Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

FFP for Dummies. All you need to know about UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations.

Football-wise, 2014 will not only be remembered for the World Cup in Brazil. This year will also determine the credibility of UEFA’s highly controversial Financial Fair Play (FFP) Regulations. The FFP debate will soon be reaching a climax, since up to 76 European football clubs are facing sanctions by the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB). More...

Prof. Weatherill's lecture on : Three Strategies for defending 'Sporting Autonomy'

On 10 April, the ASSER Sports Law Centre had the honour of welcoming Prof. Weatherill (Oxford University) for a thought-provoking lecture.

In his lecture, Prof. Weatherill outlined to what extent the rules of Sports Governing Bodies enjoy legal autonomy (the so-called lex sportiva) and to what extent this autonomy could be limited by other fields of law such as EU Law. The 45 minutes long lecture lays out three main strategies used in different contexts (National, European or International) by the lex sportiva to secure its autonomy. The first strategy, "The contractual solution", relies on arbitration to escape the purview of national and European law. The second strategy, is to have recourse to "The legislative solution", i.e. to use the medium of national legislations to impose lex sportiva's autonomy. The third and last strategy - "The interpretative or adjudicative solution"- relies on the use of interpretation in front of courts to secure an autonomous realm to the lex sportiva



Tapping TV Money: Players' Union Scores A Goal In Brazil. By Giandonato Marino

On March 27, 2014, a Brazilian court ruling authorized the Football Players’ Union in the State of Sao Paulo[1] to tap funds generated by TV rights agreements destined to a Brazilian Club, Comercial Futebol Clube (hereinafter “Comercial”). The Court came to this decision after Comercial did not comply with its obligation  to pay players’ salaries. It is a peculiar decision when taking into account the global problem of clubs overspending and not complying with their financial obligations.  Furthermore, it could create a precedent for future cases regarding default by professional sporting clubs.


International transfers of minors: The sword of Damocles over FC Barcelona’s head? by Giandonato Marino and Oskar van Maren

In the same week that saw Europe’s best eight teams compete in the Champions League quarter finals, one of its competitors received such a severe disciplinary sanction by FIFA that it could see its status as one of the world’s top teams jeopardized. FC Barcelona, a club that owes its success both at a national and international level for a large part to its outstanding youth academy, La Masia, got to FIFA’s attention for breaching FIFA Regulations on international transfers of minors. More...

Athletes = Workers! Spanish Supreme Court grants labour rights to athletes

Nearly twenty years after the European Court of Justice declared in the Bosman case that all professional athletes within the EU were given the right to a free transfer at the end of their contracts, the Spanish Tribunal Supremo[1] provided a judgment on 26 March 2014 that will heighten a new debate on the rights of professional athletes once their contract expires.


Welcome to the ASSER International Sports Law Blog!

Dear Reader,

Today the ASSER International Sports Law Centre is very pleased to unveil its new blog. Not so surprisingly, it will cover everything you need to know on International Sports Law: Cases, Events, Publications. It will also feature short academic commentaries on "hot topics".

This is an interactive universe. You, reader, are more than welcome to engage with us via your comments on the posts, or a message through the contact form (we will answer ASAP).

This is an exciting development for the Centre, a new dynamic way to showcase our scholarly output and to engage with the sports law world. We hope you will enjoy it and that it will push you to come and visit us on our own playing field in The Hague.

With sporting regards,

The Editors

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Get Up, Stand Up at the Olympics. A review of the IOC's policy towards political statements by Athletes. By Frédérique Faut

Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

Get Up, Stand Up at the Olympics. A review of the IOC's policy towards political statements by Athletes. By Frédérique Faut

The Olympic Games are a universal moment of celebration of sporting excellence. But, attention is also quickly drawn to their dark side, such as environmental issues, human rights breaches and poor living conditions of people living near the Olympic sites. In comparison, however, little commentary space is devoted to the views of athletes, the people making the Olympics. This article tries to remediate this, by focussing on Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter which prevents athletes from freely expressing their (political) thoughts.  

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter on advertising, demonstrations and propaganda states in paragraph 3 that: ‘No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas’. This rule is supplemented by Bye-law to Rule 50 paragraph 1, which foresees that: ‘No form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear on persons, on sportswear, accessories or, more generally, on any article of clothing or equipment whatsoever worn or used by the athletes or other participants in the Olympic Games, except for the identification (…) of the manufacturer of the article or equipment concerned, provided that such identification shall not be marked conspicuously for advertising purposes. Any violation of the provisions of the present clause may result in disqualification or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person concerned. The decisions of the IOC Executive Board regarding this matter shall be final’.[1] 

According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is responsible for the enforcement of the Olympic Charter, this rule warrants the spirit of the Olympic Games – i.e. promoting unity in diversity by bringing together a diverse range of competitors and spectators from all over the world –, the protection of the athletes and their ability to compete free from external distractions.[2]  

Although the underlying reasoning appears to be a very noble pursuit, questions might arise as to whether these goals can be reached when it is not clear, at least for an outsider and perhaps even for athletes, which situations and behaviours fall under the scope of political statement or propaganda and which not. In what way does the statement made by American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos who, during the Olympic Summer Games of 1968 in Mexico City, went on the medal stand without shoes and with beads while hanging their heads and raising their fists when the national anthem set in for instance differ from the rainbow glove worn by Dutch snowboarder Cheryl Maas during the Games in Sochi? Both cases concern athletes making a statement as part of a broader political debate: Smith and Carlos wanted to express their sympathy for the struggle against racial segregation in the US and abroad, whereas Cheryl Maas, one of the openly gay athletes, showed her disregard for Russian’s anti-gay law, a controversial issue at the Sochi Olympic Games. Surprisingly, both incidents were dealt with differently by the IOC: where Smith and Carlos were thrown off the team and sent home, the IOC allowed Cheryl Maas to make her point without being penalised, as was illustrated by the fact that she was able to compete in another event later that week. 

The IOC, in general, does not elaborate further as to the reasoning used when ruling on such cases and confines itself by stating that each case is dealt with individually depending on the specific facts.[3]  Surely, several reasons can be found why both cases are, and perhaps even have to be, treated differently – both incidents took place in different times; Tommie Smith and John Carlos were staying on the medal stand when they made their statement, whereas Cheryl Maas made hers in the qualifying rounds in front of a single camera; Tommie Smith and John Carlos criticised their own country (USA) at the Olympic Games held in another country (Mexico), whereas Cheryl Maas criticised the country organising the Games (Russia); Tommie Smith and John Carlos didn’t feel sorry for the statement made, whereas Cheryl Maas stated afterwards that she didn’t have the intention to make a statement. However, one may question whether such a policy based on a case-by-case approach ensures unity and legal certainty. In the current state of affairs, it is not possible to provide general legal guidance on how a case will be tackled by the IOC. The Olympic Games should be based on transparent and equal rules for everybody, a fundamental requirement of both sport and the law. Hence, it is high-time for the IOC to provide detailed rules and guidance on the policy applying to political statements made by athletes.

[1] Olympic Charter, in force as from 9 September 2013, accessible via 



[3] Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter: what you need to know as an athlete, accessible via 


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