Monday, August 29, 2016

A Story of Biblical Proportions

David Casserly - PPCFC's lawyer
When Phnom Penh Crown (PPCFC) were smacked with a ban from the AFC Cup, which should’ve been their icing on the cake for winning the Metfone Cambodian League at the end of last year, they were devastated and in disbelief. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) - the governing body for football in the Asian continent - informed the Cambodian Football Federation (FFC) on 20 May 2016 that PPCFC were not allowed to take part because of activities relating to match manipulation and they asked FFC to select another team. With their hard-earned prize torn from their grasp, PPCFC immediately appealed against the ban only for AFC to confirm their decision was final. On 3 June PPCFC made a last-ditch appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), often referred to as ‘sport’s supreme court,’ in an effort to overturn what they saw as an unfair and unjust decision by AFC. CAS is located in Lausanne in Switzerland and resolves sports-related disputes through arbitration, often involving such high-profile names as Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini, Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan, Maria Sharapova and dozens of athletes at the recent Rio Olympics.

For a small team like PPCFC from lowly-ranked Cambodia to take on such a formidable adversary in the form of the AFC was unheard of. You could liken it to the biblical proportions of David versus Goliath. PPCFC appointed Irish barrister and sports lawyer David Casserly (pictured above) as their go-to man. His involvement in several landmark cases and his experience acting for FIFA and UEFA, as well as several Champions League clubs in Italy, Portugal and France, was essential to any possibility of a successful appeal. He has a history of acting in leading corruption cases, foremost among them the World Cup vote-buying scandal, several of the key Bosman/Article 17 cases and disputes involving top players such as Luis Suarez, Pepe and Essien. He’d also previously acted as legal counsel and head of mediation at CAS itself. Assisting him was Jose Luis Andrade, a Portuguese attorney who had experience working on dispute resolution at FIFA.

At PPCFC, a small team of head coach Sam Schweingruber, general-secretary Ly Heang, press officer Andy Brouwer alongwith vice president Tommy Lim, provided Casserly and Andrade with the background information they needed to formulate their appeal against the AFC decision to deny PPCFC admission to the 2017 AFC Cup. Afterall, it was PPCFC who initially took internal action against match manipulation activities before placing the evidence with the FFC, who later banned four coaches. To punish the club for their proactive stance against such activities was the underlying unfairness of the AFC position.

The appeal case was heard by the CAS Arbitration Panel in their Lausanne headquarters on 19 August 2016. They found in favour of PPCFC, upholding the appeal, dismissed the decision of AFC and ordered them to allow PPCFC to participate in the AFC Cup Playoff Stage, likely to be held in February 2017. It was another successful landmark case for David Casserly and Jose Luis Andrade and an outcome that speaks volumes for the integrity and resourcefulness of PPCFC. They had stood their ground, taken on the might of AFC and won. History in the making and perhaps a result that a young shepherd boy with a slingshot would be proud of.

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