Last week, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (the “CAS”) dismissed Fenerbahce SK’s appeal of UEFA’s decision to exclude Fenerbahce from European club competitions for two years. In July, the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Board (the “CDB”) banned Fenerbahce from participating in any European club competitions (including the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League season) for three years (with the third year of the ban deferred for a five-year probationary period) because of match-fixing.
Fenerbahce appealed the CDB’s initial decision to the UEFA Appeals Body (the “Appeals Body”), but the Appeals Body dismissed Fenerbahce’s appeal on August 14. Fenerbahce thereafter appealed the Appeals Body’s decision to the CAS. The CAS effectively provides a final review of UEFA disciplinary decisions and, in this case, the CAS dismissed Fenerbahce’s appeal.
During the pendency of the appeal process, Fenerbahce was permitted to play in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers, where it was ousted by Arsenal. Fenerbahce’s loss to Arsenal would have meant that Fenerbahce would compete in the UEFA Europa League for the 2013/14 season, but Fenerbahce must now serve out its suspension. The UEFA Emergency Panel (the “Emergency Panel”) met on August 29 and determined that a draw would be held on August 30 to fill Fenerbahce’s place in the UEFA Europa League group stages; Cypriot club APOEL FC was selected in that draw.
On August 30, the CAS also upheld the CDB’s ban on Besiktas JK for match-fixing. The CDB had banned Besiktas in July 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. Besiktas had previously had its appeal of the CDB’s ban dismissed by the Appeals Body. The Emergency Panel selected Norwegian club Tromsø IL to fill Besiktas’s place in the UEFA Europa League group stages.
The CAS decisions are important because they support UEFA’s hard-line approach on match-fixing and emphasize the consequences for European clubs that are responsible for match-fixing. Given the CAS’s independence from UEFA, the CAS’s decision carries even more weight in the European sporting world because contentions of bias during the UEFA appeals process are no longer at issue. Although the mere threat of suspension from European club competitions may not, by itself, represent a substantial deterrent to would-be match-fixers, the consistency in decision-making by UEFA and the CAS is a step in the right direction.