PtG Article 29.10.2014

Volleyball president Graça seeks eight-year term to avoid age limit

This weekend the FIVB Congress is asked to revise the statutes so president Ary Graça can extend his mandate beyond a 75-years of age limit by replacing a four-year election term with an eight-year term.

(Updated 30 October 2014)The controversial president of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) since 2012, the Brazilian Ary Graça, is now seeking to strengthen his grip over world volleyball and remain on the post until 2024.

When elected as FIVB president in 2012, Graça narrowly escaped a second round of ballot when he secured 103 out of the 205 votes cast at the congress. Several sources in the FIVB have told Play the Game, off the record, that Graça was shocked and infuriated over his narrow victory over his two opponents.

But if the upcoming FIVB Congress meeting from 30 October to 1st November in Sardinia, Italy ratifies a change of statutes as proposed, he reduces the risks of similar humiliation in the future.

Referring to the standards of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), any future FIVB President will first be elected for an eight year term instead of now for four years. After the eight years have expired, the president can seek re-election for another four-year term.

In an earlier version of this article, we wrote that Ary Graça would be able to prolong his mandate with another four years on top of the eight years in case he is reelected in 2016. Then he could stay until 2028.

This was backed by the April 2014 Minutes of the FIVB’s Board of Administration which explicitly says that “the new rule does not apply retroactively”.

However, in an email to Play the Game, the FIVB insists that the proposal does not allow for Graça to stand for further re-election, should he be re-elected for another eight years in 2016.

This is news not only to Play the Game, but probably also to all the conference delegates that are voting on the proposal. So far, the only available written source are the aforementioned minutes from April. Delegates Play the Game has spoken to have not seen the exact proposal, and in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten today on the opening day of the FIVB Congress, the Danish volleyball president, Erik Jacobsen, confirms the insecurity:

“We do not like the proposal, but we haven’t seen the wording, because we won’t get the papers until we arrive. We are used to getting them earlier, so it is very strange,” Jacobsen says.

Passing the age limit

Nevertheless, doubling the next presidential term will secure that Graça does not hit the age limit established by the FIVB constitution. According to article 2.1.4, a person must step down at the end of the year she or he reaches 75 years of age or at the end of his or her ongoing term.

Since Graça will pass the limit in April 2018, he can only seek four years re-election from 2016 to 2020 if the proposed change of term is not approved by congress. So far, there is no proposal for changing the age limits, not at this congress at least.

That the age limit may be Ary Graça’s main motive for seeking an eight-year term, becomes apparent in the minutes from FIVB’s Board of Administration meeting from April this year. It is specified that:

“In accordance with Article 2.1.4 of the FIVB Constitution which remains unaltered, the President elected in 2016 will serve the entire eight year term even if he reaches the age of 75 during such term.”

The main challenge for Graça is now to collect a qualified majority, around 137 votes, in order to change the statutes.

No way back to Brazil

There can be other advantages for Graça than just circumventing the age rule and avoiding potential rivals for the presidency.

As described in earlier stories on Play the Game’s website, Graça is under investigation by the state controllers CGU in his home country Brazil where he presided over the national volleyball confederation CBV for 17 years.

The investigation was provoked by reports in ESPN Brasil that Graça had abused his position to make secret contracts with family and friends, and since the CBV is mainly financed by public resources, these revelations have caused a major scandal and forced Graça to retire from his national volleyball presidency earlier this year.

Many Brazilians think that Graça for some years has had his eyes set on replacing the current president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB), Carlos Nuzman, after the Rio Olympics 2016. Nuzman and Graça have been close allies since they took power in Brazilian volleyball in 1975 with Nuzman as president and Graça as vice. Graça was the natural successor as Brazilian volleyball president when Nuzman was promoted to Olympic president in his country in 1995 and left volleyball in 1997.

But the well-documented irregularities published by ESPN makes it highly unlikely that Graça will ever replace Nuzman as the most prominent sports leader in a country that is increasingly aware about the dangers of corruption. Corruption was on top of the agenda of the recent national election campaigns, and leading politicians and their advisers have received long jail sentences for corruption, something unheard of in Brazilian history.

Nobody yet knows if the state controllers of the Brazilian government will recommend court proceedings against Graça, but his way back to Brazilian sport seems to be blocked. As head of the FIVB, however, Graça is under little control and can continue his cooperation with his Director General Fabio Azevedo with whom he made the illegitimate and secret contracts back home, and numerous other countrymen who have joined the FIVB as consultants and commission members in recent years.

In that light, securing another eight years as head of the FIVB, establishing a base in Switzerland with family and friends at a safe distance from troubles in his home country, looks like a perspective the 71-year old Ary Graça has every reason to fight for.

Today, the FIVB and Graça rejects all allegations in the mail to Play the Game:

“The matter is under legal review in Brazil and President Graça and his colleagues strongly deny any wrongdoing and are very confident that the courts and independent reviews will reach that conclusion.

Furthermore President Graça believes that the allegations have come from a dissatisfied group in Brazil opposed to the significant commercial success that the Brazilian Volleyball Federation achieved under his leadership.”

Editor’s note:

The first version of this article was published October 29, 2014. On October 30, Play the Game received a mail from the FIVB as described in the new version above. The mail from the FIVB lists a number of points which almost all can be explained by the insecurity about what the FIVB delegates are voting on, especially with regard to Ary Graças possibility of staying more than 12 years in power. However, Play the Game chooses to edit the article so the new information from the FIVB can be amended.

The FIVB also wants Play the Game to retract the accusations against Graça that have been raised in Brazil. These accusations are well-documented by ESPN Brasil, they have been acted upon by Ary Graça’s successors in the Brazilian Volleyball Confederation and they have enough substance to become investigated by the Controladoria Geral da União, Brazil’s state controllers.