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FIFA’s jurisdictional practices upheld

The Swiss Federal Court passed a judgment on 5 January, upholding FIFA’s jurisdictional and disciplinary practices and at the same time rejecting a claim from a Spanish club, which had appealed against a decision reached by world football’s governing body. FIFA regards this judgment as a landmark decision and one with global implications. It also endorses and reaffirms the federation’s independence and authority.
“I am very pleased that the Swiss Federal Court rejected the claim that the Spanish club had lodged. Using its statues and regulations, FIFA and its various bodies ensure that every member of the football family is given access to fair, balanced and, above all, fast-moving jurisdiction as well as the opportunity to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, in the best interests of sport, “ said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter.
In late October 2005, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee had imposed a fine of CHF 25,000 on the Spanish club following a transfer dispute surrounding a player, in addition to other sanctions such as the deduction of points and compulsory relegation to a lower division if it failed to pay a Brazilian club the outstanding amount of EUR 373,226 by a specified deadline. Prior to this, the club had ignored a decision passed by the FIFA Players’ Status Committee and then appealed against the disciplinary decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, an appeal that it had also lost. The Spanish club maintained that, by threatening to deduct points or impose relegation, FIFA was virtually enforcing a financial claim. According to the club, this was a violation of so-called “public policy”, as FIFA was presuming to pass sanctions that were solely the realm of the state.
The judge denied this claim. In reaching its judgment, the Swiss Federal Court took into account that according to Swiss Association Law, to which FIFA – as an organization defined by Swiss Civil Law – is subject, any violation of members’ duties may incur sanctions such as punishments for clubs or associations. The court also stated that if a private association (such as, in this case, FIFA) draws up rules and regulations to which it members are subject (such as, in this case, the Spanish club, as a member of the Spanish football association) to achieve its objectives, it is permissible for a governing body to provide for sanctions that safeguard the members’ duties.