Valinhos creates minefield

FORTUNE 1
Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor—–

ZIFA’S bungling of the Valinhos case means the cost of its resolution could soar into hundreds of thousands of dollars, when legal fees are brought into account, after the Brazilian coach was forced to engage Latin America’s leading lawyers, when it comes to sport. Bichara and Motta Law, the Brazilian firm who have been handling Valinhos’ long-running dispute with ZIFA, represented Neymar in his blockbuster transfer from Santos to Barcelona two years ago for 57 million euros (about $60.4 million), and their specialist services are likely to cost a fortune.

ZIFA have been trying to send a message that they have started the engagement process with Bichara and Motta Law, and everything should be smooth-flowing from now onwards.

But one just needs to read the hostility in the tweets posted by the Brazilian lawyers last week to see that this is likely to be a very complicated affair.

Marcos Motta, a founding partner at Bichara and Motta Law, tweeted last week, following FIFA’s decision to throw Zimbabwe out of the 2018 World Cup, that the world governing football body had sent “a strong message (to) THE BLACKLIST OF BAD PAYERS OF THE FOOTBALL FAMILY.”

“Zimbabwe expelled from the preliminary competition for Russia (2018) due to non-payment of salaries of @bicharaemotta’s client Jose Valinhos,” Motta tweeted last Thursday.

“The decision was taken today by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee. A strong message for the blacklist of bad players of the football family.”

Motta, who holds a Masters in International Sports Law from the ISDE (Spain), and Negotiations and Leadership Certificate from Harvard Law School, has been working in the football market since 1997 and was a director and international representative of Brazilian top-flight side Flamengo from 1997 to 2000.

He has served as legal counsel in over 300 cases before FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport, involving different contractual, disciplinary, regulatory and doping disputes and has rendered legal advice in some of the highest and notable transactions of Brazilian football in addition to being part of the Government Working Group for the revision of the “Pele Law” in 2009.

The British “Who’s Who Legal” 2014 edition, named him one of the world’s leading lawyers in the sport and entertainment law areas and he is a member of the board of the European Football Agents Association.

Yesterday, Motta told The Herald, when contacted about the Valinhos case, that “I’m afraid to inform you the details of the case are confidential.”

Bichara and Motta Law pride themselves as “the first firm in Latin America to create a team dedicated exclusively to Sports and Entertainment Law and is still known as a highly specialised firm focused on its clients’ satisfaction.”

Victor Eleuterio, the other member of the firm who has also been handling the Valinhos case, is an Associate at Bichara and Motta Law and joined the company in March 2010, working in the Sport and Entertainment Law areas specialising in Sports Law, Entertainment Law, Litigation, Arbitration and Dispute Resolution.

While the domestic media and analysts have concentrated on the $67 000 being demanded by Valinhos, it has ignored the prohibitive legal costs that were accrued, IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS, by the Brazilian coach, as he fought for his dues and ZIFA, against all odds, sat on such a highly-explosive case.

That FIFA have opened a communication line between ZIFA and the lawyers representing Valinhos, for a possible resolution of this case, clearly shows the world football governing body is aware of the underlying costs, related to the mountain of legal fees, which have to be paid to the lawyers.

FIFA have said only correspondence, from Bichara and Motta Law, advising them that there has been a settlement in the case, will open the window for a possible readmission of the Warriors into the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

But, when you are dealing with a law firm, which has represented a superstar like Neymar in his blockbuster transfer to Barcelona, and Brazilian World Cup winner, Leonardo, when he faced disciplinary proceedings in France, during his time as sporting director of Paris Saint-Germain, for pushing a referee, you should know their services don’t come cheap.

And, the fact that Bichara and Motta Law have been on the Valinhos case for five years, during which ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze stands accused of sitting on the papers related to the case, with FIFA even confirming that appeals were not lodged by the association when they were advised of the judgments, suggests the cost of their service is likely to be substantial.

“The expulsion comes as a result of the non-payment of an outstanding debt by ZIFA to the coach José Claudinei Georgini following a decision passed on 15 August 2012 by the single judge of FIFA’s Players’ Status Committee,” FIFA said in a statement.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee passed a first decision in April 2013, by means of which in particular, and in addition to receiving a fine, ZIFA was granted a 60-day period to settle half of its debt to the coach and a 120-day period to settle the remainder of the debt.

“ZIFA was warned that, if they did not pay within the granted periods, the case would — upon the express written request of the creditor — be resubmitted to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee for the possible imposition of harsher sanctions, which could lead to expulsion from a FIFA competition.

“ZIFA DID NOT APPEAL THE DECISION.

“In view of the fact that ZIFA did not settle its debt to the coach, and following the request of the coach, the case was presented again before the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, which rendered a second decision.

“In its decision, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee granted ZIFA a final period of grace of 60 days to settle the debt with Mr Georgini.

“Additionally, ZIFA was warned that, if the debt was not settled within the granted period (and upon the presentation of a formal claim by the creditor), then, in addition to the imposition of a fine, they would be expelled from the preliminary competition of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

“ZIFA was informed that the expulsion would be ordered automatically without any further decision needed from the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and, ONCE MORE, ZIFA DID NOT APPEAL THE DECISION.

“Given ZIFA’s failure to make any payment within the granted periods and the request presented by the creditor, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee — in line with its second decision — ordered the expulsion of ZIFA from the preliminary competition of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.”

ZIFA, who incredibly chose not to contest the decisions when they were being advised of the severity of the situation in the past three years, decided last week to ask for a reprieve from FIFA who told the association they have to settle the matter with Valinhos’ lawyers first before any window could be opened for Zimbabwe to return to the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.