The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rejected an appeal brought by the Bolivian Football Federation (FBF).

The FBF appealed against a decision made by the FIFA Appeal Committee to declare Bolivia’s FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against Peru on 1 September 2016 (2-0) and Chile on 6 September 2016 (0-0) as forfeited and awarding 3-0 victories to both Peru and Chile.

The decision concerned the involvement of Paraguay-born player Nelson Cabrera who played for Bolivia in both games. It came to light one month later that the player might not have been eligible to play for Bolivia and the matter was reported to FIFA by the respective football associations for Peru and Chile. The FIFA Disciplinary Chamber found that the player was ineligible and that therefore Bolivia had breached FIFA rules regarding nationality. They ordered that Bolivia forfeit both matches. This decision was upheld by the FIFA Appeal Committee.

The matter was then referred to the CAS. In both written submissions and argument, it was not submitted that Mr Cabrera was eligible to play for Bolivia (it therefore being implicitly accepted that he did not meet the eligibility criteria). Instead, the FBF asserted that FIFA did not have the right to initiate an investigation in to this matter on the basis of inconsistencies between the FIFA Disciplinary Code and the Russia 2018 World Cup Regulations.

The Russia 2018 World Cup Regulations provided that official protests must be submitted within an hour of the match in question finishing. However, the CAS dismissed this argument, instead finding that FIFA had the right to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Bolivia under the FIFA Disciplinary Code within a two year time limit (under Articles 108 and 42). As a result, they confirmed the decision of the FIFA Appeal Committee and ordered that Bolivia forfeited both matches.

Potentially, this shows that at least in situations where there is a clear breach of the rules the CAS will likely find in favour of allowing FIFA to impose sanction, rather than saying they are time barred by associated regulations.