Where is FIFA when you need it? The Rio Branco, Araguaína, Brazil de Pelotas and Treze dispute

Published 09 October 2012 | Authored by: Nilo Effori

A battle of injunctions stopped the beginning of the Series C and D (3rd and 4th division) of the Brazilian National League. The football club Treze, from Paraíba State , through legal measures, tries the vacancy belonging to the football club Rio Branco, from Acre State to compete in the Series C of the Brazilian National League.

Last year, the Rio Branco, after had its stadium interdicted by prosecutors, started a claim before a civil court and was disqualified from the competition by the Brazilian National League (CBF). A further agreement, however, allowed the return of the this club.

Considering only four clubs go from Serie D to C and Treze terminated in the fifth position in Serie D, it felt harmed and therefore filed a lawsuit asking the vacancy before the STJD (Brazilian Sports Law High Court), where it was unanimously defeated.

Dissatisfied, Treze start a claim before the Civil Court and obtained a preliminary injunction issued by a judge, to compete for the Serie C. Therefore, the Rio Branco filed its appeal to the Civil Court of Justice of Paraíba State (where the claims of Treze was started), trying to revoke the injunction, but the judge kept the decision in favor of Treze. Parallel to this, the state of Acre filed a lawsuit against the CBF on behalf of the club Rio Branco, and now it was issued an injunction in favor of the this club to play the Serie C.

As if was not enough, came the football club Araguaína to the dispute. The club claims that, as terminated the Serie C in the last position in the group of Rio Branco last year, and as only one would be relegated in each group, it would be its vacancy in Serie C in case of exclusion of Rio Branco. This club also got an injunction in its favor.

Another club, Brazil de Pelotas joined the party and tries to obtaining a vacancy in Serie C. The club was punished with six points last year due to list an irregular player in a game in Series C and therefore was relegated to Serie D. The club filed a lawsuit trying to recover the lost points and avoid the relegation. If that happened, who would be relegated was the football club Santo Andre. This one now stated a claim in the Sports Justice to stop the beginning of both leagues. Both lawsuits eventually cause the suspension of Series C and D.

Legal Opinion

Internationally, we have an Article on FIFA Statutes that express prohibits any claim before the ordinary courts. The Article 64.2 of such Statute reads that:
64 Obligation

  • (...)
  • Recourse to ordinary courts of law is prohibited unless specifically provided for in the FIFA regulations

Therefore, in Article 22 of FIFA Regulations on Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) determines that clubs and players may seek redress employment-related disputes to a civil court.

In Brazil it is mandatory to take all labor claims before a civil court, what is according to Article 22 of RSTP.
About all other sports issues, the same Constitution sets in Article 217, para 1:

'The judiciary will only permit lawsuits regarding discipline and competitions after exhausting the instances of sports justice, regulated by law.'

So, not only FIFA, but the Brazilian Constitution expressly reads that is forbidden to seek ordinary courts regarding discipline and competition (the present case) after exhausting all sports justice instances (According to FIFA even after that). All clubs, each one with its own reason, started a claim before an ordinary courts to safeguard its alleged rights.

The Brazilian Sports Law code states as well a punishment for this attitude. The Article 231 establishes that:

'231. To start a claim, before exhausting all instances of Sports Justice, matters relating to discipline and competitions before the ordinary courts, or benefit from measurements obtained by the same means by a third party.

PENALTY: exclusion from the championship or tournament current playing and a fine of R$ 100.00 (one hundred reais) to R$ 100,000.00 (one hundred thousand reais).'

Despite all legislation mentioned above the only news, at the CBF official website was that the Conmenbol is thinking about to punish those clubs that started a claim before civil courts. Nothing can be done about that as well. So, How were the issue where solved?

After lots of attempt by the CBF, the injunction in favor of Brasil de Pelotas was defeated in the Superior Civil Court. After that, the football clubs Rio Branco and Araguaína decided to withdraw their claim from the civil court after negotiations with CBF. Both Series C and D started with more than one month of delay. But the main point is: independently that some clubs gave up of their claim on ordinary courts and others were defeated. Why then did FIFA, Conmembol or the Brazilian Sports Justice did not punish them?

FIFA should consider taking action in these cases, otherwise we could see further prolonged disputes or a sporting nature being pursed through the civil courts.

Nilo Effori will shortly be joining the Sports Group and SNR Denton law firm in London.

About the Author

Nilo Effori

Nilo Effori

Nilo is the founding partner of Effori Sports Law (Effori Sociedade de Advogados), a boutique law firm based in São Paulo and London, specialising entirely in all manner of international sports disputes.

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