2015 was a good year for
international sports law. It started early in January with the Pechstein
defining sports law case of the year (and probably in years to come) and ended
in an apotheosis with the decisions rendered by the FIFA Ethics
Committee against Blatter and Platini. This blog will walk you through the
important sports law developments of the year and make sure that you did not
miss any. More...
FIFA’s Third-Party Ownership (TPO)
ban entered into force on the 1 May 2015.
Since then, an academic and practitioner’s debate is raging over its compatibility with EU law,
and in particular the EU Free Movement rights and competition rules.
The European Commission, national
courts (and probably in the end the Court of Justice of the EU) and the Court
of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will soon have to propose their interpretations
of the impact of EU law on FIFA’s TPO ban. Advised by the world-famous Bosman lawyer, Jean-Louis Dupont, Doyen
has decided to wage through a proxy (the Belgian club FC Seraing) a legal war
against the ban. The first skirmishes have already taken place in front of the
Brussels Court of first instance, which denied in July Seraing’s request for provisional
measures. For its part, FIFA has already sanctioned the club for closing a TPO deal
with Doyen, thus opening the way to an ultimate appeal to the CAS. In parallel,
the Spanish and Portuguese leagues have lodged a complaint with the European
Commission arguing that the FIFA ban is contrary to EU competition law. One
academic has already published an assessment of the compatibility of the ban
with EU law, and many practitioners have offered their take (see here and here for example). It is undeniable that the FIFA
ban is per se restrictive of the
economic freedoms of investors and can easily be constructed as a restriction
on free competition. Yet, the key and core question under an EU law analysis,
is not whether the ban is restrictive (any regulation inherently is), but
whether it is proportionate, in other words justified. More...
In this blog we continue unpacking Doyen’s TPO deals based on the
documents obtained via footballleaks. This time we focus on the battle between Doyen and
Sporting over the Rojo case, which raises different legal issues as the FC
Twente deals dealt with in our first blog.
The context: The free-fall of Sporting
Sporting Lisbon, or Sporting Club de Portugal as the club is officially
known, is a Portuguese club active in 44 different sports. Although the club
has the legal status of Sociedade Anónima
Desportiva, a specific form of public limited company, it also has over
130.000 club members, making it one of the biggest sports clubs in the world.
The professional football branch of Sporting is by far the most
important and famous part of the club, and with its 19 league titles in total,
it is a proud member of the big three cartel, with FC Porto and Benfica,
dominating Portuguese football. Yet, it has not won a league title since 2002. More...
The first part of our “Unpacking Doyen’s TPO deals” blog series concerns
the agreements signed between Doyen Sports and the Dutch football club FC
Twente. In particular we focus on the so-called Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA) of 25 February 2014. Based on the ERPA we will be able to better
assess how TPO works in practice. To do so, however, it is necessary to explore
FC Twente’s rationale behind recourse to third-party funding. Thus, we will
first provide a short introduction to the recent history of the club and its
precarious financial situation. More...
The football world has been buzzing with
Doyen’s name for a few years now. Yet, in practice very little is known about
the way Doyen Sports (the Doyen entity involved in the
football business) operates. The content of the contracts it signs with clubs
was speculative, as they are subjected to strict confidentiality policies.
Nonetheless, Doyen became a political (and public) scapegoat and is widely
perceived as exemplifying the ‘TPOisation’ of football. This mythical status of
Doyen is also entertained by the firm itself, which has multiplied the (until
now failed) legal actions against FIFA’s TPO ban (on the
ban see our blog symposium here) in a bid to attract attention and to publicly
defend its business model. In short, it has become the mysterious flag bearer
of TPO around the world. Thanks to a new anonymous group, inspired by the WikiLeaks
model, we can now better assess how Doyen Sports truly functions. Since 5 November
someone has been publishing different types of documents involving more or less
directly the work of Doyen in football. These documents are all freely
available at http://footballleaks.livejournal.com/. By doing so, the group has given
us (legal scholars not involved directly in the trade) the opportunity to
finally peruse the contractual structure of a TPO deal offered by Doyen and, as
we purport to show in the coming weeks, to embark upon a journey into Doyen’s
Book Review: Vaitiekunas A (2014) The Court of
Arbitration for Sport : Law-Making and the Question of Independence,
Stämpfli Verlag, Berne, CHF 89,00
book under review is the published version of a PhD thesis defended in 2013 by
Andrew Vaitiekunas at Melbourne Law School. A PhD is often taking stock of
legal developments rather than anticipating or triggering them. This was
definitely not the case of this book. Its core subject of interest is the study
of the independence of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – an issue that
has risen to prominence with the recent Pechstein ruling of January 2015 of the
Oberlandesgericht München. It is difficult to be timelier indeed. More...
The Pechstein ruling
Oberlandesgericht (OLG) München rocked the sports arbitration world earlier
this year (see our initial commentary of the decision here and a longer version here). The decision has been appealed to the German
Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), the highest German civil court, and the final word on
the matter is not expected before 2016. In any event, the case has the merit of
putting a long-overdue reform of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) back
on the agenda. The last notable reform of the structure and functioning of the
CAS dates back to 1994, and was already triggered by a court ruling, namely the
famous Gundel case of the Swiss Federal Tribunal
(SFT). Since then, the role of the CAS has shifted and its practical
significance has radically changed (the growth of CAS’s caseload has been exponential). It has become the most visible
arbitration court in Switzerland in terms of the number of awards appealed to
the SFT, but more importantly it deals with all the high-profile disputes that
arise in global sport: think, for instance, of Pistorius, the recent Dutee Chand decision or the upcoming FIFA
García joined the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences at Loughbourough University in January
2009 as a Lecturer in Sport Management and Policy. He holds a PhD in Politics,
International Relations and European Studies from Loughborough University
(United Kingdom), where he completed his thesis titled ‘The European Union and
the Governance of Football: A game of levels and agendas’.
this leafy and relatively mild autumn, we are celebrating two important
anniversaries. Recently, we just passed ‘Back to the Future day’, marking the
arrival of Marty McFly to 2015. In a few weeks, we will be commemorating the
20th anniversary of the Bosman ruling. Difficult to decide which
one of the two is more important. As we move well into the 21st century’s
second decade, these two dates should mark a moment to consider innovation.
They are perhaps occasions to take stock and reflect how much sport has evolved
to reach this new future… or not. More...
Gesa Kuebek holds an LLM and graduated from the University of Bologna, Gent and Hamburg as part of the Erasmus Mundus Master Programme in Law and Economics and now work as an intern for the Asser Instituut.
On Monday, 9 November,
the German Football Association (DFB) announced in a Press Release the
resignation of its head, Wolfgang Niersbach, over the 2006 World Cup
Affair. In his statement, Niersbach argued that he had “no
knowledge whatsoever” about any “payments flows” and is now being confronted
with proceedings in which he was “never involved”. However, he is now forced to
draw the “political consequences” from the situation. His resignation occurred
against the backdrop of last week’s raid of the DFB’s Frankfurt headquarters
and the private homes Niersbach, his predecessor Theo Zwanziger and
long-standing DFB general secretary Horst R. Schmidt. The public prosecutor’s
office investigates a particularly
severe act of tax evasion linked to awarding the 2006 World
Cup. The 2006 German “summer fairy-tale” came under pressure in mid-October
2015, after the German magazine “Der Spiegel”
shocked Fußballdeutschland by
claiming that it had seen concrete evidence proving that a €6.7 million loan,
designated by the FIFA for a “cultural programme”, ended up on the account of
Adidas CEO Robert-Louis Dreyfuß. The magazine further argued that the money was
in fact a secret loan that was paid back to Dreyfuß. Allegedly, the loan was
kept off the books intentionally in order to be used as bribes to win the 2006
World Cup bid. The public prosecutor now suspects the DFB of failing to
register the payment in tax returns. German FA officials admit that the DFB
made a “mistake” but deny all allegations of vote buying. However, the current
investigations show that the issues at stakes remain far from clear, leaving
many questions regarding the awarding of the 2006 World Cup unanswered.
The present blog
post aims to shed a light on the matter by synthetizing what we do know about
the 2006 World Cup Affair and by highlighting the legal grounds on which the
German authorities investigate the tax evasion. More...
Introduction: The new WADA Code 2015
Day 1: The impact of the revised World Anti-Doping Code on the work of National Anti-Doping Agencies
Day 2: The “Athlete Patient” and the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code: Competing Under Medical Treatment
Day 3: Proof of intent (or lack thereof) under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code
Mike Morgan is the founding partner of Morgan Sports
Law LLP. His practice is focused exclusively on the sports sector. He
advises on regulatory and disciplinary issues and has particular experience
advising on doping and corruption disputes.
Mike acted on behalf of National Olympic Committees at
three of the last four Olympic Games and has represented other sports bodies,
clubs and high profile athletes in proceedings before the High Court, the FIFA
Dispute Resolution Chamber, the American Arbitration Association and the Court
of Arbitration for Sport. More...