal to the FIVB Appeals Panel. However, Mr. Schacht decided not to pursue legal action since he did not want to pay a standard administration fee which is common for bodies of this sort. [..] Thus, Mr. Schacht’s appeal was deemed withdrawn and the AVC decision became final,” the FIVB states.
Schacht does not dispute that he refrained from using the appropriate disputes mechanism.
"It is true that I did not proceed with my appeal to the FIVB Appeals Panel because when I was asked to lodge a bond of $2000 for my appeal to be heard, the FIVB informed me that even if I was successful in my appeal, they would not guarantee that my $2000 bond would be refunded," Schacht explains in a response to the FIVB statement, emailed to Play the Game.
Personal or not
The possibility that the legality and the procedural correctness of Schacht’s exit from the FIVB was questionable and that it could have been instigated by a political conflict between Schacht and the leadership of the FIVB is firmly denied by the FIVB.
“All procedures have been conducted in a legal and transparent way and were not the result of any conflict within the organisation,” says the FIVB email and further states that “President Ary Graça did not interfere in the process.”
In his response to the FIVB statement, Schacht stands by his first explanation.
"After reading the FIVB response to my letter, I find no evidence that anything I said in my letter dated 18. February 2014 is in any way incorrect or wrong in the describing of the way in which I was removed as a member of the FIVB Board of Administration," Schacht states.