Editor's note: Daniela Heerdt is a PhD
candidate at Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. Her PhD research deals with
the establishment of responsibility and accountability for adverse human rights
impacts of mega-sporting events, with a focus on FIFA World Cups and Olympic
About three years ago, the Fédération Internationale de Football
Association (FIFA) adopted a new version of its Statutes,
including a statutory commitment to respect internationally recognized human
rights. Since then, FIFA undertook a human rights journey that has been praised
by various stakeholders in the sports and human rights field. In early June, the
FIFA Congress is scheduled to take a decision that could potentially undo all
positive efforts taken thus far.
FIFA already decided in January 2017 to increase the
number of teams participating in the 2026 World Cup from 32 to 48. Shortly
after, discussions began on the possibility to also expand the number of teams for
the 2022 World Cup hosted in Qatar. Subsequently, FIFA conducted a feasibility
study, which revealed that the expansion would be feasible but require a
number of matches to be hosted in neighbouring countries, explicitly mentioning
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One
does not have to be a human rights expert to be highly alarmed by this list of
potential co-hosting countries. Nevertheless, the FIFA Council approved of the
possibility to expand in March 2019, paving the way for the FIFA Congress to
take a decision on the matter. Obviously, the advancement of the expansion
decision raises serious doubts over the sincerity of FIFA’s reforms and human
rights commitments. 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
The plight of
Hakeem al-Araibi – the 25-year-old refugee footballer who was arrested last
November in Bangkok upon his arrival from Australia on the basis of a red
notice issued by Interpol in contravention of its own policies which afford
protection to refugees and asylum-seekers – continued throughout the month of
January. Bahrain – the country Hakeem al-Araibi fled in 2014 due to a
(well-founded) fear of persecution stemming from his previous experience when
he was imprisoned and tortured as part of the crackdown on pro-democracy
athletes who had protested against the royal family during the Arab spring –
maintained a firm stance, demanding that Hakeem be extradited to serve a prison
sentence over a conviction for vandalism charges, which was allegedly based on
coerced confessions and ignored evidence.
sports governing bodies were critised from the very beginning for not using
enough leverage with the governments of Bahrain and Thailand to ensure that
Hakeem’s human rights are protected, they have gradually added their voice to
the intense campaign for Hakeem’s release led by civil society groups. FIFA,
for example, has sent a letter directly to the Prime Minister of Thailand, urging
the Thai authorities ‘to take the
necessary steps to ensure that Mr al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to
Australia at the earliest possible moment, in accordance with the relevant
international standards’. Yet many activists have found this action
insufficient and called for sporting sanctions to be imposed on the national
football associations of Bahrain and Thailand.
When it looked like
Hakeem will continue to be detained in Thailand at least until April this year,
the news broke that the Thai authorities agreed to release
Hakeem due to the fact that for now the Bahraini government had given up on the
idea of bringing Hakeem ‘home’ – a moment that
was praised as historic for the sport and human rights movement.
Russia avoids further sanctions from WADA despite
missing the deadline for handing over doping data from the Moscow laboratory
WADA has been back
in turmoil ever since the new year began as the Russian authorities failed to
provide it with access to crucial doping data from the former Moscow laboratory
within the required deadline
which expired on 31 December 2018, insisting that the equipment WADA intended to use
for the data extraction was not certified under Russian law. The Russian
Anti-Doping Agency thus failed to meet one of the two conditions under which
its three-year suspension was controversially
lifted in September 2018.
The missed deadline sparked outrage among many athletes and national
anti-doping organisations, who blamed WADA for not applying enough muscle
against the Russian authorities.
expiry of the respective deadline, it appeared that further sanctions could be
imposed on the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, but such an option was on the table
only until WADA finally managed to access the Moscow laboratory and retrieve the
doping data on 17
January 2019. Shortly thereafter, WADA President Sir Craig Reedie hailed the
progress as a major breakthrough for clean sport and members of the WADA
Executive Committee agreed that no further
sanctions were needed
despite the missed deadline. However, doubts remain as to whether the data have
not been manipulated. Before WADA delivers on its promise and builds strong
cases against the athletes who doped – to be handled by international sports
federations – it first needs to do its homework and verify whether the
retrieved data are indeed genuine.
British track cyclist Jessica Varnish not an employee
according to UK employment tribunal
On 16 January 2019,
an employment tribunal in Manchester rendered a judgment with wider implications for athletes and sports
governing bodies in the United Kingdom, ruling that the female track cyclist
Jessica Varnish was neither an employee nor a worker of the national governing
body British Cycling and the funding agency UK Sport. The 28-year-old multiple
medal winner from the world and European championships takes part in
professional sport as an independent contractor but sought to establish before
the tribunal that she was in fact an employee of the two organisations. This
would enable her to sue either organisation for unfair dismissal as she was
dropped from the British cycling squad for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de
Janeiro and her funding agreement was not renewed, allegedly in response to her
critical remarks about some of the previous coaching decisions.
eventually dismissed her challenge, concluding that ‘she was not personally performing work provided by the respondent –
rather she was personally performing a commitment to train in accordance with
the individual rider agreement in the hope of achieving success at
international competitions’. Despite the outcome of the dispute, Jessica
Varnish has insisted that her legal challenge contributed to a positive change
in the structure, policies and personnel of British Cycling and UK Sport, while
both organisations have communicated they had already taken action to
strengthen the duty of care and welfare provided to athletes.
Sports Law Related Decisions
Official Documents and Press Releases
In the news
International Sports Law Journal
Law in Sport
- 8 May –
Human Rights: Impacts, Policies and Responsibilities, T.M.C. Asser Institute, The Hague, Netherlands
May – Football Law
2019: Player Transfers, Agents, Politics and the Business of Football, London, UK
June – 14th
Sport&EU Annual Conference, Valleta, Malta
September – Understand
the Rules of the Game 2019: LawInSport Annual Conference, London, UK
October – Third Annual
International Sports Law Conference of the International Sports Law Journal, T.M.C. Asser Institute, The Hague, Netherlands
Editor's note: Daniela Heerdt is a PhD candidate at Tilburg
Law School in the Netherlands and works as Research Officer for the Centre for Sports and
Human Rights. Her PhD research deals with the
establishment of responsibility and accountability for adverse human rights
impacts of mega-sporting events, with a focus on FIFA World Cups and Olympic
Games. She published an article in the International Sports Law Journal that discusses to what extent the revised bidding and hosting
regulations by FIFA, the IOC and UEFA strengthen access to remedy for
mega-sporting events-related human rights violations.
26th, the Human Rights Advisory Board
of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) published its second report. This blog provides a summary and brief
evaluation of the report, by drawing a comparison to the previous report issued by the Human Rights Advisory
Board (hereinafter: the Board) based on the content of the recommendations and
FIFA’s efforts to implement the Board’s recommendations. The third part of this
blog briefly reflects on the broader implications of some of the new
recommendations issued for FIFA’s internal policies. The conclusion provides
five more general points of observation on the report. 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: In the coming days we will introduce the supporters of our upcoming ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018 (also known as #ISLJConf18). To do so, we have sent them a tailored questionnaire aimed at reflecting both their activities and their expectations for the conference. It is a good opportunity for us to thank them for their enthusiastic support and commitment to international sports law research. We are very happy to finish this series of interviews with Sven Demeulemeester from Altius, a Belgian law firm based in Brussels with a very fine (and academically-minded!) sports law team.
1. Can you explain to our readers the work of Altius in international sports law?
Across different sports’ sectors, Altius’ sports law practice advises and assists some of the world’s most high-profile sports governing bodies, clubs and athletes, at both the national and the international level. The team has 6 fully-dedicated sports lawyers and adopts a multi-disciplinary approach, which guarantees a broad range of legal expertise for handling specific cases or wider issues related to the sports industry. We are proud to be independent but, in cross-border matters, are able to tap into a worldwide network.
2. How is it to be an international sports lawyer? What are the advantages and challenges of the job?
Sports law goes beyond one specific field of law. The multiplicity of legal angles keeps the work interesting, even after years of practising, and ensures that a sports lawyer rarely has a dull moment. The main downside is that the sports industry is fairly conservative and sometimes ‘political’. While the law is one thing, what happens in practice is often another. Bringing about change is not always easy.
3. What are the burning issues in international sports law that you would like to see discussed at the conference?
The much-anticipated overhaul of the football transfer system is eagerly anticipated and is worth a thorough debate, also in terms of possible, viable alternatives. The impact of EU law - both internal market rules, competition law and fundamental rights – can hardly be underestimated. Also, dispute resolution mechanisms within the realm of sports - and an accessible, transparent, independent and impartial sports arbitration in particular - will remain a ‘hot’ topic in the sector for years to come. Furthermore, ethics and integrity issues should remain top of the agenda, as is being demonstrated by the current money-laundering and match-fixing allegations in Belgium. Finally, in a sector in which the use of data is rife, the newly-adopted GDPR’s impact remains somewhat ‘under the radar’.
4. Why did you decide to support the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference?
The ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference is refreshing, both in terms of its topics and participants. The academic and content-driven approach is a welcome addition to other sports law conferences in which the networking aspect often predominates.
Editor's note: Panagiotis
Roumeliotis holds an LL.B. degree from National and Kapodistrian University of
Athens, Greece and an LL.M. degree in European and International Tax Law from
University of Luxembourg. He is qualified lawyer in Greece and is presently
working as tax advisor with KPMG Luxembourg while pursuing, concomitantly, an
LL.M. in International Sports Law at Sheffield Hallam University, England. His
interest lies in the realm of tax and sports law. He may be contacted by e-mail
The landmark Bosman
the Europeanization of the labour market for football players by banning
nationality quotas. In turn, in conjunction with the boom in TV revenues, this
led to a flourishing transfer market in which players’ agents or intermediaries
play a pivotal role, despite having a controversial
As a preliminary remark, it is important to touch upon the fiduciary
duty of sports agents towards their clients. The
principal-agent relationship implies that the former employs the agent so as to
secure the best employment and/or commercial opportunities. Conversely, the
latter is expected to act in the interest of the player as their relationship should be
predicated on trust and confidence, as much was made
clear in the English
Court of Appeal case of Imageview Management
Ltd v. Kelvin Jack. Notably, agents are bound to exercise the utmost
degree of good faith, honesty and loyalty towards the players.
At the core of this blog
lies a comparative case study
of the implementation of the FIFA Regulations on working with intermediaries (hereinafter “FIFA RWI”) in eight European FAs covering most of the transfers during the mercato. I will then critically analyze
the issues raised by the implementation of the RWI and, as a conclusion, offer
some recommendations. More...
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).
Editor’s note: Daniela Heerdt is a PhD candidate at
Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. Her PhD research deals with the
establishment of responsibility and accountability for adverse human rights impacts
of mega-sporting events, with a focus on FIFA World Cups and Olympic Games. She
recently published an article in
the International Sports Law Journal that discusses to what extent the
revised bidding and hosting regulations by FIFA, the IOC and UEFA strengthen
access to remedy for mega-sporting events-related human rights violations.
The 21st FIFA World Cup is currently
underway. Billions of people around the world follow the matches with much enthusiasm
and support. For the time being, it almost seems forgotten that in the final
weeks leading up to the events, critical reports on human rights issues related to the event piled up. This
blog explains why addressing these issues has to start well in advance of the
first ball being kicked and cannot end when the final match has been played. More...