LAUSANNE: A Russian panel which handles football player contract disputes is unfairly weighted in favour of executives from the league and clubs according to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The court in Lausanne, Switzerland ruled that Zenit St. Petersburg official Pavel Pivovarov must stand down as deputy chairman of the so-called National Dispute Resolution Chamber.

The Swiss tribunal also said in a written ruling that Konstantin Lyakhov’s position as legal director of the national league and chairman of the panel was also a conflict of interest.

“This is an important step in one of the most difficult places in the world to challenge the football establishment,” Wil van Megen, Legal Director of world player union FIFPro.

FIFA rules allow the club and player in a dispute to each choose at least one arbitrator each but require both the chairman and deputy chairman to be independent.

The impartiality of the panel was successfully challenged by Russia’s players union. Lyakhov is able to retain his post as chairman only because the challenge came too late after he was appointed.

The union is pushing to improve the rights of footballers who are unfairly treated in the domestic league as Russia football federation prepares to host the 2018 World Cup.

“We welcome this decision but it is astonishing that the federation is so reluctant to set up independent arbitration,” Nikolai Grammatikov, Secretary General of the Union of Football Players and Coaches. “It is one of the most crucial points, that a player should have a fair hearing.”

For years, players who have lost their cases in Russia for complaints including unfair dismissal have had to drop their challenges or mount long and expensive appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. An appeal can cost at least 30,000 euros — sometimes much more — and take as long as 18 months.