Appeals against excessive sanctions imposed by the FA
The FA’s Independent Regulatory Commission (“the Commission”) has the power to impose penalties for a breach of the FA Rules, in accordance with paragraph 41 of the FA’s Disciplinary Regulations (“the Regulations”). However, if these sanctions are deemed to be “excessive”, there may be grounds to appeal the Commission’s decision.
In our previous article, we discussed the outcome of the Commission’s decision regarding the misconduct charges brought against Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte, following an altercation between the pair on 14 August 2022. Mr Tuchel (who was the manager of Chelsea FC at the time of the incident) appealed against the sanctions that were imposed on him, contending that they were “excessive in all the circumstances”.
The grounds of Mr Tuchel’s appeal
The Commission imposed a fine of £35,000.00 on Mr Tuchel as well as a one-match ban. Mr Tuchel appealed these sanctions on three grounds, being:
- That the Commission attributed excessive weight to his culpability in relation to the incident and gave insufficient weight to Mr Conte’s culpability
- That the Commission gave insufficient weight to Mr Tuchel’s admission of the charge and to his previously clean disciplinary record
- That Mr Tuchel’s conduct was at the lowest end of the scale of improper conduct
The FA opposed the appeal and took the position that: (i) the Commission’s conclusions as to the respective culpabilities of Mr Tuchel and Mr Conte were correct (and, in any event, were findings of fact with which the Appeal Board should not interfere); (ii) appropriate weight was given to Mr Tuchel’s admission of the charge and previous disciplinary record; and (iii) the Commission was right (and entitled) to conclude that Mr Tuchel’s conduct was not at the lowest end of the scale of improper conduct.
The test to be applied by an Appeal Board when considering whether a sanction is “excessive”
In its written decision and reasons in relation to Mr Tuchel’s appeal, the Appeal Board stated that there was “no reason to depart from the guidance given by the Appeal Board in Zaha v The Football Association (17 February 2019) as to the approach to be adopted when considering whether a sanction is ‘excessive’”.
In Zaha v The Football Association, the Appeal Board considered that the question to be determined was whether the penalties imposed were “materially more than was necessary or proportionate in the circumstances of the case”. The Appeal Board went on to say that whilst a sporting sanction (such as a 1 match ban) might be deemed to be an appropriate sanction for misconduct, that does not mean that it always will be appropriate as “regard will always have to be had to the particular circumstances of the case and to any mitigating and aggravating factors”.
The Appeal Board’s findings in Mr Tuchel’s appeal
In respect of the first ground, the Appeal Board found that Mr Tuchel’s conduct was the root cause of the incident between him and Mr Conte, and the fact that Mr Conte reacted as he did does not absolve Mr Tuchel for the balance for the wider confrontation that followed. In the Appeal Board’s view, the Commission was not only entitled to conclude that Mr Tuchel had been largely to blame and had been significantly more culpable that Mr Conte, but was bound to do so. In these circumstances, the Appeal Board did not find it surprising that the penalty imposed on Mr Tuchel was greater than the penalty imposed on Mr Conte.
In respect of the second ground, the Appeal Board stated that Mr Tuchel was simply wrong to contend that the Commission gave him “little to no credit” for admitting the charge and for his previously clean disciplinary record. In fact, both of these factors were referenced in the Commission’s written reasons for its decision and these matters were reflected in its decision on the appropriate sanctions.
In respect of the third ground, the Appeal Board found that the Commission was correct to conclude that Mr Tuchel’s misconduct was serious, and again referred to the fact that not only did Mr Tuchel instigate the incident, but his actions were the root cause of the mass confrontation that followed.
The Appeal Board’s conclusions
The Appeal Board’s concluded that the sanctions imposed on Mr Tuchel were not materially more than that which was necessary or proportionate in the circumstances of the case, and were therefore not excessive. In particular, the Appeal Board found that neither of the individual elements of the sanction was excessive given that:
- “The fine of £35,000 was not excessive in the light of the ‘significant weekly net income’ of the Appellant as divulged to the Commission” and
- A one-match ban “was the minimum touchline ban that the Commission could impose. That was not excessive”
Mr Tuchel’s appeal was therefore dismissed, and he was ordered to pay the costs of the Appeal Board to reflect the lack of merit in the appeal.
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If you need assistance in managing the FA’s disciplinary process, please contact Vikesh Navsaria, Senior Associate, at [email protected]. Alternatively, you can call us on 020 7632 4300 or make an enquiry.