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

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – February 2017. By Tomáš Grell

 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 overlooked. More...

FIFA's Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses in Qatar – Part II: The Zurich Court's Ruling - By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell comes from Slovakia and is currently an LL.M. student in Public International Law at Leiden University. He contributes also to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a part-time intern.

This is a follow-up contribution to my previous blog on FIFA's responsibility for human rights abuses in Qatar published last week. Whereas the previous part has examined the lawsuit filed with the Commercial Court of the Canton of Zurich ('Court') jointly by the Dutch trade union FNV, the Bangladeshi Free Trade Union Congress, the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation and the Bangladeshi citizen Nadim Shariful Alam ('Plaintiffs') against FIFA, this second part will focus on the Court's ruling dated 3 January 2017 ('Ruling').[1]  More...



FIFA's Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses in Qatar - Part I: The Claims Against FIFA - By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell comes from Slovakia and is currently an LL.M. student in Public International Law at Leiden University. He contributes also to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a part-time intern.

On 2 December 2010, the FIFA Executive Committee elected Qatar as host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup ('World Cup'), thereby triggering a wave of controversies which underlined, for the most part, the country's modest size, lack of football history, local climate, disproportionate costs or corruption that accompanied the selection procedure. Furthermore, opponents of the decision to award the World Cup to the tiny oil-rich Gulf country also emphasized the country's negative human rights record.

More than six years later, on 3 January 2017, the Commercial Court of the Canton of Zurich ('Court') dismissed the lawsuit filed against FIFA[1] jointly by the Dutch trade union FNV, the Bangladeshi Free Trade Union Congress, the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation and the Bangladeshi citizen Nadim Shariful Alam ('Plaintiffs').[2] The Plaintiffs requested the Court to find FIFA responsible for alleged human rights violations of migrant workers in connection with the World Cup in Qatar. Had the Plaintiffs' claims been upheld by the Court, such decision would have had far-reaching consequences on the fate of thousands of migrants, mostly from India, Nepal and Bangladesh, who are currently working on the construction of sporting facilities and other infrastructure associated with organization of the World Cup. More...

Doyen vs. Sporting II: The Bitter End of Sporting’s Fight at the Swiss Federal Supreme Court. By Shervine Nafissi

Editor’s Note: Shervine Nafissi (@SNafissi) is a Phd Student in sports law and teaching assistant in corporate law at University of Lausanne (Switzerland), Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC).

 

Introduction

The factual background

The dispute concerns a TPO contract entitled “Economic Rights Participation Agreement” (hereinafter “ERPA”) concluded in 2012 between Sporting Lisbon and the investment fund Doyen Sports. The Argentine player was transferred in 2012 by Spartak Moscow to Sporting Lisbon for a transfer fee of €4 million. Actually, Sporting only paid €1 million of the fee while Doyen Sports financed the remaining €3 million. In return, the investment company became the owner of 75% of the economic rights of the player.[1] Thus, in this specific case, the Portuguese club was interested in recruiting Marcos Rojo but was unable to pay the transfer fee required by Spartak Moscow, so that they required the assistance of Doyen Sports. The latter provided them with the necessary funds to pay part of the transfer fee in exchange of an interest on the economic rights of the player.

Given that the facts and circumstances leading to the dispute, as well as the decision of the CAS, were fully described by Antoine Duval in last week’s blog of Doyen vs. Sporting, this blog will solely focus on the decision of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court (“FSC”) following Sporting’s appeal against the CAS award. As a preliminary point, the role of the FSC in the appeal against CAS awards should be clarified.More...

Doyen vs. Sporting I: Doyen’s Pyrrhic Victory at the CAS

At the end of December 2015, the CAS decided on a very public contractual dispute between Sporting Clube de Portugal Futebol SAD (Sporting) and Doyen Sports Investments Limited (Doyen). The club was claiming that Doyen’s Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA) was invalid and refused to pay Doyen’s due share on the transfer of Marcos Rojo to Manchester United. The dispute made a lot of noise (see the excellent coverage by Tariq Panja from Bloomberg here, here and here) as it was the first TPO case heard by the CAS after FIFA’s ban. Yet, and it has to be clear from the outset, the case does not affect the legality of FIFA’s TPO ban; it concerned only the compatibility of Doyen’s ERPA with Swiss civil law. The hearing took place in June 2015, but the case was put under a new light by the football leaks revelations unveiled at the end of 2015 (see our blog from December 2015). Despite these revelations, the CAS award favoured Doyen, and was luckily for us quickly made available on the old football leaks website. This blog will provide a commentary of the CAS decision. It will be followed in the coming days by a commentary by Shervine Nafissi on the judgment, on appeal, by the Swiss Federal Tribunal. More...

UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations and the Rise of Football’s 1%

On 12 January 2017 UEFA published its eighth club licensing benchmarking report on European football, concerning the financial year of 2015. In the press release that accompanied the report, UEFA proudly announced that Financial Fair Play (FFP) has had a huge positive impact on European football, creating a more stable financial environment. Important findings included a rise of aggregate operating profits of €1.5bn in the last two years, compared to losses of €700m in the two years immediately prior to the introduction of Financial Fair Play.



Source: UEFA’s eighth club licensing benchmarking report on European football, slide 107.


 Meanwhile the aggregate losses dropped by 81% from €1.7bn in 2011 to just over €300m in 2015.More...




International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2017. By Saverio Spera.

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 overlooked. 


The Headlines

The Diarra ruling of the Tribunal of Charleroi

On 19 January 2017, the Hainaut Commercial Tribunal – Charleroi rendered its decision on the lawsuit filed by the football player Lassana Diarra against FIFA and the Belgian FA (URBSFA) for damages caused by not being able to exercise the status of a professional football player during the entire 2014/2015 season. The lawsuit is linked to the decision, rendered by the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) on April 2015, to support Lokomotiv’s decision to terminate the player’s contract and to order Diarra to pay Lokomotiv the amount of EUR 10,500,000 for having breached his contract. According to the plaintiff, Diarra’s opportunity to be recruited by Sporting Charleroi was denied due to the club being potentially considered jointly liable for Diarra’s compensation pursuant to Article 17 (2) RSTP. The Belgian court held strongly that “when the contract is terminated by the club, the player must have the possibility to sign a new contract with a new employer, without restrictions to his free movement”. This case highlighted, once again, the need to read the RSTP in the light of EU law. Moreover, the decision is laying further ground for broader challenges to the RSTP on the basis of EU law (for a deeper insight into the Diarra ruling, see the recent blog written by our senior researcher Antoine Duval) More...


Introducing the new legal challenges of E-Sports. By N. Emre Bilginoglu

Editor’s Note: Emre Bilginoglu[1] is an attorney in Istanbul and the co-founder of the Turkish E-Sports Players Association, a non-profit based in Istanbul that aims to provide assistance to professional gamers and to work on the relevant laws affecting them. 


The world is witnessing the rise of a new sport that is growing at an incredible speed: E-Sports. We are only starting to understand its legal implications and challenges.

In recent years, E-Sports has managed to attract thousands of fans to arenas to see a group of people play a video game. These people are literally professional gamers (cyber athletes)[2] who make money by competing in tournaments. Not all video games have tournaments in which professional players compete against each other.

The most played games in E-Sports competitions are League of Legends (LoL), Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). LoL and DotA are both Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, a genre of strategy video games in which the player controls a single character in one of two teams. The goal of the game is to destroy the opponent’s main structure. CS:GO is a first-person shooter (FPS) game, a genre of video games where the player engages combat through a first-person perspective. The main objective in CS:GO is to eliminate the opposing team or to terrorize or counter-terrorize, planting bombs or rescuing hostages. Other games that have (popular) E-Sports competitions include Starcraft II (real time strategy), Hearthstone (collectible card video game), Call of Duty (FPS) and FIFA (football).

The gaming requires cooperation between team players, a high level of concentration, rapid reactions and some seriously fast clicking. E-Sports is a groovy term to describe organized competitive computer gaming. The E-Sports industry is exponentially growing, amounting to values expressed in billions of dollars. According to Newzoo, a website dedicated to the collection of E-Sports data, there are some 250 million occasional viewers of E-Sports with Asia-Pacific accounting for half of the total amount. The growth of the industry is indubitably supported by online streaming media platforms. This article aims to explain what E-Sports is and to give the readers an insight on the key legal questions raised by it. More...


Time for Transparency at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. By Saverio Spera

Editor’s Note: Saverio Spera is an Italian lawyer and LL.M. graduate in International Business Law from King’s College London. He is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.


The time is ripe to take a closer look at the CAS and its transparency, as this is one of the ways to ensure its public accountability and its legitimacy. From 1986 to 2013, the number of arbitrations submitted to the CAS has grown from 2 to more than 400 a year. More specifically, the number of appeals submitted almost doubled in less than ten years (from 175 in 2006, to 349 in 2013[1]). Therefore, the Court can be considered the judicial apex of an emerging transnational sports law (or lex sportiva).[2] In turn, the increased authority and power of this institution calls for increased transparency, in order to ensure its legitimacy.[3]

More...


Asser International Sports Law Blog | Blurred Nationalities: The list of the “23” and the eligibility rules at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A guest Post by Yann Hafner (Université de Neuchâtel)

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

Blurred Nationalities: The list of the “23” and the eligibility rules at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A guest Post by Yann Hafner (Université de Neuchâtel)

In 2009, Sepp Blatter expressed his concerns that half of the players participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup would be Brazilians naturalized by other countries. The Official list of Players released a few weeks ago tends to prove him wrong[1]. However, some players have changed their eligibility in the past and will even be playing against their own country of origin[2]. This post aims at explaining the key legal aspects in changes of national affiliation and to discuss the regulations pertaining to the constitution of national sides in general[3].

The 32 national associations engaged in the final competition are bound by two sets of rules, namely the Regulations of the 2014 World Cup – Brazil and the Regulations Governing the Application of the FIFA Statutes 2013[4]. Their common purpose is to ensure that players have a genuine, close and credible link with the national association which selects them on its roster[5]. This is primarily ensured by the permanent holding of the nationality of the country of the national association in question[6]. It means that nationality must not be pegged to the residence of the player in a certain country[7]. Naturally, sanctions may apply in the case of a breach of these stipulations[8].

The global race to secure talent meeting this nationality requirement is not new. It appears that it has however reached a new level in light of the Diego Costa case since FIFA regulations do not prevent nor address the issue of dual call-up[9]. Many players, such as Manchester United midfield Adnan Janujaz (who actually just elected to play for Belgium a few weeks ago)[10], are placed in a difficult if not untenable position. They are indeed denied the right to refuse an international selection according to FIFA regulations even if they are called-up by both national teams they are affiliated to[11].

The recent Diego Costa saga put this issue under intense media scrutiny[12]. To summarize the issue, the Brazilian-born player had gained very few international appearances in the preliminary phase, playing exclusively friendlies for his country of birth, before acquiring Spanish nationality and moving to represent Spain at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. His choice was portrayed as traitorous by some officials of the Brazilian football federation. In light of this, imagine for one second the headlines of the worldwide press if Diego Costa had defeated Brazil during the knockout phase (28 or 29 June) or the grand final on 13 July 2014, if both teams had qualified for the second phase of the tournament. In the eyes of many, FIFA is responsible for allowing Diego Costa to play against his country of birth. However, this is overlooking that the acquisition of a new nationality and change of national associations are strictly regulated, and that such regulations are actually decided collectively by the members of FIFA. In this respect, it should be mentioned that the Brazilian Football Federation has not made any official move to modify the rules so far[13].


Acquisition of a new nationality

Article 7 of the 2013 FIFA Regulations reads as follow: “Any Player who refers to art. 5 par. 1 to assume a new nationality and who has not played international football in accordance with art. 5 par. 2 shall be eligible to play for the new representative team only if he fulfils one of the following conditions: a) He was born on the territory of the relevant Association; b) His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant Association; c) His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant Association; d) He has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant Association”.

Under this article, the acquisition of a new nationality must be distinguished with double nationality. Dual nationals by birth may elect to represent the national association of their choice. This is notably the case of football players born in Northern Ireland for instance[14]. They can play for the Irish Football Association (Northern Ireland) or the Football Association of Ireland (Ireland) as they can claim British and Irish nationalities at birth[15]. Of note, this article applies only to player who have acquired a new nationality before their first international appearance. If this is not the case, they will not be allowed to play for their new country. 

The “granny rule” and the five-year waiting period are the most controversial eligibility regulations. Some authors find indeed that gaining eligibility through a grandparent does not offer a link close enough with the country that the player wishes to represent. Consequently, they advocate that this provision be deleted from the FIFA regulations[16]. The waiting rule was introduced in order to protect national identity and young players[17] and thus, to prevent expedited naturalization of football players. It institutes a de facto prohibition to play at international level before the age of 23 years old when naturalized. This rule was challenged twice since its coming into force in 2008. First, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Federation and the Australian Federation sought laxer rules in order to include immigrant players in their national side. The FIFA Congress rejected this bid by 153 to 42 votes and the second submission for a change was even withdrawn before being put to vote[18]. This landslide vote shows that FIFA members are favoring the status quo.

 

Change of association

Article 8, paragraph 1, of the 2013 FIFA Regulations reads as follow: “If a Player has more than one nationality, or if a Player acquires a new nationality, or if a Player is eligible to play for several representative teams due to nationality, he may, only once, request to change the Association for which he is eligible to play international matches to the Association of another Country of which he holds nationality, subject to the following conditions: a) He has not played a match (either in full or in part) in an Official Competition at “A” international level for his current Association, and at the time of his first full or partial appearance in an international match in an Official Competition for his current Association, he already had the nationality of the representative team for which he wishes to play; b) He is not permitted to play for his new Association in any competition in which he has already played for his previous Association”

Appropriately seeking to balance the interests involved, this rule serves to monitor change of eligibility and protect the integrity of international competitions while respecting the rights of players to move from one country to another[19]. FIFA did not monitor such changes until the mid-1960s[20]. The world governing body for football introduced at that time the concept of an election of nationality and banned change of national association until 2003.


The FIFA Congress introduced a limited right to change national affiliation but it was first reserved for U-23 players only[21]. In 2008, FIFA extended this right to any player provided that they were dual nationals when they had played for their first country and had not played in an Official Competition at “A” level (i.e. with the first team of a national association)[22]. The chart indicates that the number of requests to change association increased dramatically after 2008. However, it has now stabilized at approximately 30 requests per year. In this respect, the 2014 FIFA World Cup does not seem to have had any effect compared to the 2010 edition combined with the new set of rules.

To date, 237 players have taken the opportunity to change national affiliation and 24 of them are currently participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. This represents approximately 10.10% of the 237 players and only 3.26% of the 736 players engaged in the competition. This figure is line with the 2004 Athens Olympics Games for instance where 2.6% of the athletes had change their sporting nationality[23]. It shows that the concerns of Sepp Blatter have not materialized and that the situation is currently under control. Therefore, there is certainly no urgent need to further strengthen the existing regulatory framework.


[1]For a mapping of ancestral and international connections between teams, see: Brazil 2014: Visualising ancestral and international connections between teams (http://codehesive.com/wc-ancestry/).

[2] If he had been fielded, Eduardo Alves da Silva would have been the first to play against his country of birth during the opening match (Brazil – Croatia: 2 – 1).

[3] This post will not address the issue of shared nationalities (art. 6 Regulations Governing the Application of the FIFA Statutes 2013) and change of association due to states authorities nor its process (art. 8 par 2 and 3 Regulations Governing the Application of the FIFA Statutes 2013).

[4] Available at FIFA.com.

[5] McCutcheon, National eligibility rules after Bosman, in: Professional Sport in the EU: Regulation and Re-regulation TMC Asser Press (Den Haag) p. 127.

[6] Article 5 par. 1 Regulations Governing the Application of the FIFA Statutes 2013.

[7] Article 5 par. 1 Regulations Governing the Application of the FIFA Statutes 2013.

[8] Fielding an ineligible player is sanctioned by the mandatory forfeiture of the game and a CHF 6’000 fine (article 8 par. 3 the Regulations of the 2014 World Cup – Brazil and article 31 FIFA Disciplinary Code).

[9] A situation of dual call-up may occur when a player, dual national and who has not elected a sporting nationality, is called by both associations he belongs to. This raises the issue of the right to refuse an international selection.

[10] According to the project Brazil 2014: Visualising ancestral and international connections between teams, Adnan Janujaz is the most connected player.

[11] Article 3 par. 1 – Annexe 1 – Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players 2012.

[12] See for example: Páez Romero, Regulations: Player eligibility: the Diego Costa case, in: World Sports Law Report, Vol. 12 issue 1 (January 2014); Margaritis, The Dynamics of nationality and football, in: LawInSport, 28 April 2014; Lovatt, Changing nationality in football: the FIFA rules that helped Brazilian Diego Costa play for Spain, in: LawInSport, 4 November 2013.

[13] This is probably due to the fact that the Brazilian Football Federation has lost only one player to the current FIFA regulations. It should be noted that Brazilian players who have never been selected nor have played in friendlies are not cast by FIFA statistics on change of eligibility.

[14] Hafner, La qualification des joueurs en équipe représentative au regard de la réglementation de la FIFA : le cas de la Coupe du monde 2010, n° 35.

[15] Cf. CAS 2010/A/2071 Irish Football Association v/ Football Association of Ireland, Daniel Kearns and FIFA, award of 27 September 2010.

[16] For instance: Hall, Fishing for All-Stars in a Time of Global Free Agency: Understanding FIFA Eligibility Rules and the Impact on the U.S. Men’s National Team, in: Marquette Sports Law Review, Vol. 23 Issue 1, p. 205.

[17] FIFA Congress 2011 – Minutes, p. 64.

[18] FIFA Congress 2011 – Minutes, p. 64 and FIFA Congress 2013, Minutes, p. 85.

[19] McCutcheon, National eligibility rules after Bosman, in: Professional Sport in the EU: Regulation and Re-regulation TMC Asser Press (Den Haag) p. 138. A general prohibition of change eligibility is likely to be deemed illegal. Cf. Oswald, First conclusions of the lecturers, in : La nationalité dans le sport : Enjeux et Problèmes, Editions CIES (Neuchâtel) 2006, p.201.

[20] Hall, Fishing for All-Stars in a Time of Global Free Agency: Understanding FIFA Eligibility Rules and the Impact on the U.S. Men’s National Team, in: Marquette Sports Law Review, Vol. 23 Issue 1, p. 194. Van den Bogaert, Practical Regulation of the Mobility of Sportsmen in the EU post Bosman, p. 348.

[21] Hafner, La qualification des joueurs en équipe représentative au regard de la réglementation de la FIFA : le cas de la Coupe du monde 2010, n° 44.

[22] Hafner, La qualification des joueurs en équipe représentative au regard de la réglementation de la FIFA : le cas de la Coupe du monde 2010, n° 45.

[23] Poli/Gillon, La naturalisation de sportifs et fuite des muscles. Le cas des Jeux Olympiques de 2004, in : La nationalité dans le sport : Enjeux et Problèmes, Editions CIES (Neuchâtel) 2006, p. 59.


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