Editor’s Note: Saverio Spera
is an Italian lawyer and LL.M. graduate in International Business Law at King’s
College London. He is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law
football world the use of unilateral extension options (hereafter UEOs) in
favour of the clubs is common practice. Clubs in Europe and, especially, South
America make extensive use of this type of contractual clauses, since it gives
them the exclusive possibility to prolong the employment relationship with
players whose contracts are about to come to an end. This option gives to a
club the right to extend the duration of a player’s contract for a certain
agreed period after its initial expiry, provided that some previously
negotiated conditions are met. In particular, these clauses allow clubs to sign
young promising players for short-term contracts, in order to ascertain their
potential, and then extend the length of their contracts.
Here lies the great value of UEOs for clubs: they can let the player go if he
is not performing as expected, or unilaterally retain him if he is deemed
valuable. Although an indisputably beneficial contractual tool for any football
club, these clauses are especially useful to clubs specialized in the
development of young players. After
case, clubs have increasingly used these clauses in order to prevent players
from leaving their clubs for free at the end of their contracts. The
FIFA Regulations do not contain any provisions regulating this practice,
consequently the duty of clarifying the scope and validity of the options lied
with the national courts, the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) and the
CAS. This two-part blog will attempt to provide the first general overview on
the issue. My
first blog will be dedicated to the validity of UEOs clauses in light of
national laws and of the jurisprudence of numerous European jurisdictions. In a
second blog, I will review the jurisprudence of the DRC and the CAS on this
Editor's note: Adriaan Wijckmans is an associate specialized in sports law at the Belgium law firm Altius.
In a recent judgment, the Brussels Court of
First Instance confirmed the legality of a so-called surety undertaking, i.e. an
agreement in which the parents of a minor playing football guarantee that their
child will sign a professional contract with a football club as soon as the child
reaches the legal age of majority.
This long-awaited ruling was hailed, on the one hand, by clubs as a
much needed and eagerly anticipated confirmation of a long-standing practice in
Belgian football and, on
the other hand, criticised by FIFPro, the international
player’s trade union, in a scathing press release. More...
Editor’s Note: Shervine Nafissi (@SNafissi) is a Phd Student in sports law and teaching assistant in corporate law at University of Lausanne (Switzerland), Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC).
The factual background
The dispute concerns a TPO contract entitled “Economic Rights Participation Agreement” (hereinafter “ERPA”) concluded in 2012 between Sporting Lisbon and the investment fund Doyen Sports. The Argentine player was transferred in 2012 by Spartak Moscow to Sporting Lisbon for a transfer fee of €4 million. Actually, Sporting only paid €1 million of the fee while Doyen Sports financed the remaining €3 million. In return, the investment company became the owner of 75% of the economic rights of the player. Thus, in this specific case, the Portuguese club was interested in recruiting Marcos Rojo but was unable to pay the transfer fee required by Spartak Moscow, so that they required the assistance of Doyen Sports. The latter provided them with the necessary funds to pay part of the transfer fee in exchange of an interest on the economic rights of the player.
Given that the facts and circumstances leading to the dispute, as well as the decision of the CAS, were fully described by Antoine Duval in last week’s blog of Doyen vs. Sporting, this blog will solely focus on the decision of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court (“FSC”) following Sporting’s appeal against the CAS award. As a preliminary point, the role of the FSC in the appeal against CAS awards should be clarified.More...
the end of December 2015, the CAS decided on a very public contractual
dispute between Sporting Clube de Portugal Futebol SAD (Sporting) and
Doyen Sports Investments Limited (Doyen). The club was claiming that
Doyen’s Economic Rights Participation Agreement
(ERPA) was invalid and refused to pay Doyen’s due share on the transfer
of Marcos Rojo to Manchester United. The dispute made a lot of noise
(see the excellent coverage by Tariq Panja from Bloomberg here, here and here)
as it was the first TPO case heard by the CAS after FIFA’s ban. Yet,
and it has to be clear from the outset, the case does not affect the
legality of FIFA’s TPO ban; it concerned only the compatibility of
Doyen’s ERPA with Swiss civil law. The hearing took place in June 2015,
but the case was put under a new light by the football leaks revelations unveiled at the end of 2015 (see our blog from December 2015). Despite these revelations, the CAS award favoured Doyen, and was luckily for us quickly made available on the old football leaks website.
This blog will provide a commentary of the CAS decision. It will be
followed in the coming days by a commentary by Shervine Nafissi on the
judgment, on appeal, by the Swiss Federal Tribunal. 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 final blog aims to provide some broader
perspective, by sketching first the grander scheme in which Article 19 RSTP –
FIFA's provision on the protection of minors – operates. Thereafter, the focus will
shift towards testing Article 19 RSTP, thereby keeping in mind the previous
blogs (Part 1: The Early Years and Part 2: The 2009 reform and its aftermath), against EU free movement law.
Putting Article 19 RSTP into perspective: The bigger
After having investigated the nuts and bolts of FIFA’s
provision on the protection of minors in the first two parts of this blog, it
might be useful to address its bigger picture.
19 RSTP and its accompanying provisions regulate only a small share of the targeted
activity. There is, unfortunately, also an illegal
world. Circumvention of the prohibition is allegedly commonplace.
Visas and passports can be falsified.
Work permits can be obtained on the basis of jobs arranged by clubs.
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...
Footballleaks is now operating since nearly half a year and has already provided an
incredible wealth of legal documents both on TPO (and in particular Doyen’s
contractual arrangements) and on the operation of the transfer system in
football (mainly transfer agreements, player contracts and agents contracts).
This constant stream of information is extremely valuable for academic research
to get a better grip on the functioning of the transfer market. It is also
extremely relevant for the shaping of public debates and political decisions on
the regulation of this market. As pointed out on the footballleaks website, it has triggered a series of press
investigations in major European news outlets.
In this blog, I want to come to a
closure on our reporting on Doyen’s TPO deals. In the past months, we have
already dealt with the specific cases of FC Twente and Sporting Lisbon, reviewed Doyen’s TPO deals with Spanish clubs, as well as discussed the compatibility of the TPO ban with EU law. In the Sporting
Lisbon case, Doyen has since earned an
important legal victory in front of the CAS (the ensuing award was just
published by Footballleaks). This victory should not be overstated, however, it
was not unexpected due to the liberal understanding of the freedom of contract
under Swiss law. As such it does not support the necessity of TPO as an
investment practice and does not threaten the legality (especially under EU
law) of FIFA’s ban.
In our previous blogs on Doyen’s
TPO deals we decided to focus only on specific deals, Twente and Sporting
Lisbon, or a specific country (Spain). However, nearly six months after the whole footballleaks project started, we can
now provide a more comprehensive analysis of the TPO deals signed by Doyen.
Though, it is still possible that other, yet unknown, deals would be revealed, I
believe that few of Doyen’s TPO agreements are still hidden. Thanks to footballleaks, we now know how Doyen
operates, we have a precise idea of its turnover, its return on investments and
the pool of clubs with which it signed a TPO agreement. Moreover, we have a
good understanding of the contractual structure used by Doyen in those deals.
This blog will offer a brief synthesis and analysis of this data.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...