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

The CAS Ad Hoc Division in 2014: Business as usual? – Part.1: The Jurisdiction quandary

The year is coming to an end and it has been a relatively busy one for the CAS Ad Hoc divisions. Indeed, the Ad Hoc division was, as usual now since the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996[1], settling  “Olympic” disputes during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, it was also, and this is a novelty, present at the Asian Games 2014 in Incheon.  Both divisions have had to deal with seven (published) cases in total (four in Sochi and three in Incheon). The early commentaries available on the web (here, here and there), have been relatively unmoved by this year’s case law. Was it then simply ‘business as usual’, or is there more to learn from the 2014 Ad Hoc awards? Two different dimensions of the 2014 decisions by the Ad Hoc Division seem relevant to elaborate on : the jurisdiction quandary (part. 1) and the selection drama (part. 2). More...

Sports Politics before the CAS II: Where does the freedom of speech of a Karate Official ends? By Thalia Diathesopoulou

On 6 October 2014, the CAS upheld the appeal filed by the former General Secretary of the World Karate Federation (WKF), George Yerolimpos, against the 6 February 2014 decision of the WKF Appeal Tribunal. With the award, the CAS confirmed a six-months membership suspension imposed upon the Appellant by the WKF Disciplinary Tribunal.[1] At a first glance, the case at issue seems to be an ordinary challenge of a disciplinary sanction imposed by a sports governing body. Nevertheless, this appeal lies at the heart of a highly acrimonious political fight for the leadership of the WKF, featuring two former ‘comrades’:  Mr Yerolimpos and Mr Espinos (current president of WKF). As the CAS puts it very lucidly, "this is a story about a power struggle within an international sporting body"[2], a story reminding the Saturn devouring his son myth.

This case, therefore, brings the dirty laundry of sports politics to the fore. Interestingly enough, this time the CAS does not hesitate to grapple with the political dimension of the case. More...

The new “Arrangement” between the European Commission and UEFA: A political capitulation of the EU

Yesterday, the European Commission stunned the European Sports Law world when it announced unexpectedly that it had signed a “partnership agreement with UEFA named (creatively): ‘The Arrangement for Cooperation between the European Commission and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)’. The press release indicates that this agreement is to “commit the two institutions to working together regularly in a tangible and constructive way on matters of shared interest”. The agreement was negotiated (as far as we know) secretly with UEFA. Despite recent meetings between EU Commissioner for sport Vassiliou and UEFA President Platini, the eventuality of such an outcome was never evoked. It is very unlikely that third-interested-parties (FIFPro, ECA, Supporters Direct etc.) were consulted in the process of drafting this Arrangement. This surprising move by an outgoing Commission will be analysed in a three-ponged approach. First, we will discuss the substance of the Arrangement (I). Thereafter, we will consider its potential legal value under EU law (II). Finally, and maybe more importantly, we will confront the political relevance of the agreement (III).  More...

Sports Politics before the CAS: Early signs of a ‘constitutional’ role for CAS? By Thalia Diathesopoulou

It took almost six months, a record of 26 witnesses and a 68 pages final award for the CAS to put an end to a long-delayed, continuously acrimonious and highly controversial presidential election for the Football Association of Thailand (FAT). Worawi Makudi can sit easy and safe on the throne of the FAT for his fourth consecutive term, since the CAS has dismissed the appeal filed by the other contender, Virach Chanpanich.[1]

Interestingly enough, it is one of the rare times that the CAS Appeal Division has been called to adjudicate on the fairness and regularity of the electoral process of a sports governing body. Having been established as the supreme judge of sports disputes, by reviewing the electoral process of international and national sports federations the CAS adds to its functions a role akin to the one played by a constitutional court in national legal systems. It seems that members of international and national federations increasingly see the CAS as an ultimate guardian of fairness and validity of internal electoral proceedings. Are these features - without prejudice to the CAS role as an arbitral body- the early sign of the emergence of a Constitutional Court for Sport? More...

Olympic Agenda 2020: To bid, or not to bid, that is the question!

This post is an extended version of an article published in August on hostcity.net.

The recent debacle among the candidate cities for the 2022 Winter Games has unveiled the depth of the bidding crisis faced by the Olympic Games. The reform process initiated in the guise of the Olympic Agenda 2020 must take this disenchantment seriously. The Olympic Agenda 2020 took off with a wide public consultation ending in April and is now at the end of the working groups phase. One of the working groups was specifically dedicated to the bidding process and was headed by IOC vice-president John Coates.  More...

The CAS jurisprudence on match-fixing in football: What can we learn from the Turkish cases? - Part 2: The procedural aspects. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

With this blog post, we continue the blog series on Turkish match-fixing cases and our attempt to map the still unchartered waters of the CAS’s match-fixing jurisprudence.

The first blog post addressed two issues related to the substance of match-fixing disputes, namely the legal characterization of the match-fixing related measure of ineligibility under Article 2.08 of the UEL Regulations as administrative or disciplinary measure and the scope of application of Article 2.08. In addition, The Turkish cases have raised procedural and evidentiary issues that need to be dealt with in the framework of match-fixing disputes.

The CAS panels have drawn a clear line between substantial and procedural matters. In this light, the Eskişehirspor panel declared the nature of Article 2.08 UEL Regulations to be administrative and rejected the application of UEFA Disciplinary Regulations to the substance. Nonetheless, it upheld that disciplinary rules and standards still apply to the procedure. This conclusion, however, can be considered puzzling in that disciplinary rules apply to the procedural matters arising by a pure administrative measure. To this extent, and despite the bifurcation of different applicable rules into substantial and procedural matters, the credibility of the qualification of Article 2.08 as administrative seems to be undermined. And here a question arises: How can the application of rules of different nature to substantial and procedural matters in an identical match-fixing dispute be explained?More...

The EU State aid and Sport Saga – A blockade to Florentino Perez’ latest “galactic” ambitions (part 2)

This is the second part of a blog series on the Real Madrid State aid case. In the previous blog on this case, an outline of all the relevant facts was provided and I analysed the first criterion of Article 107(1) TFEU, namely the criterion that an advantage must be conferred upon the recipient for the measure to be considered State aid. Having determined that Real Madrid has indeed benefited from the land transactions, the alleged aid measure has to be scrutinized under the other criteria of Article 107(1): the measure must be granted by a Member State or through State resources; the aid granted must be selective; and it must distorts or threatens to distort competition. In continuation, this blog will also analyze whether the alleged aid measure could be justified and declared compatible with EU law under Article 107(3) TFEU.More...

The CAS jurisprudence on match-fixing in football: What can we learn from the Turkish cases? - Part 1 - By Thalia Diathesopoulou

The editor’s note:

Two weeks ago we received the unpublished CAS award rendered in the Eskişehirspor case and decided to comment on it. In this post Thalia Diathesopoulou (Intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre) analyses the legal steps followed and interpretations adopted by CAS panels in this case and in a series of other Turkish match-fixing cases. The first part of the post will deal with the question of the legal nature of the ineligibility decision opposed by UEFA to clubs involved in one way or another into match-fixing and with the personal and material scope of UEFA’s rule on which this ineligibility is based. The second part is dedicated to the procedural rules applied in match-fixing cases.


Introduction

The unpredictability of the outcome is a sine qua non feature of sports. It is this inherent uncertainty that draws the line between sports and entertainment and triggers the interest of spectators, broadcasters and sponsors. Thus, match-fixing by jeopardising the integrity and unpredictability of sporting outcomes has been described, along with doping, as one of the major threats to modern sport.[1] More...


Sport and EU Competition Law: uncharted territories - (I) The Swedish Bodybuilding case. By Ben Van Rompuy

The European Commission’s competition decisions in the area of sport, which set out broad principles regarding the interface between sports-related activities and EU competition law, are widely publicized. As a result of the decentralization of EU competition law enforcement, however, enforcement activity has largely shifted to the national level. Since 2004, national competition authorities (NCAs) and national courts are empowered to fully apply the EU competition rules on anti-competitive agreements (Article 101 TFEU) and abuse of a dominant position (Article 102 TFEU).

Even though NCAs have addressed a series of interesting competition cases (notably dealing with the regulatory aspects of sport) during the last ten years, the academic literature has largely overlooked these developments. This is unfortunate since all stakeholders (sports organisations, clubs, practitioners, etc.) increasingly need to learn from pressing issues arising in national cases and enforcement decisions. In a series of blog posts we will explore these unknown territories of the application of EU competition law to sport.More...

The Legia Warszawa case: The ‘Draconian’ effect of the forfeiture sanction in the light of the proportionality principle. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

The CAS denial of the urgent request for provisional measures filed by the Legia Warszawa SA in the course of its appeal against the UEFA Appeals Body Decision of 13 August 2014 put a premature end to Legia’s participation in the play-offs of the UEFA Champion’s League (CL) 2014/2015. Legia’s fans- and fans of Polish football - will now have to wait at least one more year to watch a Polish team playing in the CL group stage for the first time since 1996. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | ASSER Exclusive! Interview with Charles “Chuck” Blazer by Piotr Drabik

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

ASSER Exclusive! Interview with Charles “Chuck” Blazer by Piotr Drabik

Editor’s 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.



Mr 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 great (laughs)!

 

It is 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.

 

Sure, but you ended up facing corruption and tax fraud charges in the US. What happened?

Concerning the charges I am currently facing, I pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to corrupt FIFA and its related constituent organizations through various bribery schemes. In addition, I acknowledged taking part in money laundering process, violation of certain financial reporting laws, and tax evasion. But please keep it quiet. My family was devastated when they heard about this. After all, they know me as a kind-hearted and giving type, especially if you consider that, given my appearance, I’m always Santa Claus when Christmas time is around.

Concretely, around 1992 and together with other representatives of the soccer world, I agreed to accept a bribe in connection with the selection of the host nation of the 1998 World Cup. Together with other FIFA executive committee members I also accepted illegal payments concerning the selection of South Africa as the 2010 World Cup host. Simultaneously, since approximately 1993, still with the same bunch of soccer executives, I accepted bribes connected to the award of broadcasting and other rights to the 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2003 Gold Cup, a tournament analogue to the Copa América, featuring member associations of CONCACAF.

I know it’s wrong. But at FIFA a lot of people were doing it and it was just a common practice at that time. Money was flowing in my bank accounts and it felt right. We were working so hard to organize those tournaments, you know.

 

How come the US authorities’ ended up investigating you and FIFA?

I am not completely sure. When I testified back in 2013 the judge indicated that FIFA and its attendant or related constituent organizations were identified as a RICO enterprise, that is, a Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization if I remember correctly. I was terrified, it sounded very intimidating at first. Now I guess I got used to the sound of it. I am even thinking about calling my next cat Rico (laughs). I also recall that the Department of Justice’s involvement in the case was due to the fact that we used the US financial system to funnel the money. In hindsight, it was a very bad idea.

 

Could you give us some more details on how the corruption mechanism actually worked in practice?

In general terms there were media and marketing rights to be sold. Those rights, and often their extensions, were awarded in exchange for bribes, sometimes via intermediaries. The sports marketing companies engaged in the schemes were then able not only to profit from the acquired rights themselves, but also to accept illegal payments for passing on some of those rights to sponsors.

(Long pause) Take for instance Copa Libertadores. The tournament developed and gained popularity which sparked sports marketing companies’ interest in acquiring marketing rights to the competition. Around 2000 an entity affiliated with one of the sports marketing companies was awarded sponsorship rights for the tournaments which took place between 2001 and 2007, with a subsequent renewal of the contract in 2007 and 2012. In the early 2000s Nicolás Leoz, acting as the president of Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (CONMEBOL) and a member of its executive committee, sold his support to award the rights to a specific company. What is more, not only did he receive the money, he also gave instructions to forward approximately $2 million to his personal bank accounts, a sum which was owed to CONMEBOL itself based on the awarded sponsorship rights’ contract. The Copa Libertadores was only one of the many affected soccer competitions.

 

And what were the other tournaments affected?

I am American so please excuse my accent, but besides Copa Libertadores, also Copa América, Copa do Brasil, Gold Cup, and the World Cup qualifiers games. I might also add that corruption affected at least the FIFA 2011 presidential elections, the voting process concerning the hosts of the 1998 and 2010 World Cups, and Brazil’s national team’s sponsorship.

 

Who would you identify as the main players in the corruption schemes?

Except myself you mean (laughs)? Well, definitely a number of FIFA officials that you hear a lot about in the news lately. I can easily mention a few of my colleagues, like Rafael Esquivel who served as the president of the Venezuelan soccer association and a vice president on the CONMEBOL executive committee. There was also my good friend Eugenio Figueredo, a former president of the Uruguayan soccer association who was a member of FIFA’s executive committee, a vice president at FIFA, a member of various FIFA standing committees, and a vice and then president of CONMEBOL. Surely you know of José Maria Marin and Jeffrey Webb. The former was the president of the Brazilian soccer association, and sat on several FIFA standing committees. The latter was the president of Cayman Islands Football Association and a member of the Caribbean Football Union’s (CFU) executive committee. He was also appointed as the president of CONCACAF and a FIFA vice president. The funny thing is that Webb took these positions in order to clean up after the corruption scandal which led to the resignation of Jack Warner.

 

Jack Warner, you mean the former president of CONCACAF and the vice president of FIFA?

Correct. But do not forget that he was also the secretary and then a special advisor to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF), and the president of the CFU. Jack is probably the most corrupt soccer official I ever met.  Personally I did not like him, he just couldn’t get enough. Already in the early 1990s he began exploiting his position for personal gains. In this regard, he did not only treat the assets of the organizations he served as his own, but also actively solicited bribes in connection with for example the 1998 World Cup. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes were also paid to him with regard to the award of commercial rights to several editions of the Gold Cup. Moreover, acting as the president of the CFU and a special advisor to the TTFF he orchestrated the sale of media rights to World Cup qualifying matches which the national members of the CFU decided to sale as a bundle. Following negotiations Traffic, a sports marketing company, acquired the rights to 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014 World Cup qualifier matches. A substantial part of the value of the contracts concluded by Warner on behalf of the CFU was automatically transferred to accounts under his personal control. He was also involved in a $10 million bribe related to the award of the 2010 World Cup to South Africa. I could go on and on.

 

You mentioned Traffic. Could you tell us more about it?

Of course. Several of these sports marketing companies were involved, but to my knowledge Traffic was one of the biggest players. This multinational company was based in Brazil and comprised of subsidiaries operating around the globe including the US where it commenced its operations around 1990. The US branch alone was engaged in a number of bribery and fraud schemes in connection with their efforts to obtain various rights from soccer organization and federations in the region. The beneficiaries of these schemes included, among others, Jack Warner, Nicolás Leoz, and Rafael Esquivel. Traffic’s main goal was to expand its operations through developing ties with soccer governing bodies. I remember that in 1991 during Nicolás’ term as CONMEBOL’s president Traffic acquired exclusive commercial rights to three editions of Copa América. Nicolás then threatened to walk away. He claimed that Traffic was about to make a lot of money out of the deal and that it was only fair for him to get his share of the pie. With each of the new editions of the Copa América, Nicolás would demand fresh bribes, a personal business of his which, to my knowledge, went on until 2011. Additional payments were made by Traffic based on their subsequent profits. Esquivel also benefited by requesting bribes in exchange for his ongoing support for Traffic’s position. As I said, bribery at FIFA was often the result of the initiative on the part of its officials. But coming back to Traffic, their involvement is best described in numbers. Out of the twelve bribery schemes I know of, Traffic was involved in nine of them. However, if we disregard the schemes concerning FIFA elections and the voting process for the World Cup hosts the share is nine out of ten. You also need to keep in mind that a former employee of the US branch of Traffic involved in the corruption scheme went on to serve as a general secretary of CONCACAF. On a side note, I think I was a much better general secretary than he ever was. I still receive birthday cards from my former colleagues at CONCACAF.

 

You stated that several companies were involved. How did they share the rights acquisition between themselves?

I’m not entirely sure about the exact mechanisms involved. What I know, however, is that sometimes conflicts emerged between the different companies seeking to secure contracts for themselves. On other occasions they were able to join forces, for example with the media and marketing rights to Copa América. At first, CONMEBOL entered into a contract with Traffic on the basis of which the latter was awarded the exclusive rights to, among others, the 2015 edition of the tournament, and an option to retain those rights for the next three editions. But in 2010 CONMEBOL signed another agreement, this time with Full Play, on the basis of which Full Play was granted media and marketing rights to several editions of the tournament, including the 2015 edition already sold to Traffic. As you can imagine, Traffic was not happy. They decided to sue CONMEBOL and Full Play. In the end the companies came to an understanding and formed Datisa, a new entity which was to obtain and exploit the commercial rights to the Copa América. In return, Traffic was to shoulder a share of the bribes offered to CONMEBOL officials.

I also recall that there were tensions between Traffic and another company established by a former employee of Traffic who, after bribing Brazilian federation’s officials in order to acquire a contract for the rights to Copa do Brasil, was accused by Traffic’s owner of stealing his business. But they also managed to solve the issue by combining their “efforts” and by sharing the financial burden of the “investments” made to acquire the rights.

 

And what sums are we talking about?

Not so much, really (laughs). Concerning Datisa the company agreed to pay between $100 and $110 million in bribes to CONMEBOL officials all of whom worked also at FIFA. The FBI told me that they estimated that the “business” generated approximately $150 million in bribes, an amount which may increase if new information come to light. In the end, I did not get so much out of it compared to some of my dear colleagues. Sometimes I think that I should have been more firm during the “negotiations”. For a long time I have been dreaming about having an additional apartment in the Trump Tower. I remember that when I got the first one it almost seemed as it came from some divine intervention.

 

Wow, that’s a lot. How did they manage to conceal it?

As I already mentioned the “business” was sometimes conducted via intermediaries. Jose Margulies was one of the prominent ones. He was the brother of an old friend of the owner of Traffic, and often used accounts in the names of offshore corporations in order to makes payments on his behalf. In addition, he tried to conceal the bribes by using accounts at Swiss banks, made recourse to currency dealers, destroyed documentation, and discouraged the corrupt soccer officials from using accounts in their own name in order to avoid detection from law enforcement bodies, an advice which was not always taken seriously. People like Nicolás Leoz for example did not hesitate to have sums being paid to their personal bank accounts on the basis of “consulting contracts”. As I already mentioned, Jack (Warner), for his part, concluded a double agreement in the name of the TTFF concerning rights to World Cup qualifier games. He first sold the TTFF’s rights as part of a bundle, and later on sold them again, but this time separately. There was also the famous $10 million paid by South Africa’s authorities to the CFU in order to “support the African diaspora”, a payment which was in fact made in exchange for votes regarding the 2010 World Cup host. This money was diverted back into Jack’s pockets via a number of tricks. Using family members’ accounts was another way of deception. Lately, the business of taking bribes was getting more and more complicated, prompting officials to look for new complex schemes. In fact, the attempts to conceal illegal payments made in connection with the rights to the World Cup 2018 and 2022 qualifiers caused a lot of headache to Jeffrey Webb in his capacity as a high level CFU official. One of the companies with whom Traffic was to make payment to Webb had difficulties finding the right way to discretely transfer the money to him. This led to long negotiations between Webb’s associate and the company’s executives in order to find a clean method to make the outstanding payment.

 

Thank you so much Mr Blazer for your time and your invaluable insights!

You’re welcome. I am a big fan of the ASSER International Sports Law Blog so anything for you guys.

 



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