The Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport – supreme judicial body for resolving sports disputes – has backed UEFA instead. The European federation had expelled Sion from the competition in late August because they had fielded a number of ineligible players in their final qualifying round victory over Celtic.
Sion had signed six players – Stefan Glarner, Billy Ketkeophomphone, Mario Mutsch, Pascal Feindouno, José Julio Gomes Goncalves and Gabri [Gabriel Garcia de la Torre] – during the summer in defiance of a transfer ban imposed by world federation FIFA as punishment for the attempt, in 2008, to sign Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El Hadary when he was still under contract to Al Ahly.
Constantin disputed the time periods of the ban, claiming that it had expired early this summer, one calendar year after its imposition. FIFA insisted that the ban was for complete transfer windows which meant it did not expire until this past August 31.
Accordingly FIFA ordered the Swiss federation and, by extension, the Swiss league to declare the Sion Six ineligible to play competitive football. The Swiss authorities did so – although Sion subsequently had those rulings overturned by a civil court – and UEFA acted in accordance with the national associations’ decisions.
Sion, formally known as Olympique des Alpes for legal purposes, have undertaken a running battle with the Swiss authorities and UEFA in the civil courts because the CAS is unable to act with the speed which professional football demands.
UEFA had opposed Constantin’s demand for reintegration into the Europa League but had discussed with the club – and the other clubs in the relevant first-round group – a number of options for winter-break play-off matches were CAS to rule in Sion’s favour.
This now appears to be unnecessary though it would be unwise to believe that Constantin will accept defeat. As CAS makes clear in its ruling, Sion do have the right to appeal to the Swiss federal court. However, the timescale would appear to make reintegration into this season’s Europa League impractical.
The CAS verdict supports the original decision taken by UEFA’s own Appeals Body of September 13 in refusing Sion’s readmittance. Sion must pay two-thirds of the arbitration costs plus a further 40,000 Swiss francs towards UEFA’s legal costs while UEFA must pay one-third.
However, CAS has indicated that this judgment should not be taken by UEFA as a precedent signifying that the court considers all UEFA decisions and regulations as being in conformity with Swiss law.
CAS, in rendering this verdict, has taken a view on some of the other outstanding legal proceedings. It notes that various other actions are pending but has ruled in favour of the Swiss League’s original ban on the six players, back in July.
This could mean that Sion lose around 30 league points and crash down to the foot of the 10-club table from their current third place.
The Swiss League has wasted no time in reacting to the decision. Within an hour of the formal declaration by CAS the League announced that it was launching disciplinary action against Sion for a deliberate flouting of its rules and regulations.
By Keir Radnedge