Court of Arbitration for Sport Dismisses Russian Appeals
On July 15, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) dismissed all appeals filed by the Football Union of Russia (FUR) against Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and Union of European Football Associations’ (UEFA) decisions to suspend all Russian teams and clubs from participating in FIFA and UEFA competitions. The dismissal confirms that Russian teams will not compete in upcoming competitions, including the 2022 World Cup.
How We Got Here
On February 28, both FIFA and UEFA announced a suspension of Russian clubs and national teams from competitions, including the suspension of the FUR from the 2022 World Cup. By early March, the FUR appealed FIFA and UEFA’s suspensions, which included requests for a stay of execution pending the outcome of the proceedings. By the time of the appeal, multiple teams, including Poland, had refused to play the FUR.
In early April, the CAS released its order on the FUR’s requests for a stay of execution. The ruling focused on the balance of interests for each side, including the FUR’s interest in participating in competitions and FIFA’s interest in maintaining and ensuring smooth competitions and maintaining and ensuring the integrity of its competitions.
In finding that the balance of interests weighed “decisively” in favor of FIFA, UEFA, and the other Respondents, the Division President determined that if the FUR were allowed to continue in competitions, opponents would forfeit, which damages the integrity of competitions. Additionally, if the FUR were allowed to play, then FIFA/UEFA removed the FUR, similar damage to the integrity of the competition would occur. Lastly, to promote additional safe competition, additional security measures would need to be taken. Thus, the Division President denied the FUR’s requests for a stay of execution.
Based on the order, it appears that the arbitrator panel views FIFA and UEFA’s decisions in a similar light as the Division President. Specifically, the arbitrator panel noted:
“The [arbitrator panel] finds it unfortunate that the current military operations in Ukraine, for which Russian football teams, clubs, and players have themselves no responsibility, had, by reason of the decisions of FIFA and UEFA, such an adverse effect on them and Russian football generally, but those effects were, in the [arbitrator panel’s] view, offset by the need for the secure and orderly conduct of football events for the rest of the world.”
The FUR’s appeals were always likely to fail. FIFA’s decision aligns with previous suspensions, including the suspension of Yugoslavia from competition for its role in the Balkan Wars. Plus, Article 4 of the FIFA Statutes grants FIFA the right to suspend teams that discriminate against another country for any reason, including political opinion or any other opinion. Thus, with FIFA and UEFA having precedent and governing statutes on their side, the FUR’s appeals were an uphill battle from the beginning.
Now, the 2022 World Cup will go on without the Football Union of Russia.
Landis Barber is an attorney at Safran Law Offices in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can connect with him via LinkedIn or via his blog offthecourtdocket.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Landisbarber.