Ten months of legal wrangling were officially ended yesterday with the announcement by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) that Chelsea’s transfer ban has been cut in half, both in terms of length and the fines imposed, allowing Chelsea to go back to conducting business as usual starting in January.
And that’s all well and good, and Chelsea were certainly grateful to CAS for their verdict.
Club statement.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 6, 2019
But Chelsea also wanted to have the last word, and that last word was quite something. You can (should) read the full statement on the club’s official website, if you haven’t yet. Here are the highlights.
1. The approach taken by FIFA to this case has been deeply unsatisfactory, not least as FIFA chose to treat Chelsea entirely differently to Manchester City for reasons that make absolutely no sense to Chelsea.
Wasting no time, the first point cuts to the chase. FIFA treated Chelsea’s case entirely differently to the high-profile cases that had come before (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid) or were also going on concurrently (Manchester City). While the different approach in the cases of the three Spanish teams can be explained by FIFA’s changes in methodology and procedure (e.g. expedited appeals, etc.) after those three teams took advantage of the systems in place to delay the ban and be able to use a transfer window to set up for the ban, it gets harder to explain how City escaped with little over half of Chelsea’s fine and no transfer ban for similar infractions.
FIFA claimed this was primarily due to City’s full cooperation and guilty plea, but Chelsea “fully cooperated with FIFA throughout its investigation” as well, as the club statement says later. While Chelsea were accused of a higher number of total infractions than City, it also turns out that those infractions weren’t exactly what FIFA claimed them to be. That it took two appeals, countless hours, and who knows how much in legal fees to get many of those charges thrown out clearly does not sit well with Chelsea.
2. FIFA accused Chelsea of having breached Article 19 of the FIFA regulations in relation to 27 players, covering the period from 2009 onwards. Of those, 16 players were registered by Chelsea in exactly the same way as other Premier League clubs registered players at the time. Furthermore, Chelsea sought clarification from the Premier League in 2009 about whether it needed to apply for permission to register players in this category. The FA subsequently liaised with FIFA and it was confirmed to Chelsea that players in this category were entitled to register and that no special application was required (and in fact no special application process existed). Accordingly, the fact that FIFA brought charges against Chelsea for this category of player was perverse. We are grateful that this appears to have been corrected by the CAS.
If what Chelsea are claiming in the second point is at all true, FIFA look to be wholly unfit to actually govern over the world’s game. That may be the case already of course, but perhaps that’s a discussion for another time.
As the statement concludes:
“If FIFA continues to impose inconsistent and unequal sanctions on clubs then it will not only undermine the very purpose of the regulations, but it will also bring into doubt the game’s confidence in FIFA being able to appropriately regulate this important area.”
That FIFA also fined the FA for Chelsea’s violations underline our understanding throughout this process that Chelsea were acting in accordance with FA guidelines, which were believed to be in line with FIFA guidelines. FIFA apparently confirmed this as well (as the FA told Chelsea), and then fined both Chelsea and the FA anyway, and banned us for two transfer windows in the harshest punishment they had meted out in such cases yet.
3. In relation to the remaining 11 players, Chelsea’s position was as follows:
a. Six players qualified for one of the exceptions set out in the FIFA regulations. As a consequence, to the extent there was any breach in relation to these players, the breaches were of a procedural nature only.
b. With respect to the remaining five players, FIFA’s position was that it “deemed” these players to have registered prior to any application for registration being made. Chelsea maintains, as was held by CAS in the Real Madrid case, that the FIFA regulations do not cover a concept of “deemed registrations” and accordingly it is not open to FIFA to “deem” that registrations were made before they were in fact made.
Chelsea’s last point is that the 11 remaining violations of Article 19, from the 92 investigated, 27 charged, and 16 not upheld on appeal by CAS, are basically all administrative, bureaucratic, or semantic in nature, that no actual violation of the rules occurred but that registrations were either filed incorrectly, were missing crucial information, of FIFA simply assumed them to be in violation of the rules.
In June, @d_mavromati and I specifically highlighted— Jake Cohen (@JakeFCohen) December 6, 2019
- need for FIFA + CAS to exercise jurisprudential consistency
- strong argument wrt FIFA definition of “organised football” and FA / FIFA compliance
Glad to see we were on the same page as Chelsea.https://t.co/Jx3JefUBaj https://t.co/rMOSUymXQe
It’s unclear exactly how CAS ruled in the case of these final 11 — their full written reasons won’t be available for a while and breaking the law is breaking the law regardless of how we went about breaking the law — but their brief statement alluded to the fact they agreed with FIFA in only a third of the violations, and any violations that did occur were “found to be less serious” than attributed by FIFA.
CAS have halved Chelsea’s sanctions, which means they will be able bring in new players in January. #cfc pic.twitter.com/69iaENv5ev— Oliver Harbord (@ojharbord) December 6, 2019
So, the witch hunt is over, and we’re back in business.
Now we just have to make sure we don’t waste this opportunity. The transfer ban has proved a blessing in disguise in many ways, and while we’re not challenging for the title (yet), this season has been all sorts of fun and wonderful and engaging. Sure, winning is our aim, trophies our game, but we’re doing it with more heart these days, and that still counts for something in the cold harsh reality in the business of modern day football.
In the meantime, let’s try to steer clear of FIFA or UEFA or any other bunches of [TWINKIES] for a while.