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Bundesliga: Cologne to appeal 'absurd' transfer ban

March 30, 2023

FIFA has handed FC Cologne a potentially damaging transfer ban for allegedly tapping up a Slovenian youth player. The Bundesliga side intends to appeal at CAS, calling the sentence 'completely absurd.'

A huge fan display of FC Cologne's logo covering the stands at the RheinEnergieStadion
Bundesliga side FC Cologne have been hit with a transfer ban. The club is appeaing to CAS.Image: Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa/picture alliance

Bundesliga side FC Cologne have been banned from buying or selling players in the next two transfer windows for allegedly tapping up a Slovenian youth player, but intend to appeal the sentence.

The punishment revolves around the January 2022 signing of then 16-year-old Jaka Cuber Potocnik from Slovenian top-flight club Olimpija Ljubljana, who have accused Cologne of inciting the forward to terminate his contract before immediately signing for the German side for free, and thus costing them a transfer fee.

FIFA have ruled in the Slovenian club's favor, not only hitting "FC" with a transfer ban, but also banning Potocnik for four months and ordering him to pay Olimpija €51,750 ($56,462) in compensation, with Cologne liable to assist him.

Potocnik, now 17, has this season scored 13 goals in 13 appearances for Cologne's under-19s, who are in the semifinals of both the league championship and the German Youth Cup.

While his ban would be damaging for his age group, Cologne's two-period transfer ban could have potentally disastrous consequences for the Billy Goats, who would be forced to extend the contracts of players they had been planning to release or promote youth products from their academy – all from an unfavorable negotiating position.

The already agreed transfer of left-back Leart Paqarada from second-division FC St. Pauli this summer would fall through, while the club would also be unable to make central defender Jeff Chabot's loan move from Sampdoria permanent.

Cologne are currently 13th in the Bundesliga, and a potential relegation, this season or next, could feasibly even pose an existential threat to the club.

Cologne: 'draconian' sentence is 'completely absurd'

Consequently, Cologne have said they intend to appeal the FIFA ruling at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), with chief executive Christian Keller calling the sentence "draconian," "completely absurd" and describing the whole situation as a "farce."

"FIFA have delivered, in our opinion, a completely absurd sentence devoid of any justification," the 46-year-old told German media on Thursday morning, insisting that Cologne have proof that Olimpija Ljubljana hadn't honored clauses in Potocnik's contract, that the player was therefore justified in terminating it, and that Cologne had not acted illegally.

Keller claimed that a meeting had taken place with Olimpija officials in August 2022 at which a settlement in the region of €250,000 had been offered. Despite apparently expressing written thanks for the discussions which they said took place in a "great atmosphere," the Slovenians rejected the offer, which they considered beneath their valuation but which has since proven to be five times higher than what FIFA have now ordered Cologne to pay.

"What Olimpija were demanding was completely detached from reality," said Keller.

Cologne hoping for sentence suspension

Amid strong criticism of both Olimpija and FIFA, Keller said his immediate hope was that the punishment be at the very least suspended until the result of the CAS appeal, allowing Cologne to enter the transfer market this summer.

Olimpija vice-president Christian Dollinger claimed to the local Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper: "I presume that FIFA have justified their sentence in such a way that it will retain its validity in the next instance, and that Cologne's CAS appeal will therefore be unsuccessful."

Any transfer ban would not apply to Cologne's women's team.

mf/mb (dpa/SID)

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