FIFA Will Allow Foreign Players in Russia to Break Contracts

FIFA Will Allow Foreign Players in Russia to Break Contracts
Sports

On Monday, FIFPro called FIFA’s temporary solution “too timid.”

“It will be hard for players to find employment for the remainder of the season with uncertainty looming over them and, within a few weeks, they will be in a very difficult situation once again,” it said. “It is unsatisfactory even for players who are tied to short-term contracts in Russia — where contracts typically end in December — and who may not want or be able to return after 30 June 2022.”

Under local rules, Russian clubs can have as many as eight foreign players, known as legionnaires, on their rosters. The current Russian champion, Zenit St. Petersburg, has five Brazilians, a Colombian, a Croat and a player from Kazakhstan on its squad.

At least one club, Krasnodar, announced last week that it would allow its foreign players and coaching staff to suspend their contracts. Its German coach, Daniel Farke, the former manager of the English Premier League club Norwich, quit less than two months into his contract without overseeing a single game. But foreign players continued to suit up for Russian teams in the most recent round of league games over the weekend.

Russia’s declaration of war has exposed gaps in the statutes under which sporting organizations like FIFA are organized. After the invasion began and drew worldwide condemnation, FIFA lawyers and officials scrambled to find a way to take action that could be justified under its regulations. At first, soccer officials proposed measures that stopped short of an outright ban: Russia was to be prohibited from playing on home soil and barred from using its flag and even its name. But that punishment unraveled within 24 hours when Russia’s opponents — and about a dozen other countries — announced that they would refuse to share a field with Russia wherever, and whenever, games were to be played.

A day later, FIFA threw Russia’s teams and its clubs out of world soccer. But its lawyers are already bracing for a fight over the decision. Russia’s soccer federation has called for an expedited hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in order for a decision to be made before March 24, the date when it was supposed to host Poland in a World Cup qualification playoff.

Russia has argued that FIFA does not have legal standing to eject it from the competition.

FIFA officials are privately anxious about the case, knowing that Russia may be able to test the legitimacy of the decision. FIFA’s argument is expected to rely on the organization’s supremacy as the World Cup organizer to have a smooth-running tournament and ensure the safety and security of its participants.

Russia already has approached potential arbitrators for the case. (Both sides are able to appoint one, with the president of the arbitration panel appointed by the court.) The hearing, regardless of the outcome, is likely to lead to renewed scrutiny of the court, a largely opaque body that holds most of its hearings behind closed doors.