By Andrew Warshaw
January 20 – In a potential landmark ruling that could have far-reaching consequences, a Belgian court has found FIFA and the Belgian FA (KBVB) jointly guilty of obstructing former Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra’s transfer to Charleroi in 2015 and has ordered them to pay him €6 million.
The court ruled FIFA had infringed EU law over freedom of movement when it stated that anyone interested in signing Diarra, who also played for Arsenal and Chelsea, could be jointly liable with the Frenchman to pay the €10 million he owed to Lokomotiv Moscow when he breached his four-year contract with the Russian club.
As a consequence of FIFA’s missive, Charleroi pulled out of talks to sign Diarra. In fact no club dared to sign him and he ended up joining Marseille in the summer of 2015 having not played for the entire 2014-15 season.
The court stated that FIFA had denied Diarra the opportunity to ply his trade and that the KBVB should have “assumed its responsibilities, and not servilely retreated behind this rule.”
A statement from Diarra’s lawyers said they would “now claim from FIFA and the URBSFA [KBVB] the total amount of the loss of earnings of Monsieur Diarra, that is to stay at least €6 million.”
“The Charleroi Court has rendered a crystal clear decision: article 17.2 of the FIFA transfer rules is against EU Law (in particular against free movement of workers), the Court even qualifies this rule of being “pre-BOSMAN” since – in fact – it stops a player out of contract (DIARRA), even if this is the result of his own behaviour, from signing with a new employer,” the lawyers stated. “Therefore, the rule is now null and void”.
“We are also particularly pleased that the Charleroi Court has fully rejected FIFA’s claim that the Court of Arbitration for Sport had an exclusive jurisdiction over this case.”
“Indeed, the Belgian judges have stated forcefully that a player is always free to choose to go to the civil courts and cannot in any way be forced to accept CAS arbitration unless he decides personally to sign an arbitration agreement. Therefore, the FIFA Status (sic) have been judged illegal, in as much as they force players to go to CAS. This part of the judgment goes beyond football and is significant for all sport federations”.
Both FIFA and the KBVB are reportedly likely to appeal the court ruling which will be keenly noted by FIFpro, the international players’ union.
But it will also set alarm bells ringing in terms of player power since it was Diarra’s decision to leave Lokomotiv and break his contract, reportedly because his salary was cut and he fell out with the club coach.
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