FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in Tokyo, after a two-day meeting of his executive committee, that the SFV had been given until January 13 to bring to heel the rebellious club which has been fighting the national and international authorities through the sports and civil courts in a transfer ban row.
If confirmed, such a ban would prevent Basel facing Bayern Munich in the Champions League second round in February and March. Though European federation UEFA refused to speculate, FIFA’s gesture of impatience led to weekend suggestions in England that Manchester United might be reinstated in the Champions League.
Reaction to FIFA’s edict in Switzerland was mixed. Peter Gilleron, president of the SFV, expressed his irritation that FIFA was aiming its fire at the wrong target. He said that his federation had done everything possible under the Swiss civil and sports disciplinary codes and that only Sion, and Sion alone, were responsible for the continuing impasse.
Last week the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected a plea by Sion that UEFA should reinstate the club in the current Europa League: Sion were expelled in late August for fielding players declared ineligible by FIFA, and at that stage by the Swiss league, against Celtic in the final qualifying round.
Sion’s legal advisers have indicated that the club will register an appeal against the CAS verdict in the Swiss federal court early next month.
This has prompted a consideration within the Swiss federation that it might even end up appealing itself to CAS against FIFA’s threat of suspension. As a side issue, the Sion case has prompted concerns about the functions and efficacy of CAS itself.
Constantin, according to his latest utterances, has no intention of giving up his fight. He has nothing to lose. While other Swiss club presidents have started to attack him openly in the media, so Constantin has turned his fire on to FIFA and Blatter . . . in defence of Basel’s right to play Bayern in the Champions League as scheduled.
The 54-year-old millionaire architect told the Swiss media at the weekend that he considered himself a Basel fan and that the club had fully deserved their victory over United and progress into the Champions League knockout stage.
He said: “FC Basel fully deserve to be where they are and I am sure they will play in the second round. Look at it this way: do you think FC Bayern will want to play Manchester United in the second round?
“FIFA is behaving like Libya under the dictator Muammar Gaddafi in December 1988 when he wanted to punish the United States and so attacked an aircraft belonging to a U.S. airline. The people who suffered were innocent bystanders. In this case, it would be FC Basel.”
Asked if he were serious in comparing Blatter with a terrorist, Constantin added: “FIFA’s threat is like a terrorist act against which we are legally liable. Joseph Blatter is a dictator who has lost all sense of perspective. It’s crazy to threaten the entire Swiss federation with suspension over an issue which concerns just FC Sion.”
By Keir Radnedge