benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector decision of 9 November 2011 marked a turning point as
regards the Commission’s decisional practice in the field of State aid and
sport. Between this date and early 2014, the Commission reached a total of ten decisions
on State aid to sport infrastructure and opened four formal investigations into
alleged State aid to professional football clubs like Real Madrid
and Valencia CF.
As a result of the experience gained from the decision making, it was decided
to include a Section on State aid to sport infrastructure in the 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation. Moreover, many people, including myself, held that
Commission scrutiny in this sector would serve to achieve better accountability
and transparency in sport governance.
Yet, a recent report by
Transparency International (TI), published in October 2015, raises questions about the efficiency of State aid enforcement in
the sport sector. The report analyzes the results and effects of the Hungarian tax benefit scheme and
financing system suffers from transparency issues and corruption risks. (…) The
lack of transparency poses a serious risk of collusion between politics and
business which leads to opaque lobbying. This might be a reason for the
disproportionateness found in the distribution of the subsidies, which is most
apparent in the case of (football) and (the football club) Felcsút.”
In other words, according to TI, selective economic
advantages from public resources are being granted to professional football
clubs, irrespective of the tax benefit scheme greenlighted by the Commission
or, in fact, because of the tax
benefit scheme. 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.
This month saw the conflict between FIBA Europe
and the Euroleague (more precisely its private club-supported organizing body,
Euroleague Commercial Assets or ‘ECA’) becoming further entrenched. This
dispute commenced with FIBA creating a rival Basketball Champions League, starting from the 2016-2017 season with the hope to reinstate their
hold over the organization of European championships. The ECA, a private body
that oversees the Euroleague and Eurocup, not only decided to maintain its
competitions but also announced it would reduce them to a closed, franchise-based league following a
joint-venture with IMG. In retaliation, FIBA Europe suspended fourteen
federations of its competition (with the support of FIBA) due to their support for the Euroleague project.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...
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...
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...
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...
In June 2014, two prominent Dutch speed skaters, Mark Tuitert
(Olympic Champion 1500m) and Niels Kerstholt
(World Champion short track), filed a competition law complaint against the
International Skating Union (ISU) with the European Commission.
European Commission announced that it has opened a
formal antitrust investigation into International Skating Union (ISU) rules
that permanently ban skaters from competitions such as the Winter Olympics and
the ISU World and European Championships if they take part in events not organised
or promoted by the ISU. The Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, stated that the Commission "will
investigate if such rules are being abused to enforce a monopoly over the
organisation of sporting events or otherwise restrict competition. Athletes can
only compete at the highest level for a limited number of years, so there must
be good reasons for preventing them to take part in events."
the case originates from legal advice provided by the ASSER International
Sports Law Centre, we thought it would be helpful to provide some
clarifications on the background of the case and the main legal issues at
Wil is working as a lawyer since 1980. He
started his legal career at Rechtshulp Rotterdam. Later on he worked for the
Dutch national trade union FNV and law firm Varrolaan Advocaten. Currently he
is participating in the Labour Law Section of lawfirm MHZ-advocaten in Schiedam
in the Netherlands. He is also a member of a joint committee advising the government
in labour issues.
Since 1991 he is dealing with the labour issues
of the trade union for professional football players VVCS and cyclists’ union
VVBW. Since 2002, he works for FIFPro, the worldwide union for professional
football players based in Hoofddorp in the Netherlands. He is involved in many
international football cases and provides legal support for FIFPro members all
over the world. Wil was also involved in the FIFPro Black Book campaign on
match fixing and corruption in Eastern Europe. More...
Star Lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont is almost
a monopolist as far as high profile EU law and football cases are concerned.
This year, besides a mediatised challenge against UEFA’s FFP regulations, he
is going after FIFA’s TPO ban on behalf of the Spanish and
in front of the EU Commission, but also before the Brussels First Instance
Court defending the infamous Malta-based football
investment firm Doyen Sport. FIFA and UEFA’s archenemy,
probably electrified by the 20 years of the Bosman ruling, is emphatically trying to
reproduce his world-famous legal prowess. Despite a first spark at a success in
the FFP case against UEFA with the Court of first instance of Brussels sending
a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), this has
proven to be a mirage as the CJEU refused, as foretold, to answer the questions of the Brussels Court,
while the provisory measures ordered by the judge have been suspended due to
UEFA’s appeal. But, there was still hope, the case against FIFA’s TPO ban, also
involving UEFA and the Belgium federation, was pending in front of the same
Brussels Court of First Instance, which had proven to be very willing to block UEFA’s
FFP regulations. Yet, the final ruling is another disappointment for Dupont
(and good news for FIFA). The Court refused to give way to Doyen’s
demands for provisional measures and a preliminary reference. The likelihood of
a timely Bosman bis repetita is
fading away. Fortunately, we got hold of the judgment of the Brussels court and
it is certainly of interest to all those eagerly awaiting to know whether
FIFA’s TPO ban will be deemed compatible or not with EU law. More...