U.S. promotion-relegation claim rejected by Court of Arbitration for Sport

The claim Miami FC (which now plays in the USL after stints in the NASL, NPSL and NISA) and the Kingston Stockade FC (an amateur NPSL team) took to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, asking it that U.S. Soccer, Concacaf and FIFA be required the adopt promotion and relegation across all U.S. divisions has been rejected.

New York Times international sports reporter Tariq Panja tweeted that the 2017 claim backed by Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva, the Italian sports media entrepreneur, was denied.

The decision has not been published on the CAS web site, but Panja copied the pertinent section of the decision:

Miami FC and the Kingston Stockade, whose owner is Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley, argued that Article 9 of the FIFA statutes required American soccer have a promotion-relegation system in place:

A club's entitlement to take part in a domestic league championship shall depend principally on sporting merit. A Club shall qualify for domestic league championship by remaining in a certain division or by being promoted or relegated to another at the end of a season.

Article 9 goes on to state:

In addition to qualification on sporting merit, a club’s participation in a domestic league championship may be subject to other criteria within the scope of the licensing procedure, whereby the emphasis is on sporting, infrastructural, administrative, legal and financial considerations. Licensing decisions must be able to be examined by the member association’s body of appeal.

The issue was whether the principle that a club's entitlement to participate depended principally on sporting merit, applied to all leagues or only leagues that operate a pro-rel system.

In March 2008, before Article 9 was adopted, FIFA specifically mentioned "closed leagues" like those that operate in the United States and Australia when it stated the purpose of instituting new rules for other leagues -- those using promotion and relegation:

Concept: Results on the pitch decide whether a club goes up or down a level in every championship around the world except in the United States and Australia, where there are "closed" leagues. Recently it has been possible to achieve promotion artificially by buying or moving a club. FIFA wishes to make sure that this cannot happen again.
Objective: To protect the traditional promotion and relegation system for clubs based purely on sporting criteria - which is the very essence of football.

FIFA then used the example of a Spanish fourth division club -- Granada -- buying a second division club -- Murcia -- to claim promotion.

CAS ruled that Article 9 only applied to leagues that already existed as a pyramid structure and added that “while the wording of Article 9 could be understood as rendering that provision to be universally applicable, FIFA didn’t intend for the rule to apply to U.S. Soccer."

CAS gave "considerable deference" to FIFA, under Swiss law, to interpret its own laws as it sees fit, and the threshold to establish that FIFA has exceeded its limits of "its authority was rather high."

CAS's ruling doesn't mean that U.S. Soccer or a league or collection of leagues couldn't implement a pro-rel system. The USL, which now operates the Championship, League One and League Two, named after the Football League divisions, is developing the closest thing to a soccer pyramid that could add on a pro-rel component, but it remains a privately owned closed league.

6 comments about "U.S. promotion-relegation claim rejected by Court of Arbitration for Sport".
  1. Wallace Wade, February 7, 2020 at 7:34 a.m.

    Closed Leagues destroy everything that is great about football, everything 

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, February 7, 2020 at 7:46 a.m.

    Wallace, that is a fan's and owner's view, not a participant's view. Participant's just move up the pyramid individually as their abilitities merit.

  3. Dean Casagrande replied, February 7, 2020 at 8:31 a.m.

    Bob, without someone watching, ultimately there is no game.

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, February 11, 2020 at 5:35 a.m.

    Was that a joke?

  5. Paul Berry, February 7, 2020 at 1:11 p.m.

    Great! Now we can get on with enjoying the football.

  6. R2 Dad, February 7, 2020 at 6:52 p.m.

    Nothing less than what we expected. Now what? What is going to drive excellence in our professional programs, our youth programs? Where is the common thread that connects youth player to professional leagues? Our soccer culture will have to be much stronger than an England or Spain to acheive the same results without pro/rel. Who/What is going to make it happen? How can it happen? Having pro/rel in USL is a joke and a pitiful sop to those who want to improve soccer excellence in this country. USSF wants to talk about it, but they're just doing the same thing theyve been doing for the past 20 years. 2002 was supposed to be a springboard from the kiddie pool to adult swim, but we really just jumped into a stationary lap pool.

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