By Tony Attwood
An article on the Swiss news service 24 heures has raised issues which for the moment the media in the UK are ignoring.
The original article (in French of course) appears here. My rough translation is beneath.
The Zurich-based firm Nater Dallafior Rechtsanwälte has filed a complaint with the Zurich Commercial Court on behalf of a 17-year-old African player and his parents who challenge the legality of the Fifa rules prohibiting the international transfer of minors. Neither the name nor the nationality of the young player were revealed.
As a result of these Fifa rules, this young player, who has been “repeatedly selected by his country’s national teams, has not been able to join a professional club of a member state of the European Union and has thus lost an opportunity, perhaps unique for him and his family, of professional and social progress,” argue the family’s lawyers.
Part of the problem is that different countries have different rules and regulations concerning what constitutes a child and what an adult. In the UK the change between child and adult happens aged 16, in much of Europe it is 18. In other parts of the world the age can be lower – hence the disputes.
It looks like there is a club that wants to test the rules, but whether it can get anywhere with the test case is hard to imagine. Fifa operates across the world and sees itself as a supra national state above all the nation states that choose to ally themselves to the wretched organisation.
As such it sees itself as an organisation that can make its own rules – no taxes to be paid, its own car lanes… all that sort of thing.
What is interesting here is not just this challenge in court but the fact that the UK government has refused admission to a PSG player. That is in effect a challenge to the whole Fifa concept; they may do nothing now but if a country within the UK ever tries to run a Fifa or Uefa event again, this issue is likely to come up.
So Fifa needs to protect its concept of being above nations and their petty rules. Hence they will resist the case, and it will be up to the Swiss courts to decide if Fifa really does have the right to set rules that reverberate around the world, even if they contradict national rules.
If Fifa were to lose this would have an impact on organisations from the Olympics down and would in many ways change the entire nature of international sporting events, both those that are team based and those involving individuals.
But if Fifa wins, this is saying that they do have the right to be above national laws – and that would raise the question of how far can they go?
This is one of a series of court cases that Fifa and Uefa have started to face in the aftermath of the change in Swiss law which led to the arrest of numerous Fifa executives. The battle is still being fought, and eventually we will find out who runs football. Is it the governments of the participating countries, or the self-perpetuating elite of Fifa?
It could take a few years for this to shake out, but the result will be fascinating when it turns up.