Top Portuguese Soccer Club Ordered to Pay Fund $13 Million

  • Sporting Lisbon says the team doesn't accept the judgment
  • Doyen wins lawsuit over Manchester United defender trade

One of European soccer’s most prominent clubs has been ordered to pay 12 million euros ($13.1 million) to an investment fund after losing a lawsuit at the top court in international sports.

Sporting Clube de Portugal, an 18-time national champion known as Sporting Lisbon, was found to have illegally withheld payment to Malta-based Doyen Sports Investments. The club owed a portion of the transfer fee from its 20 million-euro sale of Argentine defender Marcos Rojo to Manchester United in 2014. 

The Portuguese club said the fund forced through Rojo’s transfer against its wishes and that the contract was not valid because it was abusive to the team. The Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, or CAS, disagreed.

Sporting must also pay Doyen 75 percent of the fee it would receive should United sell Rojo for more than 23 million euros, the club’s statement said. The court’s ruling also includes punishment over an agreement Sporting had with Doyen for midfielder Zakaria Labyad.

"Sporting does not accept the judgment," Sporting said. The club is evaluating all legal avenues at its disposal and will appeal the fine, which also includes interest payments. A spokesman for Doyen wasn’t able to immediately comment.

Doyen, a Kazakh-owned fund, has been under scrutiny recently after confidential company documents were leaked on the Internet. The fund paid 3 million euros of the 4 million-euro Sporting paid to get Rojo from a Russian team in 2012. In return, the club agreed to terms that allowed Doyen to secure 75 percent of the future transfer fee -- or 4.2 million euros in an "interest fee" -- should Rojo, a 2014 World Cup finalist, be traded.

In early 2014, Sporting said it told Rojo’s agent in confidence that it would consider selling the player, then 25. The club alleged that Doyen undermined its position by trying to negotiate the terms of a transfer with other European clubs, against Sporting’s wishes. That practice is against FIFA regulations, but the case at CAS is based on civil law.

Sporting’s new President Bruno de Carvalho canceled its agreement with Doyen after the Rojo trade, returning the fund’s investments and accusing the fund of breach of contract. Doyen took the case to the court in Switzerland.

Around that time a series of leaks appeared on the Internet, featuring hundreds of documents related to Portuguese soccer teams and investment funds, including Doyen. The fallout from the leaks led the Dutch soccer federation to ban FC Twente from European soccer for three seasons for failing to disclose details of some of its contracts with Doyen.

Doyen has said it has always acted properly. The fund is also in litigation to overturn a the FIFA rule that has in effect banned funds like Doyen from profiting from the $5 billion player trading market.

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