In the context of a dispute regarding a salary reduction imposed on the Moroccan player Mourad Batna by the club Al Jazeera SC during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (FIFA DRC) upheld the player’s request to contest the 40% reduction that had been unilaterally imposed on him.
Following the appeal lodged by the Club against the DRC decision, the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) rejected the Club’s argumentation and upheld the Decision rendered by the FIFA DRC in full.
In this matter, the club had unilaterally imposed a 40% salary reduction over several months, justifying this reduction by the COVID-19 pandemic, which would impact the club’s financial situation, and relying on the COVID-19-related FIFA Guidelines and on a UAE Football Federation Circular.
It should be specified, however, that the UAE FA Circular authorised a unilateral 40% salary reduction for national players only.
In addition, during this period, the Player had to face delays in salary payments, as the Club had made the payment of the April and May 2020 salaries conditional upon the Player’s agreement to the unilateral reduction decided by the Club.
In several written exchanges, the Player had demonstrated his good faith by informing the Club of his agreement to a smaller reduction in his salary, to which the Club had never responded.
CAS rejected the Club’s argument on appeal and held that the salary measure taken by the Club against the Player was unlawful in light of the principles contained in the COVID-19-related FIFA Guidelines, which state that several elements must be taken into account in order to consider a salary reduction measure taken in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic to be reasonable and therefore lawful, in particular the fact that the Club had tried to reach a mutual agreement with its employees.
Thus, the unilateral 40% reduction imposed on the Player, when on the one hand, the Player had tried several times to reach an agreement on the reduction of his salary and the Club had never responded to these proposals, and on the other hand, the national provisions did not allow for the imposition of such a reduction, is unreasonable and therefore, unlawful.
The CAS decision thus sheds concrete light on the notion of reasonable measure, contained in the temporary amendments to the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players as well as to the Regulations of the Players’ Status Committee and the Dispute Resolution Chamber, which were incorporated by FIFA in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
BRUIN Avocat is pleased to have accompanied the Player Mourad Batna before FIFA and CAS in this matter.
Decision: CAS 2021/A/9747 (27 September 2022)