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Context of 'August 25, 2011: Swiss Club Defeats Celtic to Win Place in Europa League Group, Result Will Be Overturned'

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FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber hands down a ruling punishing the Swiss club FC Sion and its Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El Hadary over Al Hadary’s transfer from the Egyptian club Al Ahly in February 2008. The goalkeeper is banned for four months, starting from the next season, and Sion is ordered to pay Al Ahly a transfer fee of US$1.25 million and also prevented from registering new players for two transfer windows, i.e. more than a year. The move was illegal under FIFA regulations because El Hadary was under contract with Al Ahly and there was no agreement between the clubs. FC Sion says it will appeal the ruling. (BBC 6/2/2009; Court of Arbitration for Sport 6/1/2010 pdf file)

FIFA reminds the Swiss club FC Sion that it will be under a transfer ban in the summer 2011 transfer window, according to a later interview with FIFA’s director of legal affairs Marco Villiger. (Villiger 9/30/2011) However, Sion will sign players in the window (see Summer 2011), leading to a dispute (see September 2, 2011).

The Swiss club FC Sion signs several new players, despite an apparent transfer ban. The new players are Guilherme Afonso (from Lugano), Pascal Feindouno (Monaco), Gabriel Garcia De La Torre (aka “Gabri,” Umm-Salal), Stefan Glarner (Thun), José Gonçalves (St. Gallen), Billy Ketkeophomphone (Strasbourg), and Mario Mutsch (Metz). (Swiss Football League 2011) The transfer ban was to last for two transfer windows (see April 16, 2009 and June 1, 2010). Sion signed several players the previous summer (see Summer 2010), but nobody arrived during the winter transfer window (see January 2011).

The Swiss club FC Sion defeats the Scottish team Celtic to win a place in the group stages of the Europa League. The first game of the two-legged playoff tie finished 0-0 in Glasgow, but the Swiss win the return leg 3-1. (Press Association (London) 8/26/2011) UEFA will overturn the result as Sion fielded a number of ineligible players (see September 2, 2011), leading to a drawn-out legal dispute.

Two UEFA officials, president Michel Platini and general secretary Gianni Infantino, say that the Swiss club FC Sion clearly breached a transfer ban imposed on it and that the club should not resort to civil courts. Sion used players signed while it was operating under the ban (see April 16, 2009) to win a Europa League playoff (see August 25, 2011). However, their opponents Celtic have now appealed to UEFA to overturn the result. Platini says that the players were fielded “in clear violation of the ban,” adding, “FC Sion has not respected the rules of the transfer ban—they signed players and then played those players.” Infantino says the case will be dealt with in house. “The civil court ruling does not affect UEFA,” he says. “We will look at our rules and the FIFA rules. There is a ruling by FIFA, [the Court of Arbitration for Sport] have ruled, it went to the Swiss supreme court, and everything was confirmed but it has been challenged again.” Infantino also sets out the key point of the dispute, saying, “It is an interpretation question which is complicated—whether a two transfer-window ban means two transfer windows or parts of several transfer windows.” (Press Association (London) 8/26/2011)

FIFA president Sepp Blatter says that civil courts should not be used in the dispute with the Swiss club FC Sion. Although operating under a transfer ban (see April 16, 2009), Sion signed several new players (see Summer 2011) and used them to secure a place in the Europa League (see August 25, 2011), which UEFA is now reviewing. “Tell me,” says Blatter, “on what grounds we should grant an exception to a club where millions of others follow the rules?” He adds: “I like the way [FC Sion owner Christian] Constantin makes things happen generally, but one of the fundamental principles of football is not using the civil courts with our internal regulations. FIFA judged the case and found Sion guilty.” (Jardine 8/29/2011)

UEFA throws the Swiss Club FC Sion out of the Europa League for fielding ineligble players. The players were ineligible because they were signed during a transfer ban imposed on the club (see Summer 2011) as punishment for rule-breaking (see April 16, 2009). The players played in a two-legged playoff tie with Celtic, and UEFA now awards each leg to the Scottish club 3-0. (UEFA 9/2/2011) Sion will appeal the ruling, but the decision will stand (see September 13, 2011).

A Swiss court, the Tribunal Cantonal du Valais, rejects an action by the Swiss club FC Sion in the dispute over Sion’s ejection from European competition (see September 2, 2011) and refuses to issue an injunction. According to the court, the dispute between Sion, UEFA, and Celtic, which replaced Sion in the Europa League, does not have close enough links to Valais for it to adjudicate the matter. (Swiss Football League 9/2011)

A Swiss court, the Tribunal Cantonal de Vaud, orders that the club FC Sion be reinstated in the Europa League. UEFA recently threw Sion out of the league in a dispute over player eligibility (see September 2, 2011). UEFA is not represented at the court hearing. (UEFA 9/13/2011) Later the same day, UEFA’s appeal body confirms Sion’s ejection (see September 13, 2011), and UEFA’s emergency panel decides to ignore the court order (see Afternoon, September 13, 2011).

UEFA rejects an appeal from FC Sion over the club’s expulsion from the Europa League (see September 2, 2011). The ruling means that Celtic, which Sion defeated in a playoff, goes forward to the group stage of the competition. Sion can file an appeal against the decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. (UEFA 9/13/2011) Earlier in the day, a Swiss court had ruled that FC Sion should be readmitted to the competition (see Morning, September 13, 2011), although UEFA’s emergency panel soon decides to ignore the court order and keep Sion out of the competition (see Afternoon, September 13, 2011).

UEFA files an application with the Court of Arbitration for Sport for a decision on the FC Sion case. Although Sion was thrown out of the Europa League for fielding ineligible players (see September 2, 2011), it has taken the dispute to civil courts in Switerland (see Morning, September 13, 2011 and September 23, 2011), which UEFA does not approve of. (UEFA 10/11/2011)

The Court of Arbitration for Sport decides some procedural issues in the dispute between UEFA and the Swiss club FC Sion over the club’s expulsion from the Europa League (see September 2, 2011 and September 26, 2011). The court confirms its competence to decide the merits of the case, dismisses a request by FC Sion for a stay of proceedings, and confirms the nomination of the arbitrator originally chosen by FC Sion. In addition, the court’s statement sent to the parties twice states that FC Sion is committing “clear abuse of [court] procedures” through its attempts at legal maneuvering. (UEFA 10/15/2011)

The Swiss judicial body Tribunal Cantonal de Vaud rejects an application by the Swiss club FC Sion that it order UEFA to immediately reinstate the club in the 2011-2012 Europa League. In particular, the court rejects the request that UEFA be ordered to enable Sion to play the French team Stade Rennais in the next round of fixtures instead of Celtic. Sion defeated Celtic in a playoff, but were then thrown out of the competition for fielding ineligible players and the Scottish team invited back in (see September 2, 2011). (UEFA 10/18/2011)

A Swiss prosecutor interviews UEFA president Michel Platini and general secretary Gianni Infantino over the FC Sion case. UEFA threw Sion out of the Europa League for breaching a transfer ban (see September 2, 2011), but this led to a legal dispute and Sion filed a criminal complaint against UEFA, which is the reason for the interview (see September 23, 2011). (UEFA 10/19/2011; Agence France-Presse 10/19/2011) Details of what is said in the interview are unknown.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport sets the date of the hearing in the Europa League dispute between UEFA and the Swiss Club FC Sion for November 24. UEFA ejected Sion from the Europa League for fielding ineligible players (see September 2, 2011) and since then there has been a series of legal disputes between the parties (see September 26, 2011 and October 14, 2011). The date is conditional on it being approved by the two parties. (UEFA 10/25/2011) The court will rule in December, mostly in favour of UEFA (see December 15, 2011).

The Swiss club FC Sion complains to that country’s Competition Competition about the behavior of UEFA. Sion and UEFA are involved in a legal dispute over the club’s expulsion from the Europa League for fielding ineligible players (see September 2, 2011) and Sion now argues that UEFA is abusing a dominant position. (UEFA 2/7/2011) The commission will take no action against UEFA (see February 7, 2012).

The Swiss club FC Sion and several of its players complain to the European Commission over its treatment by UEFA and FIFA. Sion was punished by the authorities for poaching another team’s player (see April 16, 2009), but has allegedly ignored punishment for this infringement (see September 2, 2011). Sion’s announcement of the complaint states its belief that that UEFA’s expulsion of the club from the Europa League is in conflict with European Union law. (Swissinfo 10/31/2011)

The key hearing in the dispute between UEFA and the Swiss club FC Sion over the latter’s ejection from the Europa League is held before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The hearing follows a long dispute between UEFA and the club (see September 2, 2011). (UEFA 12/15/2011) The court will mostly rule in favor of UEFA (see December 15, 2011).

The Court of Arbitration for Sport issues a ruling in the dispute between UEFA and the Swiss club FC Sion that is largely favorable to the Europan governing body. The court finds that UEFA is not under a duty to reintegrate Sion into the 2011-2012 Europa League, a competition from which it had been banned for fielding ineligible players (see September 2, 2011). However, the court does not rule in favor of UEFA on some other matters. For example, it refuses to declare that UEFA regulations and disciplinary measures are not in conflict with Swiss law. Sion is ordered to pay two thirds of the costs of proceedings—with UEFA making up the other one third—and also to make a contribution to UEFA’s legal costs. (CAS 2011/O/2574 UEFA v. Olympique des Alpes SA/FC Sion: Arbitral Award 12/15/2011 pdf file)


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