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...
everything under the sun is in tune,
but the sun
is eclipsed by the moon…
Ruffling a few feathers, on 30 May 2015 the FIFA Executive Committee rather unsurprisingly, considering the previous warnings,
adopted a decision to suspend with immediate effect the Indonesian Football
Federation (PSSI) until such time as PSSI is able to comply with its
obligations under Articles 13 and 17 of the FIFA Statutes. Stripping PSSI of its membership rights, the decision
results in a prohibition of all Indonesian teams (national or club) from having
any international sporting contact. In other words, the decision precludes all
Indonesian teams from participating in any competition organised by either FIFA
or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). In addition, the suspension of
rights also precludes all PSSI members and officials from benefits of any FIFA
or AFC development programme, course or training during the term of suspension.
This decision coincides with a very recent award by the Court of Arbitration
for Sport (CAS) in this ambit, which shall be discussed further below.More...
FIFA’s freshly adopted TPO ban entered into
force on 1 May (see our Blog symposium). Though it is difficult to
anticipate to what extent FIFA will be able to enforce the ban, it is likely
that many of the third-party investors will try to have recourse to alternative
solutions to pursue their commercial involvement in the football transfer
market. One potential way to circumvent the FIFA ban is to use the proxy of
what has been coined “bridge transfers”. A bridge transfer occurs when a club
is used as an intermediary bridge in the transfer of a player from one club to
another. The fictitious passage through this club is used to circumscribe, for
example, the payment of training compensation or to whitewash a third-party
ownership by transforming it into a classical employment relationship. This is
a legal construction that has gained currency especially in South American
football, but not only. On 5 May 2015, in the Racing Club v. FIFA case, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)
rendered its first award involving directly a bridge transfer. As this practice
could become prevalent in the coming years we think that this case deserves a
close look. More...
note: Chuck Blazer declined our official interview request but thanks to some trusted
sources (the FIFA indictment and
Chuck’s testimony) we
have reconstructed his likely answers. This is a fictional interview. Any resemblance with real facts is purely coincidental.
Blazer, thank you for agreeing to this interview, especially considering the
circumstances. How are you doing?
I am facing ten charges concerning, among others,
conspiracy to corrupt and money laundering. But apart from that, I am doing
good to know that you have not lost your spirit. And since you’ve been involved
in football, or as you call it soccer, for years could you please first tell us
what was your career at FIFA and its affiliates like?
Let me see… Starting from the 1990s I was employed by and
associated with FIFA and one of its constituent confederations, namely the
Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).
At various times, I also served as a member of several FIFA standing
committees, including the marketing and television committee. As CONCACAF’s
general secretary, a position I proudly held for 21 years, I was responsible,
among many other things, for negotiations concerning media and sponsorship
rights. From 1997 to 2013 I also served at FIFA’s executive committee where I
participated in the selection process of the host countries for the World Cup
tournaments. Those years at the helm of world soccer were truly amazing years
of travel and hard work mainly for the good of the beautiful game. I might add
that I even managed to document some of my voyages on my blog. I initially
called it “Travels with Chuck Blazer” but Vladimir (Putin) convinced me to
change the name to “Travels
with Chuck Blazer and his Friends”. You should check it out.
Editor’s note: This short book review will be
published in a different format in the International Sports Law Journal, due to
its timeliness we decided to reproduce it here.
FIFA, or Not
Book Review: Mark Pieth
FIFA, Dike Verlag, St. Gallen, 2014, 28.00 CHF, p.178
book looks back at the work of the Independence Governance Committee
(IGC). This Committee, constituted in 2011, had as
primary objective to drive a reform process of FIFA initiated by its President
Sepp Blatter. After ordering from the Swiss anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth,
on the state of FIFA’s governance, FIFA decided to mandate him with the leadership
of a consulting body composed of a mix of independent experts and football
insiders, which would be accompanying and supervising the internal reform
process of FIFA. The IGC was officially dissolved
at the end of 2013, after completing its mandate. The book is composed of eight
chapters, written by former members of the IGC, including former chairman Mark
Pieth. In addition to the chapters, it includes the different reports
submitted by the IGC to FIFA across the years. In the words of Pieth, this
account is “fascinating because it gives a hands-on, realistic perspective of
the concrete efforts, the achievements and the remaining challenges in the
struggle for the reform of this organization [FIFA], avoiding the usual
glorification or vilification.”
This review will first summarize the core of the account of the FIFA reform
process provided by the book, before critically engaging with the outcome of
the process and outlining the deficiencies that culminated on 29 May 2015 with
the re-election of Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.More...
On 1 April 2015, the new FIFA Regulations on
Working with Intermediaries (hereinafter referred as the Regulations) came into
force. These Regulations introduced a number of changes as regards the division
of competences between FIFA and its members, the national associations. A particularly
interesting issue from an EU competition law perspective is the amended Article 7 of the Regulations. Under paragraph 3, which regulates
the rules on payments to intermediaries (also previously referred to as ‘agents’), it is recommended that the
total amount of remuneration per transaction due to intermediaries either being
engaged to act on a player’s or club’s behalf should not exceed 3% of the
player’s basic gross income for the entire duration of the relevant employment
contract. In the case of transactions due to intermediaries who have been
engaged to act on a club’s behalf in order to conclude a transfer agreement, the
total amount of remuneration is recommended to not exceed 3% of the eventual
transfer fee paid in relation to the relevant transfer of the player.More...
Almost a year after their announcement, the new
FIFA Regulations on
working with Intermediaries (“FIFA Regulations”) came into force on 1 April 2015. Their purpose is
to create a more simple and transparent system of regulation of football agents.
It should be noted, however, that the new FIFA rules enable every national football
association to regulate their own system on players’ intermediaries, provided
they respect the compulsory minimum requirements adopted. In an industry that
is already cutthroat, it thus remains to be seen whether FIFA’s “deregulation”
indeed creates transparency, or whether it is a Pandora’s Box to future regulatory
This blog post will provide an overview of the
new FIFA Regulations on working with intermediaries and especially its minimum
requirements. Provided that
national associations are encouraged to “draw up regulations that shall incorporate
the principles established in these provisions”, three different national regulations
have been taken as case-studies: the English FA Regulations, the Spanish RFEF
Regulations and the Brazilian CBF Regulations. After mapping their main points of
convergence and principal differences, the issues that could arise from these regulatory
differences shall be analyzed. More...
Introduction: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law.
Day 1: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it.
Day 2: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions
Day 3: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football.
Day 4: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective.
Editor’s note: Finally, the last blog of our
TPO ban Symposium has arrived! Due to unforeseen circumstances, FIFA had to
reconsider presenting its own views on the matter. However, FIFA advised us to
contact Prof. Dr. Christian
Duve to author the eagerly awaited blog on their behalf. Prof. Dr. Christian Duve is a lawyer
and partner with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and an honorary professor
at the University of Heidelberg. He has been a CAS arbitrator until 2014. Thus, as planned, we will conclude
this symposium with a post defending the compatibility of the TPO ban with EU
law. Many thanks to Prof. Dr. Duve for having accepted this last-minute