Football: Fernando challenges FIFA over life ban

Sri Lanka's former football chief Manilal Fernando will challenge an "unfair and harsh" life ban imposed on him by FIFA for corruption, lawyers said Thursday.

Fernando, a former member of the FIFA executive board, will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after seeing an earlier ban for eight years increased by the sport's world governing body on Wednesday after a failed appeal.

Lawyers for Fernando, who turns 64 on Sunday, said in Colombo their client felt his punishment had been increased as a "deterrent" against exercising the right to appeal within the FIFA system.

"Fernando feels that a life ban on him is unfair and harsh," the lawyers said in a statement.

"On legal advice Fernando has no alternative but to appeal against this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, an independent tribunal outside the FIFA process."

Sri Lanka's new football supremo Ranjith Rodrigo vowed Thursday to rebuild the country's image a day after Fernando's ban for misconduct, conflicts of interest and ethics violations.

The Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) said the FIFA decision to increase the ban on him was a serious setback to the island's footballing ambitions.

"His football chapter is closed, but this has caused damage to our image and our standing in FIFA," Rodrigo, who took over as FFSL president earlier this year, told AFP.

"The challenge for me is to recover from this setback."

He said the charges against Fernando and the opening of a probe against him in October last year had cast a cloud over Sri Lankan football, but the nation could now move on.

"This issue was a cloudy sky, but now it is beginning to clear. We want to move on, get help from FIFA and the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and help our players improve their game," Rodrigo said.

Fernando had appealed against the original eight-year ban imposed on him at the end of April. The chief investigator in the original case, Michael J. Garcia, also appealed against the leniency of the punishment.

The FIFA Appeal Committee reached a decision in favour of Garcia.

Fernando was an ally of former Asian soccer boss Mohamed bin Hammam, who is fighting claims of bribery and financial misdeeds.

His suspension was thought to be related to investigations into ex-AFC chief bin Hammam, whom he had backed strongly.

Bin Hammam, a Qatari businessman, was accused of trying to buy votes in FIFA's 2011 presidential election, and banned from all footballing activities.

He remains suspended from football despite having the FIFA life ban overturned last year.

Fernando accompanied bin Hammam on a trip to Caribbean nations before the vote. Bin Hammam was later accused of trying to bribe officials during the visit.