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

Policing the (in)dependence of National Federations through the prism of the FIFA Statutes. By Tine Misic

…and everything under the sun is in tune,

but the sun is eclipsed by the moon…[1] 


The issue

Ruffling a few feathers, on 30 May 2015 the FIFA Executive Committee rather unsurprisingly, considering the previous warnings,[2] adopted a decision to suspend with immediate effect the Indonesian Football Federation (PSSI) until such time as PSSI is able to comply with its obligations under Articles 13 and 17 of the FIFA Statutes.[3] Stripping PSSI of its membership rights, the decision results in a prohibition of all Indonesian teams (national or club) from having any international sporting contact. In other words, the decision precludes all Indonesian teams from participating in any competition organised by either FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). In addition, the suspension of rights also precludes all PSSI members and officials from benefits of any FIFA or AFC development programme, course or training during the term of suspension. This decision coincides with a very recent award by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in this ambit, which shall be discussed further below.[4]More...


The Brussels Court judgment on Financial Fair Play: a futile attempt to pull off a Bosman. By Ben Van Rompuy

On 29 May 2015, the Brussels Court of First Instance delivered its highly anticipated judgment on the challenge brought by football players’ agent Daniel Striani (and others) against UEFA’s Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFP). In media reports,[1] the judgment was generally portrayed as a significant initial victory for the opponents of FFP. The Brussels Court not only made a reference for a preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) but also imposed an interim order blocking UEFA from implementing the second phase of the FFP that involves reducing the permitted deficit for clubs.

A careful reading of the judgment, however, challenges the widespread expectation that the CJEU will now pronounce itself on the compatibility of the FFP with EU law. More...

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

FIFA’s freshly adopted TPO ban entered into force on 1 May (see our Blog symposium). Though it is difficult to anticipate to what extent FIFA will be able to enforce the ban, it is likely that many of the third-party investors will try to have recourse to alternative solutions to pursue their commercial involvement in the football transfer market. One potential way to circumvent the FIFA ban is to use the proxy of what has been coined “bridge transfers”. A bridge transfer occurs when a club is used as an intermediary bridge in the transfer of a player from one club to another. The fictitious passage through this club is used to circumscribe, for example, the payment of training compensation or to whitewash a third-party ownership by transforming it into a classical employment relationship. This is a legal construction that has gained currency especially in South American football, but not only. On 5 May 2015, in the Racing Club v. FIFA case, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rendered its first award involving directly a bridge transfer. As this practice could become prevalent in the coming years we think that this case deserves a close look. More...

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

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

ASSER Exclusive! Interview with Charles “Chuck” Blazer by Piotr Drabik

Editor’s note: Chuck Blazer declined our official interview request but thanks to some trusted sources (the FIFA indictment and Chuck’s testimony) we have reconstructed his likely answers. This is a fictional interview. Any resemblance with real facts is purely coincidental.



Mr Blazer, thank you for agreeing to this interview, especially considering the circumstances. How are you doing?

I am facing ten charges concerning, among others, conspiracy to corrupt and money laundering. But apart from that, I am doing great (laughs)!

 

It is good to know that you have not lost your spirit. And since you’ve been involved in football, or as you call it soccer, for years could you please first tell us what was your career at FIFA and its affiliates like?

Let me see… Starting from the 1990s I was employed by and associated with FIFA and one of its constituent confederations, namely the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). At various times, I also served as a member of several FIFA standing committees, including the marketing and television committee. As CONCACAF’s general secretary, a position I proudly held for 21 years, I was responsible, among many other things, for negotiations concerning media and sponsorship rights. From 1997 to 2013 I also served at FIFA’s executive committee where I participated in the selection process of the host countries for the World Cup tournaments. Those years at the helm of world soccer were truly amazing years of travel and hard work mainly for the good of the beautiful game. I might add that I even managed to document some of my voyages on my blog. I initially called it “Travels with Chuck Blazer” but Vladimir (Putin) convinced me to change the name to “Travels with Chuck Blazer and his Friends”. You should check it out.

 More...



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

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

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

Book Review: Reforming FIFA, or Not

Editor’s note: This short book review will be published in a different format in the International Sports Law Journal, due to its timeliness we decided to reproduce it here. 

Reforming FIFA, or Not

 Antoine Duval

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

 


This book looks back at the work of the Independence Governance Committee (IGC). This Committee, constituted in 2011, had as primary objective to drive a reform process of FIFA initiated by its President Sepp Blatter. After ordering from the Swiss anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth, a report on the state of FIFA’s governance, FIFA decided to mandate him with the leadership of a consulting body composed of a mix of independent experts and football insiders, which would be accompanying and supervising the internal reform process of FIFA. The IGC was officially dissolved at the end of 2013, after completing its mandate. The book is composed of eight chapters, written by former members of the IGC, including former chairman Mark Pieth. In addition to the chapters, it includes the different reports (available here, here and here) submitted by the IGC to FIFA across the years. In the words of Pieth, this account is “fascinating because it gives a hands-on, realistic perspective of the concrete efforts, the achievements and the remaining challenges in the struggle for the reform of this organization [FIFA], avoiding the usual glorification or vilification.”[1] This review will first summarize the core of the account of the FIFA reform process provided by the book, before critically engaging with the outcome of the process and outlining the deficiencies that culminated on 29 May 2015 with the re-election of Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.More...



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

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

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

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

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

How does competition law affect the sports sector?  

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



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

Introduction

On 1 April 2015, the new FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (hereinafter referred as the Regulations) came into force. These Regulations introduced a number of changes as regards the division of competences between FIFA and its members, the national associations. A particularly interesting issue from an EU competition law perspective is the amended Article 7 of the Regulations. Under paragraph 3, which regulates the rules on payments to intermediaries (also previously referred to as ‘agents’), it is recommended that the total amount of remuneration per transaction due to intermediaries either being engaged to act on a player’s or club’s behalf should not exceed 3% of the player’s basic gross income for the entire duration of the relevant employment contract. In the case of transactions due to intermediaries who have been engaged to act on a club’s behalf in order to conclude a transfer agreement, the total amount of remuneration is recommended to not exceed 3% of the eventual transfer fee paid in relation to the relevant transfer of the player.More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Goodbye 2015! The Highlights of our International Sports Law Year

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

Goodbye 2015! The Highlights of our International Sports Law Year

2015 was a good year for international sports law. It started early in January with the Pechstein ruling, THE defining sports law case of the year (and probably in years to come) and ended in an apotheosis with the decisions rendered by the FIFA Ethics Committee against Blatter and Platini. This blog will walk you through the important sports law developments of the year and make sure that you did not miss any.


The Court of Arbitration for Sport challenged by German Courts 

The more discrete SV Wilhelmshaven ruling came first. It was not even decided in 2015, as the ruling was handed out on 30 December 2014. Yet, unless you are a sports law freak, you will not have taken notice of this case before 2015 (and our blog). It is not as well known as the Pechstein ruling, but it is challenging the whole private enforcement system put in place by FIFA (and similar systems existing in other SGBs). Indeed, the ruling foresees that before enforcing a sanction rendered by FIFA, the national (or in that case regional) federation must verify that the award underlying the sanction is compatible with EU law. The decision has been appealed to the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH) and a final ruling is expected in 2016.

Later on, in January, the Oberlandesgericht München dropped its legal bomb in the Pechstein case. The court refused to recognize the CAS award sanctioning Claudia Pechstein with a doping ban, as it was deemed contrary to German antitrust rules. The reasoning used in the ruling was indirectly challenging the independence of the CAS and, if confirmed by the BGH, will trigger a necessary reform of the functioning and institutional structure of the CAS. Paradoxically, this is a giant step forward for international sports law and the CAS. The court acknowledges the need for CAS arbitration in global sport. However, justice must be delivered in a fair fashion and the legitimacy of the CAS (which relies on its independence from the Sports Governing Bodies) must be ensured (see our long article on the case here).

We will see how the BGH will deal with these cases in 2016. In any event, they constitute an important warning shot for the CAS. In short, the CAS needs to take EU law and itself seriously. If it truly addresses these challenges, it will come out way stronger.

 

The new World Anti-Doping Code and the Russian Doping Scandal

On the doping front, 2015 is the year in which the new World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) came into force (see our Blog Symposium). The Code introduces substantial changes in the way the anti-doping fight is led and modifies the sanction regime applicable in case of an adverse analytical finding. It is too early to predict with certainty its effects on doping prevalence in international sports. For international sports lawyers, however, it is in any event a fundamental change to the rules applicable to anti-doping disputes, which they need to get closely acquainted with.

The new World Anti-Doping Code was largely overshadowed by the massive doping scandal involving Russian sports, which was unleashed by an ARD documentary (first released in 2014) and revived by the crushing report of the Independent Commission mandated by the World Anti-Doping Agency to investigate the matter. This scandal has shaken the legitimacy of both the anti-doping system and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). It has highlighted the systematic shortcomings of the anti-doping institutions in Russia, and, the weakness of the control exercised on these institutions at a transnational level, be it by IAAF or WADA.

In 2015 again, doping proved to be a scourge intimately linked with international sports. The confidence and the trust of the public, and of clean athletes, in fair sports competitions is anew put to the test. WADA, which was created in the wake of another massive doping scandal in the nineties, has shown its limits. In practice, the decentralization of the enforcement of the WADC empowers local actors, who are very difficult to control for WADA. Some decide to crackdown on Doping with criminal sanctions (see the new German law adopted in December 2015), others prefer to collaborate with their national athletes to improve their performances. The recent proposals at the IOC level aiming at shifting the testing to WADA can be perceived as a preliminary response to this problem. Yet, doing so would entail huge practical difficulties and financial costs.

 

EU law and sport: 20 years of Bosman and beyond

2015 was also the year in which the twentieth anniversary of Bosman was commemorated through multiple conferences and other sports law events. The ASSER International Sports Law Centre edited a special edition of the Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law and a book celebrating the legacy of the ruling is forthcoming with the publisher Springer. The ruling did not have the dramatic effects predicted at the time of the decision, since football is still alive and kicking. Surely, it has given way to new challenges and sharply accelerated the transnationalization of football (and sport in general). A key legacy of Bosman is that this transnationalization, which goes hand in hand with the commercialization of sport, cannot side-line an essential category of stakeholders: the athletes.

It is with this spirit in mind, and a little push of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre, that the European Commission decided to open an investigation into the rules of the International Skating Union (ISU) barring, under the threat of a life ban, speed skaters (and any other affiliate) from joining speed skating competitions which are not condoned by the ISU. Though the case is rather low profile outside of the Netherlands, this is an important step forward for the EU Commission, as it had not opened an EU competition law investigation in sporting matters in almost 15 years. Many other competition law complaints (e.g. TPO or Formula 1) involving sport are currently pending in front of the EU Commission, but it is still to decide whether it will open a formal investigation. 2015 is also the year in which we have desperately expected the release of the EU State aid decisions regarding football clubs, and amongst them Real Madrid, but in the end this will be a matter for 2016.

 

FIFA and the chaotic end of the Blatter reign

FIFA is not the only SGB to have put an abrupt end to the (very) long reign of its great leader (think of the messy downfall of Diack at the IAAF). Yet, when talking about FIFA and football, the resonance of a governance crisis goes well beyond any other. It is truly a global problem, discussed in nearly all news outlets. This illustrates very much how a Swiss association became a global public good, for which an Indian, Brazilian, American or European cares as much as a Swiss, who is in traditional legal terms the only one able to influence FIFA’s structure through legislation. The global outrage triggered by the progressive release by the US authorities of information documenting the corrupt behaviour of FIFA executives has led to two immediate consequences: a change of the guard and a first reform of the institution.

There are now very few FIFA Executive Committee members left who were present in 2010 for the election of Qatar as host city for the 2022 World Cup. The long-time key figures of FIFA, Blatter, Platini and Valcke, are unlikely to make a comeback any time soon. And, the upcoming February election of the new FIFA president is more uncertain than ever with five candidates remaining. Simultaneously, FIFA has announced some governance reforms, which aim at enhancing the transparency of its operation and the legitimacy of its decision-making. We are living through a marvellous time of glasnost and perestroika at FIFA. The final destination of this transformative process remains unknown. There are still some major hurdles to overcome (starting with the one association/one vote system at the FIFA congress) before FIFA is truly able to fulfil its mission in a transparent, accountable and legitimate manner. We hope it will be for 2016!

 

The ASSER International Sports Law Blog in 2015

Finally, a few words on our blog in 2015. In one year we have published 60 posts, our most-read-blog concerned the Pechstein ruling that was read 3054 times.

Our peak day was reached on 4 September with 621 page views (thanks to a great post on the Essendon case by @jrvkfootball).

Our readers are based all around the world, but the majority is based in the EU and the US.


 

  

We hope to be able to keep you interested and busy in 2016 and we wish you a great year!

The ASSER International Sports Law Blog Team


Comments (1) -

  • Paul David QC

    1/8/2016 8:34:31 PM |


    Thanks for your interesting blogs.

Comments are closed