Editor's note: This report compiles the most relevant legal
news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on
the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser.
Manchester City sanctioned
by UEFA’s Financial Fair Play
Manchester City has been sanctioned under UEFA’s Financial
Fair Play (FFP) regulations for two seasons for ‘overstating its sponsorship
revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information’ it had provided
UEFA. The February 14 decision of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Club
Financial Control Body (CFCB) likely heralds the start of a long and bitter legal
war between Manchester City and UEFA, which may end up settling many of the
questions surrounding the legality of FFP rules. Since its introduction in
2010, the compatibility of FFP with EU law, especially in terms of free
movement and competition law, has been a continued point of contention amongst
the parties concerned and commentators (see discussion here, here and here). It was only a matter of
time that a case would arise to test this issue and the present circumstances seem
to indicate that this may go all the way.
Regardless, the ban will not be enforced this season and in light of the
appeal process, it is hard to predict when the CFCB’s decision will have any
effect. Indeed, Manchester City has shown an incredible willingness to fighting this out in
the courts and shows no signs of backing down. The next stop will be the CAS and perhaps followed by
the Swiss Federal Tribunal. It should also be recalled that the CAS has already
examined FFP in its Galatasaray award, where it found FFP
compatible with EU law (see commentary here). There is even a decent
chance that this emerging saga may end up in front of the European Commission
and eventually the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Sun Yang CAS award published
After a much-anticipated
public hearing, the Panel’s award in the Sun Yang case has finally been published, sanctioning Sun Yang with
an eight-year period of ineligibility (see here for a detailed
commentary). The decision does not reveal anything groundbreaking in terms of
its legal reasoning and in many ways the case will most likely be remembered for
its historical significance: the case that jumpstarted a new era of increased
public hearings at the CAS.
Perhaps of some interest
is the extent to which the panel took into account Sun Yang’s behavior during
the proceedings in order to support its assessment of the case. For example,
the panel describes how Sun Yang had ignored the procedural rules of the
hearing by inviting ‘an unknown and unannounced person from the public gallery
to join him at his table and act as an impromptu interpreter’. The Panel
interpreted this as Sun Yang attempting ‘to take matters into his own hands’
which it found resembled the athlete’s behavior in the case (see para 358). The
Panel also found it ‘striking’ that Sun Yang did not express any remorse
concerning his actions during the proceedings. Since the proceedings were held
publicly and have been recorded, it is possible to verify the Panel’s
assessment in this regard.
In the end, it is possible
that Sun Yang may seek to reduce the period of ineligibility once the 2021 WADA
Code comes into force (see para 368). For now, Sung Yang may also try to appeal
the award to the Swiss Federal Tribunal on procedural grounds, and has already indicated his wish to do so. More...
In the last five years, the Striani
case has been the main sword of Damocles hanging over UEFA’s Financial Fair
Play Regulations. At the very least, the only real judicial threat they have
faced (apart from the relatively harmless challenge mounted in the Galatasaray case at the CAS). Indeed, a Belgian
player agent, Daniele Striani, represented by Bosman’s former lawyer Jean-Louis
Dupont, attempted, in various fora, to challenge the compatibility of UEFA’s
CL&FFP Regulations with EU law. Striani lodged a complaint with the
European Commission (which was quickly rejected in October 2014) and initiated a private
action for damages before the Brussels Court of First Instance. The latter
deemed itself not competent to decide on the matter, but nevertheless accepted to
order a provisory stay of the enforcement of the UEFA FFP Regulations pending a
preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the EU (see Ben van Rompuy’s
blog on the case here). The CJEU unsurprisingly rejected to enter into the matter, but UEFA and Striani
decided to appeal the first instance ruling to the Court of Appeal, which
rendered its decision on 11 April. It is unclear at this stage whether Striani
will attempt to challenge it at the Belgian Cour de Cassation (Highest Civil
Court), however this would entail considerable risks and costs and his lawyers
to date have not indicated that they would do so (see here).
While the ruling of the Court of
Appeal does not touch upon the much-discussed question of the compatibility of
UEFA’s FFP Regulations with EU law (see our many blogs on the question here, here and here), it remains an interesting decision to
discuss broader questions related to the procedural ease in challenging
regulatory decisions passed by sports governing bodies (SGBs) based in
Switzerland. Competition law constitutes the main legal tool available to
sports stakeholders looking to challenge existing regulatory arrangements from
the outside (e.g. not going through the internal political systems of the SGBs
or the CAS route). Recent cases, such as the ISU decision of the European Commission, the Pechstein case in front of the German courts or
the Rule 40 decision of the German competition
authority, have demonstrated the potency of competition law to question the
legality of the rules and decisions of the SGBs.
In this regard, the decision of the Brussels Court of Appeal narrows the range
of parties allowed to challenge in European courts the SGBs’ rules and
decisions on the basis of competition law. More...
Season 2 of #FootballLeaks is now underway
since more than a week and already a significant number of episodes (all the articles published can be found on the European Investigative Collaborations’ website) covering various aspect of the (lack of)
transnational regulation of football have been released (a short German documentary sums up pretty much the state of play). For
me, as a legal scholar, this new series of revelations is an exciting
opportunity to discuss in much more detail than usual various questions related
to the operation of the transnational private regulations of football imposed by
FIFA and UEFA (as we already did during the initial football leaks with our series of blogs on TPO in 2015/2016). Much of what
has been unveiled was known or suspected by many, but the scope and precision
of the documents published makes a difference. At last, the general public, as
well as academics, can have certainty about the nature of various shady practices
in the world of football. One key characteristic that explains the lack of
information usually available is that football, like many international sports,
is actually governed by private administrations (formally Swiss associations),
which are not subject to the similar obligations in terms of transparency than
public ones (e.g. access to document rules, systematic publication of decisions,
etc.). In other words, it’s a total black box! The football leaks are offering
a rare sneak peak into that box.
Based on what I have read so far
(this blog was written on Friday 9 November), there are three main aspects I
find worthy of discussion:
- The (lack of) enforcement of UEFA’s
Financial Fair Play (FFP) Regulations
- The European Super League project and
EU competition law
(lack of) separation of powers inside FIFA and UEFA More...
Editor’s note: Stefano
Bastianon is Associate Professor in EU Law and EU sports 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. On the
20th July 2018, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (hereinafter
referred to as “CAS”) issued its decision in the arbitration procedure between AC Milan
and UEFA. The subject matter of this arbitration procedure was
the appeal filed by AC Milan against the decision of the
Adjudicatory Chamber of the UEFA Financial Control Body
dated 19th June 2018 (hereinafter referred to as “the contested
decision”). As many likely know, the CAS has acknowledged that, although AC
Milan was in breach of the break-even requirement, the related exclusion of the
club from the UEFA Europe League was not proportionate. To date, it is the
first time the CAS clearly ruled that the sanction of exclusion from UEFA club
competitions for a breach of the break-even requirement was not proportionate.
For this reason the CAS award represents a good opportunity to reflect on the
proportionality test under Art. 101 TFEU and the relationship between the
landmark ruling of the European Court of Justice (hereinafter referred to as
“ECJ”) in the Meca Medina and Majcen affair and the very recent case-law of the CAS. More...
The first part of this
two-part blog on multi-club ownership in European football outlined the circumstances
leading to the adoption of the initial rule(s) aimed at ensuring the integrity
of the UEFA club competitions (Original Rule) and retraced the
early existence of such rule(s), focusing primarily on the complaints brought
before the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the European Commission by the
English company ENIC plc. This second part will, in turn, introduce the
relevant rule as it is currently enshrined in Article 5 of the UCL Regulations
2015-18 Cycle, 2017/18 Season (Current Rule). It will then explore how the UEFA Club Financial
Control Body (CFCB) interpreted and applied the Current Rule in the Red Bull
case, before drawing some concluding remarks. More...
Part Two of this series looked at the
legal challenges FFP has faced in the five years since the controversial ‘break
even’ requirements were incorporated.
Those challenges to FFP’s legality have been ineffective in defeating
the rules altogether; however, there have been iterative changes during FFP’s
lifetime. Those changes are marked by
greater procedural sophistication, and a move towards the liberalisation of
equity input by owners in certain circumstances. In light of recent statements from UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin, it is possible that the financial regulation of European football
will be subject to yet further change. More...
The first part of this series looked at the legal framework in which FFP
sits, concluding that FFP occupied a ‘marginal’ legal position – perhaps
legal, perhaps not. Given the significant financial
interests in European football – UEFA’s figures suggest aggregate revenue of nearly €17 billion as at clubs’ 2015
accounts – and the close correlation between clubs’ spending on wages and their
success on the field, a legal
challenge to the legality of FFP’s ‘break even’ requirement (the Break Even
Requirement), which restricts a particular means of spending, was perhaps
And so it followed.
Challenges to the legality of
the Break Even Requirement have been brought by football agent Daniel Striani,
through various organs of justice of the European Union and through the Belgian
courts; and by Galatasaray in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. As an
interesting footnote, both Striani and Galatasaray were advised by “avocat superstar” Jean-Louis Dupont, the lawyer who acted in several of sports law’s
most famous cases, including the seminal Bosman case. Dupont has been a vocal critic of FFP’s legality since its inception. 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...
On 12 January 2017 UEFA published its eighth club licensing benchmarking report on European
football, concerning the financial
year of 2015. In the press release that accompanied the report, UEFA proudly announced
that Financial Fair Play (FFP) has had a huge positive impact on European
football, creating a more stable financial environment. Important findings included
a rise of aggregate operating profits of €1.5bn in the last two years, compared
to losses of €700m in the two years immediately prior to the introduction of
Financial Fair Play.
eighth club licensing benchmarking report on European football, slide
Meanwhile the aggregate losses dropped by 81% from
€1.7bn in 2011 to just over €300m in 2015.More...
Ever since UEFA started imposing disciplinary
measures to football clubs for not complying with Financial Fair Play’s break-even requirement in 2014, it remained a mystery how UEFA’s
disciplinary bodies were enforcing the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play (“FFP”)
regulations, what measures it was imposing, and what the justifications were for
the imposition of these measures. For over a year, the general public could
only take note of the 23 settlement agreements between Europe’s footballing
body and the clubs. The evidential obstacle for a proper analysis was that the
actual settlements remained confidential, as was stressed in several of our
The information provided by the press releases lacked the necessary information
to answer the abovementioned questions.
On 24 April 2015, the UEFA Club Financial
Control Body lifted part of the veil by referring FC
Dynamo Moscow to the Adjudicatory Body. Finally, the Adjudicatory Body had the
opportunity to decide on a “FFP case. The anxiously-awaited Decision was reached by
the Adjudicatory Chamber on 19 June and published not long after. Now that the
Decision has been made public, a new stage of the debate regarding UEFA’s FFP
policy can start.More...