Asser International Sports Law Blog

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

The Olympic Agenda 2020: The devil is in the implementation!

The 40 recommendations of the Olympic Agenda 2020 are out! First thought: one should not underplay the 40 recommendations, they constitute (on paper at least) a potential leap forward for the IOC. The media will focus on the hot stuff: the Olympic channel, the pluri-localisation of the Games, or their dynamic format. More importantly, and to some extent surprisingly to us, however, the IOC has also fully embraced sustainability and good governance. Nonetheless, the long-term legacy of the Olympic Agenda 2020 will hinge on the IOC’s determination to be true to these fundamental commitments. Indeed, the devil is always in the implementation, and the laudable intents of some recommendations will depend on future political choices by Olympic bureaucrats. 

For those interested in human rights and democracy at (and around) the Olympics, two aspects are crucial: the IOC’s confession that the autonomy of sport is intimately linked to the quality of its governance standards and the central role the concept of sustainability is to play in the bidding process and the host city contract.  More...

UEFA’s tax-free Euro 2016 in France: State aid or no State aid?

Last week, the French newspaper Les Echos broke the story that UEFA (or better said its subsidiary) will be exempted from paying taxes in France on revenues derived from Euro 2016. At a time when International Sporting Federations, most notably FIFA, are facing heavy criticisms for their bidding procedures and the special treatment enjoyed by their officials, this tax exemption was not likely to go unnoticed. The French minister for sport, confronted with an angry public opinion, responded by stating that tax exemptions are common practice regarding international sporting events. The former French government agreed to this exemption. In fact, he stressed that without it “France would never have hosted the competition and the Euro 2016 would have gone elsewhere”. More...

The New Olympic Host City Contract: Human Rights à la carte? by Ryan Gauthier, PhD Researcher (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Three weeks ago, I gave a talk for a group of visiting researchers at Harvard Law School on the accountability of the IOC for human rights abuses caused by hosting Olympic Games. On the day of that talk, Human Rights Watch announced that the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) would insert new language into the Host City Contract presumably for the 2022 Olympic Games onwards. The new language apparently requires the parties to the contract to:

“take all necessary measures to ensure that development projects necessary for the organization of the Games comply with local, regional, and national legislation, and international agreements and protocols, applicable in the host country with regard to planning, construction, protection of the environment, health, safety, and labour laws.”More...

The UN and the IOC: Beautiful friendship or Liaison Dangereuse?

The IOC has trumpeted it worldwide as a « historical milestone »: the United Nations has recognised the sacrosanct autonomy of sport. Indeed, the Resolution A/69/L.5 (see the final draft) adopted by the General Assembly on 31 October states that it  “supports the independence and autonomy of sport as well as the mission of the International Olympic Committee in leading the Olympic movement”. This is a logical conclusion to a year that has brought the two organisations closer than ever. In April, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed former IOC President, Jacques Rogge, Special Envoy for Youth Refugees and Sport. At this occasion, the current IOC President, Thomas Bach, made an eloquent speech celebrating a “historic step forward to better accomplish our common mission for humanity” and a memorandum understanding was signed between the UN and the IOC. This is all sweet and well, but is there something new under the sun?More...

Image Rights in Professional Basketball (Part I): The ‘in-n-out rimshot’ of the Basketball Arbitral Tribunal to enforce players’ image rights contracts. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

A warning addressed to fans of French teams featuring in the recently launched video game NBA 2K15: Hurry up! The last jump ball for Strasbourg and Nanterre in NBA 2K 15 may occur earlier than expected. The French Labour Union of Basketball (Syndicat National du Basket, SNB) is dissatisfied that Euroleague and 2K Games did not ask (nor paid) for its permission before including the two teams of Pro A in the NBA 2K15 edition. What is at issue? French basketball players’ image rights have been transferred to SNB, which intends to start proceedings before the US Courts against 2K Games requesting 120.000 euros for unauthorized use of the players’ image rights. SNB is clear: it is not about the money, but rather to defend the players’ rights.[1] Strasbourg and Nanterre risk to “warm up” the virtual bench if this litigation goes ahead. 

Source: http://forums.nba-live.com/viewtopic.php?f=149&t=88661&start=250 More...

Sport and EU Competition Law: uncharted territories - (II) Mandatory player release systems with no compensation for clubs. By Ben Van Rompuy

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

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

In this second installment of this blog series, we discuss a recent judgment of the regional court (Landgericht) of Dortmund finding that the International Handball Federation (IHF)’s mandatory release system of players for matches of national teams without compensation infringes EU and German competition law.[1] More...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asser International Sports Law Blog | FFP for Dummies. All you need to know about UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations.

Asser International Sports Law Blog

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

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

Football-wise, 2014 will not only be remembered for the World Cup in Brazil. This year will also determine the credibility of UEFA’s highly controversial Financial Fair Play (FFP) Regulations. The FFP debate will soon be reaching a climax, since up to 76 European football clubs are facing sanctions by the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB). This large number of clubs includes two heavyweights: Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. On paper they face a potential disqualification from one or more editions of the UEFA Champions League. This would most certainly jeopardize the great ambition their billionaires-owners have for them and would vindicate FFP as a powerful mechanism capable of reigning in even the world’s richest football clubs. Whether this will indeed occur shall remain uncertain until the beginning of May, when UEFA is expected to announce the details of the (potential) disciplinary sanctions. However, in order to grasp the likely consequences of a sanction we offer you the definitive short introduction to FFP.

It is in the view of curtailing the, sometimes dramatic, losses made by an increasing number of football clubs, that UEFA’s Executive Committee decided to introduce the FFP Regulations in May 2010. The stated aims of FFP, stipulated in Article 2 of the Regulation include, inter alia, improving the economic and financial capability of the clubs; increasing their transparency and credibility; introducing more discipline and rationality in club football finances; encouraging clubs to operate on the basis of their own revenues; and protecting the long-term viability and sustainability of European club football. On UEFA’s own website a further aim was mentioned, namely to decrease pressure on salaries and transfer fees.

To achieve these aims, UEFA has introduced the break-even requirement[1]. By this requirement, clubs must demonstrate that their revenue exceeds or equals expenditure. The club’s spending on transfers and employee benefits (including wages) will be counted as expenditure, whereas income from gate receipts, TV revenue, advertising, merchandising, sales of players, and prize money is regarded as revenue. Any money spent on infrastructure, training facilities or youth development will not be included in the assessment.

In accordance with article 68 of FFP Regulations and article 3 of the Procedural rules governing the UEFA Club Financial Control Body, the CFCB is competent to inter alia determine whether clubs fulfil the break-even requirement and impose disciplinary measures in the event of non-fulfilment of the requirement. A first assessment is undertaken by the investigatory chamber, which leads the monitoring process, the investigation proceedings, and collects evidence. At the end of the investigation, the CFCB chief investigator, Jean-Luc Dehaene, after having consulted with the other members of the investigatory chamber, may decide to: (a) Dismiss the case; (b) Conclude, with the consent of the club in question, a settlement agreement; (c) Apply, with the consent of the club in question, a disciplinary measure limited to a warning, a reprimand or a fine up to a maximum amount of EUR 100,000; or (d) Refer the case to the adjudicatory chamber.[2] It should be noted that this is the phase the 76 clubs find themselves in right now.

Should the investigatory chamber decide to refer the case to the adjudicatory chamber, then the adjudicatory chamber can decide to: (a) Dismiss the case; (b) Accept or reject the club’s admission to the UEFA club competition in question; (c) Impose disciplinary measures; or (d) Uphold, reject, or modify a decision of the CFCB chief investigator[3]. A final decision by the adjudicatory chamber will be made before the end of the current season at the latest.

Concerning more specifically the disciplinary measures, Article 29 of the Procedural rules provides a long list of potential measures including fines, deduction of points, withdrawal of a title or award and disqualification from competitions in progress and/or exclusion from future competitions. Undoubtedly, for teams like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain whose greatest ambition is to be successful in Europe’s most prestigious tournaments, a disqualification from European competitions would be the most severe disciplinary sanction possible.

Furthermore, the Procedural rules governing the UEFA Club Financial Control Body give the sanctioned party the possibility to appeal against the decision. The appeal should be launched in accordance with article 34 of the Procedural rules, which states that final decisions of the CFCB may only be appealed before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in accordance with the relevant provisions of the UEFA Statutes.

Whether the CAS will have to pronounce itself on a specific case regarding FFP in the upcoming months will largely depend on the scope of the decisions adopted by the investigatory chamber later this week and then by the adjudicatory chamber in the upcoming month. The effectiveness, credibility and, more broadly, the future of the FFP Regulations are at stake. This is either the beginning of the end for FFP or the end of the beginning. 

A story to be continued…



[1] UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations. Edition 2012, Articles 58-63

[2] UEFA Procedural rules governing the UEFA Club Financial Control Body. Edition 2014, Articles 12-14

[3] Ibid, Article 27

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