Monday, October 10, 2011

FC Sion vs. UEFA Heats Up

The legal battle between Swiss club FC Sion and UEFA is coming to a head (an earlier discussion is here). The dispute centers on the expulsion of FC Sion from the Europa League competition due to what UEFA claims was the fielding of six ineligible players, whereas FC Sion argues that they were in fact eligible. After the expulsion, FC Sion took UEFA to court in the Swiss canton where it is located and, so far, has found sympathy.

For its part, FC Sion has declared total victory after a Swiss court ruled that UEFA must readmit the club to the Europa League, and has ordered UEFA to pay FC Sion's court costs and imposed a daily fine (1,000 Swiss Francs, the maximum penalty) for each day of noncompliance.

On the other side, UEFA has appealed to the European Union to create an exemption for UEFA from civil lawsuits, which won't help in the current case as Switzerland is not in the EU:
[UEFA President Michel] Platini feels other teams could follow suit if excluded from European competition.

"I know the clubs will take us to court," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"It's the first thing they will do.

"That's why I went to [EC President José Manuel] Barroso [pictured left] and asked him for judicial protection.

"I told him: 'If you believe in what I'm doing for football, then you have to protect me, otherwise it's going to be difficult.'
FC Sion was also disputing the ineligibility of  the the six players with the Swiss league where the team plays. The club had taken the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but the league relented and has declared the players eligible. Thus, FC Sion dropped the CAS action.

What are the possible outcomes here?  I can think of at least three.

One is that UEFA relents and follows the court order. This seems unlikely, given the statements made by UEFA so far.

A second is that the case is pushed in the courts to a final resolution (via appeal to the highest jurisdiction), and ultimately either FC Sion or UEFA will emerge victorious. This strategy bears great risks for UEFA, but a resolution in their favor would be their most preferred outcome.

A third is that UEFA begrudgingly admits FC Sion to the Europa League group as a fifth team, along with Celtic, and cheers loudly for them to crash out of the competition, while in parallel pressuring Swiss and EU authorities to rejigger the rules to prevent such conflicts in the future.

However this conflict it resolved, it will mark an important precedent in the rising battle of lex sportive and lex imperium.


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