Editor’s note: Our first innovation for the
year 2016 will be a monthly report compiling 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.
The world of professional sport has been making
headlines for the wrong reasons in January. Football’s governing body FIFA is
in such a complete governance and corruption mess that one wonders whether a
new President (chosen on 26 February)
will solve anything. More recently, however, it is the turn of the athletics
governing body, IAAF, to undergo “the walk of shame”. On 14 January the WADA
Independent Commission released its second report into doping in international
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...
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...
The football world has been buzzing with
Doyen’s name for a few years now. Yet, in practice very little is known about
the way Doyen Sports (the Doyen entity involved in the
football business) operates. The content of the contracts it signs with clubs
was speculative, as they are subjected to strict confidentiality policies.
Nonetheless, Doyen became a political (and public) scapegoat and is widely
perceived as exemplifying the ‘TPOisation’ of football. This mythical status of
Doyen is also entertained by the firm itself, which has multiplied the (until
now failed) legal actions against FIFA’s TPO ban (on the
ban see our blog symposium here) in a bid to attract attention and to publicly
defend its business model. In short, it has become the mysterious flag bearer
of TPO around the world. Thanks to a new anonymous group, inspired by the WikiLeaks
model, we can now better assess how Doyen Sports truly functions. Since 5 November
someone has been publishing different types of documents involving more or less
directly the work of Doyen in football. These documents are all freely
available at http://footballleaks.livejournal.com/. By doing so, the group has given
us (legal scholars not involved directly in the trade) the opportunity to
finally peruse the contractual structure of a TPO deal offered by Doyen and, as
we purport to show in the coming weeks, to embark upon a journey into Doyen’s
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...
Gesa Kuebek holds an LLM and graduated from the University of Bologna, Gent and Hamburg as part of the Erasmus Mundus Master Programme in Law and Economics and now work as an intern for the Asser Instituut.
On Monday, 9 November,
the German Football Association (DFB) announced in a Press Release the
resignation of its head, Wolfgang Niersbach, over the 2006 World Cup
Affair. In his statement, Niersbach argued that he had “no
knowledge whatsoever” about any “payments flows” and is now being confronted
with proceedings in which he was “never involved”. However, he is now forced to
draw the “political consequences” from the situation. His resignation occurred
against the backdrop of last week’s raid of the DFB’s Frankfurt headquarters
and the private homes Niersbach, his predecessor Theo Zwanziger and
long-standing DFB general secretary Horst R. Schmidt. The public prosecutor’s
office investigates a particularly
severe act of tax evasion linked to awarding the 2006 World
Cup. The 2006 German “summer fairy-tale” came under pressure in mid-October
2015, after the German magazine “Der Spiegel”
shocked Fußballdeutschland by
claiming that it had seen concrete evidence proving that a €6.7 million loan,
designated by the FIFA for a “cultural programme”, ended up on the account of
Adidas CEO Robert-Louis Dreyfuß. The magazine further argued that the money was
in fact a secret loan that was paid back to Dreyfuß. Allegedly, the loan was
kept off the books intentionally in order to be used as bribes to win the 2006
World Cup bid. The public prosecutor now suspects the DFB of failing to
register the payment in tax returns. German FA officials admit that the DFB
made a “mistake” but deny all allegations of vote buying. However, the current
investigations show that the issues at stakes remain far from clear, leaving
many questions regarding the awarding of the 2006 World Cup unanswered.
The present blog
post aims to shed a light on the matter by synthetizing what we do know about
the 2006 World Cup Affair and by highlighting the legal grounds on which the
German authorities investigate the tax evasion. More...
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...
Rien ne va plus at FIFA. The news that FIFA’s Secretary General Jérôme Valcke
was put on leave and released from his
duties has been quickly overtaken by the opening of a criminal investigation targeting
both Blatter and Platini.
With FIFA hopping from one scandal to the next, one
tends to disregard the fact that it has been attempting (or rather pretending) to
improve the governance of the organisation for some years now. In previous
blogs (here and here), we
discussed the so-called ‘FIFA Governance Reform Project’, a project carried out
by the Independent Governance Committee (IGC) under the leadership of Prof. Dr.
Mark Pieth of the Basel Institute on Governance. Their third and final report, published
on 22 April 2014, listed a set of achievements made by FIFA in the area of good
governance since 2011, such as establishing an Audit and Compliance Committee (A&C).
However, the report also indicated the reform proposals that FIFA had not met.
These proposals included the introduction of term limits for specific FIFA
officials (e.g. the President) as well as introducing an integrity review
procedure for all the members of the Executive Committee (ExCo) and the
Standing Committees. 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...
sure that in 1985, plutonium is available in every corner drugstore, but in
1955, it's a little hard to come by.” (Dr. Emmett L. Brown)
Back to the future?
Availing oneself of EU law in the ambit of sports in
1995 must have felt a bit like digging for plutonium, but following the
landmark ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Bosman case,
20 years later, with all the buzz surrounding several cases where EU law is
being used as an efficient ammunition for shelling various sports governing or
organising bodies, one may wonder if in 2015 EU law is to be “found in every
drug store” and the recent cases (see inter alia Heinz Müller v 1. FSV Mainz 05, Daniel Striani ao v UEFA, Doyen Sports ao v URBSFA, FIFA, UEFA)  cannot
but invitingly evoke the spirit of 1995.
One of the aforementioned cases that also stands out
pertains to the injunction decision issued
on 29 April 2015 by the Regional Court (Landesgericht) in Frankfurt am Main
(hereinafter: the Court) in the dispute between the intermediary company Firma
Rogon Sportmanagement (hereinafter: the claimant) and the German Football
Federation (Deutschen Fußball-Bund, DFB), where the claimant challenged the
provisions of the newly adopted DFB Regulations on Intermediaries (hereinafter: DFB Regulations) for
being incompatible with Articles 101 and 102 TFEU.
The Court, by acknowledging the urgency of the matter stemming from the
upcoming transfer window and the potential loss of clients, deemed a couple of
shells directed at the DFB Regulations to be well-aimed, and granted an
injunction due to breach of Article 101 TFEU. More...