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For the second time in little over a year, a civil court has serious concerns about the impartiality of sports arbitration. An Austrian judge overturned the life ban imposed on footballer Dominique Taboga by the Austrian football federation (ÖFB).

In February 2014, an Austrian Bundesliga ‘Senate’ suspended Taboga for life because of his involvement in match-fixing. The 33-year old former player appealed, because in Austria the maximum sanction for match-fixing is two years (or 72 matches). Nonetheless, in the summer of 2015 Taboga also lost his appeal.

Taboga then took his case to civil court. Judge Sylvia Anker dismissed the life ban, as she concluded that the arbitration system of the Austrian Bundesliga was not according to fair trial principles and against the Convention of Human Rights. “The impartiality of the committee members is not guaranteed”, Anker said. “Therefore the previous decisions are nil and void.”

The judge said it was not fair that the members of both the Bundesliga Senate and the Appeals Committee consisted solely of people appointed by the Bundesliga. “Both parties must have the possibility to appoint members for a body that is impartial of the two sides,” Anker said, referring to Article 6 of the Human Rights convention which protects the right to a fair trial.

Anker also noticed that in the Taboga case the chairman of the Senate (Norbert Wess) which convicted the player, had already acted as the attorney of the Bundesliga in the criminal court case against Taboga in the summer 2014, that resulted in the player receiving a one-year jail sentence. “We cannot assume that this body (the Senate) was impartial and would arrange a fair trial of the player,” Anker said.

The General Manager of the Austrian players union, Rudi Novotny, reacted: “This judgement is further evidence that immediate action is required in the legal field of Austrian football. The employees, the players, must be fully integrated and recognised as an equal partner.”

The players union has noticed that the Bundesliga appears to be open to change, however the football federation not. They have already announced an appeal.

Novotny: “We hope that the ÖFB recognizes the sign of the times and develops a greater understanding of democracy, in which the position of the athlete is taken into account.”

In January 2015, the German Court of Appeal seriously criticized the impartiality of the Court of Arbitration for Sport CAS in the Pechstein Case. Click on the links below for more about it:

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