Club v Country: The case of Carlos Tevez hands advantage to the clubs

The repercussions of the Carlos Tevez case (referred to last week by FIFA President Sepp Blatter) are likely to be felt throughout sport in the coming months. The facts of this case are very simple: Tevez, the young sensation of Argentinean football currently playing for Boca Juniors, was called up for national duty in the Under 20 World Championship on a date that clashed with Boca Juniors Inter-Continental Cup match against Inter Milan on 14 December.

Supported by his club, Tevez went to his local labour court in Buenos Aires and obtained a judgment on 20 November to the effect that he was free to play for his club and decline the national invitation. This effectively means that Boca won’t have to release him in accordance with FIFA rules. It almost certainly follows that none of FIFA’s range of penalties can be imposed upon the club for playing a player in a club match at the same time as an international match in which a player has declined to play.

The Argentinean FA initially decided to appeal but threw in the towel last  week so Boca will have Tevez available for the match against Inter.

But there’s more (for Boca at least). Thanks to the judgment, a European club won’t have to release a player for international duty if he “prefers” to play for his club who pays him so handsomely. The potential increase in Tevez’s value when he is sold to a European club (as apparently contemplated) won’t be lost on Boca.

No wonder FIFA is upset. However, it is no use complaining that FIFA rules oust the jurisdiction of the civil courts: such a rule is given scant respect everywhere (most recently the EC Commission in the transfer settlement). Unless FIFA sorts out the international calendar so that there is minimal overlap between club and international matches they are going to have to get used to this sort of outcome if players go to court. Such a resolution requires direct dialogue with the leading clubs rather than snubbing them. This is because, after the Tevez case, clubs (through their players) are likely to have the upper hand under the labour laws of most countries.

Bulletins are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters. Where reference is made to Court decisions facts referred to are those reported as found by the Court. Please note that past bulletins included in the Archive have not been updated by any subsequent changes in statute or case law.