On 3 October 2015, at the Georgian Football Federation’s election meeting, Levan Kobiashvili was selected as the President of the Federation by a majority of votes. In total, 18 of the 33 participating delegates voted for Mr Kobiashvili whilst the remaining 15 voted for Revaz Arveladze. Another candidate for the presidency, Mamuka Kvaratskhelia, failed to get a single vote. The voting process took place over the entire day of 3 October and was marked by an atmosphere of serious tension.FactCheck took interest in the election process once again and analysed the events of 3 October 2015 (FactCheck published its study
about the role of the state in the Georgian Football Federation election earlier as well).
There have been doubts about how democratic and transparent the election for the presidency of the Georgian Football Federation was in the past as well. In 2003, an election marathon between Merab Zhordania and his rival unfolded in the presence of a Special Forces unit. On 13 May 2007, Giorgi Nemsadze resigned from the position of President of the Georgian Football Federation an hour after being elected. Mr Nemsadze, a former member of the Georgian National Football Team, explained this by the intervention of the then President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili.
The pre-election confrontation between Revaz Arveladze and Levan Kobiashvili reached its peak on election day, preceded by the imprisonment of a delegate supporting Mr Arveladze, Gega Gobejishvili, on charges of drug abuse. According to the statement of the detained, his imprisonment was illegal and the only reason behind it was his support for Mr Arveladze.
Despite the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia, Kakha Kaladze, was not on the official list of guests invited by the Georgian Football Federation, he was in attendance at the election process which took place at the Holiday Inn over the course of 3 October. Mr Kaladze assessed the election process as abnormal and said that statements made about his intervention in the process were lies. In order to justify his presence at the hotel, he commented that he had friendly relations with the Vice President of UEFA, Gregory Surkis. Later, he touched upon the issue of being present at the election meeting and stated that he decided to spend part of his weekend (the election was held on Saturday, 3 October 2015) as an invited guest of the election.
The voting process started eight hours later than originally planned. Revaz Arveladze and those delegates supporting him refused to undergo election registration until Gega Gobejishvili was let out of prison. As a response, Levan Kobiashvili accused his opponent of disrupting the elections. According to his statement, Mr Arveladze locked some of the delegates in the hall so that they would not be able to participate in the election process.
Gega Gobejishvili was ultimately prohibited from voting, following a recommendation from a UEFA representative, and was replaced by the Head of the League of Fans, Zurab Petriashvili. The court freed the detained Mr Gobejishvili after issuing a fine of GEL 500. Delegates started the registration for the election process upon learning of the news of Mr Gobejishvili’s release.
It remained unknown whether or not the Racha and Guria regional federations would have their delegates as a part of the selection process until the voting began. It should be pointed out that the court abolished the authority of the Racha and Guria regional federation delegates on 30 September 2015. Both of these delegates were known to be supporting Revaz Arveladze. On the day before the elections, UEFA’s representation issued a recommendation for the heads of these regional federations (Kakha Ebralidze and Gia Sharabidze) to leave the Executive Committee due to a special situation and take on the status of delegates after their resignation. The Executive Committee of the Georgian Football Federation and the aforementioned candidates agreed to this. Hence, all of the 35 delegates should have participated in the election on 3 October 2015.
Despite the aforementioned agreement, the election congress still discussed the delegates issue on the day of the election and deprived delegates from Guria and Racha-Lechkhumi of their voting power based upon a formal vote. Hence, the agreement of 2 October 2015 was not implemented and only 33 of 35 delegates were able to participate in the election. Levan Kobiashvili won the 3 October election by three votes. According to rumours confirmed in private conversation by Georgian Football Federation representatives as well as by both competing parties, the aforementioned decision was made several hours before the election upon the recommendation of UEFA Vice President, Gregory Surkis.
Each of the sides made its assessment of the election environment after the finalisation of the voting procedures and the announcement of the results. According to a statement by Revaz Arveladze, he was in a situation of an uneven fight for the whole time. In his interview with the media, the winning candidate, Levan Kobiashvili, pointed out that his victory was also a victory for Georgian football. Kakha Kaladze and Gregory Surkis congratulated Mr Kobiashvili on winning the election. According to Mr Surkis’s statement, the election process was fairly transparent despite the tense environment.The squabbles surrounding the election of the President of the Georgian Football Federation and the active role of a former football player and now the Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia during the election congress, similar to what happened in 2007, once again confirm the involvement of the state in the election of the President of the Georgian Football Federation.