Paul, Weiss achieved a significant victory for Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) when the Second Circuit unanimously affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a suit brought by a Nigerian soccer coach who had been disciplined for violating FIFA’s code of ethics.
In 2019, FIFA’s ethics committee conducted an investigation and a disciplinary proceeding in Switzerland against former Nigerian Olympic coach Samson Siasia after FIFA received emails indicating that Mr. Siasia was willing to accept bribes in exchange for rigging matches in an Australian professional league. FIFA’s disciplinary decision was largely upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland. In August 2021, Mr. Siasia, residing in Atlanta, filed suit in the Southern District of New York against FIFA claiming that FIFA’s investigation and disciplinary proceedings had violated his rights under the U.S. Constitution and constituted tortious conduct under New York law.
In October 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein granted FIFA’s motion to dismiss on personal jurisdiction grounds, agreeing that Mr. Siasia’s complaint failed to establish sufficient contacts between FIFA and the state of New York for the court to exercise either general or specific personal jurisdiction over FIFA. On appeal, Mr. Siasia argued that FIFA was subject to general and specific personal jurisdiction in New York based on the alleged New York contacts of U.S. Soccer, the national governing body for football in the U.S. and a FIFA member. The Second Circuit concluded that Mr. Siasia had not met his burden under either theory. As to general personal jurisdiction, the court found that Mr. Siasia’s argument was foreclosed by U.S. Supreme Court precedent. As to specific personal jurisdiction, the court found Mr. Siasia’s allegations of FIFA’s contacts with New York through its alleged “agent” U.S. Soccer to be based solely on “conclusory statements.”