The decision by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee not to sanction an Argentinian coach for sexual harassment and abusive behaviour raises extremely serious questions about how professional football keeps players safe.
Five women football players presented cogent and credible evidence against the coach. They recounted how, over a number of years, they were victims of shocking and recurrent treatment by the coach who had a duty to safeguard them as teenagers and young women.
The players were extremely brave to challenge the coach’s conduct and contribute towards making football a safer and more inclusive environment for their peers. The decision by the FIFA Ethics Committee raises questions about how much evidence is needed for disciplinary action and will deter other players from standing up against the perpetrators of harassment and abuse.
Among other matters, we are concerned by the lack of gender diversity of the Adjudicatory Chamber; by the length of the FIFA Ethics Committee investigation, which was started in 2020; and how neither the players nor FIFPRO, as their representative, were given a copy of the decision before it was published today despite several requests explaining why prior notification is critical in any procedure which involves victims and whistle-blowers.
The absence of prior notification of the decision made it impossible for FIFPRO to properly prepare the players for this deeply distressing decision that may significantly impact their wellbeing and careers.
Given that the FIFA Ethics Committee’s Investigatory Chamber rightly advised that the coach had violated safeguarding and sexual harassment regulations, we expect the chief of the investigation to appeal the decision of the Adjudicatory Chamber under article 82, paragraph 2 of the FIFA Ethics Code. This is particularly important since neither the players nor FIFPRO have – according to the rules and jurisprudence currently in place – a right to appeal the decision.
FIFPRO will continue to support all football players who courageously speak out against abuse, harassment and discrimination. We encourage others with relevant evidence to come forward on a confidential basis to assist with a possible appeal and help ensure that women players in Argentina and in other countries around the world can play the game freely and safely.