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Context of 'August 26, 2011: UEFA Attacks Swiss Club in Transfer Ban, Says Use of Civil Courts Unacceptable'

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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)

The Court of Arbitration for Sport rules against the Swiss club FC Sion and its goalkeeper Essam El Hadary in a dispute over the player’s transfer from the Egyptian club Al Ahly two years ago. The decision confirms a ruling of FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber (see April 16, 2009) that ordered compensation to be paid to Al Ahly for the transfer and banned Sion from signing new players for two transfer windows. Although the original ruling is altered in some minor ways, the transfer ban remains in force. (Court of Arbitration for Sport 6/1/2010 pdf file)

A federal Swiss court rejects appeals lodged by the club FC Sion and goalkeeper Essam El Hadary against decisions of FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Both FIFA and CAS had ruled that Sion and El Hadary had broken the rules over the player’s transfer from the Egyptian club Al Ahly to Switzerland in 2008 (see April 16, 2009 and June 1, 2010). As a result of the two rulings, compensation was to be paid to Al Ahly and Sion was banned from transfer activity for two transfer windows. As the appeals are rejected, the CAS ruling remains in force. (FIFA 1/19/2011) It is against FIFA’s statutes for a dispute to be brought before a civil court. (McGuire 8/16/2011)

FC Sion win the Swiss Cup, beating Neuchatel Xamax 2-0 in the final. The result means that Sion qualify for next year’s edition of the Europa League. (UEFA 5/29/2011) Sion are currently operating under a transfer ban imposed due to a rule breach (see April 16, 2009). As a result they were unable to sign new players during the winter break of this season (see January 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 qualification committee of the Swiss Football League rejects requests by FC Sion for the registration of six newly-signed players: Stefan Glarner, Pascal Feindouno, José Gonçalves, Gabriel Garcia De La Torre (a.k.a. “Gabri”), Billy Ketkeophomphone, and Mario Mutsch (see Summer 2011). This is due to a transfer ban imposed on Sion for a rule breach by FIFA (see April 16, 2009). (Swiss Football League 7/15/2011)

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).

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)

FIFA threatens to suspend the Swiss FA in a long-running dispute over the transfer of an Egyptian goalkeeper to FC Sion in 2008 (see April 16, 2009). FIFA sets a deadline of January 13, by which time the Swiss FA must comply with its instructions. Otherwise, the Swiss national team will be unable to play matches and FC Basel will be unable to continue in the Champions League. FIFA demands that Sion be penalised by forfeting each game in which it fielded an ineligible player, in particular the six it signed in the summer when FIFA says the club was under a transfer ban due to improprieties during the goalkeeper’s transfer. “The executive committee decided to give a final deadline of January 13 to the Swiss FA to enforce the registration ban imposed on Sion… and to sanction the attitude of the club repeatedly trying to circumvent this decision in a legally abusive manner,” says a FIFA statement. However, Swiss FA spokesman Peter Gilleron tells a news conference FIFA’s demand is “impractical,” although he believes a points deduction is possible. (Reuters 12/17/2011) In response, Sion files a criminal complaint against FIFA’s executive committee (see December 29, 2011).

The Swiss club FC Sion files a criminal complaint against FIFA’s executive committee in the long-running dispute over a player’s transfer (see April 16, 2009). FIFA had previously threatened to suspend Switzerland from international competition if the Swiss Football Association did not sanction Sion in accordance with FIFA’s instructions, and such suspension would mean that the Swiss national team could no longer play matches and that FC Basel could not continue in the Champions League (see December 17, 2011). Sion says on its website that the threat amounts to unacceptable blackmail and a breach of a basic legal rule. (Associated Press 12/29/2011)

The Swiss FA deducts 36 points from FC Sion because the club fielded what it deems to be ineligible players in 12 matches. The move comes as a part of a long-running dispute between the club and various football authorities (see April 16, 2009), following a threat from FIFA that if the Swiss FA did not do so, all Swiss teams would be suspended from international competition (see December 17, 2011). The players are ineligible as they were signed during a transfer embargo imposed after Sion signed an Egyptian goalkeeper despite him being under contract to another club. Three points are deducted for each domestic league or cup game in which one of six ineligible players was fielded. The deduction leaves Sion bottom of the Swiss first division with a points total of minus five. According to the Swiss FA, Sion may appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. (BBC 12/30/2011)

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