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 2014 Dortmund judgment: what potential for a follow-on class action? By Zygimantas Juska

Class actions are among the most powerful legal tools available in the US to enforce competition rules. With more than 75 years of experience, the American system offers valuable lessons about the benefits and drawbacks of class actions for private enforcement in competition law. Once believed of as only a US phenomenon, class actions are slowly becoming reality in the EU. After the adoption of the Directive on damages actions in November 2014, the legislative initiative in collective redress (which could prescribe a form of class actions) is expected in 2017.[1] Some pro-active Member States have already taken steps to introduce class actions in some fashion, like, for example, Germany.

What is a class action? It is a lawsuit that allows many similar legal claims with a common interest to be bundled into a single court action. Class actions facilitate access to justice for potential claimants, strengthen the negotiating power and contribute to the efficient administration of justice. This legal mechanism ensures a possibility to claim cessation of illegal behavior (injunctive relief) or to claim compensation for damage suffered (compensatory relief).  More...

The Pechstein ruling of the OLG München - A Rough Translation

The Pechstein decision of the Oberlandesgericht of Munich is “ground-breaking”, “earth-shaking”, “revolutionary”, name it. It was the outmost duty of a “German-reading” sports lawyer to translate it as fast as possible in order to make it available for the sports law community at large (Disclaimer: This is not an official translation and I am no certified legal translator). Below you will find the rough translation of the ruling (the full German text is available here), it is omitting solely the parts, which are of no direct interest to international sports law.

The future of CAS is in the balance and this ruling should trigger some serious rethinking of the institutional set-up that underpins it. As you will see, the ruling is not destructive, the Court is rather favourable to the function of CAS in the sporting context, but it requires a fundamental institutional reshuffling. It also offers a fruitful legal strategy to challenge CAS awards that could be used in front of any national court of the EU as it is based on reasoning analogically applicable to article 102 TFEU (on abuse of a dominant position), which is valid across the EU’s territory.

Enjoy the read! 


PS: The translation can also be downloaded at


From Veerpalu to Lalluka: ‘one step forward, two steps back’ for CAS in dealing with Human Growth Hormone tests (by Thalia Diathesopoulou)

In autumn 2011, the Finnish cross-country skier Juha Lalluka, known as a “lone-wolf” because of his training habit, showed an adverse analytical finding with regard to human growth hormone (hGH). The timing was ideal. As the FINADA Supervisory Body in view of the A and B positive samples initiated disciplinary proceedings against Lalluka for violation of anti-doping rules, the Veerpalu case was pending before the CAS. At the athlete’s request, the Supervisory Board postponed the proceedings until the CAS rendered the award in the Veerpalu case. Indeed, on 25 March 2013, the CAS shook the anti-doping order: it cleared Andrus Veerpalu of an anti-doping rule violation for recombinant hGH (rhGH) on the grounds that the decision limits set by WADA to define the ratio beyond which the laboratories should report the presence of rhGH had not proven scientifically reliable.

The Veerpalu precedent has become a rallying flag for athletes suspected of use of hGH and confirmed some concerns raised about the application of the hGH test. Not surprisingly, Sinkewitz and Lallukka followed the road that Veerpalu paved and sought to overturn their doping ban by alleging the scientific unreliability of the hGH decisions limits. Without success, however. With the full text of the CAS award on the Lallukka case released a few weeks ago[1] and the new rules of the 2015 WADA Code coming into force, we grasp the opportunity to outline the ambiguous approach of CAS on the validity of the hGH test. In short: Should the Veerpalu case and its claim that doping sanctions should rely on scientifically well founded assessments be considered as a fundamental precedent or as a mere exception? More...

State Aid and Sport: does anyone really care about rugby? By Beverley Williamson

There has been a lot of Commission interest in potential state aid to professional football clubs in various Member States.  The huge sums of money involved are arguably an important factor in this interest and conversely, is perhaps the reason why state aid in rugby union is not such a concern. But whilst the sums of money may pale into comparison to those of professional football, the implications for the sport are potentially no less serious.

At the end of the 2012/2013 season, Biarritz Olympique (Biarritz) were relegated from the elite of French Rugby Union, the Top 14 to the Pro D2.  By the skin of their teeth, and as a result of an injection of cash from the local council (which amounted to 400,000€), they were spared administrative relegation to the amateur league below, the Fédérale 1, which would have occurred as a result of the financial state of the club.More...

State aid in Croatia and the Dinamo Zagreb case


The year 2015 promises to be crucial, and possibly revolutionary, for State aid in football. The European Commission is taking its time in concluding its formal investigations into alleged State aid granted to five Dutch clubs and several Spanish clubs, including Valencia CF and Real Madrid, but the final decisions are due for 2015.

A few months ago, the Commission also received a set of fresh State aid complaints originating from the EU’s newest Member State Croatia. The complaints were launched by a group of minority shareholders of the Croatian football club Hajduk Split, who call themselves Naš Hajduk. According to Naš Hajduk, Hajduk Split’s eternal rival, GNK Dinamo Zagreb, has received more than 30 million Euros in unlawful aid by the city of Zagreb since 2006.More...

“The Odds of Match Fixing – Facts & Figures on the integrity risk of certain sports bets”. By Ben Van Rompuy

Media reports and interested stakeholders often suggest that certain types of sports bets would significantly increase the risks of match fixing occurring. These concerns also surface in policy discussions at both the national and European level. Frequently calls are made to prohibit the supply of “risky” sports bets as a means to preserve the integrity of sports competitions.

Questions about the appropriateness of imposing such limitations on the regulated sports betting, however, still linger. The lack of access to systematic empirical evidence on betting-related match fixing has so far limited the capacity of academic research to make a proper risk assessment of certain types of sports bets. 

The ASSER International Sports Law Centre has conducted the first-ever study that assesses the integrity risks of certain sports bets on the basis of quantitative empirical evidence. 

We uniquely obtained access to key statistics from Sportradar’s Fraud Detection System (FDS). A five-year dataset of football matches worldwide, which the FDS identified as likely to have been targeted by match fixers, enabled us to observe patterns and correlations with certain types of sports bets. In addition, representative samples of football bets placed with sports betting operator Betfair were collected and analysed. 

The results presented in this report, which challenge several claims about the alleged risks generated by certain types of sports bets, hope to inform policy makers about the cost-effectiveness of imposing limits on the regulated sports betting offer.More...

The Pechstein ruling of the Oberlandesgericht München - Time for a new reform of CAS?

Editor's note (13 July 2015): We (Ben Van Rompuy and I) have just published on SSRN an article on the Pechstein ruling of the OLG. It is available at Feel free to download it and to share any feedback with us!

On 15 January 2015, the earth must have been shaking under the offices of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne when the Oberlandesgericht München announced its decision in the Pechstein case. If not entirely unpredictable, the decision went very far (further than the first instance) in eroding the legal foundations on which sports arbitration rests. It is improbable (though not impossible) that the highest German civil court, the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), which will most likely be called to pronounce itself in the matter, will entirely dismiss the reasoning of the Oberlandesgericht. This blogpost is a first examination of the legal arguments used (Disclaimer: it is based only on the official press release, the full text of the ruling will be published in the coming months).More...

In blood we trust? The Kreuziger Biological Passport Case. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

Over the last twenty years, professional cycling has developed the reputation of one of the “most drug soaked sports in the world”.[1] This should not come as a surprise. The sport’s integrity has plummeted down due to an unprecedented succession of doping scandals. La crème de la crème of professional cyclists has been involved in doping incidents including Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Alejandro Valverde and Lance Armstrong. The once prestigious Tour de France has been stigmatized as a race of “pharmacological feat, not a physical one”.[2]

In view of these overwhelming shadows, in 2008, the International Cycling Union (UCI), in cooperation with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) took a leap in the fight against doping. It became the first International Sports Federation to implement a radical new anti-doping program known as the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).[3] More...

A Question of (dis)Proportion: The CAS Award in the Luis Suarez Biting Saga

The summer saga surrounding Luis Suarez’s vampire instincts is long forgotten, even though it might still play a role in his surprisingly muted football debut in FC Barcelona’s magic triangle. However, the full text of the CAS award in the Suarez case has recently be made available on CAS’s website and we want to grasp this opportunity to offer a close reading of its holdings. In this regard, one has to keep in mind that “the object of the appeal is not to request the complete annulment of the sanction imposed on the Player” (par.33). Instead, Suarez and Barcelona were seeking to reduce the sanction imposed by FIFA. In their eyes, the four-month ban handed out by FIFA extending to all football-related activities and to the access to football stadiums was excessive and disproportionate. Accordingly, the case offered a great opportunity for CAS to discuss and analyse the proportionality of disciplinary sanctions based on the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FIFA DC).  More...

The International Sports Law Digest – Issue II – July-December 2014

I. Literature

1. Antitrust/Competition Law and Sport

G Basnier, ‘Sports and competition law: the case of the salary cap in New Zealand rugby union’, (2014) 14 The International Sports Law Journal 3-4, p.155

R Craven, ‘Football and State aid: too important to fail?’ (2014) 14 The International Sports Law Journal 3-4, p.205

R Craven, ‘State Aid and Sports Stadiums: EU Sports Policy or Deference to Professional Football (2014) 35 European Competition Law Review Issue 9, 453

2. Intellectual Property Rights in Sports law / Betting rights/ Spectators’ rights/ Sponsorship Agreements


W T Champion and K DWillis, Intellectual property law in the sports and entertainment industries (Santa Barbara, California; Denver, Colorado; Oxford, England: Praeger 2014)

J-M Marmayou and F Rizzo, Les contrats de sponsoring sportif (Lextenso éditions 2014) 


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