By having the decision of the Dispute Resolution Chamber of the Russian Football Union (RFU) set aside, Clever Consult successfully defended Chayka football club (FC Chayka) in CAS and managed to secure fair settlements of disputes between the club and its former players, Marat Apshatsev and Artem Fedchuk.
Finally, we are pleased to disclose information about the CAS decisions on these two cases. The hearings were held back in July 2022, and it is only now that the outcomes can be officially announced.
Marat Apshatsev and Artem Fedchuk have been found liable and they each must pay their former club a considerable –RUB 10,000,000 – compensation for the termination of their contracts without just cause. The footballers will also have to cover legal fees and expenses and pay a substantial part of the arbitration costs.
Clever Consult offers its congratulations to FC Chayka on the favorable rulings in the cases and wishes them further success and accomplishments in sport!
Anna Antseliovich, the Head of Sports Practice of Clever Consult, has given in-depth comments on the cases:
- How did it start?
- In 2021, a whole placer of talented footballers joined FC Chayka. However, following certain allegations against its former members back in 2018, the team was relegated to a lower football division. Some players, Marat Apshatsev and Artem Fedchuk, chose to terminate their contracts purportedly to keep “their names out of the scandal”. Having written resignation letters, they left the club without permission. Which was clearly a breach of their contracts. Unfortunately, the players had no one around to warn them of the possible consequences of such a decision. On the contrary, most likely, it was their agents who crafted this inventive (as they might have believed at the time) maneuver, - Anna notes. Regrettably, the RFU Dispute Chamber supported this bad faith conduct by dismissing the complaints of FC Chayka.
- What position did the lawyers of Clever Consult have in the CAS?
- We argued that Mr. Apshavtsev and Mr. Fedchuk’s actions fall under termination of the contract during the protected period without just cause. Under the terms of their Contracts, the football players then were to pay compensation to the club. It should be noted that the relegation of a football club to a lower division was not a valid reason to terminate the contract. Anna explains that the contracts envisaged the possibility of playing for the team not exclusively in FNL, and this was discussed with the players at the signing.
- What was the legal strategy of the defence?
- It is worth mentioning that the players were represented by some of the most skillful and active lawyers in Russian football. The opposing party argued that the footballers were unware that the Club could be transferred to another division, had no knowledge of the allegations from the past periods and did not want to be associated with them. The sole Arbitrator found such arguments irrelevant. To begin with, in 2021, the players with no doubt knew and could not have possibly stayed uninformed of the scandal back in 2018, which was extensively reported by specialized media. Needless to say, none of the past allegations were relevant to the Club in 2021.
- Did you face any complications while handling the case?
- After the players had left the Club, the RFU made modifications to its regulations, allowing players to terminate contracts at no cost in case a club is relegated to a lower division not because of performance but for instance, for a violation of the RFU Code of Conduct. This stipulation is only applicable for a footballer’s transfer to a club in the same division or a higher one. We pointed out that this amendment was introduced after the termination of the Contracts and had no relevance to the cases.In order to win we had to demonstrate successfully to Arbiters that the RFU ruling lacked merit. This itself presents a challenge with the CAS (like any other “superior body”) being quite reluctant to reverse a decision of court a quo (i.e. a lower court whose decision is under review). Fortunately, having worked hard to gather the necessary evidence, we managed to build a strong case and the CAS Arbiters upheld our position.
- Are the CAS decisions final or subject to appeal?
- The final legal authority is the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland that only adjudicates cases with major procedural defects. Regarding these particular cases, it is highly unlikely, that we will have another encounter with our opponents there. Therefore, it is safe to say that the CAS ruling is final.
- What can the football community learn from this story?
- The lesson to be learned is that the RFU, clubs and jurisdictional authorities are being watchful to make sure the stability of contracts is not compromised. As such, it is of vital importance for players to understand potential consequences of different choices and feel free to seek professional legal advice on time. Yet, I urge both footballers and clubs to be more careful when selecting legal consultants and not to be intimidated by “bigwigs” of football and legal society.In our “battle in CAS” against our colleagues who represented Mr. Apshantsev and Mr. Fedchuk, we won and the score currently stands at 4:0.