Soccer / IFA Refusing to Release Benayoun

FIFA to intervene if Santander, Be'er Sheva can't agree.

The Israel Football Association yesterday informed its Spanish counterpart that it will not release Yossi Benayoun from Hapoel Be'er Sheva to Racing Santander, due to the ongoing dispute between the player and his former club.

In a detailed letter addressed to his Spanish counterpart, Gerardo Gonzalez Otero, the IFA's chief executive, Haim Zimmer, explained the legal reasons why Benayoun will not be granted an international release.

Be'er Sheva, which still owns 50 percent of Benayoun's registration, has lodged an appeal on two counts, claiming that the player is worth more than $12 million, and that it will not agree to release him until it is guaranteed receipt of the money. The second is that Benayoun must compensate Be'er Sheva to the tune of $500,000 after breaking a clause in his contract which forbids him to negotiate with another club without consulting with Be'er Sheva first.

The first matter (the value of Benayoun) may have to be settled by a special UEFA committee if the two sides cannot reach agreement. As for the second, it will be dealt with by the arbitrator in a process which could take weeks, or perhaps even months.

Zimmer acted on the counsel of IFA legal adviser Moshe Avivi, who recommended yesterday that he inform the Spanish soccer authorities that under the current circumstances, Benayoun could not be transferred. Zimmer did point out in his letter, however, that his decision was open to appeal at FIFA and added that if Benayoun was to give certain financial guarantees, the decision could be changed.

In his letter, Zimmer noted that he was worried about the dispute making things difficult for everybody concerned. "The dispute is mainly financial and I'm not convinced that preventing or delaying the transfer serves Be'er Sheva's interest in the arbitration procedure. It certainly doesn't serve the pure sporting interest either."

Benayoun's lawyer, Dan Hai, expressed his disappointment at the decision yesterday. "I am dismayed, but I believe that there has been a misinterpretation of the FIFA regulations. We will speak to the Spanish FA and to FIFA again in the hope of getting the decision changed," Hai said yesterday.

Clearly, Santander and Benayoun's representatives will not want to waste any time in trying to change the IFA's decision, and an approach to FIFA appears very likely. In cases where a contract has expired and there is a dispute over the value of a player, FIFA generally takes the side of the player and although its deliberations can also take quite a while, it is unlikely that a Spanish club will have to wait as long as Ronen Harazi waited (18 months) for his verdict in his dispute with the Turkish club, Bursaspor, several years ago.