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

A Bridge Too Far? Bridge Transfers at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. By Antoine Duval and Luis Torres.

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...

20 Years After Bosman - The New Frontiers of EU Law and Sport - Special Issue of the Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law

Editor's note: This is a short introduction written for the special Issue of the Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law celebrating the 20 years of the Bosman ruling and dedicated to the new frontiers of EU law and Sport (the articles are available here). For those willing to gain a deeper insight into the content of the Issue we organize (in collaboration with Maastricht University and the Maastricht Journal) a launching event with many of the authors in Brussels tomorrow (More info here).More...

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.

 More...



Financial Fair Play: Lessons from the 2014 and 2015 settlement practice of UEFA. By Luis Torres

UEFA announced on 8 May that it had entered into Financial Fair Play settlement agreements with 10 European football clubs. Together with the four other agreements made in February 2015, this brings the total to 14 FFP settlements for 2015 and 23 since UEFA adopted modifications in its Procedural rules and allowed settlements agreements to be made between the Clubs and the Chief Investigator of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB).[1] 

In the two years during which UEFA’s FFP regulations have been truly up and running we have witnessed the centrality taken by the settlement procedure in their enforcement. It is extremely rare for a club to be referred to the FFP adjudication chamber. In fact, only the case regarding Dynamo Moscow has been referred to the adjudication chamber. Thus, having a close look at the settlement practice of UEFA is crucial to gaining a good understanding of the functioning of FFP. Hence, this blog offers a detailed analysis of this year’s settlement agreements and compares them with last year’s settlements. More...

Book Review: Reforming FIFA, or Not

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. 

Reforming FIFA, or Not

 Antoine Duval

Book Review: Mark Pieth (ed.), Reforming FIFA, Dike Verlag, St. Gallen, 2014, 28.00 CHF, p.178

 


This 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, a report 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 (available here, here and here) 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.”[1] 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...



The Spanish TV Rights Distribution System after the Royal Decree: An Introduction. By Luis Torres

On the first of May 2015, the Spanish Government finally signed the Royal Decree allowing the joint selling of the media rights of the Spanish top two football leagues. The Minister for Sport stated that the Decree will allow clubs to “pay their debts with the social security and the tax authorities and will enable the Spanish teams to compete with the biggest European Leagues in terms of revenues from the sale of media rights”.[1]Although the signing of the Royal Decree was supposed to close a very long debate and discussion between the relevant stakeholders, its aftermath shows that the Telenovela is not entirely over. 

This blog post will first provide the background story to the selling of media rights in Spain. It will, thereafter, analyse the main points of the Royal Decree and outline how the system will work in practice. Finally, the blog will shortly address the current frictions between the Spanish League (LFP) and the Spanish football federation (RFEF).More...

Sport and EU Competition Law: New developments and unfinished business. By Ben Van Rompuy

Editor's note: Ben Van Rompuy, Head of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre, was recently interviewed by LexisNexis UK for their in-house adviser service. With kind permission from LexisNexis we reproduce the interview on our blog in its entirety. 

How does competition law affect the sports sector?  

The application of EU competition law to the sports sector is a fairly recent and still unfolding development. It was only in the mid-1990s, due to the growing commercialization of professional sport, that there emerged a need to address competition issues in relation to, for instance, ticketing arrangements or the sale of media rights.  More...



Is FIFA fixing the prices of intermediaries? An EU competition law analysis - By Georgi Antonov (ASSER Institute)

Introduction

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...

The Impact of the new FIFA Regulations for Intermediaries: A comparative analysis of Brazil, Spain and England. By Luis Torres

INTRODUCTION

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 confusion.

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”[1], 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...

Blog Symposium: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified. By Prof. Dr. Christian Duve

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 challenge! More...






Asser International Sports Law Blog | Book Review: Questioning the (in)dependence of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

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

Book Review: Questioning the (in)dependence of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

Book Review: Vaitiekunas A (2014) The Court of Arbitration for Sport : Law-Making and the Question of Independence, Stämpfli Verlag, Berne, CHF 89,00

The book under review is the published version of a PhD thesis defended in 2013 by Andrew Vaitiekunas at Melbourne Law School. A PhD is often taking stock of legal developments rather than anticipating or triggering them. This was definitely not the case of this book. Its core subject of interest is the study of the independence of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – an issue that has risen to prominence with the recent Pechstein ruling of January 2015 of the Oberlandesgericht München. It is difficult to be timelier indeed.

The fundamental question underlying Vaitiekunas’ research is: “does CAS have sufficient independence to be a law-maker?”.[1] Indeed, as many in the field, Vaitiekunas considers the CAS as a key institution in the production of a lex sportiva or transnational sports law. Hence, he thinks that “the closer CAS’s standards of independence and impartiality are to those that apply to the judiciary, the stronger may be the claim that CAS’s lex sportiva constitutes law”.[2] Although I am myself sympathetic to the idea of the existence of a lex sportiva, I would be cautious in attributing it mainly to the CAS. Instead, I think that the notion of lex sportiva is rather reflecting the complex legal interaction between the rules (and raw political power) of international Sports Governing Bodies (SGBs) and the CAS’s jurisprudence.[3] Yet, this should not detract from the value of posing the question of CAS independence as a hallmark of its legitimacy.

The book is relatively slow in tackling this question. The author is keen on providing a comprehensive analysis of the general context of his work in Chapter 2 on the CAS and the lex sportiva[4], of his theoretical apparatus in Chapter 3 on the relevant theories of law[5] and of his analytical frame to assess the independence of the CAS in Chapter 4 on independence and impartiality.[6] Although these parts are certainly useful to comprehend the red thread guiding his research, they certainly could have been synthetized and shortened. Any reader interested mainly in the assessment of the independence of the CAS might be tempted to jump directly to Chapter 5 and 6 providing the core of the author's analysis and his most valuable contribution to legal scholarship.

Chapter 5 reviews in detail the well-known favourable assessment by the Swiss Federal Tribunal of the independence of the CAS.[7] Yet, the most important and interesting aspect of the chapter is that it already engages in a critical assessment of this jurisprudence. When discussing the impact of the post-Gundel Paris reform agreement, Vaitiekunas concludes that “a number of facets of the reform indicate continuing links, albeit indirect between the Olympic governing bodies and CAS, thus undermining the perception that CAS is truly an independent arbitral body”.[8] He notes that “[w]hether ICAS members are appointed from within or outside the membership of the top sports bodies, they ultimately owe their appointment to these bodies”.[9] He criticizes the CAS arbitrator list as it “does not indicate who nominated the individual arbitrators, leaving an athlete at risk of choosing an arbitrator nominated by the very IF [International Federation] against which they are taking CAS proceedings”.[10] In any case, “the appointment [as CAS arbitrator] can be seen as occurring under the control of the Olympic governing bodies through their members or delegates in ICAS”.[11] Interestingly, this reasoning is analogue to the one used by the Oberlandesgericht München in its Pechstein ruling.[12] Unsurprisingly, Vaitiekunas is also extremely critical of the SFT’s judgment in the Lazutina case endorsing the independence and the legitimacy of the CAS post-Gundel.[13] He argues that the SFT “appears almost as an apologist for CAS”[14] and criticizes its “non-objective approach to statements by people close to CAS”.[15] Moreover, he denounces a “formalistic approach in assessing CAS’s independence from the IOC”.[16] Indeed, by privileging formal factors, such as the ICAS formal legal independence, “the SFT implicitly chose not to lift ICAS’s veil to consider who has the real powers behind ICAS”.[17] Importantly in light of the Pechstein case, he attacks the fact that “the SFT limited its analysis concerning CAS’s institutional independence solely to CAS’s independence from the IOC and did not consider CAS’s independence from the Olympic governing bodies collectively”.[18] Finally, he reiterates his critique against the closed list system, arguing that “the very process for the nomination and selection of arbitrators to the list creates an appearance of bias in favour of the Olympic governing bodies”.[19] 

Henceforth, Chapter 6[20] vows to pitch CAS’s independence against judicial independence standards discussed in Chapter 4. Coming from Chapter 5, the suspense as to the outcome of the assessment is relatively limited, it is clear ex ante that the author is doubtful of the independence of CAS. He assesses first the individual independence of the arbitrators, referring to four main criteria: 

"The four main recognised safeguards of a judge’s personal independence under judicial independence norms are security of tenure in a judge’s appointment, restrictions on the removability of a judge, adequate and secure remuneration for judicial service and immunity from legal action in the exercise of judicial functions."[21]

Furthermore, he contends that an arbitrator must fulfil a yardstick of substantive independence implying “a judge to be free from any inappropriate connections or influences".[22] In this regard, he argues “all CAS arbitrators […] owe their presence on the closed list to the Olympic governing bodies, thereby creating the appearance of a lack of independence from them”.[23] Finally, regarding the institutional independence of the CAS, Vaitiekunas suggests three main focal points: the structural links, the administrative links and the financial links. The structural links of the CAS are perceived as the main hindrances to CAS’s independence. This is because, “[g]iven the mutual ties and links which the IOC, the IFs and the NOCs […] have under the Olympic Charter, these bodies may appear to have influence collectively on ICAS”.[24] His conclusions is sans appel: “The potential influence that the Olympic governing bodies may be perceived to exercise over ICAS and the CAS secretary general is inconsistent with judicial independence norms which require judicial matters to be exclusively within the responsibility of the judiciary”.[25]

This highly sceptical view regarding the independence of CAS, leads him to propose a set of potential reforms.[26] His first recommendation is to implement “a restructuring of ICAS to ensure that it is institutionally independent”.[27] This would imply that “appointments to ICAS should exclude members of the IOC, executive members of the IFs, NFs and NOCs and their employees and anyone recently in these roles”.[28] Moreover, “the CAS code should be amended to prohibit the appointment of Olympic governing body associates or athlete associates as CAS arbitrators”.[29] Regarding the funding of ICAS and CAS, he suggests “the imposition of a levy on the broadcasting rights to or sponsorships of major sports events”.[30] In order to secure CAS arbitrators individual independence, he is in favour of appointing them “on a tenured basis to a specified retirement aged”.[31] He also recommends, “that arbitrators be appointed randomly to cases or on a predetermined basis”.[32] Eventually, he advises “to provide arbitrators with greater security in remuneration by appointing them on a fixed salary, like judges, payable regardless of whether and how many cases they are appointed to arbitrate”.[33] Vaitiekunas is convinced that if his recommendations were implemented, “CAS would be a true sports court, rather than an arbitral tribunal”.[34] 

The final chapter 7 of the book dedicated to CAS’s independence from external judicial review is a bit of a mystery to the reviewer. Vaitiekunas offers a relatively succinct but rigorous comparative study of the various national (and European) judicial avenues where CAS awards can be reviewed. He concludes rightly that CAS awards can be subjected to the control of national courts and European Institutions. However, his assumption that “CAS awards must be independent from review or intervention by state courts, such that they operate as final authority in the resolution of sports disputes”[35] and especially the consequence he derives from it, denying to lex sportiva any status as a legal order seems to be flawed.[36] Indeed, in no legal context, national or otherwise, is a judicial decision absolutely final. National courts’ judgments are often contested when their recognition is asked in another country, this does not entail that national law is not law. Similarly, the subjection of the judgments of the highest national courts of the EU Member States to the preliminary reference mechanism in place under EU law should not lead us to deny any legal value to national law. We are living in a pluralist legal age ruled by complex transnational legal assemblages and lex sportiva fits very well into this picture. Nonetheless, on this point I share the view of the author of this book, the question of the legitimacy of both the rulemaking bodies of lex sportiva (read FIFA or the IOC) and its adjudicative bodies (read the CAS) is of great importance. In fact, their illegitimacy, and here I differ from Vaitiekunas’ argument, should not mainly imply their non-existence as law-making bodies, but the need for a reform (or even a revolution) in the way they operate.

This book is precious, because it highlights very well the challenges ahead in our transnationalizing legal world. Democratizing international (or transnational in this case) judicial bodies is key, if the ideal and democratic function of an independent justice for world citizens is to be sustained.[37]  We need to understand that transnational private bodies are in the business of exercising a kind of public authority and should live up to analogous accountability and legitimacy standards than the one that have been progressively developed in the framework of the nation-states for national courts. The CAS is one of those, and the pending Pechstein case is a necessary itch to reflexively trigger a much-needed reform of its internal structure and functioning. Which precise form this reform will take is not crucial. What is essential, however, is that it ensures that CAS arbitrators be seen as rendering sporting justice at a personal (if not geographical) distance from those who are adopting and enforcing the rules of the lex sportiva. This book is an important critical contribution in that direction.


[1] Vaitiekunas A (2014) The Court of Arbitration for Sport: Law-Making and the Question of Independence. Stämpfli Verlag, Berne, p 2.

[2] Ibid, p 3.

[3] Duval A (2013) Lex Sportiva: A Playground for Transnational Law. European Law Journal 19: 822-842.

[4] Ibid, pp 7-50.

[5] Ibid, pp 51-83.

[6] Ibid, pp 85-120.

[7] Ibid, pp 121-177.

[8] Ibid, p 142.

[9] Ibid, p 146.

[10] Ibid, p 150.

[11] Ibid, p 151.

[12] See supra n 1, Oberlandesgericht (OLG) München [2015], paras 3b, bb, 3aaa and bbb.

[13] Supra n 2, Vaitiekunas, pp 168-174.

[14] Ibid, p 169.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid, p 171.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid, p 174.

[20] Ibid, pp 179-200.

[21] Ibid, p 184.

[22] Ibid, p188.

[23] Ibid, p 189.

[24] Ibid, p 191.

[25] Ibid, p 193.

[26] Ibid, pp 197-199.

[27] Ibid, p 197.

[28] Ibid, p 198.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid, p 199.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid, p 265.

[36] Ibid, p 269 : ”CAS’s lack of final authority, in particular where state public policy or EU law are in question, derogates from CAS’s lex sportiva being an independent legal order“.

[37] For a similar idea applied to international courts, see Von Bogdandy A, Venzke I (2014) In Whose Name? A Public Law Theory of International Adjudication. Oxford University Press, New York.

 

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