Understanding the FIFA Football Tribunal
Before the 1st of October 2021, the decision-making bodies for FIFA were the Players’ Status Committee and the Dispute Resolution Chamber. From 1st of October 2021 onwards, this changed and FIFA amended the regulations governing its decision-making bodies in the Procedural Rules Governing the Football Tribunal document. In efforts to modernise its dispute resolution processes, FIFA established the Football Tribunal which consolidates the powers that the Players’ Status Committee and the Dispute Resolution Chamber previously had. Details are also contained in article 23 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP). Article 1 paragraph 2 of the Procedural Rules Governing the Football Tribunal explains that the FIFA Football Tribunal is composed of three individual chambers:
- the Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC)
- the Players’ Status Chamber (PSC)
- the Agents’ Chamber (AC)
This blog will explain what exactly each chamber is, the purpose it serves, how it functions, and the overall structure.
The Dispute Resolution Chamber
The DRC is composed of a chairperson and two deputy chairpersons, fifteen player representatives and fifteen club representatives. Put simply, the chamber is tasked with adjudicating on employment-related disputes between players and clubs and disputes related to training compensation. Article 23 of the RTSP expands on this jurisdiction. It states that the DRC can pass judgements and settle disputes on the following matters:
- Disputes between clubs and players in relation to the maintenance of contractual stability where there has been an International Transfer Certificate request and a claim from an interested party in relation to said ITC request. This typically relates to disputes when a player has unilaterally terminated their contract with the club to join a new club and the former club claims that the termination was unlawful and without just cause.
- Employment-related disputes between a club and a player of an international dimension, including all contractual disputes where the player’s own nationality is different from the country where the club is based.
- Disputes relating to training compensation and the solidarity mechanism between clubs belonging to different associations that are not governed by the FIFA Clearing House Regulations. However, they will also help settle the same kind of disputed between clubs of the same association provided that the transfer of a player at the basis of the dispute occurs between two clubs belonging to different associations, that are also not governed by the FIFA Clearing House Regulations.
- Matters of legal or factual complexity in an Electronic Player Passport review process in accordance with article 10 paragraph 3 of the FIFA Clearing House Regulations and disputes between clubs in accordance with article 18 paragraph 2 of the FIFA Clearing House Regulations. These are as follows:
- 10.3: “Following the completion of its evaluation, the FIFA general secretariat will decide on the registration information to be incorporated and amended in the final EPP. In situations of legal or factual complexity, the following shall apply:
a) The FIFA general secretariat shall refer the matter to the Dispute Resolution Chamber in accordance with the Procedural Rules
b) The complete file is transferred to the Dispute Resolution Chamber and the EPP review process is paused pending a decision.
c) The Dispute Resolution Chamber will decide on the final EPP in accordance with the Procedural Rules.”
- 18.2: “A club that:
a) did not take part in the relevant EPP review process; and
b) considers, as a result of a bridge transfer (cf. article 5bis of the RSTP), exchange of players or information declared by the new club or its member association (including the training category of the club), that:
i. it was incorrectly not entitled to any training rewards, or entitled to a lesser amount than should have been calculated; or
ii. an EPP review process should have taken place; and
c) considers that it is entitled to receive training rewards, may lodge a claim against the relevant clubs in accordance with article 27 of the Procedural Rules. The Dispute Resolution Chamber shall decide such claims.
The Players’ Status Chamber
The PSC is composed of a chairperson and a deputy chairperson and the necessary number of members as decided by the FIFA Council. These members are proposed by members associations, confederations, players, clubs and leagues.
The chamber serves the function of resolving employment-related disputes between coaches and clubs or associations; transfer-related disputes between clubs, and regulatory applications related to the international transfer system as well as the eligibility of players to participate for representative teams. The chamber can adjudicate on these employment-related disputes if they are of an international dimension. The ‘international dimension’ concerns whether or not the coach is of a different nationality from the club or national association involved.
The parties can, however, opt for such disputes to be handled by an independent arbitration tribunal that has been established at national level within the framework of the association and/ or a collective bargaining agreement’. The independent national arbitration tribunal must guarantee fair proceedings. For this option, such an arbitration clause must be included in the employment contract or in the collective bargaining agreement applicable on the parties.
The DRC and the PSC are similar in that they both offer arbitration for international disputes between member associations, clubs and players. These disputes are predominantly regulated by the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players which provide guidance for the FIFA Football Tribunal Chambers in identifying and formulating the best possible resolution. However, The PSC may also handle disputes between clubs from different associations that cannot be adjudicated by the DRC.
The Agents’ Chamber
The AC is also composed of a chairperson and a deputy chairperson and the necessary number of members as decided by the FIFA Council. The chamber serves to offer arbitration and dispute resolution for international disputes involving football agents and intermediaries. The AC has jurisdiction under the FIFA Football Agent Regulations, article 20 over disputes arising out of, or in connection with, a Representation Agreement with an international dimension or where a claim is lodged in accordance with the Procedural Rules Governing the Football Tribunal. The chamber will only be able to address such disputes where no more than two years have elapsed from the event giving rise to the dispute; the application of this time limit shall be examined ex officio in each case.
Other Points to Note
FIFA has made a lot of additional changes to the arbitration process through the Procedural Rules.
Significantly, the costs of proceedings that pass through the FIFA Football Tribunal chambers are detailed in article 25 which states the following:
- Procedures are free of charge where at least one of the parties is a player, coach, football agent, or match agent.
- Procedural costs are payable in all other types of disputes. Procedural costs are payable on order by the relevant chamber, at the conclusion of a matter. The amounts are defined in Annexe 1 of these Rules.
- An advance of costs is payable for proceedings before the PSC, with the exception of proceedings relating to regulatory applications.
- Advance of costs shall be paid by the claimant or counter-claimant when the claim or counterclaim is lodged, and are defined in Annexe 1 of these Rules.
- The chamber will decide the amount that each party is due to pay, in consideration of the parties’ degree of success and their conduct during the procedure, as well as any advance of costs paid. In exceptional circumstances, the chamber may order that FIFA assumes all procedural costs.
- A party that has been ordered to pay procedural costs is only obliged to pay where:
- It requests the grounds of the decision after having been notified of the operative part; or
- The decision has been notified directly with grounds.
- Procedural costs shall be paid within ten days as from the notification of the relevant decision to the bank account provided in the decision. The relevant proof of payment shall be filed with the FIFA general secretariat within the same ten days.
- No legal costs shall be awarded. Parties shall bear all their own costs in connection with any procedure.
The basic notion of article 19 of the Procedural Rules Governing the Football Tribunal outlines the preliminary procedural matters allowing for the FIFA General Secretariat to refer a case directly to the chairperson of the relevant chamber of the Football tribunal for an expedited decision. The three paragraphs contained within article 19 are as follows:
- The FIFA general secretariat, after assessing whether a claim is complete, will subsequently assess whether:
- The relevant chamber obviously does not have jurisdiction; and/or
- The claim is obviously time-barred.
- Following this assessment, the FIFA general secretariat may refer the case directly to the chairperson of the relevant chamber of the FT for an expedited decision.
- If the chairperson of the relevant chamber of the FT considers that the claim is not affected by any preliminary procedural matters, they shall order the FIFA general secretariat to continue the procedure.
Mediation is detailed in article 26 and has three main points:
- If the chairperson of the Football tribunal considers it appropriate, they may invite the parties to mediate the dispute. This means that there is a possibility that if both parties come together and discuss collaboratively, there could be a compromise and resolution found without the need to escalate the case.
- The process of mediation is also voluntary and free of charge.
- If mediation is successful, a settlement agreement will be signed by the parties and ratified by the mediator and the chairperson of the respective chamber. The settlement agreement shall be considered a final and binding decision.
One final point to note is that all decisions issued by the Football tribunal chambers; the DRC, PSC or AC can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport known as CAS, in accordance with chapter 9 of the FIFA statutes. The appeal must be lodged with CAS within 21 days of receipt of the decision. CAS is only likely to become involved if the decision reached by the relevant chamber of the FIFA Football Tribunal is strongly disagreed with by one or more parties who believe that if they exercise their right to appeal the judgement, it may be amended or even reversed. However, the purpose of the FIFA Football Tribunal is to increase the efficiency of resolving disputes of such a nature and therefore, if it serves its purpose, CAS will not be necessary.
The FIFA Football Tribunal in its latest format seems to be able to sufficiently cover all manners of disputes and legal issues that may arise in football and between various parties and stakeholders within the game. The division of the Tribunal into separate chambers improves the focused structure on solving the relevant dispute between separate parties. It is important to understand the purpose that the FIFA Football Tribunal is there to serve and how it is designed to do so in the best possible way.