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Swiss football faces international isolation

Swiss football teams could lose the right to play in international matches if the Swiss Football Association does not take speedy action against FC Sion.

Fifa, football’s world governing body, says it will suspend the Association on January 14 if by then it has not punished Sion for fielding players who were not eligible to appear.

The suspension would affect all branches of the Association, including the national team, and FC Basel, which earlier this month won a place in the knock-out rounds of the Champions League with an unexpected victory over Manchester United.

The Football Association met on Saturday morning to discuss its reaction.

Its president, Peter Gillieron, told journalists afterwards that they were “disappointed”, but would do everything necessary to resolve the situation. They would seek a meeting with Fifa lawyers next week to clarify matters.

The Association said later in a statement that it was convinced that Fifa statutes had not been violated and that it would ask the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for a ruling.

Sion’s conflict with the football governing bodies – Fifa and Uefa – began in February 2008 when Egyptian superstar goalkeeper Essam el-Hadary broke his contract with al-Ahly to move to Switzerland. Fifa judged the transfer illegal, and imposed two periods of inactivity on the club on the player market.

Sion believes it has served the suspensions, and signed six new recruits in summer 2011. But Uefa disagreed, and excluded Sion from the Europa League competition.

The case has been going through the Swiss civil courts for several months – also a breach of football’s rules. Under the statutes of Fifa and Uefa, clubs are prohibited from using civil courts to rule on football disputes.

On Thursday the CAS upheld Uefa’s right to exclude Sion. Sion responded to the verdict by saying it would take the case to Switzerland’s highest court. It said the CAS “does not offer any guarantee of independence … and violates several standards of national and international law”.

Fifa and Uefa want the Football Association to deduct the points Sion won in games against Swiss teams.

The situation has been complicated further by the fact that in August the Association qualified the disputed players in what it has subsequently called “a regrettable mistake”.

In September Fifa president Sepp Blatter gave an assurance that the Swiss national team would not be affected by the Sion affair “whatever happens”.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR