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 entitlement to Training Compensation of “previous” clubs under EU Competition Law. By Josep F. Vandellos Alamilla

Editor’s note: Josep F. Vandellos is an international sports lawyer associated to RH&C (Spain). He is also a member of the Editorial Board of the publication Football Legal and a guest lecturer in the ISDE-FC Barcelona Masters’ Degree in Sports Management and Legal Skills.


Article 6 of Annexe IV (Training compensation) of the FIFA-RSTP (Ed. 2016) contains the so-called “Special Provisions for the EU/EEA” applicable to players moving from one association to another inside the territory of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA).
The provisions regarding training compensation result from the understanding reached between FIFA and UEFA with the European Union in March 2001[1], and subsequent modifications introduced in the FIFA-RSTP revised version of 2005 to ensure the compatibility of the transfer system with EU law.[2]
This blog will focus on the exception contained in article 6(3) Annexe IV of the FIFA-RSTP. According to this article, when “the former club” fails to offer a contract to the player, it loses its right to claim training compensation from the players’ new club, unless it can justify that it is entitled to such compensation. Instead, the right of “previous clubs” to training compensation is fully preserved irrespective of their behaviour with the player.[3] From a legal standpoint, such discrimination between the “former club” and the “previous clubs” raises some questions that I will try to address in this paper. More...



The EU State aid and sport saga: The Real Madrid Decision (part 2)

This is the second and final part of the ‘Real Madrid Saga’. Where the first part outlined the background of the case and the role played by the Spanish national courts, the second part focuses on the EU Commission’s recovery decision of 4 July 2016 and dissects the arguments advanced by the Commission to reach it. As will be shown, the most important question the Commission had to answer was whether the settlement agreement of 29 July 2011 between the Council of Madrid and Real Madrid constituted a selective economic advantage for Real Madrid in the sense of Article 107(1) TFEU.[1] Before delving into that analysis, the blog will commence with the other pending question, namely whether the Commission also scrutinized the legality of the operation Bernabeú-Opañel under EU State aid law. By way of reminder, this operation consisted of Real Madrid receiving from the municipality the land adjacent to the Bernabéu stadium, while transferring in return €6.6 million, as well as plots of land in other areas of the city. More...

Resolution of Disputes Arising From Football Contracts in Turkey. By N. Emre Bilginoglu

Editor’s note: N. Emre Bilginoglu[1] is a lawyer based in Istanbul. His book entitled “Arbitration on Football Contracts” was published in 2015.


Introduction

With a total market value of approximately 911 million EUR, the Turkish Super League ranks as one of the prominent football leagues in Europe. Five of the eighteen teams that make up half of the total market value are based in Istanbul, a busy megalopolis that hosts a population of fifteen million inhabitants.[2] As might be expected, the elevated market value brings forth a myriad of disputes, mainly between the clubs and the players. However, other crucial actors such as coaches and agents are also involved in some of the disputes. These actors of the football industry are of all countries, coming from various countries with different legal systems.

One corollary of rapid globalisation is the development of transnational law, which is quite visible in the lex sportiva.[3] Like foreign investors, foreign actors of the sports industry look for some legal security before signing a contract. FIFA does protect these foreign actors in some way, providing players and coaches legal remedies for employment-related disputes of an international dimension. But what if the legal system of the FIFA member association does not provide a reasonable legal remedy for its national actors?[4] More...


The World Anti-Doping System at a Crossroads

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Tomorrow the Foundation Board of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will gather in Glasgow for its most important meeting since the creation of the Agency. Since the broadcasting of a documentary alleging systematic doping in Russian athletics by the German public broadcaster in December 2014, the anti-doping world has been in disarray. The various independent investigations (the Pound Report and the McLaren Report) ordered by WADA into doping allegations against Russian athletes have confirmed the findings of the documentary and the truth of the accusations brought forward by Russian whistle-blowers. Undeniably, there is something very rotten in the world anti-doping system. The current system failed to register a widespread, and apparently relatively open, state-sponsored scheme aimed at manipulating any doping test conducted in Russian territory. Moreover, it was not WADA that uncovered it, but an independent journalist supported by courageous whistle-blowers. More...


The EU State aid and sport saga: The Real Madrid Decision (part 1)

Out of all the State aid investigations of recent years involving professional football clubs, the outcome of the Real Madrid case was probably the most eagerly awaited. Few football clubs have such a global impact as this Spanish giant, and any news item involving the club, whether positive or negative, is bound to make the headlines everywhere around the globe. But for many Spaniards, this case involves more than a simple measure by a public authority scrutinized by the European Commission. For them, it exemplifies the questionable relationship between the private and the public sector in a country sick of never-ending corruption scandals.[1] Moreover, Spain is only starting to recover from its worst financial crisis in decades, a crisis founded on real estate speculation, but whose effects were mostly felt by ordinary citizens.[2] Given that the Real Madrid case involves fluctuating values of land that are transferred from the municipality to the club, and vice versa, it represents a type of operation that used to be very common in the Spanish professional football sector, but has come under critical scrutiny in recent years.[3] More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – October 2016. By Kester Mekenkamp.

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
We are looking for an International Sports Law Intern (with a particular interest in the CAS)! More information can be found here.


The (terrible) State of the World Anti-Doping System

The fight against doping is still on top of the agenda after the Russian doping scandal. The national anti-doping organizations (NADOs) have reiterated their call for an in depth reform of the World Anti-Doping Agency at a special summit in Bonn, Germany. These reforms are deemed urgent and necessary to “restore confidence of clean athletes and those who value the integrity of sport” and secure “the public’s desire for a fair and level playing field”. The NADOs propose, amongst others things, to separate the investigatory, testing and results management functions from sports organizations, and to remove sports administrators from crucial anti-doping executive functions. More...




Taking the Blue Pill or the Red Pill: Should Athletes Really Check their Medications against the Prohibited List Personally? - A Comment by Marjolaine Viret (University of Neuchâtel )

Editor's Note:  Marjolaine is an attorney admitted to the Geneva bar (Switzerland) who specialises in sports and life sciences.   She currently participates as a scientific collaborator at the University of Neuchâtel on a research project to produce the first article-by-article legal commentary of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code. Her latest book Evidence in Anti-Doping at the Intersection of Science & Law was published in 2016 in the International Sports Law Book Series of T.M.C. ASSER Press.


INTRODUCTION

On 30 September 2016, a panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) rendered its award in the matter opposing high-profile tennis player Maria Sharapova to the International Tennis Federation (“ITF”). Maria Sharapova was appealing the two-year ban imposed on her by the ITF Tribunal in June 2016 for her use of Meldonium, a substance newly added to the WADA Prohibited List 2016[1]. Since neither the ITF nor WADA had chosen to challenge the Tribunal’s decision, the stakes of the case were rather simple: would the player convince the CAS panel that she should benefit from a finding of “No Significant Fault or Negligence”[2], thereby allowing for a reduction of the sanction down to a minimum of one year, or should the decision of the Tribunal be upheld? In its award, the CAS panel decided to grant such finding and reduced the sanction to 15 months.

This blog does not purport to be a ‘comment’ on the CAS award. Rather, it seeks to place the Sharapova matter into a broader context with respect to a specific issue: the expectations on Athletes when it comes to their awareness of the prohibited character of a substance, specifically when taking a medication[3]. In July 2016, I presented at the T.M.C Asser Institute in The Hague various current challenges of anti-doping that the Meldonium cases exposed (see the video here). One of these challenges concerned the modalities for including new substances onto the Prohibited List. This blog represents a follow-up on my presentation, in the light of the findings contained in the CAS award. More...



Case note: State aid Decision on the preferential corporate tax treatment of Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and FC Barcelona

On 28 September 2016, the Commission published the non-confidential version of its negative Decision and recovery order regarding the preferential corporate tax treatment of Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and FC Barcelona. It is the second-to-last publication of the Commission’s Decisions concerning State aid granted to professional football clubs, all announced on 4 July of this year.[1] Contrary to the other “State aid in football” cases, this Decision concerns State aid and taxation, a very hot topic in today’s State aid landscape. Obviously, this Decision will not have the same impact as other prominent tax decisions, such as the ones concerning Starbucks and Apple

Background

This case dates back to November 2009, when a representative of a number of investors specialised in the purchase of publicly listed shares, and shareholders of a number of European football clubs drew the attention of the Commission to a possible preferential corporate tax treatment of the four mentioned Spanish clubs.[2]More...



International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – September 2016. By Kester Mekenkamp

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

September hosted the very last bit of the sport summer 2016, most notably in the form of the Rio Paralympic Games. Next to the spectacular achievements displayed during these games, in the realm of sports law similar thrilling developments hit town. The first very much expected #Sportslaw highlight was the decision by the German Bundesgerichtshof in the case concerning SV Wilhelmshaven. The second major (less expected) story was the Statement of Objections issued by the European Commission against the International Skating Union.More...


De- or Re-regulating the middlemen? The DFB’s regulation of intermediaries under EU law scrutiny at the OLG Frankfurt. By Antoine Duval and Kester Mekenkamp.

Football intermediaries, or agents, are again under attack in the news. For some, corrupt behaviour has become endemic in football’s culture. It is always dangerous to scapegoat a whole profession or a group of people. Many intermediaries are trying their best to lawfully defend the interests of their clients, but some are not. The key focus should be on providing an adequate legal and administrative framework to limit the opportunities for corrupt behaviour in the profession. This is easier said than done, however. We are dealing with an intrinsically transnationalized business, often conducted by intermediaries who are not subjected to the disciplinary power of federations. Sports governing bodies are lacking the police power and human resources necessary to force the intermediaries to abide by their private standards. In this context, this blog aims to review a recent case in front of the regional court of Frankfurt in Germany, which highlights the legal challenges facing (and leeway available to) national federations when regulating the profession. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors - Part 2: The 2009 reform and its aftermath. By Kester Mekenkamp.

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

FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors - Part 2: The 2009 reform and its aftermath. By Kester Mekenkamp.

Editor’s note: Kester Mekenkamp is an LL.M. student in European Law at Leiden University and an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre. This blog is, to a great extent, an excerpt of his forthcoming thesis, which he shall submit in order to complete his master’s degree.


This is the second part of a three-piece blog on FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors, Article 19 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players. The contribution in its entirety aims to provide an encompassing overview of the rule’s lifespan since its inception in 2001. The previous (first) part has shed light on the “birth” and “first years” of the provision, and as such illustrated the relevant developments from 2001 till 2009. This second part covers the rule’s “adolescent years”, which span from 2009 to the present. The major changes put forward in the 2009, 2015 and 2016 versions of the RSTP will be addressed. Thereafter the important CAS decisions concerning Article 19, Muhic, Vada I and II, FC Barcelona, RFEF, and the FIFA decisions relating to Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, will be scrutinized. The third, and final, part will constitute a substantive assessment of the provision under EU Internal Market law.

Given that the version adopted in 2008 left Article 19 untouched, the 2009 RSTP represented the next significant step in the regulation of the protection of minors. It had become clear that the system as used up to that point was inadequate to achieve its goal,[1] most notably because several national associations still neglected to strictly apply the rules.[2] In response to this perceived failure, a new set of rules and procedures was adopted and came into force on 1 October 2009: the creation of a special FIFA oversight sub-committee of the PSC, the introduction of a special provision on football academies, and the instalment of a transfer matching system.[3] Importantly, with the enactment of these new regulations, Articles 19 and 19bis RSTP were included in the set of provisions binding upon the national level, which consequently had to be incorporated into the national associations’ regulations without alteration.[4]

This new 11-member PSC sub-committee (consisting of representatives of the confederations, leagues, clubs, players and the PSC’s chairman and deputy chairman) became the supervising body concerning the examination, and potential approval, of every international transfer and first registration of a minor player.[5] Its approval is mandatory and needs to be obtained prior to any request for any association’s ITC-request.[6] Moreover, non-compliance can be sanctioned by the FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee, although a limited exception from this obligation exists for minor amateur players.[7]

Article 19bis RSTP on the registration and reporting of minors at academies was another substantial modification with respect to the protection of minors.[8] A football academy is defined by the regulations as “an organisation or an independent legal entity whose primary, long-term objective is to provide players with long-term training through the provision of the necessary training facilities and infrastructure. This shall primarily include, but not be limited to, football training centres, football camps, football schools, etc.”[9] With the creation of this new provision, all minor players that attend an academy, indifferent to whether or not that academy takes part in a national championship or has a legal, financial or de facto link to a club participating in a national championship, must be reported to the national association upon whose territory the academy operates.[10] This regulation of academies resembles an attempt to deal with what was previously a major loophole, the unregistered academies.[11]

The third major change was the instalment of a transfer matching system (“TMS”), which is a web-based data information system that, first of all, aims to simplify the processing of international transfers.[12] Its task is to provide more details to football’s governing bodies on all transfers taking place.[13] This should furthermore increase the transparency of the individual transactions, and in doing so, it will “improve the credibility and standing of the entire transfer system, and additionally also “safeguard the protection of minors”.[14] In practice, the TMS is a central database that monitors the international movement of players. As mentioned earlier, every application for an international transfer by a minor player must receive the approval of the PSC sub-committee. This process is managed through the transfer matching system, the details of which are stipulated in annexe 2 of the RSTP.[15] The sub-committee decides with three of its members, or, in urgent cases, through a sole member acting as “single judge”.[16] The national association wanting to register a player, files the application for an approval of an international transfer (or first registration) into the TMS.[17] Accompanying this application, the TMS requires a great number of specific documents, depending on the facts of the case and the exception that is being invoked.[18] This mandatory release of information spans documentation on, inter alia: academic and football education, accommodation, player’s and/or player’s parent(s) contract, parental authorisation and a birth certificate.[19] Subsequently, the sub-committee decides whether or not it gives its approval. If so, an ITC will be delivered via the TMS and the transfer can be finalized.[20] Parties involved have 10 days to inquire for the grounds of the decision, after that an appeal before the CAS is still open. Note that this procedure for minors differs from a regular international transfer, in that for the latter there is no substantive review by a third party. The clubs provide the relevant information and the TMS merely, automatically, checks whether the two strands of facts match.[21]


The Elmir Muhic case

The regulatory system laid down in the 2009 RSTP operates in roughly the same manner today, as the revisions of 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, did not substantially amend the core rules.[22] The case law of the CAS during this period, from 2009 to 2012, provides some examples of the application and interpretation of the 2009 rules.

In Elmir Muhic v. FIFA, a 16-year-old football player from Bosnia-Herzegovina joined the German OFC Kickers Offenbach.[23] Following the PSC sub-committee refusal to give its approval, the case ended up before the CAS. The Panel found that none of the three exceptions applied in the matter at hand. It did specify, in relation to the “parents-rule” of Article 19(2)(a), that the term “parents” needs to be applied stricto sensu.[24] Even though it could “conceivably cover situations beyond the natural parents”, such was not the case here.[25] Muhic’s parents still lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina (and it remained uncertain why they did not joined their child), while the player stayed at his aunt’s house.[26] The Panel stated that an aunt (and relatives alike) cannot replace the player’s parents in order to invoke the exception.[27] 


The Vada II case

Around the same time, Vada II made an important contribution to the application of Article 19(2)(b) (the first case had evolved along the lines of the Acuña award).[28] Valentin Vada was a football player living in Argentina, with dual citizenship. Next to possessing the Argentinian nationality, Vada also owned an Italian passport.[29] The 16-year-old was of the opinion that he could transfer to the French Club Girondins de Bordeaux, based on the “EU and EEA-rule” of Article 19(2)(b) RSTP.[30] FIFA’s single judge rejected the request, as he found the facts of the transfer not to match the strict requirements of the exception.[31] The arbiter reasoned that this exception is based on the criterion of territoriality, not nationality, and thus only refers to “a transfer taking place within the territory of the EU or EEA”.[32] Therefore, as Vada wished to transfer from an Argentinian club, Article 19(2)(b) RSTP could not be applied. Be that as it may, the CAS Panel argued (in length) otherwise. It agreed that the “EU and EEA-rule” merely stipulates a criterion of territoriality not nationality.[33] Still, it also noted that the FIFA’s RSTP commentary (as abovementioned) revealed that this exception was included in the 2001 informal agreement between FIFA/UEFA and the Commission in order for it to respect EU free movement law.[34] Thus, this objective to comply with EU free movement rights could not be ignored.[35] Additionally the CAS found, in line with FC Midtjylland, that the list of exceptions in Article 19(2) is not exhaustive.[36] This was supported by a document submitted by Girondins de Bordeaux setting out the case law of the PSC sub-committee. It explained that “if a club believes that very special circumstances, which do not meet any of the exceptions provided…the association of the club concerned may, on behalf of its affiliate, submit a formal request in writing to the FIFA sub-commission to consider the specific case and make a formal decision”.[37] Moreover, the document showed that the sub-committee in the majority of cases takes free movement law into consideration when “assessing the transfer of a player who, with a passport from an EU or EEA country, wishes to register with a club in an EU or EEA country”.[38] Consequently, the Panel accepted an unwritten exception allowing a player such as Vada, with the nationality of one of the EU or EEA member countries, to invoke Article 19(2)(b) RSTP.[39] 


The Spanish lawbreakers

From 2013 onwards the three biggest and richest football clubs in Spain, at the same time belonging to the top 15 clubs worldwide, Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, found themselves embroiled in a number of legal disputes as a result of signing minors.[40] A significant step unto its own, as it demonstrates that FIFA will not shy away from taking on the big iconic clubs when enforcing its regulations.

This “Spanish saga” kicked-off with a dispute concerning a US teenager, of 13 years old, who moved to Spain together with his parents and wanted to register with Atlético Madrid in September 2012.[41] Once more, the main question was whether the factual constellation of the case supported the application of the “parents-rule” (did the parents move to the country of the new club for reasons not linked to football?), and again the Panel stressed, in line with both Acuña and FC Midtjylland,[42] the need to apply the protection of minors rules in a “strict, rigorous and consistent manner”.[43] This means, following its decision in Vada I, that the family’s move must be unconnected altogether to football.[44] It is insufficient to establish that the move is partially connected to their child’s football activities, although not being the primary aim.[45] The Panel’s factual assessment distinguished multiple relevant elements to come to a decision on the possible application of the exception. Contra: the short timeline (six weeks) between the minor’s arrival in Madrid and the registration request (which hints at a previous intention); the player’s previous footballing activities; the player’s statement, reported on his school’s official website, “that the reason of his move to Spain was the possibility that he has been given to play with the Club Atlético de Madrid”.[46] Pro: the family of the player is partially Colombian, which connected them to Spain for reasons of culture and language; “The family is wealthy and…the basic maintenance of the family is not dependent of a working activity of the parents”; The player’s sister had already moved to Europe for her studies; The first preparations were undoubtedly made several months before the interaction with the club commenced; The club does not have a particular interest in the player “other than having in its team a teenager which may have a certain talent for football, such as many others in the Madrid area”.[47] In sum, the CAS concluded that, due to the exceptional facts, there is no link between the move of the family and their son’s football activities.[48]


The FC Barcelona case

Atlético’s fellow-townsman Real Madrid ended up in a likewise dispute with FIFA regarding a 13-year-old player from Venezuela.[49] The main hitter however was the case regarding their Catalonian archenemy: FC Barcelona.[50] The FIFA TMS, in January 2013, became aware of a potential breach, which ultimately lead to a case involving registrations of 31 minors.[51] These players, of various nationalities, were registered at FC Barcelona in the period from 2005 until 2012.[52] Via the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and Appeal Committee, who both found the club to have violated i.a. Articles 19(1), 19(3), 19(4), 19bis, and Annexe 2 of the RSTP, the case ended up before the CAS.[53] The Panel addressed the different potentially breached articles in a consecutive order, starting with Article 19(1) RSTP. The Panel found FC Barcelona to have infringed this provision with respect to nine players. The club had tried to shelter behind the fact that it had complied with all the rules laid down by the regional Catalonian football association, and, as such, had acted rightfully. The Panel held instead that the ban on internationally transferring minors is without doubt “addressed to both ‘associations’ and clubs”.[54] It thereby emphasized that national associations are paramount to the enforcement of FIFA’s statutes, and in the extent thereof the enforcement of the RSTP. Regional associations, such as the Catalonian, cannot govern the international transfer of players.[55] Given that clubs are the starting point of every international transfer, they “must primarily observe this ban”. The Panel stressed furthermore that Article 19(4) RSTP marks this by obliging the associations to ensure the clubs’ compliance in this matter, and moreover, Article 1(4) RSTP, explains that the Regulations “are binding for all associations and clubs”.[56] FC Barcelona may thus not hide behind apparent mistakes/breaches by both the Catalonian and the Spanish football associations, given that it “did not even try to request the transfers based on any one of the exceptions”.[57] Furthermore, FC Barcelona “should have been aware of the simple fact that they [the Spanish and the Catalonian associations] could not register the minors in any legitimate way under the RSTP”, which the CAS compared to “wilful ignorance” or, the “deliberate shutting of eyes”.[58]

Of the group of minors at the centre of the dispute, three were below the age of 12. FC Barcelona put forward a restrictive reading of the personal scope of application of the Articles 19 and 9(4) RSTP (2010 edition), arguing “that there are no prohibitions for the transfer of players under the age of 12”.[59] It thereby relied on Article 9 of the 2006 RSTP Commentary that stipulates “for players younger than 12, the Regulations do not provide for an obligation to issue an ITC for international transfers”.[60] The Panel nonetheless made short work of this argumentation by explaining that Article 9(4) RSTP’s absence of an obligation to issue an ITC for under-12 players merely addresses a formal requirement. The substantive rules for the international transfer of minors (irrespective whether below or above 12 years of age) are found in Article 19 RSTP, including paragraph 2 of that article.[61] This led the Panel to conclude that “no ITC was required when the transfers occurred for players below the age of 12; their transfer nevertheless, can only be lawful if it complies with the requirements embedded in Article 19(2) RSTP”.[62] The Panel also noted the amendment to Article 9(4) RSTP, effective as of 1 March 2015, which lowered the age at which an ITC is required from 12 to 10.[63]

In short, the CAS also ruled that FC Barcelona had violated Article 19(3) RSTP in relation to one minor, for the same reasons referred to in its findings under Article 19(1) RSTP.[64] Moreover, six cases violated Article 19(4) RSTP, as the Catalonian association had failed to refer these transfers to the PSC sub-committee. These infringements of paragraph 4 further justify that “sanctions may also be imposed (…) on the clubs that reached an agreement for the transfer of a minor”. The CAS in this regard defined the interpretation of the word “agreement” to include “agreements concluded between the registering club and the player himself, his parents, agents, etc”.[65] Further, the Panel established a breach of Article 19bis RSTP for all 31 players under investigation.[66] This constitutes a procedural violation, being “the lack of reporting of information regarding the progress and development of players” attending FC Barcelona’s well-known academy ‘La Masía’”.[67] Be that as it may, the CAS did praise the training and educational track record of La Masía. Thereby it deviated from the Appeal Committee’s ruling. In opposition to the latter it found that the attending players’ potential football careers are not endangered. On the contrary, if FC Barcelona in the future commits itself to its reporting duties under Article 19bis RSTP, then it “will be contributing to the overarching principles governing the protection of minors, since it will be providing other clubs with an enviable benchmark for the education and training of players”.[68] The CAS Panel found the sanctions imposed by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and the Appeal Committee to be proportionate, and hence confirmed the earlier verdict.[69] Concretely, FC Barcelona was imposed a transfer ban for two transfer periods, as well as a fine of CHF 450,000.[70]


The RFEF case and latest developments

Things had not completely settled down yet with regard to the Spanish national football association: Real Federación Española de Fútbol (“RFEF”).[71] As has become clear in the coverage of the Barcelona case, apparent mistakes were made in the Spanish supervision of the ban on international transfers of minors. In a dispute regarding 31 international minor transfers to several Spanish football clubs[72], the RFEF was found by the CAS to have violated its guarding role and thereby induced a passive infringement of Articles 19(1), 19(3), 19(4) together with Annexes 2 and 3, and Articles 5(1) and 9(1) RSTP. [73] A fine of CHF 280,000 was imposed. The Panel pointed out that the RFEF could not justify its failure by arguing that the RSTP was conflicting with Spanish law, given that the rules on the protection of minors had come about in the 2001 agreement between FIFA/UEFA and the EU, which was acknowledged by Spain as a Member State of the EU.[74] Also, for 21 players below the age of 12 the RFEF had failed to fulfil its notification obligations, which the Panel condemned for the exact same reasons as in the FC Barcelona case.[75] The RFEF had failed to “make use of the statutory frameworks and tools at its disposal to ensure the full protection of minors”, and was found negligent as it failed to ensure that clubs and regional associations strictly complied with Article 19.[76] Furthermore, it had in some cases not fulfilled its obligation to seek the approval of the PSC subcommittee nor even submitted an application for such transfers.[77]

Ultimately in 2016, a fate similar to that of “Barça” fell upon both Atlético and Real Madrid.[78] The concise FIFA press release indicates that investigations were conducted by FIFA TMS, which “concerned minor players who were involved and participated in competitions with the clubs over various periods”, between roughly 2005 and 2014. Both clubs were sanctioned for violating, amongst others, Articles 19 and 19bis as well as annexe 2 of the RSTP. The clubs appealed (by which the sanctions were temporarily lifted), yet in September 2016 these appeals were similarly rejected by FIFA’s Appeal Committee.[79] This meant that Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid will have to serve a transfer ban lasting two consecutive transfer periods (e.g. until January 2018), during which they will not be able to attract any players, and were fined CHF 900,000 and CHF 360,000 respectively. The clubs were given a 90 day period “to regularise the situation of all minor players concerned”.[80] A little over a week later, Real Madrid informed the CAS that it would appeal FIFA’s decision before the court in Lausanne.[81] The final outcome of this appeal is still unknown.

In a similar vein, very recently, the English club Manchester City has come under suspicion for allegedly wanting to transfer a 15-year-old player from Argentina, while the Dutch club Ajax was denied by the CAS to sign an American player aged 15.[82] These cases exemplify that clubs might just not be ready to put the practice of internationally transferring minors to bed yet. Moreover, the adaptation of the relevant rules is a sign for the need of continuous monitoring the effect of the provision on the protection of minors. The latest update, the June 2016 version, has incorporated another exception to the prohibition for the international transfer of minors, which has been created through the Sub-Committee’s case law.[83] Players that have for the five years preceding the request continuously lived in the country (other than that of their nationality) of intended registration are now exempted from the prohibition.[84]

In this part 2 of the blog, I have shown that FIFA’s restrictions on minor transfers have become more stringent after the 2009 reform. In recent years, FIFA has also cracked down on various prominent clubs, especially in Spain, which were still involved in recruiting minor players while disregarding, with the tacit support of their national federation, FIFA’s rules. Unsurprisingly, these developments have also flared up again the debate on the compatibility of those rules with EU law.[85] Thus, the next, third and final, part of this blog on FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors will offer a substantive assessment of FIFA’s rule under the requirements of EU Internal Market law. 




[1] A. Najarian, “’The Lost Boys’: FIFA's Insufficient Efforts To Stop Trafficking of Youth Footballers”, Sports Law. J. 2015, p. 167; R. Simons, “Protection of Minors vs. European Law”, Eur Sports Law Bulletin 2010, p. 172.

[2] R. Simons, “FIFA Transfer Matching System wel effectief?”, TvS&R 2011, p. 100.

[3] FIFA Circular no. 1190, 20 May 2009.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Art. 19(4) FIFA RTSP 2009.

[6] FIFA Circular no. 1206, 13 October 2009.

[7] FIFA Circular 1209, 30 October 2009.

[8] Art. 19bis FIFA RSTP 2009.

[9] Definition 12 FIFA RSTP 2009.

[10] Art. 19bis(1) and (2) FIFA RSTP 2009; Supra at 5.

[11] V. Derungs, “Protecting underage football players in the transfer system”, World Sports L. Report 2015, p. 15.

[12] Definition 13 FIFA RSTP 2016.

[13] N. St. Cyr Clarke, “The beauty and the beast: Taming the ugly side of the people’s game”, 2011 Columbia Journal of European Law, p. 619.

[14] FIFA Circular No. 1174, 12 January 2009.

[15] Annexe 2 FIFA RSTP 2016

[16] Art. 3(2) Annexe 2 FIFA RSTP 2009.

[17] Art. 5(1) Annexe 2 FIFA RSTP 2009.

[18] Art. 5(2) Annexe 2 FIFA RSTP 2009.

[19] FIFA Document, Protection of minors – Pertinent facts to be included in documents.

[20] Art. 9 and Annexe 3 FIFA RSTP 2009.

[21] For precise steps see FIFA TMS, Global Transfer Market Report 2016, p. 8; Supra at 4, p. 101.

[22] FIFA, Transfers, Player’s status, Clubs, Agents Regulations - Archived regulations

[23] Arbitration CAS 2011/A/2354 E. v. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), award of 24 August 2011: At the same time, he participated in a three-year educational/trainee program at a company in Frankfurt, which aimed “to prepare him as office clerk to apply for a job as ‘Airport Manager’”. The German national football association, on behalf of Muhic and Kickers Offenbach made a request to FIFA for an exception via a special authorization for the transfer, founded on the “hardship based on the specific circumstances of the present case, namely the move of the player from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Germany without his parents, but with their expressed consent, for reasons not linked to football but to benefit from a humanitarian educational project” (p. 2.).

[24] Ibid, para. 17.

[25] Ibid, para. 18.

[26] Ibid, para. 18 and p. 2; Furthermore, the Panel recalled that Bosnia and Herzegovina is neither a member of the EU nor of the EEA and, as a consequence thereof, a player with this nationality cannot rely on the exception of Article 19(2)(b) RSTP (para. 20). The Panel subsequently, by emphasizing that the rationale for this exception is the “free movement of services and services suppliers within the EU and the EEA (and other production factors)”, quickly dismissed the appellant’s claim for the application of this provision resting on “the Stabilization and Association Agreement signed between the EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina” (paras. 21-23). In final, the CAS once more indicated that Article 19’s rationale was not to stop voluntary movement, yet it felt compelled to apply the protection of minors strictly: “Opening up the door to exceptions beyond those carefully drafted and included in the present text would unavoidably lead to cases of circumvention of the rationale for this provision” (para. 26). Moreover, Muhic could still continue his education, which was his primary reason to move to Germany, and likewise train with his team. He did have to wait a few months before becoming 18 years of age and thus eligible to start in professional matches. Nevertheless, the Panel concluded that this could not amount to constitute an “exceptional hardship going beyond the general impact of the provisions on the protection of minors” (para. 27).

[27] Supra at 11, p. 15.

[28] Arbitrage TAS 2012/A/2862 FC Girondins de Bordeaux c. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), sentence du 11 janvier 2013 (Vada II); Arbitrage TAS 2011/A/2494 FC Girondins de Bordeaux c. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), sentence du 22 décembre 2011 (Vada I).

[29] TAS 2012/A/2862 (Vada II), para. 3.

[30] Ibid, para. 18.

[31] Ibid, para. 19.

[32] Ibid, para. 19; Bulletin TAS CAS Bulletin 2014/2, p. 29.

[33] Supra at 29, para. 91.

[34] Ibid, para. 94.

[35] Ibid, para. 95.

[36] CAS 2008/A/1485 FC Midtjylland A/S v. Féderation Internationale de Football Association, paras. 19-21.

[37] Supra at 29, para. 96; Bulletin TAS CAS Bulletin 2014/2, p. 29.

[38] Supra at 29, para. 97.

[39] Ibid, paras. 98-100.                                                                                                                                                                  

[40] The Guardian, 29 April 2015, “Atlético Madrid and Real deny reports they are facing Fifa transfer embargo”.

[41] Arbitration CAS 2013/A/3140 A. v. Club Atlético de Madrid SAD & Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF) & Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), award of 10 October 2013.

[42] CAS 2005/A/955 Càdiz C.F., SAD v FIFA and Asociación Paraguaya de Fútbol and CAS 2005/A/956 Carlos Javier Acuña Caballero v/FIFA and Asociación Paraguaya de Fútbol; CAS 2008/A/1485 FC Midtjylland A/S v. Féderation Internationale de Football Association.

[43] Supra at 41, paras. 8.20-8.23.

[44] TAS 2011/A/2494 FC (Vada I), paras. 31-38.

[45] Supra at 41, paras. 8.25.

[46] Ibid, para. 8.30.

[47] Ibid, para. 8.31.

[48] Ibid, paras. 8.32-36.

[49] Arbitration CAS 2014/A/3611 Real Madrid FC v. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), award of 27 February 2015: The PSC Sub-Committee had rejected the request, which was again founded on the “parent rule”. It did so inter alia since the player’s parents had merely obtained a temporary residence permit that denied them the right to work, while the submitted employment contracts “made reference to enterprises incorporated and domiciled in Venezuela” (para. 11). This in combination with the fact that the player had moved to Spain one month in advance of his parents, led the PSC to believe that their move was linked to Real Madrid’s interest in their son (paras. 12-14). The subsequent proceedings before the CAS are only of interest in relation to the procedural aspects, since the appeal was declared inadmissible and consequently did not address the merits (paras. 63-66).

[50] CAS 2014/A/3793 Fútbol Club Barcelona v. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), award of 24 April 2015.

[51] Bulletin TAS CAS Bulletin 2015/2, p. 76; Supra at 52, paras. 2.3-2.11.

[52] Supra at 50, para. 2.2.

[53] Supra at 51, p. 77.

[54] Supra at 50, paras. 9.1-9.2.

[55] Ibid, paras. 9.2-9.3.

[56] Ibid, para. 9.4.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid, para. 9.7.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Ibid, para. 9.8.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid, para. 9.9.

[64] Ibid, paras. 9.10-9.12.

[65] Ibid, para. 9.14.

[66] Ibid, para. 9.18.

[67] Ibid, para. 9.19.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid, paras. 9.29-9.36 and 10.

[70] Ibid, para. 2.18.

[71] CAS 2014/A/3813 Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF) v. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), 27 November 2015.

[72] Coincidentally the exact same number of minors under investigation as in the FC Barcelona Case. Be that as it may, in the case a hand the minors transferred to various Spanish clubs.

[73] Bulletin TAS CAS Bulletin 2016/1. P. 66.

[74] Ibid, p. 63, the Panel stated “As a member of the European Union, the Kingdom of Spain had acknowledged the application of this general prohibition throughout Spain and no express Spanish law stating otherwise had been brought to the Panel’s attention”.

[75] Supra at 73, p. 63.

[76] Ibid, p. 64.

[77] Ibid.

[78] FIFA, 14 January 2016, “Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid sanctioned for international transfers of minors”.

[79] FIFA, 8 September 2016, “FIFA rejects appeals of Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid in relation to transfers of minors”.

[80] The Guardian, 8 September 2016, “Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid lose appeals against Fifa transfer ban”.

[81] CAS, 16 September, “Request for stay filed by Real Madrid CF granted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport”.

[82] Independent, 22 September 2016, “Manchester City could face transfer ban after being reported to Fifa for 'trafficking' of youngster”; USA Today, 29 October 2016, “CAS rejects US teenager’s challenge to FIFA transfer rules”.

[83] Supra at 11, p. 15; FIFA Circular no. 1542, 1 June 2016.

[84] Art. 19(3) FIFA RSTP 2016.

[85] Reuters, 24 November 2016, “FIFA faces lawsuit over rules banning transfer of minors”.

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