Monday, October 17, 2011

Sion Case: UEFA and FIFA collapse

UEFA and FIFA, among other sport organizations like CIO, established their headquarters in Switzerland attracted by the special fiscal regime made for this kind of multinational organizations. From this Central European state, the most important football organizations have been managing the destiny of football, its federations and clubs, with an important degree of independence and, why not, impunity.

In the year 2003, Christian Constantin owns FC Sion and his way to drive his club could be labeled as peculiar. Since that year, the alarming amount of more than 20 coaches have gone through the bench of the club during his reign, including the own Constantin twice. Besides, Constantin is never afraid to speak his mind about his side’s performance or criticize managerial decisions. This particular way to drive the club crossed the borders of the institution and, in the same 2003, FC Sion, who were in the Prima Lega -the Swiss' third division- due to financial problems, were readmitted in the Challenge league, the second division, as a consequence of the resolution of a Swiss court.

Christian Constanti

Since the Bosman case and, especially, in recent years, UEFA and FIFA have shown a clear opposition to the clubs or federations that, at some point, decided to solve football disputes in regular courts, out of their own tribunals or CAS in the worst of the cases. There are some examples of it. An example was the threat on the Spanish FA and their clubs, who were under threat of expulsion from the international competitions, when the Spanish government, given the corruption cases in the RFEF, wanted to impose elections in the Spanish FA. The threat was efficient and the Spanish government had to take a step backwards in their decision in order to allow Spain to play the Euro 2008 they ended up winning. Similar cases happened in Portugal or Greece, among other federations.

In February 2008, FC Sion signed the Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary from Al-Ahly, a power in the African football. Al-Ahly denounced the case to FIFA, considering that the signing was illegal. FIFA set a 900,000 euros fine and a two year transfer embargo. The brave Christian Constantine did not hesitate to keep signing players during this period though, although in the early 2010, CAS lowered the fine to 700,000 euros and revoked the embargo.

Last summer, FC Sion granted their participation in the UEFA Europa League defeating Celtic FC in the previous round, but the Scottish club sued FC Sion for fielding six players that had been signed under the embargo. This denounced was accepted by UEFA, who eliminated FC Sion from the competition. The reaction of Christian Constantin was a denounce in the regular courts.

In September, the judge Hack, member of the Martingny court, accepted the denounce of FC Sion against UEFA and declared that this club had to be readmitted in the competition. The reaction of UEFA was to declare that they were not force to follow the dictates of a regular court. But in following dates, several tribunals confirmed the initial resolution and kept insisting that UEFA had to accept the readmission of FC Sion in the Europa League, while they also called the UEFA president, Michel Platini, to declare for the disobedience. The war of Christian Constantin on UEFA and FIFA does not stop there and, in a public letter sent to the Minister of Finances of Switzerland, exposed the fiscal benefits of these organizations, which only paid 3 million euros in taxes, while they would have paid nearly 180 million euros, if they had been under the general tax regime. A denounce that found echo in the socialist party and their militants, who also exposed the corruption in UEFA and FIFA, as the dark choices of Russia and Qatar for the following World Cups.

Sepp Blatter

While the legal and social pressure grows on UEFA and FIFA, while the president Michel Platini has already visited the Swiss courts, the structures of football are shaking. This denounce puts under question all the current transfer and contract structure in an event whose consequences could go beyond the ones the Bosman ruling had. For now, UEFA already tries to find a solution to readmit FC Sion and proposed an automatic qualification to the Round of 32. But Christian Constantin seems decided to go until the end and the enormous breach made on the thick walls of UEFA and FIFA may have serious consequences, since FC Sion found a way to jump over the threats on clubs and federations to bomb these organizations and its structures from the inside. The future of football as we all know it is on the table.

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