GENEVA: FC Sion appealed on Wednesday to overturn a transfer ban imposed by FIFA after goalkeeper Essam El Hadary broke his contract in Egypt to join the Swiss club.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport case will be studied closely by English club Chelsea, which is challenging a similar FIFA suspension on signing players.
Sport s highest court is not expected to give a verdict for several weeks, allowing Sion to take part in the January transfer window.
FIFA ruled in June that the 36-year-old El Hadary broke his contract with six-time African champion Al-Ahly when he moved to Switzerland last year. Football s world governing body banned Sion from signing players for two transfer windows, running through the end of the 2009-10 season.
El Hadary was banned from playing at any level for four months and ordered to pay Al-Ahly ?900,000 ($1.33 million) in compensation.
Those punishments have been frozen pending the CAS verdict.
Though the cases involving Sion and Chelsea are not identical, Chelsea s lawyers will study the Sion case for possible precedents.
Chelsea received a one-year transfer embargo – running until January 2011 – for breaking regulations to lure French teenager Gael Kakuta from Lens in 2007. Chelsea says Kakuta was not contracted to the French club.
Kakuta also received a four-month ban when FIFA ruled in September.
Chelsea is currently free to sign players in January after winning an interim ruling from the court last month. CAS has not set a date to hear Chelsea and Kakuta appeal their punishments.
El Hadari walked out on Al-Ahly in midseason after playing in Egypt s winning African Cup of Nations side in January 2008.
He was the first player to exploit the so-called Webster Ruling – named for Scottish defender Andy Webster, who won a landmark freedom of contract case at CAS.
That CAS panel interpreted Article 17 of FIFA s transfer regulations to mean players can force a move after completing a certain period under a contract. Their old club would not be entitled to a transfer fee but would receive compensation amounting only to the salary left on the contract.
Sion said last year it offered Al-Ahly $400,000 (?270,000) to buy out the remainder of El Hadary s contract.
However, FIFA transfer rules also state that contracts cannot be unilaterally terminated during the course of a season.
FIFA passed El Hadary s registration to play for Sion in April 2008 but cleared Al-Ahly to pursue a breach of contract claim. Sion and El Hadary appealed despite a request from FIFA president Sepp Blatter not to challenge the governing body.
El Hadary has continued to play since the FIFA verdict and joined Egyptian club Ismaili. He was in goal for Egypt when it lost a World Cup qualifying playoff against Algeria in neutral Sudan last month.