FRANKFURT: FIFA’s command of football administration and the power of the Court of Arbitration for Sport have been challenged successfully by a regional league club in Germany.
In a ruling which will send a shudder through sports legal departments, SV Wilhelmshaven of the Regionalliga has been supported by the German Supreme Court in contesting its FIFA-ordered relegation.
The dispute, emanating from a row over the player development payment system, dates back to 2007 when Wilhelmshaven refused to pay €157,000 ‘training compensation’ to two Argentinian clubs River Plate und Atletico Excursionistas for player Sergio Sagarzazu.
The 19-year-old, who held an Italian passport, had joined SVW on a six-month contract.
The club appealed through the FIFA system and then to CAS, which ruled against it.
Wilhelmshaven still refused to pay so FIFA ordered the club’s relegation. Again the club went to CAS, in vain, and the German regional football association implemented the punishment.
Subsequently Wilhelmshaven appealed successfully to the Bremen Court of Appeal which ruled that the relegation was incompatible with European Union law and thus rendered the CAS decision null and void.
The case was then counter-appealed by the north German regional federation and the DFB to the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH) which has just upheld the Bremen verdict.
A complicating factor appears to have been the administrative set-up by which the club was not a direct member of the German federation which subscribes to the statutes system laid down by FIFA. Hence FIFA did not have the right to order its relegation and the DFB and its regional subsidiaries did not have the right to carry out the sentence.
Also, thus, CAS lacked any right to jurisdiction.
FIFA will need to review its statutes in the wake of the BGH ruling after due conideration.
A FIFA spokesman said: “FIFA takes note of the decision of the [German] Supreme Court. We will first need to analyse the grounds of the decision, once in possession of them.”