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

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2017. By Saverio Spera.

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked. 

The Headlines

The Diarra ruling of the Tribunal of Charleroi

On 19 January 2017, the Hainaut Commercial Tribunal – Charleroi rendered its decision on the lawsuit filed by the football player Lassana Diarra against FIFA and the Belgian FA (URBSFA) for damages caused by not being able to exercise the status of a professional football player during the entire 2014/2015 season. The lawsuit is linked to the decision, rendered by the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) on April 2015, to support Lokomotiv’s decision to terminate the player’s contract and to order Diarra to pay Lokomotiv the amount of EUR 10,500,000 for having breached his contract. According to the plaintiff, Diarra’s opportunity to be recruited by Sporting Charleroi was denied due to the club being potentially considered jointly liable for Diarra’s compensation pursuant to Article 17 (2) RSTP. The Belgian court held strongly that “when the contract is terminated by the club, the player must have the possibility to sign a new contract with a new employer, without restrictions to his free movement”. This case highlighted, once again, the need to read the RSTP in the light of EU law. Moreover, the decision is laying further ground for broader challenges to the RSTP on the basis of EU law (for a deeper insight into the Diarra ruling, see the recent blog written by our senior researcher Antoine Duval) More...

Introducing the new legal challenges of E-Sports. By N. Emre Bilginoglu

Editor’s Note: Emre Bilginoglu[1] is an attorney in Istanbul and the co-founder of the Turkish E-Sports Players Association, a non-profit based in Istanbul that aims to provide assistance to professional gamers and to work on the relevant laws affecting them. 

The world is witnessing the rise of a new sport that is growing at an incredible speed: E-Sports. We are only starting to understand its legal implications and challenges.

In recent years, E-Sports has managed to attract thousands of fans to arenas to see a group of people play a video game. These people are literally professional gamers (cyber athletes)[2] who make money by competing in tournaments. Not all video games have tournaments in which professional players compete against each other.

The most played games in E-Sports competitions are League of Legends (LoL), Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). LoL and DotA are both Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, a genre of strategy video games in which the player controls a single character in one of two teams. The goal of the game is to destroy the opponent’s main structure. CS:GO is a first-person shooter (FPS) game, a genre of video games where the player engages combat through a first-person perspective. The main objective in CS:GO is to eliminate the opposing team or to terrorize or counter-terrorize, planting bombs or rescuing hostages. Other games that have (popular) E-Sports competitions include Starcraft II (real time strategy), Hearthstone (collectible card video game), Call of Duty (FPS) and FIFA (football).

The gaming requires cooperation between team players, a high level of concentration, rapid reactions and some seriously fast clicking. E-Sports is a groovy term to describe organized competitive computer gaming. The E-Sports industry is exponentially growing, amounting to values expressed in billions of dollars. According to Newzoo, a website dedicated to the collection of E-Sports data, there are some 250 million occasional viewers of E-Sports with Asia-Pacific accounting for half of the total amount. The growth of the industry is indubitably supported by online streaming media platforms. This article aims to explain what E-Sports is and to give the readers an insight on the key legal questions raised by it. More...

Time for Transparency at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. By Saverio Spera

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

The time is ripe to take a closer look at the CAS and its transparency, as this is one of the ways to ensure its public accountability and its legitimacy. From 1986 to 2013, the number of arbitrations submitted to the CAS has grown from 2 to more than 400 a year. More specifically, the number of appeals submitted almost doubled in less than ten years (from 175 in 2006, to 349 in 2013[1]). Therefore, the Court can be considered the judicial apex of an emerging transnational sports law (or lex sportiva).[2] In turn, the increased authority and power of this institution calls for increased transparency, in order to ensure its legitimacy.[3]


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

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

Sport and match-fixing – A quick overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – November and December 2016. By Saverio Spera.

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked. 

The Headlines

The Russian State Doping Scandal and the crisis of the World Anti-Doping System

Russian doping and the state of the Anti-Doping System has been the dominant international sports law story in November and December. This is mainly due to the release of the second report of the McLaren’s investigation on 9 December 2016. The outcome of McLaren’s work showed a “well-oiled systemic cheating scheme” that reached to the highest level of Russian sports and government, involving the striking figure of 30 sports and more than 1000 athletes in doping practices over four years and two Olympic Games. The report detailed tampering with samples to swap out athletes’ dirty urine with clean urine.More...

FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors - Part 3: The compatibility of Article 19 with EU law. 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 final blog aims to provide some broader perspective, by sketching first the grander scheme in which Article 19 RSTP – FIFA's provision on the protection of minors – operates. Thereafter, the focus will shift towards testing Article 19 RSTP, thereby keeping in mind the previous blogs (Part 1: The Early Years and Part 2: The 2009 reform and its aftermath), against EU free movement law.  

Putting Article 19 RSTP into perspective: The bigger picture

After having investigated the nuts and bolts of FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors in the first two parts of this blog, it might be useful to address its bigger picture.

Article 19 RSTP and its accompanying provisions regulate only a small share of the targeted activity. There is, unfortunately, also an illegal world. Circumvention of the prohibition is allegedly commonplace.[1] Visas and passports can be falsified.[2] Work permits can be obtained on the basis of jobs arranged by clubs.[3] More...

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] 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