Ukraine’s Shakhtar tackles FIFA on $42M transfer market case
GENEVA (AP) — A $42 million claim for compensation from FIFA will be tough for Shakhtar Donetsk to win, the Ukrainian club’s chief executive acknowledged Friday, though a clear message had been sent by taking the case to sport’s highest court.
Shakhtar is determined not to be a pushover in the January transfer window.
Not after the club believed it lost control of too many players who left Ukraine this year as other teams gained from FIFA’s emergency transfer rules during the Russian invasion.
“We will not accept that our players should be sold at discounts,” Shakhtar CEO Sergei Palkin told The Associated Press, one day after helping to present the club’s case against FIFA at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Shakhtar values its most prized asset at 100 million euros ($106 million) with Premier League leader Arsenal most strongly linked to winger Mykhaylo Mudryk.
“I don’t want European clubs to use our situation to devalue our players,” Palkin said in a telephone interview. “That is the worst scenario.”
Players who were under Shakhtar’s control when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 — one day before the national league was to resume after a winter break — are now with clubs in Brazil, England, France and Italy.
Those clubs could avoid paying a transfer fee to Shakhtar, whose 2021-22 season was abandoned along with the rest of domestic soccer in Ukraine.
Instead, FIFA allowed the players to suspend their contracts in Ukraine — initially until the end of last season in June, then for all of this season — and seek more playing and contractual stability in another country not at war.
FIFA believed its interim rules better protected clubs than simply terminating all contracts, as the FIFPRO players’ union suggested, or having players seek to void deals that might require them to stay in Ukraine.
FIFA’s emergency rules ended up costing Shakhtar tens of millions of euros (dollars), the club argues, because it had no leverage in the transfer market.
Palkin said Shakhtar is up against “the biggest, most influential organization” in soccer at CAS, where it suggested FIFA could have helped by creating a reparations fund for Ukraine.
“It will be difficult to get a positive decision,” he said. “But it’s important that our views should be heard. From my point of view the hearing was good.”
A verdict from the CAS judges could come by mid-January though without the full written reasons to explain why. Those could take several months to publish.
In a separate but similar case at CAS, a group of Russian clubs have also challenged the FIFA transfer rules. Players and coaches could suspend their contracts at Russian clubs which were banned this season from UEFA-organized European competitions.
The Russian case was heard by a different panel of CAS judges on Nov. 21. No date has been set for a verdict.
The legal picture should be clearer when Shakhtar returns to competitive action on Feb. 16 in the Europa League knockout playoffs. Shakhtar hosts Rennes in the first leg in the Polish capital Warsaw, where the team played its three “home” games in the Champions League group stage.
In March, Shakhtar resumes in the Ukrainian Premier League — playing games in empty stadiums, without ticket revenue, and often interrupted by air raid alerts.
“They understand our position and that we need the finance,” Palkin said of Shakhtar’s rivals.
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