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Court of Arbitration for Sport, FIFA, Legal, Olympic and Amateur Sports

FIFA’s Luis Suarez Investigation: Evidence-Collection Procedures

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) announced on June 24, 2014, according to ESPN.com., “it will investigate the Luis Suarez alleged biting incident with Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker.” ESPN.com also contends Suarez is “likely to face a lengthy ban if found guilty.” According to a video of the match, Suarez appeared to bite Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during the later portions of Uruguay’s 1-0 Group D World Cup win. The bite appeared to leave teeth-marks on Chiellini’s shoulder. FIFA requested the Italian team to present evidence by 5:00 p.m. local time Wednesday, June 25, 2014. FIFA’s decision must be issued before Uruguay’s round-of-16 match against Columbia on Saturday, June 28, 2014. FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC) (2011 edition) establishes the procedures regarding evidence and penalties. The FDC sets a maximum ban of 24 matches or two years. Click here to read the ESPN.com report.

The Suarez case highlights the importance for FIFA member associations and the confederations to develop procedures to collect admissible evidence of alleged pre-match, match and post-match conduct that violates the FDC.

Associations and confederations can look to the FDC to understand the evidentiary standards. For example, article 96 of the FDC describes the types of proof that are admissible and inadmissible in a FIFA disciplinary process:

1. Any type of proof may be produced.
2. Proof that violates human dignity or obviously does not serve to establish relevant facts shall be rejected.
3. The following are, in particular, admissible: reports from referees, assistant referees, match commissioners and referee inspectors, declarations of the parties and witnesses, material evidence, expert opinions and audio or video recordings.

Further, article 98 states “facts contained in match officials’ reports are presumed to be accurate” and “proof of the inaccuracy of the contents of these reports may be provided.” However, according to article 99, the “burden of proof regarding disciplinary infringements rests on FIFA.”

Buckner is available to assist FIFA member associations and the confederations, as well as other international and national sports federations, with developing policies, procedures and protocols regarding the investigation of alleged misconduct and the collection of evidence in disciplinary proceedings.

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.

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