Editor’s note: Stefano Bastianon is Associate Professor in European
Law at the University of Bergamo and lawyer admitted to the Busto Arsizio bar.
He is also member of the IVth Division of the High Court of Sport
Justice (Collegio di Garanzia dello sport) at the National Olympic Committee.
1. From the very beginning, the outcome of the ISU case was highly predictable, at
least for those who are familiar with the basics of antitrust law.
Nevertheless, more than twenty years after the Bosman judgment, the sports sector has shown the same
shortsightedness and inability to see the forest for the trees. Even this
attitude was highly predictable, at least for those who know the basics of
sports governance. The final result is a clear-cut decision capable of
influencing the entire sports movement. More...
Editor's note: We (Ben Van Rompuy and Antoine Duval) are at the origin of today's decision by the European Commission finding that the International Skating Union's eligibility rules are contrary to EU competition law. In 2014, we were both struck by the news that ISU threatened lifetime ban against speed skaters wishing to participate in the then projected Icederby competitions and convinced that it was running against the most fundamental principles of EU competition law. We got in touch with Mark and Niels and lodged on their behalf a complaint with the European Commission. Three years after we are pleased to see that the European Commission, and Commissioner Vestager in particular, fully embraced our arguments and we believe this decision will shift the tectonic structure of sports governance in favour of athletes for years to come.
Here is our official statement:
Today is a great day for Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt, but more importantly for all European athletes. The European Commission did not only consider the International Skating Union's eligibility rules contrary to European law, it sent out a strong message to all international sports federations that the interests of those who are at the centre of sports, the athletes, should not be disregarded. This case was always about giving those that dedicate their lives to excelling in a sport a chance to compete and to earn a decent living. The majority of athletes are no superstars and struggle to make ends meet and it is for them that this decision can be a game-changer.
However, we want to stress that this case was never about threatening the International Skating Union’s role in regulating its sport. And we very much welcome the exceptional decision taken by the European Commission to refrain from imposing a fine which could have threatened the financial stability of the International Skating Union. The International Skating Union, and other sports federations, are reminded however that they cannot abuse their legitimate regulatory power to protect their economic interests to the detriment of the athletes.
We urge the International Skating Union to enter into negotiations with representatives of the skaters to devise eligibility rules which are respectful of the interests of both the athletes and their sport.
Since the summer of 2014, it has been our honour to stand alongside Mark and Niels in a 'David versus Goliath' like challenge to what we always perceived as an extreme injustice. In this fight, we were also decisively supported by the team of EU Athletes and its Chance to Compete campaign.
Finally, we wish to extend a special thank you to Commissioner Vestager. This case is a small one for the European Commission, but Commissioner Vestager understood from the beginning that small cases do matter to European citizens and that European competition law is there to provide a level playing for all, and we are extremely grateful for her vision.
Dr. Ben Van Rompuy (Leiden University) and Dr. Antoine Duval (T.M.C. Asser Instituut)
Tomáš Grell holds an LL.M.
in Public International Law from Leiden University. He contributes to
the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a research
13 September 2017, more than 40,000 people witnessed the successful debut of
the football club RasenBallsport Leipzig (RB Leipzig) in the UEFA Champions
League (UCL) against AS Monaco. In the eyes of many supporters of the
German club, the mere fact of being able to participate in the UEFA's flagship
club competition was probably more important than the result of the game
itself. This is because, on the pitch, RB Leipzig secured their place in the
2017/18 UCL group stage already on 6 May 2017 after
an away win against Hertha Berlin.
However, it was not until 16 June 2017 that the UEFA Club Financial Control
Body (CFCB) officially allowed RB Leipzig to participate in the 2017/18 UCL alongside its sister club,
Austrian giants FC Red Bull Salzburg (RB Salzburg).
As is well known, both clubs have (had) ownership links to the beverage company
Red Bull GmbH (Red Bull), and therefore it came as no surprise that the idea
of two commonly owned clubs participating in the same UCL season raised
concerns with respect to the competition's integrity. More...
Editor's Note: Christopher is an editor of the Asser International Sports Law Blog. His research interests cover a spectrum of sports law topics, with a focus on financial regulatory disputes, particularly in professional football, a topic on which he has regularly lectured at the University of the West of England.
It is five years since the Union of
European Football Associations (UEFA) formally introduced ‘Financial Fair Play’
(FFP) into European football through its Club
Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, Edition 2012. With FFP having now been in
place for a number of years, we are in a position to analyse its effect, its
legality, and how the rules have altered over the last half decade in response
to legal challenges and changing policy priorities. This article is split into
three parts: The first will look at the background, context and law applicable
to FFP; Part Two will look at the legal challenges FFP has faced; and Part
Three will look at how FFP has iteratively changed, considering its normative
impact, and the future of the rules. More...
Editor’s note: Kester Mekenkamp is an LL.M. student in European Law
at Leiden University and an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.
This blog is, to a great extent, an excerpt of his forthcoming thesis, which he
shall submit in order to complete his master’s degree.
This is the
second part of a three-piece blog on FIFA’s provision on the protection of
minors, Article 19 of the Regulations
on the Status and Transfer of Players. The contribution in its entirety aims to provide
an encompassing overview of the rule’s lifespan since its inception in 2001. The previous
(first) part has shed light on the “birth” and “first years” of the provision, and
as such illustrated the relevant developments from 2001 till 2009. This second
part covers the rule’s “adolescent years”, which span from 2009 to the present.
The major changes put forward in the 2009, 2015 and 2016 versions of the RSTP
will be addressed. Thereafter the important CAS decisions concerning Article
19, Muhic, Vada I and II, FC Barcelona, RFEF, and the FIFA decisions relating to Real Madrid and Atlético
Madrid, will be scrutinized. The third, and final, part will constitute a
substantive assessment of the provision under EU Internal Market law.
Given that the
version adopted in 2008 left Article 19 untouched, the 2009 RSTP
represented the next significant step in the regulation of the protection of
minors. It had become clear that the system as used up to that point was
inadequate to achieve its goal,
most notably because several national associations still neglected to strictly
apply the rules. More...
Editor’s note: Kester Mekenkamp is an LL.M. student in European Law
at Leiden University and an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law
Centre. This blog is, to a great extent, an excerpt of his forthcoming master
On 24 November
2016, a claim was
lodged before a Zurich commercial court against FIFA’s transfer regulations by
a 17-year-old African football player.
The culprit, according to the allegation: The provision on the protection of
minors, Article 19 of the Regulations
for the Status and Transfer of Players.
The claimant and his parents dispute the validity of this measure, based on the
view that it discriminates between football players from the European Union and
those from third countries. Besides to Swiss cartel law, the claim is
substantiated on EU citizenship rights, free movement and competition law. Evidently,
it is difficult to assess the claim’s chance of success based on the sparse information
provided in the press.
Be that as it may, it does provide for an ideal (and unexpected) opportunity to
delve into the fascinating subject of my master thesis on FIFA’s regulatory
system aimed at enhancing the protection of young football players and its
compatibility with EU law. This three-part blog shall therefore try to provide
an encompassing overview of the rule’s lifespan since its inception in 2001. More...
Editor’s note: Josep
F. Vandellos is an international sports lawyer associated to RH&C (Spain).
He is also a member of the Editorial Board of the publication Football
Legal and a guest lecturer in the ISDE-FC Barcelona
Masters’ Degree in Sports Management and Legal Skills.
6 of Annexe IV (Training compensation) of the
FIFA-RSTP (Ed. 2016) contains the so-called “Special Provisions for the EU/EEA” applicable to players moving
from one association to another inside the territory of the European Union (EU)
or the European Economic Area (EEA).
The provisions regarding training compensation result from the
understanding reached between FIFA and UEFA with the European Union in March
and subsequent modifications introduced in the FIFA-RSTP revised version of
2005 to ensure the compatibility of the transfer system with EU law.
blog will focus on the exception contained in article 6(3) Annexe IV of the
FIFA-RSTP. According to this article, when “the
former club” fails to offer a contract to the player, it loses its right to
claim training compensation from the players’ new club, unless it can justify that
it is entitled to such compensation. Instead, the right of “previous clubs” to training compensation
is fully preserved irrespective of their behaviour with the player. From
a legal standpoint, such discrimination between the “former club” and the “previous
clubs” raises some questions that I will try to address in this paper. More...
This is the second and final part of the ‘Real Madrid Saga’. Where the first part outlined the background of the case and
the role played by the Spanish national courts, the second part focuses on the
EU Commission’s recovery decision of 4 July 2016 and dissects the arguments advanced by the Commission to reach it. As
will be shown, the most important question the Commission had to answer was
whether the settlement agreement of 29 July 2011
between the Council of Madrid and Real Madrid constituted a selective economic advantage
for Real Madrid in the sense of Article 107(1) TFEU. Before
delving into that analysis, the blog will commence with the other pending
question, namely whether the Commission also scrutinized the legality of the operation Bernabeú-Opañel under EU State aid law. By way of
reminder, this operation consisted of Real Madrid receiving from the
municipality the land adjacent to the Bernabéu stadium, while transferring in
return €6.6 million, as well as plots of land in other areas of the city. More...
Out of all the State aid investigations of recent years involving
professional football clubs, the outcome of the Real Madrid case was probably the most eagerly awaited.
Few football clubs have such a global impact as this Spanish giant, and any
news item involving the club, whether positive or negative, is bound to make
the headlines everywhere around the globe. But for many Spaniards, this case
involves more than a simple measure by a public authority scrutinized by the
European Commission. For them, it exemplifies the questionable relationship
between the private and the public sector in a country sick of never-ending
Moreover, Spain is only starting to recover from its worst financial crisis in
decades, a crisis founded on real estate speculation, but whose effects were
mostly felt by ordinary citizens.
Given that the Real Madrid case
involves fluctuating values of land that are transferred from the municipality
to the club, and vice versa, it represents a type of operation that used to be
very common in the Spanish professional football sector, but has come under
critical scrutiny in recent years. More...
On 28 September 2016, the Commission published the
non-confidential version of its negative Decision and recovery order regarding the preferential
corporate tax treatment of Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and FC
Barcelona. It is the second-to-last publication of the Commission’s Decisions
concerning State aid granted to professional football clubs, all announced on 4 July of this year.
Contrary to the other “State aid in football” cases, this Decision concerns
State aid and taxation, a very hot topic in
today’s State aid landscape. Obviously, this Decision will not have the same
impact as other prominent tax decisions, such as the ones concerning Starbucks and Apple.
This case dates back to November 2009, when a representative
of a number of investors specialised in the purchase of publicly listed shares,
and shareholders of a number of European football clubs drew the attention of
the Commission to a possible preferential corporate tax treatment of the four
mentioned Spanish clubs.More...