Soccer. What is the Lassana Diarra affair that could shake up the transfer market?

Soccer. What is the Lassana Diarra affair that could shake up the transfer market?
Soccer. What is the Lassana Diarra affair that could shake up the transfer market?

Will “the Lassana Diarra affair” cause a major upheaval in football? In a report made public this week, the first advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) concluded, in relation to this precedent, that Fifa’s rules on transfers could be contrary to the rules of competition and free movement of people. And thus vindicated the footballer in the conflict over his contract which opposed him to his former club, Lokomotiv Moscow. If the CJEU’s decision is only expected at the end of the summer, after the judicial recess, it could profoundly change the transfer market. To better understand the issues, here is how the case has unfolded since it began in 2014.

1. Who is Lassana Diarra?

Lassana Diarra, 39 years old today, is a former French international. The midfielder has played for the most prestigious clubs in Europe, including Chelsea (2005-2007), Arsenal (2007-2008), Real Madrid (2009-2012) and OM (2015-2017). ) and PSG (2018-2019). He also has 34 caps for the French team and notably played at Euro 2008.

2. Why do we talk about the “Lassana Diarra affair”?

It is 2014 and Lassana Diarra has been an employee of Lokomotiv Moscow since 2013, with whom he is still engaged for three seasons. He believes that the Moscow club lowered his salary without his agreement and that, under these conditions, he can freely commit elsewhere. The club eventually terminated his contract in August 2014, accusing the player of refusing to fulfill it. “without just cause”. Lokomotiv then demanded compensation of 20 million euros from him, based on Fifa rules. Indeed, if a player terminates his contract unilaterally and without just cause, he must pay compensation to the club, including his remuneration and benefits until the end of his contract.

Lassana Diarra is therefore without a club, but his talents attract several recruiters. This is the case of Sporting de Charleroi, which sent him a letter of commitment on February 19, 2015. But, and there is a big but: article 17 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players ( RSTJ) of Fifa and the principle of co-debition. According to this dogma, the club must be responsible for the fine imposed on a player during a “breach of contract without just cause”. Clearly, if Lassana Diarra was convicted, this meant that his future club would have a sum – sometimes very heavy – to pay, not to mention possible sporting sanctions.

“This set of rules means that no player dares to break his contract to join another club, and that no club dares to hire a player who has broken his contract from the moment his ex- employer simply alleges that this player did not have just cause, explains lawyer Sébastien Engelen, in the specialist journal Droitdusport.com. The job market is therefore frozen and locked. A player under contract will only change employer in the event of just cause, in other words, if his club consents. »

Sporting de Charleroi not being fooled, it had set the condition of not being responsible for any possible compensation to be paid to Lokomotiv Moscow. This condition could not, under the regulation, be met. The transfer with the Belgian club was therefore aborted and Lassana Diarra found himself without a contract. Lokomotiv then seized the dispute resolution chamber at Fifa for abusive breach of contract. The club obtains suspensions of 15 months of matches and salary during the 2014-2015 season and that it is prohibited from joining another club within fifteen months.

While he signed with OM in 2015 (the fifteen months have passed), he hired legal proceedings, believing that Fifa prevented him from practicing his profession between 2014 and 2015: he seized the commercial court of Mons in Belgium, supported by the players’ unions Fifpro and UNFP, and claimed six million euros .

In May 2016, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) sentenced him to a fine of 10 million euros. “I take note today of the notification by the CAS of the sanction concerning me. It comes down to 15 months of match suspension (already purged)15 months of salary suspension (already purged)€110,000 for the benefit of the CAS, 10 million euros fine”writes Lassana Diarra on her Twitter account.

3. Why did the CJEU intervene this week?

After several twists and turns, the Belgian justice system, whose jurisdiction FIFA contested, asked a so-called “preliminary” question to the CJEU in 2022: is the regulation of the status and transfer of players compatible with the law of competition and free circulation of the European Union? And can a federation exert pressure by refusing to issue an international transfer certificate?

The opinion given by Polish prosecutor Maciej Szpuna, in a 46-page report published Tuesday, goes in the player’s direction. “These provisions (from FIFA) are likely to discourage and dissuade clubs from hiring the player for fear of a financial risk. The sporting sanctions faced by the clubs hiring the player can effectively prevent a player from practicing his profession in a club located in another Member Statewrote the attorney general. Limiting the ability of clubs to recruit players necessarily affects competition between clubs in the market for the acquisition of professional players. »

The news, which fell on Tuesday afternoon, delighted the Diarra clan, whether its lawyers or its early supporters, the UNFP and Fifpro unions. The player’s lawyers, Jean-Louis Dupont and Martin Hissel, cited by The Team said they were “delighted” by these conclusions. “All these rules have the real purpose of dissuading all players from breaking up and any club from committing them, which allows the commodification of players, as “financial assets”, between clubs”they analyzed.

The UNFP, in a press release entitled “Avantage Lassana Diarra”, welcomed that this report “gives, to return to tennis vocabulary, an advantage to FIFPRO, FIFPRO Europe and the UNFP in their joint denunciation, through the case of Lassana Diarra, of the regulation of the status and transfer of Fifa players (RSTJ).” “It is now up to the judges of the European Court to decide. We await their verdict with the confidence that always inhabits those who want, in football as elsewhere, especially in football where some think themselves above the law, that the rights of all are fully respected., writes Philippe Piat, president of the UNFP. David Terrier, president of FIFPRO Europe and vice-president of the French union, calls for the creation of “ a truly equal collective agreement” in order to better protect players.

5. How could this shake up the transfer market?

If the CJEU were to follow this opinion, the football market would be profoundly changed. Players could, if they one day find themselves on the sidelines, terminate their contract with a club without fear of being legally stuck afterwards, as Lassana Diarra was. “This would finally allow social partners, players’ unions and club unions, to regulate their labor relations. This will put an end to degrading practices of commodification of players”ensure with The Team the two lawyers who defend Lassana Diarra.

This decision, if it were taken, would, for many observers, resemble “another” Bosman ruling, of which Jean-Louis Dupont was one of the original lawyers. This ruling put an end to quotas for foreign players in clubs in 1995, thus liberalizing the transfer market in Europe.

In the eyes of Martin Hissel, if the opinion were followed by the CJEU, it would be fine “further than the Bosman ruling”: “The Bosman ruling put an end to transfer compensation in the case of a free playerhe explained to RMC Sport . Here, it is the possibility for players to leave their clubs during the course of their contract which is made possible. It will reach a much wider segment of players. The player under contract, as in all economic sectors, can leave his company. In the world of football, it’s quite the opposite. We give them power which, in our eyes, legitimately belongs to them. »

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