As Turkey’s shooting a Russian jet was more than enough to add another variation into the equation of world politics inthe last month, Kremlin issued a decree consisting of numerous sanctions against its second largest trading partner,Turkey. Not too surprisingly, sanctions cover mostly economic topics such as limiting presence of Turkish workers inRussia, banning Turkish exported goods and suspension of visa-free regime implemented in 2010.
However, repercussions of the incident have been expanded. On 29th of November, Vitaly Mutko, RussianMinister of Sports and the President of the Football Union of Russia, has announced that as a result of sanctionsin force, Russian clubs are banned to sign any Turkish players during the winter break season.
Saying that clubs ‘already received the message’, Mutko added that ‘If anyone wants [to sign a Turkish player]during the break, there will not be such a possibility. Everyone who has an existing contract will carry onworking. They won’t be here in the future but at the moment they have contracts and these will not be lookedinto.’ Although it sounds nothing but a political statement; approach and legislative instruments of internationalgoverning bodies of sports as well as academic accumulation regarding the position of sports law encourages abrief insight.
Since the statement and the Minister’s other professional position immediately brings one’s attention to football,so let’s take a look into FIFA Statutes. Article 13 of the April 2015 edition of the Statutes stipulates Members’obligations. Specifically letter (i) of the same article states that members shall manage their affairs independentlyand ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties. Moreover, second paragraph of theArticle states that a violation of the above-mentioned obligations by any Member may lead to sanctions providedfor in these Statutes, whereas violations of Par. 1 (i) may also lead to sanctions even if the third-party influencewas not the fault of the Member concerned.
In light of the aforesaid framework, it is seen that member federations shall preserve their independence whilegoverning and regulating football nationwide, as well as refraining from anything which could potentiallyassociate their titles with the influence of third parties. Indeed, in the recent Kuwaiti example, it is seen that FIFAenforces a strict policy to make its members maintain their independence, especially if independence of therelated body is explicitly associated with any third party interference.
Now, where do these put the Russian Football Federation ?
There could easily form two schools on the matter, as one acknowledging the legality of the ban by qualifyingplayers as workers under Russian Law and pursuant to the Presidential Decree, and the other emphasizing theimportance of protecting independence of a FIFA member, Russian Football Federation, without violatingapplicable legal instruments.
For the sake of safeguarding the principle of regulatory independence of the related body, which is of utmostsignificance for development of sports law as an independent area of substantive law, some advisory points inrelation with the second approach shall be made.
First of all, a sports legislation could be introduced by Russian legislator in order to provide a liberal governanceframework for these bodies. Indeed, taking into account that political traditions are built on a strong loyalty inEastern communities, it would prove to bring sustainable results which grant development of Russian sports onadministrative level.
In the same vein, a modern law could make the Russian State unreluctantly refrain from interfering with sportsadministration. As such ‘government-effect’ also hindered initial phases of Turkish sports organization and gaveresult to a patchwork regime which is remote from a modern establishment of sport, an immediate prioritizationwithin the Russian legislator shall be made.
Strikingly, recent report of the Independent Commission of WADA, too, confirmed deep interference of Russiangovernment into ARAF and RUSADA, which caused failure of these bodies to fulfil their obligations towardsWADA and consequently provisional suspension of Russia by the IAAF. From an objective point of view,occurrence of the same for the Russian Football Federation is not an unlikely incident.
Therefore, in order to guarantee global development of a sustainable and independent sports administrationwhich would promisingly resume to build a modern sports regime, steps shall be taken with prudence andstrategic planning. Here, the most important point is only to observe the fundamental goal of sports: unifycitizens of the world and maintain peace.