FIFA database opens legal cases to more scrutiny

GENEVA (AP) — FIFA has opened its legal work to scrutiny by starting to publish detailed verdicts in most ethics and disciplinary cases — including documents showing how Chelsea’s transfer ban was the result of 150 rule violations.

FIFA launched a website Thursday that will show evidence and legal arguments in cases including bribe-taking by soccer officials, match-fixing and racial abuse by fans.

“No one will be able to say that these decisions are secret,” FIFA interim secretary general Alasdair Bell said.

The most eye-catching documents published Thursday detailed the extent of Chelsea’s rule violations that led to a one-year transfer ban. FIFA said the Premier League club violated 150 rules protecting minors involving around 70 players.

However, evidence will not be published in cases settled by plea bargains — such as Manchester City avoiding a transfer ban this year for breaking youth transfer rules.

FIFA lawyers hope to build trust and banish “suspicion and conspiracy theories” by explaining how and why judicial decisions were reached.

The online database will includes appeal cases at the Court of Arbitration for Sport where FIFA was a party, and contractual disputes between clubs, players and coaches.

The project marks a change in FIFA’s legal culture under President Gianni Infantino, who recruited former colleagues from UEFA to be its top lawyers.

FIFA had long refused to provide details of cases until a lengthy appeals process was exhausted at CAS or even beyond at the Swiss supreme court.

“It (transparency) should probably have been done before,” Bell said on a conference call. “One of the problems that has existed that gives rise to suspicion and conspiracy theories is that people aren’t able to see how decisions are taken.”

While still working at UEFA, current FIFA chief legal officer Emilio Garcia published a biannual bulletin explaining significant cases in more detail.

“We think that it’s an important step forward for FIFA,” Garcia said of throwing open FIFA’s legal processes.

Addressing questions that parties opting to settle by plea bargain could evade scrutiny, Garcia said a list of such cases would be published every four months.

In one recent plea bargain, a leading African soccer official accepted a two-month ban and 10,000 Swiss franc ($10,100) fine from the FIFA ethics committee for illicit sales of 2014 World Cup tickets. Evidence in the case involving Moses Magogo, a Confederation of African Football executive committee member from Uganda, has not been published.

Man City settled its disciplinary case in August. The club backed by Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth paid FIFA a 370,000 Swiss franc ($375,000) fine to acknowledge breaking rules in signing youth players.

Chelsea is going to CAS to challenge its one-year transfer ban. One-year transfer bans were previously served by Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and Real Madrid was prevented from registered players in one transfer window.