Top Euro rights court urges reform for Turkish football federation committee

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found a systemic problem regarding the settlement of football disputes in Turkey, urging the country to take measures to restructure the Turkish Football Federation (TFF)'s Arbitration Committee so that it becomes sufficiently independent from the federation's board of directors.

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TheEuropean Court of Human Rights has said that the Turkish FootballFederation's (“TFF”) Arbitration Committee -- whichhears objections lodged against the federation's disciplinary boardand settles football-related disputes as the ultimate legal forum --lacks independence and impartiality.

Thetop Europe rights court also said that there is a systemic problem asregards the settlement of football disputes in Turkey, urging thecountry to take measures to ensure the structural independence of theArbitration Committee.

“The executive body of the TFF, the Board of Directors, which had always largely consisted of members or executives of football clubs, had too strong an influence over the organization and functioning of the Arbitration Committee,” said the ECHR in a ruling on Jan. 28.

TheECHR's decision concerns a case filed by Ömer Rıza, a professionalfootball player, and Serkan Akal, a football referee. Rıza’sdispute was over his contract with Trabzonsport, while Akal’sconcerned his downgrading.

Rıza, a dual British and Turkish citizen, left Turkey and returned to England, his home country, in 2008, which led Trabzonspor to bring proceedings against him with the TFF for breach of contract. In his defense, Rıza submitted that the club owed him salary arrears and match appearance fees. The TFF Arbitration Committee ultimately found in 2009 that he had wrongfully terminated his contract and fined him approximately 61,596 euros.

Theother applicant Akal lodged an objection with the TFF ArbitrationCommittee in 2015 about the federation’s decision to downgrade himfrom top-level assistant referee to “provincial referee.” Thecommittee dismissed his objection, finding that his downgrading hadbeen in accordance with the law and procedure.

The ECHR on Jan. 28 concluded that the two applications “had legitimate reason to doubt” that the Arbitration Committee members would approach their case with "the necessary independence and impartiality."

The court ordered the TTF to pay Rıza and Akal 12,500 euros each in respect of non-pecuniary damage and further awarded Rıza 6,975 euros in respect of costs and expenses.