The ECHR ordered the Turkish government to take measures to ensure the structural independence of football’s arbitration committee by reforming its football disputes settlement system.
The ECHR came to this demand in the case of Riza, a former professional footballer of among others Arsenal and Trabzonspor. Following various appeals of the English player of Turkish descent, who was represented by FIFPRO Board Member and Swiss player union President Lucien Valloni, the ECHR held that the arbitration committee of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) lacked independence and impartiality and therefore violated Riza’s right to a fair trial.
In Turkey, professional football clubs have the majority of votes in the general assembly of the TFF. This assembly appoints the TFF executive committee, which in turn appoints the members of the TFF arbitration committee.
The ECHR was unambiguous in stating that in view of the fact that players did not enjoy the same level of representation as clubs in the general assembly and executive committee, Riza had reasons to legitimately doubt the independence and impartiality of the members of the arbitration committee.
FIFPRO welcomes the ECHR’s conclusion and calls upon the Turkish Football Federation to finally seriously engage with the Turkish Player Union in order to set up a football dispute resolution system that complies with core principles regarding independence and impartiality.
Finally, FIFPRO notes with regret that the abusive behaviour of the club (Trabzonspor) in question in 2008 (non-payment, exclusion of player from training sessions, downgrading him to the youth team) which led to the contractual dispute between the player and the club, remains common practice in Turkish football 12 years later.