Rumours are swirling around the
decision (available in French here) of the Court of Appeal of Brussels in the
case opposing RFC Seraing United to FIFA (as well as UEFA and the Belgian
Football Federation, URSBFA) over the latter’s ban on third-party ownership.
The headlines in various media are quite dramatic (see here and here), references are made to a new Bosman, or to a shaken sport’s legal system. Yet, after swiftly reading the
decision for the first time on 29th August, I did not have, unlike with the Pechstein
ruling of the Oberlandesgericht München, the immediate impression that this
would be a major game-changer for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and
the role of arbitration in sports in general. After careful re-reading, I
understand how certain parts of the ruling can be misunderstood or
over-interpreted. I believe that much of the press coverage failed to accurately
reflect the reasoning of the court and to capture the real impact of the
decision. In order to explain why, I decided to write a short Q&A
(including the (not water-proof) English translations of some of the key
paragraphs of the decision).
Doyen (aka Doyen Sports Investment Limited) is
nothing short of heroic in its fight against FIFA’s TPO ban. It has (sometimes
indirectly through RFC Seraing) attacked the ban in front of the French courts,
the Belgium courts, the European Commission and the Court of Arbitration for
Sport. This costly, and until now fruitless, legal battle has been chronicled
in numerous of our blogs (here
It is coordinated by Jean-Louis Dupont, a lawyer who is, to say the least, not
afraid of fighting the windmills of sport’s private regulators. Yet, this time
around he might have hit the limits of his stubbornness and legal ‘maestria’.
As illustrated by the most recent decision of the saga, rendered in March by
the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in a case opposing the Belgium club
RFC Seraing (or Seraing) to FIFA. The arguments in favour of the ban might override
those against it. At least this is the view espoused by the CAS, and until
tested in front of another court (preferably the CJEU) it will remain an influential
one. The French text of the CAS award has just been published
and I will take the opportunity of having for once an award in my native
language to offer a first assessment of the CAS’s reasoning in the case,
especially with regard to its application of EU law. 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...
Yesterday, 18 May 2016, the licensing committee of the Dutch football
federation (KNVB) announced its decision to sanction FC Twente with relegation to
the Netherland’s second (and lowest) professional league. The press release also
included a link to a document outlining the reasons underlying the
decision. For those following the saga surrounding Dutch football club FC
Twente, an unconditional sanction by the licensing committee appeared to be
only a matter of time. Yet, it is the sanction itself, as well as its
reasoning, that will be the primary focus of this short blog.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...
Update: On 14 April footballleaks released a series of documents concerning Sporting de Gijón. Therefore, I have updated this blog on 19 April to take into account the new information provided.
Doyen Sports’ TPO (or TPI) model has been touted as a “viable alternative source of finance much needed by the large majority
of football clubs in Europe". These are the
words of Doyen’s CEO, Nélio Lucas, during a debate on (the prohibition of) TPO
held at the European Parliament in Brussels last January. During that same
debate, La Liga’s president, Javier
Tebas, contended that professional football clubs, as private undertakings,
should have the right to obtain funding by private investors to, among other
reasons, “pay off the club’s debts or to compete better”. Indeed, defendants
of the TPO model continuously argue that third party investors, such as Doyen, only
have the clubs’ best interests in mind, being the only ones capable and willing
to prevent professional football clubs from going bankrupt. This claim constitutes
an important argument for the defendants of the TPO model, such as La Liga and La Liga Portuguesa, who have jointly submitted a complaint in front of the
European Commission against FIFA’s ban of the practice.
The eruption of footballleaks provided the essential material necessary to test this claim. It allows
us to better analyse and understand the functioning of third party investment and
the consequences for clubs who use these services. The leaked contracts between
Doyen and, for example, FC Twente, showed that the club’s short term financial
boost came at the expense of its long-term financial stability. If a club is
incapable of transferring players for at least the minimum price set in Doyen’s
contracts, it will find itself in a financially more precarious situation than
before signing the Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA). TPO might
have made FC Twente more competitive in the short run, in the long run it
pushed the club (very) close to bankruptcy.
More than four months after its launch, footballleaks continues to publish documents from the football
world, most notably Doyen’s ERPAs involving Spanish clubs.More...
Editor’s note: This report
compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European
Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section
below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we
might have overlooked.
Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of
Europe in Bruges and is currently an Intern at the ASSER International Sports
The Belgian Court of Appeal released its
judgment this month regarding Doyen’s legal battle against the FIFA TPO ban.
The Appeal Court confirmed the first instance decision and ruled out any provisional
measures to block the ban’s implementation (for an in depth review, see
our blog post). More importantly, the Court
reaffirmed that Swiss based sport federations are liable in front of EU Members’
States courts when EU competition law is involved. That means the next
important step for this legal battle is whether or not the European Commission
is going to open a formal proceeding (Doyen
already lodged a complaint) to assess the compatibility,
and more importantly, the proportionality of the TPO ban with EU law. Only a
preliminary ruling by the CJEU could hasten the decision if one of the European
national courts, hearing a case brought by Doyen (France or Belgium), decided
to refer a preliminary question.More...
last year, Doyen Sports, represented by Jean-Louis Dupont, embarked on a legal
crusade against FIFA’s TPO ban. It has lodged a competition law complaint with
the EU Commission and started court proceedings in France and Belgium. In a first
decision on Doyen’s request for provisory measures, the Brussels Court of First
Instance rejected the demands raised by Doyen and already refused to send a
preliminary reference to the CJEU. Doyen, supported by the Belgium club Seraing,
decided to appeal this decision to the Brussels Appeal Court, which rendered
its final ruling on the question on 10 March 2016. The
decision (on file with us) is rather unspectacular and in line with the first
instance judgment. This blog post will rehash the three interesting aspects of
The jurisdiction of the Belgian courts
The admissibility of Doyen’s action
The conditions for awarding provisory measures 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...