GENEVA (AP) — A years-long transfer dispute after the death in an airplane crash of soccer player Emiliano Sala was decided on Friday in favor of his former club Nantes against Cardiff, which promised more legal action in the multi-million dollar case.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport said it dismissed Cardiff’s appeal against a FIFA order that it must pay a first installment of 6 million euros ($6 million) for Sala. The full agreed transfer fee was 17 million euros ($17 million).
The 28-year-old forward from Argentina died before he could play for the Welsh club which later disputed that the transfer deal with the French club was finalized.
“The CAS Panel found the player’s transfer from FC Nantes to Cardiff City FC to have been completed,” the court said in a statement.
However, Cardiff said it would not immediately pay any money to Nantes and would likely pursue further legal action, including an appeal. CAS rulings can be challenged at Switzerland's supreme court on limited procedural grounds.
“The award fails to decide the crucial question of FC Nantes (and its agents') liability for the crash, which will therefore have to be decided in another forum,” Cardiff said in a statement.
“If those appeals are unsuccessful and the club is liable to pay the transfer fee the club will take legal action against those responsible for the crash for damages to recover its losses,” Cardiff said, adding: “This will include FC Nantes, and its agents.”
Though now a second-tier team, Cardiff was in the English Premier League in January 2019 when it agreed to pay a club record fee of 17 million euros for Sala.
Sala was killed along with the pilot when the single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft carrying them from Nantes crashed into the sea near the Channel Island of Guernsey.
Hours earlier, FIFA had received an online document from the Wales Football Association to complete the transfer of the player’s registration from France.
The jury at an inquest in England in March decided Sala had been “deeply unconscious” due to being poisoned by exhaust fumes before dying from severe head and chest injuries. Carbon monoxide had spread inside the cabin due to the plane’s faulty exhaust system.
The pilot did not have the correct authority to fly at night. His body was never found.
The businessman who organized the flight was sentenced to 18 months in prison last year and later was refused the right to appeal.
David Henderson was found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft and earlier admitted a separate offense of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorization.
CAS said its two-day hearing in the transfer case held in March only concerned the first payment of the transfer.
Nantes said in a statement it hoped the CAS verdict marked the end of a disinformation campaign that it had not reacted to out of respect for the player and his family.
Cardiff said it is financially supporting Sala's family members through a trust set up for them.
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Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press