football’s judicial process – a totally different animal

MAKATI – The decision of the PFF Disciplinary Committee in COMPLAINT OF CRISTINA RAMOS Against Lexton Moy and Angel Guirado has certainly raised quite a ruckus. There has been a lot of angst displayed and a lot of what I see and read points to a lack of appreciation for and understanding of how football’s judicial process works. I hope to shed a little light on this with this article.

FIFA has three judicial bodies – the Disciplinary Committee, the Ethics Committee and the Appeals Committee. All organizations (confederations, national federations or associations, etc.) under FIFA usually have similar committees which mirror FIFA’s judicial bodies.

These judicial bodies function to regulate the game by determining and passing judgment on violations of FIFA’s rules which are contained in four main documents namely the Laws of the Game, FIFA Statutes, FIFA Disciplinary Code and the FIFA Code of Ethics. Regional and national organizations usually also have their own rules in addition to FIFA rules which they may ask their respective judicial bodies to adjudicate over as well. These additional rules may not contravene FIFA’s rules and usually contain rules which are appropriate in a specific jurisdiction (e.g. organizational rules such as incorporation with the SEC, etc.).

One major difference with your typical judicial entity is that football’s judicial bodies may act with or without a complaint. While not expressly stated as such, the FIFA Disciplinary Code is replete with provisions which imply such. As an example, Article 77 (Specific jurisdiction), subsection (a) states that “The Disciplinary Committee is responsible for serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention;…”.

So a disciplinary process can begin regardless of whether a complaint has been filed before it. It usually starts when parties to this process are asked to submit sworn statements to answer and/or comment on the subject of the judicial process. There is a time limit within which a party can answer this notice and submit his/her statement and this is usually within a period of 72 hours.

Parties to the case can present evidence to support their cases. Due process is observed with parties being allowed to present their arguments “…in fact and in law”, requesting proof, assisting in the production of proof and obtaining a “reasoned decision”.

Proof can be submitted by the parties involved but the Disciplinary Committee through its Secretariat also gathers proof ex-officio or on its own. Parties may have legal representation. The judicial body has absolute discretion regarding the appreciation of proof.

Parties are allowed to reply to sworn statements of other parties.

There are generally no oral statements. A party may, however, request for oral statements to be heard. All parties to the proceedings will be summoned to attend such.

Decisions, in many cases, are solely based on the proceeding files which would include the complaint, the sworn statements and other proof submitted to the committee. Committee members decide based on their appreciation of the documents it has in its possession in forming their personal convictions. The Committee may communicate to the parties only the terms of the decision. In these cases, parties have 10 days from receipt to make a written request to the Committee for the grounds of the decision. Failure to request such will result in the decision becoming final and immediately binding. The notice of the decision also includes the channels for appealing the decision.

Any party who wishes to appeal the decision of the Disciplinary Committee may do so and seek relief from the Appeals Committee. This is done with a written notice to the Appeals Committee within 3 days from receipt of the decision. This party then has another 7 days to communicate to the Appeals Committee the reasons for the appeal.

The filing of an appeal does not suspend the implementation of sanctions.

Section 121 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code specifies the grounds for appeal as follows:

“The appellant may object to inaccurate representation of the facts and/or wrong application of the law”.

There are, however, decisions by the Disciplinary Committee which cannot be appealed. This includes decisions where the sanctions imposed involve a warning, a reprimand, a suspension of less than 3 matches or of up to two months or decisions involving a failure to respect (judicial body) decisions.

The Appeals Committee functions as the court of last instance. Under the Philippine context, the most plausible next step should there be a dispute with regard to its decisions is an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. FIFA expressly prohibits “recourse to ordinary courts of law” (Article 88 paragraph 2, FIFA Statutes, July 2012 edition).

The PFF Disciplinary and Appeals Committees, as is mandated by FIFA, are independent of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) itself.

In the context of its decision with regard to  COMPLAINT OF CRISTINA RAMOS Against Lexton Moy and Angel Guirado, I hope this article provides a template for understanding the judicial process of football, in general, and of the PFF Disciplinary Committee, in general. These judicial bodies cannot be held to standards that we are more familiar with in terms of a typical judicial system because they operate under a different system. In certain ways, it has wider latitude – in others, not.

Whether I agree or disagree with the decision to impose penalties on players and officials who were not the subject of the complaint is beside the point. The football judicial system allows the Disciplinary Committee the authority to do just that.

FIFA specifically and expressly prohibits sexual harassment. The FIFA Code of Ethics, 2012 edition species in Article 24, paragraph the following:

“Sexual harassment is forbidden. Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances that are not solicited or invited. The assessment is based on whether a reasonable person would regard the conduct as undesirable or offensive. Threats, the promise of advantages and coercion are particularly prohibited.”

In this case, the PFF Disciplinary Committee apparently felt that the acts committed during the incident did not rise to the level of sexual harassment. The FIFA definition is certainly more liberal in its definition of sexual harassment than R.A. 7877 under Philippine jurisprudence. R.A. 7877 sadly limits sexual harassment to acts committed by a person in authority over a subordinate. Unfortunately for Ms. Ramos, this also limits her ability to seek recourse from Philippine courts given that she was the person in authority during the incident. Of course, doing so would be in direct defiance of FIFA statutes expressly prohibiting this. That would indeed be opening a whole new can of worms.

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2 Comments on “football’s judicial process – a totally different animal”

  1. Barrister says:

    Thanks for your posting. I gather that a two game suspension cannot be appealed and that FIFA forbids using the courts. I also appreciate that the Discipline Committee can act without a complaint in the same way that a police officer can charge a person even if the victim does not want charges to be laid.
    What confuses me is the discipline of players, coaches, and managers who were not part of the complaint. Were they ever told that their behaviour was being investigated for possible discipline and were they given an oppurtunity to respond to specific allegations made against them? “Parties” are asked to “comment on the subject of the judicial process”. Were the suspended players and officials ever told that they were not just witnesses, they were accused and included in the subject of the judicial process? I think Lexton and Angel are fortunate.
    Even under FIFA’s rules, if a player or official does not know that they are the “subject of a judicial process” then they have been denied their rights.
    Please keep blogging.

  2. Justin Regalado says:

    “THE FILING OF AN APPEAL DOES NOT SUSPEND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF SANCTION.”

    On September 5 PFF Appeals Committee Chairman Gregorio Larrazabal SUSPENDED the implementation of the sanctions of Younghusband, Weiss and Azkals Team Manager pending their appeals.

    THERE ARE HOWEVER DECISIONS BY THE DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE WHICH CANNOT BE APPEALED. THESE INCLUDES DECISIONS WHERE THE SANCTIONS IMPOSED INVOLVE A WARNING, A REPRIMAND, A SUSPENSION OF LESS THAN 3 MATCHES OR UP TO 2 MONTHS OR DECISIONS INVOLVING A FAILURE TO RESPECT (JUDICIAL BODY) DECISIONS”

    Last September 6 based on an article in the Inquirer the PFF Disciplinary Committee GRANTED THE APPEALS of Weiss, Palami and Younghusband and will be required to appear before the committee on Sept 14.

    “THE DECISION OF THE PFF DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE IN COMPLAINT OF CRISTINA RAMOS AGAINST LEXTON MOY AND ANGEL GUIRADO HAS CERTAINLY RAISED A RUCKUS. THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF ANGST DISPLAYED AND A LOT OF WHAT ISEE AND READ POINTS TO A LACK OF APPRECIATION FOR AND UNDERSTANDING OF HOW FOOTBALL JUDICIAL PROCESS WORKS. I HOPE TO SHED LIGHT ON THIS WITH THIS ARTICLE.”

    I partly agree with this statement but the lack of appreciation & understanding of how a football judicial process works is not the only reason why some reacted the way they did. Although this article was aimed on shedding light —- clearly this was not accomplished and just adds to the confusion. I think the points raised above are self- explanatory. In addition some have noted that in the Hartmann’s case while respondent filed an appeal with the Appeals Committee there was no suspension of the implementation of his sanction imposed by the Disciplinary Committee —-why the double standard.

    More based on some social networking posts I gathered that Mr. Gannaban who was handed a month suspension was not even aware of the reason behind his suspension. It is understood that the judicial bodies have the right to sanction infringements but it is his right to know why he is being suspended. Palami and Weiss have also lamented the lack of due process. Article 94 of FIFA Disciplinary Code guarantees due process as the Article states that “The parties shall be heard before any decision is passed.”

    The Disciplinary Committee I understand is composed of lawyers. It is difficult to comprehend how a fundamental right such as due process has been blatantly disregarded. Due process is a part of a person’s basic rights; it is not a mere formality that may be dispensed with.


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