An unprecedented event in the history of world and Ukrainian football took place on November 17 – the cancellation of the last match of the League of Nations 2020/2021 Switzerland – Ukraine.

The Ukrainian national football team was unable to play the last match with Switzerland, allegedly due to confirmation of the COVID-19 diagnosis of Ukrainian players. In particular, Ruslan Malinovsky, Sergiy Kryvtsov and Junior Moraes allegedly received positive tests in Switzerland.

On this basis, the Chief Physician of the Canton of Lucerne, where the match was supposed to take place, flatly refused to allow the Ukrainian team to the match. He decided to place the whole Ukrainian national team delegation into quarantine.

Aware of the consequences of such a decision for the national team of Ukraine, the Swiss authorities did not take any measures to verify the validity of such a decision and refused to conduct polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 on other players in the team.

We believe that this situation could have been used by the local authorities of Switzerland to cancel the match, which posed a threat on our team – relegation in the division. The final decision on the consequences of the cancellation of the match will be made by UEFA.

At the same time, we want to emphasize the legal aspects of this football conflict:

  1. Discrimination against the Ukrainian national team

Interestingly, the Swiss health authorities have not shown such integrity in fighting COVID-19 in another football game. For example, on November 6, the Department of Health of the canton of Lucerne allowed the FC Luzern team to take part in a match against FC Zurich despite the player Mark Marleku was tested positive for COVID-2019.

Having been allowed to participate in the game, FC Luzern thanked the Chief Sanitary Doctor of the Canton of Lucerne, R. Harstall, for «prompt and fruitful cooperation».

Such different approaches to the admission of a foreign and national teams to a match raise reasonable doubts as to the objectivity and impartiality of the decision. These actions show signs of discrimination against the Ukrainian team, which is prohibited by principles and norms of international law recognized by all civilized legal systems.

Moreover, restaurants and entertainment venues in the canton of Lucerne continue their usual activities, social contacts are not limited by local authorities.

  1. COVID-19 was not confirmed

Even more questions about the actions of the Swiss authorities were raised after retesting of players upon their return to Ukraine.

On November 18, immediately after arriving at Kyiv Boryspil Airport, the players were retested in a UEFA-accredited laboratory.

The test results clearly indicated that neither the Ukrainian delegation nor the players who had previously received positive tests in Switzerland were diagnosed with COVID-19. In particular, the test results of Sergiy Kryvtsov and Júnior Moraes were negative.

  1. Legal assessment of the situation

The Switzerland’s actions show signs of discrimination, which lies in different treatment of football teams in the same circumstances in the absence of objective justification. It cannot be ruled out that this could have been an interference with competition results and an attempt to create a situation in which the national team of Ukraine will be relegated in the division next season.

Before the match with Switzerland, Ukraine took the penultimate place in the table, and Switzerland was ranked last. Switzerland risked leaving the elite division if the Ukrainian team won or the match ended in a tie.

The cancellation of the match affected not only the national team of Ukraine, but also the rights of the players, which makes it possible to use the tools of the European Court of Human Rights to protect their rights.

We are currently preparing a legal position and appropriate measures to recognize Switzerland’s actions to cancel the match illegal and discriminatory. We plan to initiate appropriate appeals and lawsuits before the administrative and judicial authorities of Switzerland to protect the interests of the national team.

If the latter do not respond to gross violations of the Ukrainian team’s rights and clear signs of discrimination, the issue will be referred to the international institutions.

Author: Denys Bugay, attorney, partner VB PARTNERS