UEFA suspensions are gifts that keep on giving.
Yesterday, UEFA finally handed down their sentence for last season’s Europa League match against CSKA Moscow. You know, the racist fan behavior, crowd riots, and illegal fireworks? Fun times.
In their infinite wisdom, UEFA has decided that the punishment will be one home match played behind closed doors, with another on probation – that is, fans better be on their best behavior, or Lyon will have to play a second closed match.
Closed matches mean no fans. The team will need to play one of its most critical matches in an utterly silent and empty stadium. From a financial perspective, that’s also a loss of an entire day of ticketing – upwards of €1m per match.
All things considered, UEFA’s punishment is relatively mild. The worst case scenario was no European football for an entire season, which looked like a reality only a few short weeks ago.
Lyon were already under a two year probation after an incident with Besiktas in 2017. Their probation was promptly broken less than a year later against CSKA. This was bad because an offense while on probation is more serious and usually means a one year ban from European football.
Lyon decided to appeal their first suspension by going to the sport’s highest governing body, Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), arguing that any punishment by UEFA for the offense against CSKA shouldn’t take into account what they did against Besiktas.
The reasoning gets kind of unbelievable at this point, but Aulas has the best lawyers, and if anyone can game the system, it’s him. And it worked – despite their threats, CAS came down pretty softly on OL. According to a club statement, CAS reduced UEFA’s initial suspension from two years to 15 months, so Lyon have already served their time, so to speak.
Which means that UEFA was forced to look at the CSKA match as an isolated incident while sentencing. Most think that UEFA punished Lyon too lightly as it is (I think we can guess who is complaining).
Naturally, Lyon are appealing this too. Good thing they’re so good at it.
I would have taken today’s punishment and counted my lucky stars, but Aulas needs to push the envelope to see what the club can get away with. I wouldn’t be surprised if two months later, UEFA revises the punishment to a fine of fifty euros and a court-mandated therapy session for Bruno Genesio.
It’s the UEFA way, after all.