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By Tony Attwood
In an extraordinary move, Fifa has decided to appeal against a finding of the Court of Arbitration for Sport – the body (which you may recall) which overturned Manchester City’s European ban after accusations that the club’s owners disguised £204m of income as sponsorship. The Court is by and large considered to be the final arbiter of sporting matters. Except when it isn’t.
For although this is something that happens very rarely, the Court of Arbitration for Sport can itself be challenged, as the rulebook says that because the CAS sits in Switzerland, decisions of the CAS can be appealed to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.
However, because most English publications feel that English people are not really interested in the rest of the world, and that this is a matter of technicalities, there is little comment on this development, even though it reveals another route through which Fifa’s search for world domination can be challenged.
Concerning the CAS you may recall that in February 2020, Manchester City (of whom it has often been said) lodged an appeal to the Court of Arbitration in Sport against Uefa’s decision to ban the club from European competitions for two years and to fine it €30,000,000 for its flagrant breaches of Financial Fair Play regulations. Although Manchester City won the case on the grounds that Uefa had waited too long to bring the case (which of course raised the question of how incompetent Uefa had to be to allow that to happen) it was still fined 10 million Euros for failing to co-operate with Uefa in the first instance, something which breached Uefa Club Licensing Regulations.
There was much muttering at that time of taking this case to the Federal Supreme Court in Switzerland, but this did not happen, and the club accepted the fine – which of course represented small change to the ownership, and which meant the case would finally stop.
Another reason for not going further in that case, is that appeals of arbitration decisions are generally not successful, largely because the only grounds on which an appeal to the Federal Supreme Court can be made are either the procedural requirements of the case in the CAS not being met, or whether the award is incompatible with public policy in Switzerland.
So the situation is rare, but it has happened before and such appeals have indeed been made and won. As when the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland overruled a CAS decision in the case of Matuzalém, the Brazilian football player – a case which also made it clear that CAS decisions can be appealed by recourse to the European Court of Human Rights.
In the current case in question, Fifa has appealed against the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which had cancelled the lifetime ban from football of the former president of the Haitian Federation who was accused of the rape of female minors. If the court rules in Fifa’s favour the case will be examined again by… the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
In this particular case Fifa found the president of the Haitian Federation (who at that time had been in charge of the Federation for 20 years, and was by then aged 73) guilty of “sexually harassing and assaulting several players, including minors.”
Fifa banned him for life from all football activities, nationally and internationally and ordered him to pay 1 million Swiss francs (£882,000).
The Court for Arbitration in Sport however annulled the lifetime suspension on the grounds that the accusations were “inconsistent, unclear and contradictory.” Fifa however then argued that key evidence it provided was not considered by the CAS panel.
However, there could be a suggestion that in doing this Fifa was simply aiming to restore its reputation as a body capable of proceeding with a complex and delicate case. It may also be said that Fifa’s prime interest is in upholding its own reputation as a protector of young people in the world of football, at a time when it has been highly criticised for having little impact on the way in which migrant workers were treated in Qatar in the lead up to the World Cup held there.
Interestingly, in this case, the accused himself accused Fifa of reaching a conclusion that was a “purely political measure”, and that Fifa had not examined any real evidence, relying instead of reports of the accusations in the Guardian newspaper.
On the other hand the alleged victims told the Guardian, on condition of anonymity, “that at least two underage players had abortions as a result of the rapes committed by the leader in the national training centre.”
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