Last week the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body (the “CDB”) announced after conducting disciplinary proceedings regarding match-fixing that it was suspending Turkish clubs Fenerbahce SK and Besiktas JK, and Romanian club FC Steaua Bucuresti from UEFA club competitions. The CDB banned Fenerbahce from participating in any UEFA club competitions (including the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League season, for which Fenerbahce qualified by finishing in second place in the Turkish Super League for the 2012/13 season) for three years, with the third year of the ban deferred for a five-year probationary period. The CDB banned Besiktas from competing in the UEFA Europa league for the 2013/14 season, for which Besiktas qualified by finishing third in the 2012/13 Turkish Super League. Finally, the CDB determined that Steaua Bucuresti would be unable to compete in one UEFA club competition, with that ban deferred over a five-year probationary period.
All three clubs may appeal the CDB’s decision to the UEFA Appeals Body, and Fenerbahce and Besiktas have already indicated that they will appeal the CDB’s decision.
The CDB, which is chaired by Austrian Thomas Partri, is a nine-person body with jurisdiction to rule on a wide range of disciplinary issues identified by the UEFA Statutes or by the UEFA Executive Committee. In the case of alleged match-fixing under Article 12 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, the CDB has broad authority to take disciplinary action against clubs, ranging from warnings or reprimands, to disqualification from competitions or exclusion from future competitions, to withdrawal of a UEFA license. A club that faces CDB disciplinary action may appeal the decision to the UEFA Appeals Body (the “Appeals Body”), although the club’s right to appeal is limited by strict time requirements.
The Appeals Body, also a nine-person entity, has jurisdiction to hear appeals against decisions by the CDB. The Appeals Body deliberates behind closed doors and independently examines the facts and the legal aspects of a case that has been appealed. The Appeals Body may uphold, amend, or overturn a CDB decision.
While the Appeals Body will re-examine Fenerbahce’s case in its entirety from a factual and legal perspective, the likelihood of success on the appeal should be understood in the context of UEFA’s current stance on match-fixing. UEFA has touted a hard line against match-fixing, developing an initiative that focuses on a zero-tolerance policy for match-fixing, supported by strict disciplinary regulations; education programs for players, referees and coaches; and so-called “integrity officers” in each of UEFA’s 53 national associations, whose job is to liaise with local law enforcement and implement local education and prevention programs. Given that Fenerbahce was banned from playing in the UEFA Champions League just a year ago for the 2011/12 season, it seems unlikely that the Turkish powerhouse will manage to avoid the ban.
One remaining question is whether the penalty levied by the CDB will act as a deterrent to Fenerbahce or other clubs. The current proposed ban exceeds the one-year 2011/12 ban by two years (one year of which is deferred during the probationary period). And yet, Fenerbahce completed its last ban only a year ago. It may be that UEFA will need to begin revoking club licenses before member associations, clubs, and individuals begin taking the European association seriously enough to cease match-fixing activities. Until then, the financial reward of fixing a match may continue to outweigh the risk of getting caught.