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

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: TPO and Spanish football, friends with(out) benefits?

Update: On 14 April footballleaks released a series of documents concerning Sporting de Gijón. Therefore, I have updated this blog on 19 April to take into account the new information provided.  

Doyen Sports’ TPO (or TPI) model has been touted as a “viable alternative source of finance much needed by the large majority of football clubs in Europe". These are the words of Doyen’s CEO, Nélio Lucas, during a debate on (the prohibition of) TPO held at the European Parliament in Brussels last January. During that same debate, La Liga’s president, Javier Tebas, contended that professional football clubs, as private undertakings, should have the right to obtain funding by private investors to, among other reasons, “pay off the club’s debts or to compete better”. Indeed, defendants of the TPO model continuously argue that third party investors, such as Doyen, only have the clubs’ best interests in mind, being the only ones capable and willing to prevent professional football clubs from going bankrupt. This claim constitutes an important argument for the defendants of the TPO model, such as La Liga and La Liga Portuguesa, who have jointly submitted a complaint in front of the European Commission against FIFA’s ban of the practice.[1]

The eruption of footballleaks provided the essential material necessary to test this claim. It allows us to better analyse and understand the functioning of third party investment and the consequences for clubs who use these services. The leaked contracts between Doyen and, for example, FC Twente, showed that the club’s short term financial boost came at the expense of its long-term financial stability. If a club is incapable of transferring players for at least the minimum price set in Doyen’s contracts, it will find itself in a financially more precarious situation than before signing the Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA). TPO might have made FC Twente more competitive in the short run, in the long run it pushed the club (very) close to bankruptcy.

More than four months after its launch, footballleaks continues to publish documents from the football world, most notably Doyen’s ERPAs involving Spanish clubs. For this blog, our dataset will cover the two ERPAs between Doyen and Sporting de Gijón (found here and here); the ERPAs between Doyen and Sevilla FC for Kondogbia and Babá; the ERPAs between Doyen and Getafe for Abdelazziz Barreda and Pedro León; the ERPA between Doyen and Granada CF for Luís Martins; the ERPA between Doyen and Atlético Madrid for Josuha Guilavogui; and the ERPA between Doyen and Valencia CF for Dorlan Pabón.

The first part of this blog will provide background information on the recent economic history of Spanish football. The posterior in-depth analysis of the ERPAs will thus be placed in context. The blog will also include a table with the relevant facts from the ERPAs completed with the information included in an Excel document showing a map of deals and transactions allegedly conducted by Doyen and recently published on footballleaks. Relevant facts and figures that are not found in the ERPAs or in the Excel document, will be taken from the website www.transfermarkt.de. Based on the outcome of the analysis, we will attempt to conclude whether, and to what extent, the ERPAs have been profitable for the clubs involved, from a financial and competitive perspective.

 

Financial misery and TV rights inequality off the field

The financial misery

Spain was one of the countries most affected by the global financial crisis that commenced in 2008. The unemployment rate was above 25% for a long period of time and its budget deficit was about 10% from 2008 to 2012. The (professional) football sector also suffered from this general financial crisis. A study on the financial situation of Spanish clubs during the period 2007-2011 shows that by June 2011, 80% of La Liga clubs had a negative working capital. This meant that the clubs’ short term assets were not enough to cover the short term debts. The study further explains that the main reason for the financial difficulties is the excess of expenditures on players, i.e. paying transfer fees and salaries that clubs cannot afford. Not surprisingly, by 2011, half of the clubs from the Spanish first and second division had entered bankruptcy proceedings. A large part of the total debt was owed to the Spanish public authorities. In 2012, clubs in Spain's top two divisions collectively owed some €750 million to the tax authorities and another €600 million to the social security system. One of the teams who signed ERPAs with Doyen, Atlético Madrid, was known to have a tax debt which accounted for a fifth of the entire league’s tax debt. In fact, their tax debt of over €120 million amounted to over 60% of their annual revenue. Almost 40% of the clubs in the top two divisions presented negative equity, meaning that they were in clear need for funds from other parties. The general economic crisis prevented clubs to get these funds through normal means, like shareholders, members, sponsorships and bank loans. Local authorities were many times willing to aid their clubs. For example, the municipality of Gijón had rescued Sporting de Gijón by relocating its youth training facilities and subsequently buying the facilities for €12 million. Another example is that of Valencia CF. In its ambition to grow, the club decided to build a new stadium. The idea was to finance the new stadium by selling the old stadium. Once again, due to the financial crisis, and particularly the collapse of the housing market, it suddenly was incapable of selling the old stadium for the required price. The construction on the new stadium had already commenced with loaned money which could not be paid back. The municipality’s decision to place a State guarantee on this loan has been the subject of a formal State aid investigation by the European Commission.

 

TV Rights income inequality

One of the most important ways to generate income for professional football clubs is through the selling of TV rights. The Spanish clubs combined generated roughly €700 million per year from the selling of TV rights between 2010 and 2015.[2] This is slightly more than the €628 million the German Bundesliga was making per year between 2013 and 2016, but less than €940 million the Italian league was making in the 2012-13 season. The English Premier League is in a league of its own in this regard, which is making about €1.2 billion per year from the 2013-14 season onwards.[3]

Notwithstanding the total €700 million a year, most Spanish clubs do not derive enough money from selling the TV rights to compensate their losses. One has to keep in mind that where the clubs of Europe’s other major football leagues (e.g. England, Germany, France and Italy) were selling their TV rights jointly, Spanish clubs were still selling their TV rights individually. By means of the individual selling system, Spain’s two most popular clubs, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, were capable of selling their TV rights for much more money than the other clubs. In the 2010/11 season for example, out of the €641 million generated in total, FC Barcelona got €163 million, whereas Real Madrid got €156 million. The remaining 16 clubs of La Liga had to share the remaining €322 million, which is slightly more than €20 million per club on average. By contrast, the ‘smaller clubs’ of the English Premier League were still making at least €49 million in that same season, which is two-and-a-half times as much as their Spanish counterparts.[4] Even the club that was earning least money in Italy in 2012, Pescara, was earning more per year from the selling of TV rights than the average Spanish club (€25 million).

Calls for a fairer distribution of TV rights income in Spain have been heard for years, particularly from the smaller clubs, but the switch to a joint selling system will only take place as of the start of the 2016-17 season. It is believed that continuous lobbying by Real Madrid and FC Barcelona against the joint selling system is the main reason for this delay. In a way, it could be argued that apart from reckless risks on the transfer market and the effects of the Spanish financial crisis, the dominant position of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona is what led to many Spanish clubs being in severe financial difficulties. The urge of these clubs to turn to investment companies like Doyen becomes more understandable, given that the system itself did not allow them from obtaining funds from other ‘normal’ sources.    

 

The ERPA’s and its aftermaths explained

On the day of writing this blog (12 April 2016), nine ERPAs between Doyen and Spanish football clubs were published on the website of footballleaks. The ERPAs are divided in two groups: Firstly, the ERPAs that proved to be successful for both the club and Doyen are analysed; the second part combines all the ERPAs in which the players concerned were either not sold for high enough profit, or not transferred at all. As will be shown, these ERPAs had mostly negative financial consequences for the clubs.

 

The successful ERPAS: Kondogbia and Barrada

Sevilla’s recent sporting successes, most notably winning the Europa League four times since 2006, are said to have been the result of a high level youth academy combined with an excellent scouting network. However, it has never been a secret that Sevilla made use of the services provided by Doyen, including the signing of ERPAs. In a well-publicised seminar on TPO that took place in April 2015, Sevilla defended the TPO model and made clear that it was against an outright ban of the practice. The ERPA concerning Geoffrey Kondogbia and his subsequent transfer to AS Monaco can explain why Sevilla is in favour of the TPO model. Kondogbia was transferred from RC Lens to Sevilla on the same date as the signing of the ERPA (26 July 2012) for €3 million. With the objective of obtaining 100% of the Economic rights, Doyen paid RC Lens the full amount of the transfer fee. In turn, Sevilla would buy from Doyen 50% of the economic rights for €1.65 million. Even though the minimum transfer fee was set by the parties at €6 million, Kondogbia was sold only one year later to AS Monaco for a staggering €20 million. An excellent deal for Doyen, which registered a profit of €7.89 million.[5] This ERPA is an example of a collaboration between a club and an investment fund, which has been highly profitable for both. With the “help” of Doyen, Sevilla managed to sign a young player and sell him for a profit not long after. However, as can be seen below, even Sevilla has signed ERPAs that have not been very beneficial for the club.

 

A second “successful ERPA” signed between Doyen and a Spanish club was the ERPA between Doyen and Getafe for Barrada. Similar to many other ERPAs, it stipulated that Getafe was not able to obtain financial support from the banking system due “to the current financial crisis”. Therefore, Getafe decided to sell 60% of the economic rights of one of its most promising young players for €1.5 million to Doyen. Both parties agreed that the minimum transfer value of Barrada was €5 million. Consequently, as can be deducted under paragraph 7 of the ERPA, Doyen’s minimum return would always be at least €3 million (60% of €5 million), guaranteeing Doyen a profit of €1.5 million (€3 million minimum return minus €1.5 million grant fee). The minimum return was easily surpassed after Barrada was transferred to Al-Jazira for €8.5 million in 2013. In accordance with Doyen’s own figures, the investment fund obtained €3.35 million for this transfer, a profit of 223%.[6]

 

The many “failed” ERPAs

Atlético Madrid was no novice to the practice of TPO when it sold 50% of Joshua Guivalogui’s economic rights for €5 million to Doyen. As can be seen from the ‘Map of Deals’, Atlético had previously sold 33% of the economic rights of the highly successful Atlético player, Falcao, to Doyen for €10 million. His later transfer to AS Monaco for €43 million was probably also economically beneficial for Atlético. Guivalogui, however, has been less successful wearing an Atlético shirt. He has played seven games in total for the club in two-and-a-half years, having been loaned to St-Étienne for the 2013-14 season, and to VfL Wolfsburg for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. If Wolfsburg decides to lift the option it has to buy Guivalogui for €4 million[7], Atlético Madrid will probably need to pay an additional amount to Doyen in order to reach the agreed minimum fee of €6.5 million.[8]

As regards Sevilla FC, where the ERPA concerning Kondogbia can be seen as “successful”, Babá’s ERPA tells a completely different story. Sevilla sold 20% of Babá’s economic rights for €660.000 to Doyen in 2012. Nonetheless, Babá never managed to secure a spot in the Sevilla squad and he was loaned out to Getafe and Levante between 2013 and 2015. After his contract expired with Sevilla in the summer of 2015, he moved back to his former club Marítimo as a free agent. Although Sevilla did not receive a fee for this transfer, Doyen still obtained a guaranteed profit of €148.000, as can be seen from the ‘map of deals’.

The Guivalogui ERPA and the Babá ERPA tell a similar story. Both players did not fulfil the expectations the clubs had of them at the moment Doyen bought parts of their economic rights. As a result, they were transferred, or are going to be transferred, for an amount well below the agreed minimum return. A similar run of events occurred with Luís Martins and Dorlan Pabon. Both players were not successful at Granada and Valencia respectively, and were transferred at a loss for the club. The exact figures of the transfers can be found in the table below.

The ERPA’s signed between Doyen and Sporting de Gijón are particularly interesting in terms of “failure”, because they illustrate perfectly the desperate situation the club found itself in. Sporting has been on the verge of disappearing not once, but several times in the last 10 to 15 years. In 2005, its total debt amounted to €51 million, with more than half owed to the public authorities. As a result, the club entered bankruptcy proceedings. In 2007, a settlement was reached between the club and its creditors. Even though the club still had a debt of €35.8 million, a Spanish court decided to terminate the bankruptcy proceedings. By the second half of 2011, the club presented a positive balance sheet at the shareholders’ general assembly for a fifth year in a row, but in reality Sporting was still acute financial difficulties, as the club would admit later on. It is this acute need for money that made the club turned to Doyen twice in less than a year. The fact that Sporting de Gijón is still alive today (albeit in danger of relegating to the second division), makes one wonder whether the ERPA with Doyen actually aided the club in its fight for survival or whether it worsened the situation in a similar way as FC Twente’s.

The first agreement concerns the purchase for €2 million of part of the economic rights of nine players who, at the time of signing, were registered as Sporting players.[9] Future transfers of one or more of these players would need to generate a profit of €7 million for Doyen.[10] The lifespan of the first agreement was not very long, as it was replaced by a second ERPA on 22 March 2012. Indeed, Sporting de Gijón stated officially on 23 February 2016 that the first ERPA never deployed any legal effects.

The first ERPA and the second ERPA between Doyen and Sporting show some clear similarities. For an amount of €2 million, Doyen buys 25% of the economic rights of all the players of both the first team and Sporting B (the second team).[11] This percentage remains 25% until Doyen obtains an amount of €7 million from the transfers of Sporting players to other clubs. Once this amount is reached, the percentage will be reduced to 15% until a further €3 million is earned by Doyen. Therefore, the minimum return Doyen should get is that of €10 million. Should Doyen not have received €7 million or more by 31 January 2015, the percentage of the economic rights owned by Doyen of all the Sporting and Sporting B players will be increased to 35%. Doyen's share of the economic rights would also increase to 35% if the club relegates from the first division (clause 2.5). A further important element of the ERPA is clause 4.1, by which Sporting names Doyen as the exclusive agent (intermediary) of the club for all transfer and loan operations of Sporting players. 

By using the ‘map of deals’ and transfermarkt, we have listed all Sporting and Sporting B players sold after March 2012. These players were:

-          Davud Barral – sold for €2 million to Orduspor on 5 July 2012;

-          Alberto Botía – sold for €3 million to Sevilla FC on 11 August 2012;

-          Miguel de las Cuevas – sold for €1.2 million to CA Osasuna on 1 July 2013;

-          Óscar Guido Trejo – sold for €2.7 million to FC Toulouse on 19 July 2013;

-          Borja López - sold for €2.2 million to AS Monaco on 2 August 2013;

-          Stefan Scepovic - sold for €2.56 million to Celtic FC on 1 September 2014.

A closer look at the ‘map of deals’ shows one important discrepancy compared to the ERPA of 22 March 2012. The share of economic rights owned by Doyen were not 25% (as stipulated in the ERPA), but 45%. Thanks to footballleaks' release of the so-called 'Escritura de Liquidación' on 14 April we now know what caused this increase. Firstly, in accordance with clause 2.5 of the ERPA, the economic rights owned by Doyen of all the Sporting players (except Botía and De las Cuevas) increased to 35%, since Sporting relegated to the second division in May 2012. Secondly, being an intermediary in all of these transfers, Doyen was entitled to an additional 10% of all the income generated from the transfers.[12] The ‘map of deals’ shows that the transfers of Sporting players has so far led to Doyen receiving more than €3.5 million, a profit of about €1.5 million for their €2 million investment. Nonetheless, this figure is still well short of the minimum return Doyen expects to get of €10 million. In other words, should the ERPA still be in force, Sporting is still required to sell more players if it is to meet its obligations towards Doyen.

Table summarizing the analysed ERPA’s signed between Doyen and Spanish clubs


Conclusion

The reason that many Spanish clubs decided to sell economic rights of players to companies like Doyen from about 2011 to 2015 (the year FIFA banned the practice) is relatively straightforward: The financial crisis was heavily felt in Spanish football, with many clubs incapable of paying off high debts owed to the public authorities. Moreover, the difference between the financial and competitive power of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona on the one hand, and all the other clubs on the other was only getting bigger. Not only did competing at national level become close to impossible, even smaller clubs from England were generating more than twice the revenues of Spanish clubs. The chances of being successful at European level were at risk.

Doyen was basically at the right place, at the right time. The ‘small’ Spanish clubs were in desperate need for money, either to compete or simply to survive, and Doyen was willing to give them this money in return for (part of) the economic rights of their football players. From the outside, it looks like a perfect match between club and investment fund. However, was TPO profitable for Spanish football clubs from a competitive and financial perspective?

From a financial perspective, the business is clearly lucrative for Doyen. As can be seen in the table, by investing €19.335 million it so far made a profit of €15.757 million.[13] In other words, an 81.5% profit! The same cannot be said for the clubs. Only the transfers of Barrada from Getafe to Al-Jazira and Kondogbia from Sevilla to AS Monaco were profitable. For all the other ERPAs, it appears that an a posteriori compensation to Doyen was necessary, because the amount obtained through the transfer could not cover the minimum return secured to Doyen in the ERPAs.

The legal discussions on TPO to a large extent focused on whether the practice leads to an unauthorized influence of third parties on the internal governance and policies of a club; and on whether a complete ban is contrary to (EU) competition law. Yet, the aspect that remains underexposed in the author’s opinion is the severe negative financial effect TPO can have on a football club. As we have discussed a couple of months ago in a blog on FC Twente, the financial position of the Dutch club deteriorated after signing the ERPA to such an extent that the club is now in serious danger of disappearing all together.

It is possible, though unlikely, that FC Twente’s downfall was an exception.  However, one should not underestimate Sporting de Gijon’s current financial situation, for example. A closer look at the ‘map of deals’ tells us that in March 2015 Sporting had only paid €250.000 of the €3.5 million it owed Doyen. A total debt of at least €3 million was confirmed in an official joined statement, dated 29 February 2016. The statement further holds that this debt has to be repaid before 2019, but one cannot help thinking that, for a club like Sporting de Gijón, this is easier said than done. Getting the money from future transfers should be complicated if Sporting only partially owns the economic rights of its own players, plus a looming relegation to the second division at the end of this season will not be beneficial either.[14]



[1] More information on the TPO ban can be found in our previous Blogs, such as “Blog Symposium: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law – Introduction”.

[2] The total amount generated for the 2010/11 season was €641, see Mail Online, “Barca and Real consider sharing TV rights to make La Liga more competitive”; The total amount generated for the 2014/15 season was €742.5 million, see Marca, “Así será el reparto del dinero televisivo”.

[3] As of the 2016-17 season, The English Premier League will make €2.1 billion per year, see Mail Online, "Premier League set for £3bn windfall from global TV rights as rival broadcasters slug it out to screen England-based superstars"

[4] More information on the selling of TV rights in football can be found in our previous Blogs, such as “Why the European Commission will not star in the Spanish TV rights Telenovela”.

[5] See: Map of deals and transactions updated until 10 March 2015.

[6] See: Map of deals and transactions updated until 10 March 2015.

[7] Transfermarkt - Josuha Guilavogui.

[8] The original minimum return of €5.5 million set in September 2013 was increased every year by €500.000 until 1 September 2015, since Doyen continued to own 50% of the Guilavogui’s economic rights.

[9] The players concerned were Roberto Canella Suárez, Álvaro Bustos Sandoval, Alejandro Serrano García, Abdou Karim Tima, Mendy Formose, Juan Muñiz Gallego, Sergio Álvarez Díaz, Óscar Guido Trejo and David Barral Torres.

[10] In the first phase, Doyen receives a percentage of 50% of the economic rights of the nine players until Doyen received an amount of €5 million for the transfer of one or more of those players. After Doyen receives its first €5 million, Doyen’s ownership of the economic rights of the remaining players is to be reduced to 40% until Doyen received an additional €1 million. Once Doyen receives this additional €1 million, Doyen’s ownership of the economic rights of the remaining players would be reduced to 30% until Doyen again receives €1 million from the selling of those players. Consequently, the agreement stipulates that Doyen is to receive an amount equal or superior to €7 million for the transfer of players in which it partly owned the economic rights.

[11] As an exception, Doyen only gets 10% of the economic rights of the players Alberto Botía and Miguel de las Cuevas.

[12] Moreover, the 20% of the transfer fee for De las Cuevas that Sporting owed Doyen consisted of 10% for the economic rights and 10% as an agency fee.

[13] This figure might even get higher when taking into account that Doyen had a share in all Sporting de Gijón players and the fact that Pedro León is still registered as a Getafe player.

[14] With seven matches to go, Sporting finds itself in 17th place.

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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

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.

More...

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 | Our International Sports Law Diary <br/>The <a href="http://www.sportslaw.nl" target="_blank">Asser International Sports Law Centre</a> is part of the <a href="https://www.asser.nl/" target="_blank"><img src="/sportslaw/blog/media/logo_asser_horizontal.jpg" style="vertical-align: bottom; margin-left: 7px;width: 140px" alt="T.M.C. Asser Instituut" /></a>

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

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...


UEFA’s betting fraud detection system: How does the CAS regard this monitoring tool? By Emilio García.

Editor’s note: Emilio García (emilio.garcia@uefa.ch)  is a doctor in law and head of disciplinary and integrity at UEFA. Before joining UEFA, he was the Spanish Football Federation’s legal director (2004–12) and an arbitrator at the CAS (2012–13).In this blog, Emilio García provides a brief review of a recent case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS): Klubi Sportiv Skënderbeu v UEFA (CAS 2016/A/4650)[1], in which he acted as main counsel for UEFA. 


Sport and match-fixing – A quick overview

Match-fixing is now legally defined as “an intentional arrangement, act or omission aimed at an improper alteration of the result or the course of a sports competition in order to remove all or part of the unpredictable nature of the aforementioned sports competition with a view to obtaining an undue advantage for oneself or for others”.[2] It has been said that there has always been match-fixing in sport.[3] From the ancient Olympic Games to the most important global sports competitions of today, manipulation of results has always been an all-too-frequent occurrence.

We have seen a number of very prominent instances of this kind of issue over the years. One of the most remarkable examples, which was even the subject of a film,[4] was the match-fixing episode during the 1919 World Series, where several players from the Chicago White Sox were found guilty of accepting bribes and deliberately losing matches against the Cincinnati Reds.[5]

The situation has changed considerably since then. In particular, the globalisation of the sports betting industry has had a massive impact, with recent studies estimating that between €200bn and €500bn is betted on sport every year.[6] Match-fixing does not just affect football either;[7] it is also affecting other sports, most notably tennis.[8] More...


The Diarra Ruling of the Tribunal of Charleroi: The New Pechstein, Bosman or Mutu?

Yesterday the sports law world was buzzing due to the Diarra decision of the Tribunal de Commerce du Hainaut (the Tribunal) based in Charleroi, Belgium. Newspapers were lining up (here, here and here) to spread the carefully crafted announcement of the new triumph of Jean-Louis Dupont over his favourite nemesis: the transfer system. Furthermore, I was lucky enough to receive on this same night a copy of the French text of the judgment. My first reaction while reading quickly through the ruling, was ‘OMG he did it again’! “He” meaning Belgian lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont, who after a string of defeats in his long shot challenge against FIFA’s TPO ban or UEFA’s FFP (see here and here), had [at least I believed after rushing carelessly through the judgment] manufactured a new “it”: a Bosman. Yet, after carefully re-reading the judgment, it became quickly clear to me that this was rather a new Mutu (in the sense of the latest CAS award in the ‘Mutu saga’, which I have extensively analysed on this blog and in a recent commentary for the new Yearbook of International Sports Arbitration) coupled with some reflections reminding a bit (but not really as will be explicated below) the Pechstein case.

In this blog, I will retrace briefly the story behind the case and then analyse the decision of the Belgium court. In doing so, I will focus on its reasoning regarding its jurisdiction and the compatibility of article 17(2) RSTP with EU law.More...

The Russian Doping Scandal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: The IPC’s Rio Ineligibility of Russian Paralympic Athletes

Editor's note: This blog is part of a special blog series on the Russian doping scandal at the CAS. Last year I analysed the numerous decisions rendered by the CAS ad hoc Division in Rio and earlier this year I reviewed the CAS award in the IAAF case.

Unlike the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was very much unaffected by the Russian doping scandal until the publication of the first McLaren report in July 2016. The report highlighted that Russia’s doping scheme was way more comprehensive than what was previously thought. It extended beyond athletics to other disciplines, including Paralympic sports. Furthermore, unlike the International Olympic Committee (IOC) the IPC had a bit more time to deal with the matter, as the Rio Paralympic Games were due to start “only” in September.

After the release of the McLaren Report, the IPC president Sir Philip Craven was “truly shocked, appalled and deeply saddened at the extent of the state sponsored doping programme implemented in Russia”. He immediately announced the IPC’s intention to review the report’s findings and to act strongly upon them. Shortly thereafter, on 22 July, the IPC decided to open suspension proceedings against the National Paralympic Committee of Russia (NPC Russia) in light of its apparent inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations. In particular, due to “the prevailing doping culture endemic within Russian sport, at the very highest levels, NPC Russia appears unable or unwilling to ensure compliance with and the enforcement of the IPC’s Anti-Doping Code within its own national jurisdiction”. A few weeks later, on 7 August, the IPC Governing Board decided to suspend the Russian Paralympic Committee with immediate effect “due to its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory)”. Indeed, these “obligations are a fundamental constitutional requirement for all National Paralympic Committees (NPCs), and are vital to the IPC’s ability to ensure fair competition and to provide a level playing field for all Para athletes around the world”. Consequently, the Russian Paralympic Committee lost all rights and privileges of IPC membership. Specifically, it was not entitled to enter athletes in competitions sanctioned by the IPC, and/or to participate in IPC activities. Thus, “the Russian Paralympic Committee will not be able to enter its athletes in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games”. More...


The Russian Doping Scandal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: The IAAF’s Rio Ineligibility of Russian Athletes

Since the release of the earth-shattering ARD documentary two years ago, the athletics world has been in a permanent turmoil. The International Athletics Association Federation (IAAF) is faced with both a never-ending corruption scandal (playing out in front of the French police authorities) and the related systematic doping of Russian athletes. The situation escalated in different phases led by the revelations of Russian insiders. First, in December 2014 with the ARD documentary, which demonstrated how widespread (and organized) the recourse to doping was in Russian athletics. It triggered the Pound investigation financed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which led to two damaging reports (available here and here) for the Russian anti-doping system and the IAAF itself. Thereafter, in November 2015, the IAAF had no other choice but to provisionally suspend the Russian athletics federation (ARAF then RusAF) and its members from IAAF competitions. Yet, this was only the beginning as shortly after the former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory provided a detailed sketch to the New York Times of the operation of a general state-led doping scheme in Russia. The system was designed to avert any positive doping tests for top-level Russian sportspeople and was going way beyond athletics. These allegations were later largely confirmed and reinforced by the McLaren investigation initiated by WADA in May 2016, and which published its first report in July 2016 shortly before the Rio Olympics. In June 2016, the IAAF anticipated the conclusions of the report (it had received most of McLaren’s evidence beforehand) and decided to maintain the ineligibility of Russian athletes for IAAF competitions, and for the Rio Olympics. It did, however, foresee a narrow exception for Russian athletes able to show that they were properly tested outside of Russia. Nonetheless, the athletes using this exception were to compete under a neutral flag at the Olympics. Unsurprisingly, Russian athletes led by pole superstar (and now IOC member), Yelena Isinbayeva, and the Russian Olympic Committee decided to challenge this decision in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Interestingly, while the decision was rendered on 21 July 2016, the full text of the award was publically released only on 10 October 2016. In September, I analysed the Rio CAS Ad Hoc Decisions involving Russian athletes aiming to participate to the Olympics. I will now turn to the IAAF decision, which is of great importance to the future of the anti-doping system. Indeed, it lays out the fundamental legal boundaries of the capacity of international federations to impose sanctions on their members (and their members) in order to support the world anti-doping fight. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Exploring the Validity of Unilateral Extension Options in Football – Part 2: The view of the DRC and the CAS. By Saverio Spera

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

Exploring the Validity of Unilateral Extension Options in Football – Part 2: The view of the DRC and the CAS. By Saverio Spera

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

This blog is a follow up to my previous contribution on the validity of Unilateral Extension Options (hereafter UEOs) under national and European law. It focuses on the different approaches taken to UEOs by the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) and the Court of arbitration for sport (CAS). While in general the DRC has adopted a strict approach towards their validity, the CAS has followed a more liberal trend. Nonetheless, the two judicial bodies share a common conclusion: UEOs are not necessarily invalid. In this second blog I will provide an overview of the similarities and differences of the two judicial bodies in tackling UEOs.

The emergence and function of the Portmann criteria

Since their first appearance in a case widely known as the South American Bosman for the impact it had on the whole system of contracts established by the Uruguayan Football Association, the so-called ‘Portmann’ criteria are often referred to in decisions on the validity of UEOs.[1] In short, these criteria provide that:

  1. the potential maximum duration of the employment relationship must not be excessive;
  2. the option has to be exercised within an acceptable deadline before the expiry of the current contract;
  3. the original contract has to define the salary raise triggered by the extension;
  4. the content of the contract must not result in putting one party at the mercy of the other, and;
  5. the option has to be clearly emphasized in the original contract so that the player can have full consciousness of it at the moment of signing.[2]

These five requirements, proposed by Prof Wolfgang Portmann, were meant to represent the standard UEOs had to meet in order to be considered valid and biding upon the players. More precisely, in order not to constitute an excessive self-commitment that would result in a violation of Swiss ordre public.[3] They emerged in the course of the South American Bosman as Prof. Portmann’s report was presented by Atlético Peñarol in the (unsuccessful) attempt to uphold the validity of the unilateral option the club had used in its employment contracts. From that moment on, the Portmann criteria became a recurrent theme in decisions by the DRC and the CAS. However, these criteria have been used over the years in a rather incoherent fashion and their importance in the assessment of UEOs is not unequivocal.

Thereafter, in its first decision, the DRC used the criteria to assess the validity of an UEO.[4] But then it drastically drifted away from them. Actually, in the ensuing decisions the DRC did not refer to the five conditions at all. In some instances it limited itself to recall its established jurisprudence finding the validity of UEOs disputable since they give the stronger party in the employment relationship the power to unilaterally extend or terminate the contract.[5] In another occasion, the DRC expressly dismissed the binding effect of the Portmann report, underlining that it only constitutes a non-binding recommendation.[6]

Furthermore, interestingly, in the appeal proceedings of the Atlético Peñarol case the CAS did not mention the Portmann report in its evaluation of the UEO. The Panel only referred to it in the part of the award that assessed the question of the applicable law and noted that Prof Portmann’s starting point was radically different from that of the Panel, as he deemed Uruguayan law applicable to the dispute, while the Panel applied Swiss law/the RSTP.[7] Having said that, the CAS also seems to have departed from its initial approach, but in a rather different way than the DRC. In an early award of 2007, the CAS refused to give too much weight to the Portmann report and focused its reasoning on other circumstances.[8] Yet, the ensuing awards did not follow suit on this approach. In its more recent awards, the CAS held that the criteria constitute soft guidelines and often de facto relied on them to reach its conclusion on the validity of an option.[9] In one occasion, the CAS even added to the list of requirements two criteria, “emanating from recent developments in the FIFA DRC and CAS jurisprudence”, namely (i) the proportionality between the extension and the main contract and (ii) the desirable limitation of the number of extensions to one.[10]

Regarding the relevance of the Portmann criteria, it seems that the only shared trait between the DRC and the CAS is that both have drifted away from their approach. Though, in quite opposite ways. 

Increase in salary as a sine qua non condition for the validity of UEOs

The question of the increase of the player’s salary is considered central, by both the DRC and the CAS, in deciding the validity of UEOs.

In fact, an improvement of the player’s salary is considered by the DRC as a possible ‘validating’ circumstance since the first published decision on the issue.[11] The FIFA Chamber placed particular emphasis on the necessity to offset the unequal bargaining power that UEOs give to football clubs. To do that, a significant economic gain for the player must be envisaged in the contract as a result of the extension. In the view of the DRC, this is a necessary but sometimes not sufficient condition for the validity of a UEO, since the specification of the financial terms of the renewal in advance “necessarily cannot take into account, neither by the player nor the club, the possible enhancement of the player’s value, and hence earning power, over a two year period”.[12]

In its awards on the matter, the CAS contends that the player must derive a clear economic advantage from the exercise of the option.[13] Thus, the increase in salary is the only requirement that is fully embraced by both the DRC and the CAS. It is interesting to note, however, that in only one occasion did the CAS explicitly mentioned that “[e]ven if the financial terms had to be specified in advance, they necessarily take no account of the possible enhancement of a players value – and hence earning power – over a five year period e.g.: if he becomes an international player during that time”.[14] It is also worth noting that, at least in one award, the CAS concluded that an increase in salary has to be evaluated only in relation to the previous economic conditions of the player’s contract and not in relation to the salary he could earn somewhere else.[15]

In light of the above, it is safe to conclude that an UEO coming with a substantial increase in salary for the player has good chances to be deemed valid by the DRC and the CAS. To this end, a few additional observations are relevant. Firstly, how much is enough? Unfortunately, no clear guidelines can be derived from the case law. Secondly, it is practically impossible to predict the increase in value of a football player over a long-term period. Consequently, what can be considered a reasonable increase in salary at the signing of the contract might be deemed insufficient a few years later. Lastly, and probably most importantly, this approach might overlook the fact that an increase in salary is not always the only element a footballer takes into account in his career, as sometimes more personal considerations might push a player to move to a different club in another country. For instance family reasons might play a significant role in such a decision. Furthermore, football players might often consider more convenient for the development of their careers to give up on an increase in salary in order to have the chance to move to a club with more playing opportunities. An increase in salary, even substantial, should not be the altar on which a footballer’s fundamental freedom of movement and, ultimately, of choice is sacrificed.

The player’s behaviour

The player’s stance has often been evaluated by the DRC in particular as a concurrent element in determining the validity of an UEO. The main argument is that a certain behaviour of the player, such as keeping training and playing official matches with the club, implies a tacit acceptance of the extension. Once again, the DRC and the CAS are not entirely on the same line. The DRC jurisprudence gives more weight to this aspect, while the CAS has mentioned that particular attention has to be paid to “the player’s conduct during the period leading to the negotiation of the alleged extension clause” only in one single case.[16]

With regards to the circumstance that the player has played in official matches as a consequence of the extension, the DRC showed a swinging trend. In one instance, it deemed it not relevant.[17] Yet, in a subsequent decision (the only one by the DRC upholding the validity of an UEO to date), the fact that the player had kept taking part in training sessions and playing official matches for the club after the extension had quite a different impact on the reasoning of the Chamber.[18] More recently, the DRC stated that the fact that the player trained with the club for a month after the alleged renewal does not imply his tacit acceptance of the unilateral extension.[19]

The applicable law

As seen in the first part of this blog, each national jurisdiction interprets the validity of UEOs differently. Consequently, the choice of applicable law can play a major role in the outcome of a case, although the issue arises mainly when the dispute is brought before the CAS. The matter is complicated by the fact that CAS panels have a certain degree of discretion in deciding the law applicable to a dispute, and by the circumstance that even when they apply the same law they might reach different conclusions. With regard to the latter point, let us take into consideration two cases in which the CAS has established Greek law as the applicable law. In one occasion the Panel deemed “appropriate to mitigate the letter of Greek law by the spirit of general principles”, as its content concerning UEOs was considered inconsistent with “general principles of labour law”[20] and consequently dismissed the appeal of the club. In another one, instead, the Panel concluded that the dispute had to be decided according to FIFA Regulations and Swiss law on a subsidiary basis, “with the important exception of any issues related to the Contract […] which shall be decided in accordance with Greek law”.[21] Therefore, given that in Greece unilateral options allowing clubs to automatically extend employment contracts are legal, the Panel upheld the validity of the clause.[22]

A radically different approach was taken by the CAS in the Atlético Peñarol case discussed above. In the absence of an express choice of law of the parties, the Panel deemed the FIFA Regulations and, subsidiarily, Swiss Law applicable. It is worth recalling the reasoning of the Panel, as it could pave the way to a reasonable solution for the UEOs issue. The arbitrators noted that the application of art. 187 of the Swiss LDIP gives wide freedom of choice to the parties, who can even require the arbitrators to decide ex aequo et bono, i.e. without any reference to specific State laws. This means that art. 187 LDIP allows, a fortiori, to refer to rules that transcend the particular State laws, such as sports regulations. The Panel stressed that sport is a phenomenon that naturally crosses borders, and thus it is necessary to ensure uniform legal standards. Only if the same terms and conditions apply to everyone who participates in organised sport, is the integrity and equal opportunity of sporting competition guaranteed. In practice, the FIFA Statutes and Regulations provide such uniform rules. Additionally, the arbitrators underlined that the application of Uruguayan law would lead to a result incompatible with the minimum standards of protection of employees provided by Swiss labour law. Hence, the CAS concluded that the Uruguayan system of UEOs is not compatible with the FIFA Regulations. Furthermore, the Panel noted that these options effectively bypass the basic principles of the FIFA regulations, which “very particularly protect the interests of training clubs through training compensation and the solidarity contribution […] It is not possible that this protection of the contents of a contract between clubs and players can be bypassed in order to serve only the interests of one party, in this case the club, which does not itself have to make a commitment. So the Panel considers that the unilateral contract renewal system is not compatible, in its very principle, with the legal framework which the new FIFA rules were designed to introduce”.[23] In other words, the Uruguayan system seemed to reintroduce, through the backdoor, the system that was abolished with the reforms of the FIFA Regulations 1997, 2001 and 2005.[24]In such a system the player is bound to a contract negotiated at a moment of his career when he did not have a strong bargaining power. Which is to say, the player is left at the mercy of the club. The arbitrators stressed that only the most talented players can escape this mechanism, when the club receives an important transfer offer for their services.[25]In that occasion, the player will hardly refuse the transfer knowing that, doing otherwise, he will be bound to the club because of the UEO in his contract.

Conclusions: The way forward

We have seen in part 1 of this blog that we lack a coherent regulatory framework for UEOs at the national level. This second part has also shown that things are not much clearer at the DRC and the CAS, as the two bodies, while agreeing on the existence of certain criteria, take different approaches on the assessment of each of them (except for the increase in salary). Furthermore, the outcome of a case can be heavily dependent on the applicable law. Consequently, the future validity of UEOs is uncertain, given that no uniformity can be found in the CAS jurisprudence.

The uncertainties related to the applicable law issue are manifold. Upholding the validity of national law, although granting some advantages in terms of foreseeability, presents two main drawbacks. First of all for the clubs which draft the contracts and cannot predict to what extent this law will be deemed applicable by the CAS and, consequently, are unable to draft the contract with all the necessary information desirable in respect to UEO clauses.[26]Secondly, and most importantly, this approach overlooks the fact that football is a global phenomenon, and the transfer market a transnational one, which requires uniform rules at the international level.

The conclusion reached by the Panel in the Atlético Peñarol case is a fair starting point in the quest for more certainty in the matter. The undisputable merit of that award was to clearly highlight (i) the unequal nature of a clause that is accepted by the player at the early stages of his career and (ii) the necessity to have a body of regulations that can be understood and predicted by the entire international football family.[27] Let us conclude, therefore, that only the universal application of a set of regulations, such as the FIFA RSTP, would ensure legal rationality, predictability and, significantly, “the equality of treatment between all the addressees of such regulations, independently of the countries from which they are”.[28] A fortiori, when at stake is the fundamental freedom of movement and choice of footballers, the need to rely on a uniform body of principles and rules, a lex sportiva, universally applicable without discrimination becomes crucial.

However, applying the FIFA Regulations in a standardised way still leaves a problem unsolved. This body of rules is in fact silent on the very issue of UEOs. FIFA could tackle the issue in a variety of ways, for instance by codifying in the RSTP a revisited version of the Portmann criteria. Suggesting precise reforms to FIFA goes beyond the purpose of this blog, but one thing is sure: in the face of the extreme uncertainty that surrounds the validity of these clauses, having one single body of rules expressly targeting the issue and universally applicable would be of great help to all the parties involved.


[1] The case concerned the contracts of two Uruguayan players, Carlos Heber Bueno Suárez and Christian Gabriel Rodríguez Barotti with the Uruguayan football club Atlético Peñarol. Pursuant to their contracts, the professional services of Bueno and Rodríguez could be extended unilaterally by the club for two years, provided that their salary would increase in accordance with the National Consumer Price Index. At the end of the season, and after being suspended and deprived of the possibility of playing for four months, the players signed for the French club Paris Saint Germain, and refused the club’s unilateral extension. See TAS 2005/A/983 & 984, Club Atlético Peñarol v. Carlos Heber Buen Suárez, Christian Gabriel Rodríguez Barotti & Paris Saint Germain, award of 12 July 2006. In fact, the framework has slightly changed over the last few years in South America. In Argentina, for instance, the 2009 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) n. 557/09, signed by the Association de Futbol Argentino (AFA) and the Union of Amateur and Professional Football Player provides the current guidelines. In this context, contracts of athletes who have reached the age of 21 can be extended once for one year only, provided that a salary increase of 20% is guaranteed as a consequence of the extension. Extension options for players older than 21 shall be considered null and void, even in the circumstance that AFA has registered the contract, and consequently the player is to be declared a free agent and thus free to sign a contract with another club (see Colucci, Hendricks, Regulating Employment Relationships in Professional Football, A Comparative Analysis, European Sports Law and Policy Bulletin 1/2014, 26). See also Juan de Dios Crespo Pérez’s commentary of the case in A. Wild (ed.) CAS and Football: Landmark Cases (2011), 118. 

[2] F. de Weger, The Jurisprudence of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber, 169.

[3] Prof Portmann considered South American law the law applicable to the substance of the matter. Nevertheless, according to the author, in order to be considered valid, the option not only had to be consistent with local employment law, Collective Bargaining Agreements and regulations of the relevant national association, but it also had to respect mandatory rules of Swiss law and Swiss ordre public. Although he considered the principle of parity of termination rights not part of ordre public per se (and, therefore, the circumvention of that right that these clauses entail not problematic in itself), he stressed that an excessive self-commitment of one of the parties to a contract could indeed result in an infringement of Swiss and international ordre public.

[4] In the unpublished decision 12 January 2007 (see F. de Weger, The Jurisprudence of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber, 169), the DRC made reference to the five elements of the Portmann report to conclude that the option was not valid because, among other considerations, the notice period was too short.

[5] See decision 30 November 2007 n. 117707 and decision 7 May 2008 n. 58860.

[6] See decision18 March 2010 n. 310607, where the DRC interestingly pointed out that the inequality derives from the fact that the player, given the circumstances of contractual inferiority existing at the time he signs his first contract, either accepts the contract with the UEO or gives up on playing football with that team.

[7] TAS 2005/A/983 & 984, Club Atlético Peñarol v. Carlos Heber Buen Suárez, Christian Gabriel Rodríguez Barotti & Paris Saint Germain, award of 12 July 2006, para. 66.

[8] CAS 2006/A/1157, Club Atlético Boca Juniors v. Genoa Cricket and Football Club S.p.A., Award of 31 January 2007, para. 16. The Panel had “great difficulty in following Dr Portmann’s reasoning, and in accepting the validity and enforceability of a unilateral option”. The arbitrators deemed more important, instead, to put emphasis on the general assumption that a person, and a fortiori a minor who had just moved with his family to another country, cannot be required to perform a contract for personal services against his or her will.

[9] The CAS held recently that “these criteria may be taken into consideration and are important, but […] they are not absolute rules, the failure of which would determine the absolute invalidity of the option clause”, in CAS 2014/A/3852, Ascoli Calcio 1898 S.p.A. v. Papa Waigo N’diaye & Al Wahda Sprts and Cultural Club, award of 11 January 2016, para. 86.

[10] More precisely, a Panel held “the need to not accord too much weight and value to the Portmann criteria at the expense of the very important specifics and circumstances behind each individual dispute” CAS 2013/A/3260, Grêmio Foot-ball Porto Alegrense v. Maximiliano Gastón López, Award of 4 March 2014, para. 76, see also para. 68-69.

[11] In Decision 22 July 2004, the DRC noted that because the player’s economic conditions remained substantially unaltered in the renewal, the option was invalid.

[12] See Decision 23 March 2006, para 14. In this case, the DRC deemed that a monthly increase of less than € 1.000 of the player’s salary could not be seen as a significant economic gain for the player.

[13] See CAS 2004/A/678, Apollon Kalamarias F.C. v. Oliveira Morais, award of 20 May 2005, para. 21 and TAS 2005/A/983 & 984, Club Atlético Peñarol v. Carlos Heber Buen Suárez, Christian Gabriel Rodríguez Barotti & Paris Saint Germain, award of 12 July 2006, para. 93. See also CAS 2005/A/973, Panathinaikos Football Club v. Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Award of 10 October 2006 and CAS 2013/A/3260, Grêmio Foot-ball Porto Alegrense v. Maximiliano Gastón López, Award of 4 March 2014, para. 77.

[14] CAS 2004/A/678, Apollon Kalamarias F.C. v. Oliveira Morais, award of 20 May 2005, para 21.

[15] See CAS 2005/A/973, Panathinaikos Football Club v. Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Award of 10 October 2006, para. 23. In which the Panel considered inappropriate to compare between the salary of the extended contract from the Greek club and the salary the footballer would have received at a club in the Scottish league (the Rangers FC) since “it is well known that football clubs operating in richer markets are able to offer a higher income to players”.

[16] CAS 2013/A/3260, Grêmio Foot-ball Porto Alegrense v. Maximiliano Gastón López, Award of 4 March 2014, para. 70.

[17] See Decision 13 May 2005. Here the DRC also pointed out the non-decisiveness of the acceptance by the player of a payment of €1,950 after the extension as a result of the new contract.

[18] See Decision 21 February 2006, in which the DRC noted that: (i) the player had waited almost five months after the beginning of the extension to bring the case before the FIFA.

[19] See Decision 31 July 2013.

[20] CAS 2004/A/678, Apollon Kalamarias F.C. v. Oliveira Morais, award of 20 May 2005, para 24. The Panel dismissed the appeal of the club even though its contract with the player seemed to be drafted in conformity with Greek Sports Law, which – pursuant to Law 2725/99 – allows for the unilateral renewal of the contract provided that (i) the overall duration of the contract, including the extensions, does not exceed five years and that (ii) the financial terms are agreed at the signing of the initial contract.

[21] CAS 2005/A/973, Panathinaikos Football Club v. Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Award of 10 October 2006, para.10.

[22] The Panel, which considered “inappropriate to apply substantive Swiss law to the contract as it has no connection whatsoever with Switzerland (para. 8), made reference to the same Law 2725/99.

[23] TAS 2005/A/983 & 984, Club Atlético Peñarol v. Carlos Heber Buen Suárez, Christian Gabriel Rodríguez Barotti & Paris Saint Germain, award of 12 July 2006, paras. 81-83 (the translation is of the author).

[24] Ibid., para. 80.

[25] Ibid., para. 79.

[26] Ibid.

[27] J-S Leuba, R Fox, J de Dios Crespo Pérez, G L Acosta Perez and F m de Weger, ‘Contractual Stability: Unilateral Options’, in A. Wild (ed.) CAS and Football: Landmark Cases (2011), 119.

[28] Ibid.

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