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FIFPro is pleased to announce a major legal victory has been awarded to Uruguayan footballer, Sebastian Ariosa. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) found Paraguayan outfit, Club Olimpia, breached almost all of its obligations toward Ariosa, including a blatant attempt to exploit the player’s incapacity to work after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Such is the significance of this case, CAS awarded ‘moral damage’ to Ariosa, which is extremely rare. It stems from Club Olimpia’s appalling behaviour to suspend the player at a time when he was suffering greatly, fighting for his life and dealing with the effects of chemotherapy.

“This creates a precedent for a number of serious issues, such as the illegality of the suspension of a contract due to illness, and the possibility to be granted moral damage. We see this is a great result,” FIFPro legal counsel Alexandra Gómez said.

CAS has ordered Club Olimpia to:

  • Pay Ariosa his overdue salary including interest
  • Pay Ariosa a 13th month (for every year accrued over the term of his contract)
  • Pay Ariosa the residual value of his contract (the time left on his original deal, even after he terminated his contract with ‘just cause’)
  • Pay Ariosa bonuses relating to the club’s participation in the Copa Libertadores
  • Pay Ariosa moral damage
  • Compensate Ariosa due to the club’s lack of ‘sportive ethics’

WHY THIS VERDICT IS SPECIAL

There are four parts to this ruling that resonate with FIFPro: (1) suspension of a contract due to illness is illegal; (2) a precedent has been created in the awarding of moral damage; (3) Club Olimpia received extra punishment for acting in bad faith; (4) the manner in which the ‘Specificity of Sport’ was applied, which can be found in the decision ordering Club Olimpia to compensate Ariosa due to the club’s lack of ‘sportive ethics’. The FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber had rejected similar claims in 2014, including those related to the 13th month payment.

CAS decided to award Ariosa the annual 13th month salary for the entirety of his five-year employment agreement, even though it was not formally agreed in the contract. However the court referred to Paraguayan law, which states that the right to a 13th month is mandatory.

Gomez agreed with the panel, adding, “Another interesting aspect is that even though FIFA RSTP (Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players) does not regulate this matter of the 13th month, CAS applied national mandatory labour law. This reinforces the fact that a professional footballer is a worker and therefore is entitled to all the worker’s rights.”

In awarding ‘moral damage’ to Ariosa for Club Olimpia’s shocking decision to suspend the player while he was dealing with cancer, CAS said, “This was an act of bad faith as it was intended to aggrieve the player.”

Gómez stated, “Moral damage requires evidence, which is extremely difficult to deliver. To bring forward material evidence of an immaterial damage is requesting almost the impossible. CAS stated that the club was not responsible for the condition of the player, but it was responsible for its own response to this situation.”

“CAS said that when agreeing to a contract with a player, a club has to provide the player with assistance in coping with ‘life events’ by paying a salary and insurance. Olimpia was in breach on all counts. Its response was to stop paying and suspend Ariosa, while demanding that the player return to training in the midst of his treatment.”

“This behaviour corresponds with the two requirements which the tribunal considered in order to grant moral damage: exceptionality and severity.”

HOW IT UNFOLDED

Ariosa joined Olimpia in 2011 and his contract was due to expire on 31 December 2015. The Paraguayan club regularly failed to comply with the terms of that contract. Between October 2012 and November 2013, Ariosa did not receive his wages for ten months. Olimpia even failed to comply with a revised payment agreement signed by the player and the club, in June 2013, that attempted to resolve the issue.

In May 2013, Ariosa was diagnosed with cancer. Club Olimpia said it would pay for medical treatment that Ariosa would undergo in Uruguay. However, it is alleged the club did not live up to that agreement. Club Olimpia went further to suspend Ariosa’s contract in December 2013 until he was fit to rejoin the club. This meant the player would not receive any money during his treatment and recovery, as Club Olimpia had failed to enroll him with the Social Security Institute (IPS), which is mandatory if an employee wants to receive a sickness benefit in Paraguay.

In January 2014, Ariosa terminated his contract due to non-compliance by the club. Ignoring this fact, Club Olimpia brazenly responded by summoning Ariosa to rejoin training immediately, even though he was undergoing chemotherapy for his cancer.

Ariosa took his case to the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC), which reached its decision in August 2014. Following that, both the player and the club brought the case to CAS, which came to its decision on 29 July.

Click here for a complete analysis of the Sebastian Ariosa CAS award.

*Sebastián Ariosa has fully recovered from his illness. The 30-year old defender is now playing for Defensor Sporting, a first division club in Uruguay.

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