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FIFPro calls upon FIFA to enforce its own regulations and to not apply their own regulations selectively on the wrong parties. Whilst a Cypriot club went unpunished to a civil court, against FIFA rules, six FC Sion players have been suspended for referring to a civil court, completely in line with FIFA rules. The world has been turned upside down.


In a press release dated 20 October 2011, FIFA announced that the FIFA Executive Committee had adopted a resolution supporting the decision of the Swiss Football League SFS to suspend six players from FC Sion.


This suspension had been imposed because the players had submitted their exclusion from employment to a civil court instead of sports arbitration. Pursuant to Art. 64 par. 2 of the FIFA statutes recourse to ordinary courts of law is prohibited unless specifically mentioned in the FIFA regulations.


Within this context, FIFA Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) regulating the relationship between clubs and professional players are extremely important. Article 22 of the RSTP indicates that a player has the right to seek redress before a civil court for employment-related disputes.


The background of this provision is a worker's general fundamental right to not be denied access to justice for judicial review of employment-related disputes. This aspect emerged in talks between FIFA and the European Commission and it is for this reason that this fundamental workers’ right has been recognized entirely justly by FIFA in its regulations.


In practice, players in several countries make use of this opportunity. In Brazil and Spain, it is quite normal for employment-law related disputes between clubs and players to be waged in an ordinary court. In some countries, Belgium for example, it is even prohibited to agree on an out-of-court settlement beforehand.


The disputed lodged by the six FC Sion players before the Swiss civil court was related to their right to employment. Since this really concerns the core of the labour agreement, they were fully entitled to submit their dispute to the civil court. FIFPro vice-president Philippe Piat stated ‘The suspension as it is, infringes the fundamental right of the players to go to an ordinary court. This suspension can therefore not be upheld.’


The situation is different in case of non employment-related disputes. In this kind of cases no fundamental rights are at stake and, therefore, it is legally valid in these cases to determine that disputes must be solved with the framework of sports arbitration.


This is also true regarding clubs entering into an employment-related disputed with a player. Article 22 of the FIFA RSTP also mentions the club's right to have recourse to ordinary courts of law, but this is doubtful. This has an obvious explanation. Fundamental rights focus on persons eligible for protection and not on legal entities gathering employers.


This means that Article 64 par. 2 of the FIFA Statutes may be enforced on clubs that want to seek redress before an ordinary court instead of sports arbitration. Clubs not complying with this could then be punished.


Nevertheless, what actually happens is different.


Recently a Cypriot club, AEL Limassol, contrary to Art. 64 par. 2 of the FIFA Statutes, lodged a case before an ordinary court against players who, before this took place, had already submitted their case before the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber. Apparently, the club took this action because it expects more from Cypriot judges than from FIFA arbitration and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), where Cypriot clubs lose almost every case on the grounds of violation of labour contracts. In any case, experience shows us that civil cases in Cyprus take a very long time and do not necessarily even lead to a court decision at all. This works in favour of the clubs.


It appears that this club's request to stop the FIFA procedure, due to having lodged the case before a national court, is unjustly being taken very seriously. Based on a report received by FIFPro, it even appears that in one case at least the FIFA procedure was actually stopped.


The world has truly been turned upside down.


After all, it is clear that this club is acting contrary to Art. 64 par. 2 of the FIFA Statutes and that the club has no judicially protected fundamental right justifying an exception to this rule. FIFPro has already asked the FIFA Disciplinary Committee to sanction this club on account of violating the Statutes, but as yet no reaction has been received. In the past clubs that, contrary to statutes, approached a civil court were severely punished: five years exclusion plus a substantial fine were not unusual. 


Currently, it seems that taking a strong line against these clubs is the right action for FIFA in order to enforce its own system. FIFPro really wants to see this system enforced and improved.


FIFPro calls upon FIFA to enforce its own regulations and not to apply this system selectively.  


The starting point to solve problems within the football family involves respect from FIFPro. This, however, should not be at the expense of players' fundamental rights. As long as CAS repeatedly shows little concern in these cases about the fact that FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players are based on European law and on fundamental rights as expressed in the European Charter, redress before an ordinary court is a necessary way out for players.