Emiliano Sala: Cardiff City’s appeal against paying transfer fee set to begin

Emiliano Sala died in January 2019 when the plane he was travelling in from France to the UK crashed into the English Channel Credit: PA

Cardiff City’s appeal against paying French club Nantes the first installment of Emiliano Sala’s transfer fee will go before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in a two-day hearing from today (Thursday). 

The Argentine striker died in January 2019 when the plane he was travelling in from France to the UK crashed into the English Channel.

Sala was set to join Cardiff in a £15 million switch from the French Ligue 1 side.

The two clubs have been in dispute over fee payments, with Cardiff saying they were not liable for the full amount because Sala was not officially their player when he died.

World governing body FIFA ruled in September 2019 that Cardiff must pay for Sala, including annual interest – and if they did not, the club would be subject to a transfer embargo.

Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson

That sanction is suspected pending the outcome of the CAS appeal against paying the first instalment of 6million euros (£5.12m).

The full fee payable for Sala was 17m euros (£14.5m), plus additional bonuses, according to the FIFA documents which found all the terms within the transfer agreement between Cardiff and Nantes had been fulfilled.

At the time of FIFA’s ruling, Nantes’ club lawyers issued a statement highlighting that “the legal security of the commitments made by clubs in the context of player transfers must be respected”.

In confirming their intention to appeal, Cardiff said FIFA had reached its conclusion “on a narrow aspect of the overall dispute” and there “remains clear evidence that the transfer agreement was never completed in accordance with multiple contractual requirements which were requested by Nantes, thereby rendering it null and void.”

Emiliano Sala: a timeline of events

  • 19 January 2019: Sala signs for Cardiff after several weeks of negotiations between the two clubs

  • 21 January 2019: The Piper Malibu plane carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson crashed near Alderney

  • 22 January 2019: Search for Sala and Ibbotson suspended due to poor weather. 

  • 24 January 2019: After being relaunched, the search is officially called off with the chances of survival said to be "extremely remote".

  • 26 February 2019: A private search is launched funded by £259,000 raised in donations,

  • 7 February 2019: The footballer’s body is recovered from the wreckage, but Ibbotson has still not been found.

  • November 2021: businessman David Henderson was jailed for 18 months over the plane crash. Henderson was convicted of endangering the safety of the aircraft after a trial at Cardiff Crown Court, having also pleaded guilty to another charge of trying to arrange a flight for a passenger without permission or authorisation.

  • A report published by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch stated that Ibbotson was not licensed to conduct commercial flights.

  • January 2020: Cardiff announced a trust fund had been launched for Sala following long discussions with the family.

  • February 2022: An inquest into Sala’s death opened at Dorset Coroner’s Court in Bournemouth.

  • March 2022: The inquest concluded Sala was overwhelmed by gas from a faulty exhaust before dying in the plane crash.

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A final decision on what are likely to be complex legal arguments is not expected to be announced for some time.

In line with regular CAS practice, only the parties and the members of the arbitration panel will take part in the hearing. There will be no access granted to third parties, either in-person or remotely.

Following arguments put forward by the parties, the panel will then deliberate and prepare its decision, which will be issued “at a later date”, the CAS confirmed to the PA news agency ahead of the hearing.