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 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) 


Time to Cure FIFA’s Chronic Bad Governance Disease

 After Tuesday’s dismissal of Michael Garcia’s complaint against the now infamous Eckert statement synthetizing (misleadingly in his eyes) his Report on the bidding process for the World Cup 2018 and 2022, Garcia finally decided to resign from his position as FIFA Ethics Committee member. On his way out, he noted: “No independent governance committee, investigator, or arbitration panel can change the culture of an organization”. It took Garcia a while to understand this, although others faced similar disappointments before. One needs only to remember the forgotten reform proposals of the Independent Governance Committee led by Prof. Dr. Mark Pieth. More...

The CAS Ad Hoc Division in 2014: Business As Usual? - Part. 2: The Selection Drama

In a first blog last month we discussed the problem of the scope of jurisdiction of the Ad Hoc Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The key issue was whether an athlete could get his case heard in front of the CAS Ad Hoc Division or not. In this second part, we will also focus on whether an athlete can access a forum, but a different kind of forum: the Olympic Games as such. This is a dramatic moment in an athlete’s life, one that will decide the future path of an entire career and most likely a lifetime of opportunities. Thus, it is a decision that should not be taken lightly, nor in disregard of the athletes’ due process rights. In the past, several (non-)selection cases were referred to the Ad Hoc Divisions at the Olympic Games, and this was again the case in 2014, providing us with the opportunity for the present review.

Three out of four cases dealt with by the CAS Ad Hoc Division in Sochi involved an athlete contesting her eviction from the Games. Each case is specific in its factual and legal assessment and deserves an individual review. More...

Should the CAS ‘let Dutee run’? Gender policies in Sport under legal scrutiny. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

The rise of Dutee Chand, India’s 100 and 200-meter champion in the under 18-category, was astonishing. Her achievements were more than promising: after only two years, she broke the 100m and 200m national junior records, competed in the 100m final at the World Youth Athletics Championships in Donetsk and collected two gold medals in the Asian Junior Championships in Chinese Taipei. But, in July 2014, this steady rise was abruptly halted. Following a request from the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), the Sports Authority of India (SAI) conducted blood tests on the Indian sprinters. Dutee was detected with female hyperandrogenism, i.e a condition where the female body produces high levels of testosterone. As a result, a few days before the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the AFI declared Dutee ineligible to compete under the IAAF Regulations and prevented her from competing in future national and international events in the female category. Pursuant to the IAAF ‘Hyperandrogenism Policy’, the AFI would allow Dutee to return to competition only if she lowers her testosterone level beneath the male range by means of medical or surgical treatment.[1] On 25 September 2014, Dutee filed an appeal before the CAS, seeking to overturn the AFI’s decision and declare IAAF and IOC’s hyperandrogenism regulations null and void. She is defending her right to compete the way she actually is: a woman with high levels of testosterone. Interestingly enough, albeit a respondent, AFI supports her case.

IAAF and IOC rules set limits to female hyperandrogenism, which is deemed an unfair advantage that erodes female sports integrity. While these rules have been contested with regard to their scientific and ethical aspects, this is the first time that they will be debated in court. This appeal could have far-reaching ramifications for the sports world. It does not only seek to pave the way for a better ‘deal’ for female athletes with hyperandrogenism, who are coerced into hormonal treatment and even surgeries to ‘normalise’ themselves as women[2], but it rather brings the CAS, for the first time, before the thorny question:

How to strike a right balance between the core principle of ‘fair play’ and norms of non-discrimination, in cases where a determination of who qualifies as a ‘woman’ for the purposes of sport has to be made? More...

The O’Bannon Case: The end of the US college sport’s amateurism model? By Zygimantas Juska

On 8 August, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favour of former UCLA basketball player O'Bannon and 19 others, declaring that NCAA's longstanding refusal to compensate athletes for the use of their name, image and likenesses (NILs) violates US antitrust laws. In particular, the long-held amateurism justification promoted by the NCAA was deemed unconvincing.

On 14 November, the NCAA has appealed the judgment, claiming that federal judge erred in law by not applying a 1984 Supreme Court ruling. One week later, the NCAA received support from leading antitrust professors who are challenging the Judge Wilken’s reasoning in an amicus curiae. They are concerned that the judgment may jeopardize the proper regulation of college athletics. The professors argued that if Wilken’s judgment is upheld, it

would substantially expand the power of the federal courts to alter organizational rules that serve important social and academic interests…This approach expands the ‘less restrictive alternative prong’ of the antitrust rule of reason well beyond any appropriate boundaries and would install the judiciary as a regulatory agency for collegiate athletics”.   


Image Rights in Professional Basketball (Part II): Lessons from the American College Athletes cases. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

In the wake of the French Labour Union of Basketball (Syndicat National du Basket, SNB) image rights dispute with Euroleague and EA Games, we threw the “jump ball” to start a series on players’ image rights in international professional basketball. In our first blogpost, we discussed why image rights contracts in professional basketball became a fertile ground for disputes when it comes to the enforcement of these contracts by the Basketball Arbitral Tribunal (BAT). Indeed, we pointed out that clubs might take advantage of the BAT’s inconsistent jurisprudence to escape obligations deriving from image rights contracts.

In this second limb, we will open a second field of legal battles “around the rim”: the unauthorized use of players’ image rights by third parties. We will use as a point of reference the US College Athletes image rights cases before US Courts and we will thereby examine the legal nature of image rights and the precise circumstances in which such rights may be infringed. Then, coming back to where we started, we will discuss the French case through the lens of US case law on players’ image rights. 

Source: More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | How 2019 Will Shape the International Sports Law of the 2020s - By Thomas Terraz

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

How 2019 Will Shape the International Sports Law of the 2020s - By Thomas Terraz

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a fourth year LL.B. candidate at the International and European Law programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences with a specialisation in European Law. Currently he is pursuing an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on International and European Sports Law.


1.     Introduction

As we begin plunging into a new decade, it can be helpful to look back and reflect on some of the most influential developments and trends from 2019 that may continue to shape international sports law in 2020 and beyond. Hence, this piece will not attempt to recount every single sports law news item but rather identify a few key sports law stories of 2019 that may have a continued impact in the 2020s. The following sections are not in a particular order.

2.     Court of Justice of the European Union’s TopFit Decision

The Court of Justice of the European Union’s decision in TopFit in June sent shockwaves in the EU sports law world by finally providing some answers to a long untouched issue of purely amateur sport. The case concerned an Italian amateur athlete, living in Germany for several years who had been precluded from participating in a German national championship in the senior category due to no longer fulfilling the nationality requirements because of a change of the Deutscher Leichtathletikverband’s (DLV) regulations governing this issue. Daniele Biffi, the athlete in the case, argued that this violated his European citizenship rights under Articles 18 and 21 TFEU. Leading up to the final decision, the Advocate General’s opinion in the case, analyzed in an earlier blog, had sidelined this argument in favor of embracing a more familiar economic argument based on the freedom of establishment. AG Tanchev contended that an analysis based on Article 18 and 21 TFEU may open a pandora’s box by giving horizontal direct effect to Article 21 TFEU. In the end, the CJEU took the issue of European citizenship rights head on. The CJEU’s decision, also analyzed in our blog, focused on three themes: the general applicability of EU law to amateur sport, the horizontal applicability of European citizenship rights, and the justifications and accompanied proportionality requirements to nationality restrictions in national championships. It found that Mr. Biffi could rely on Articles 18 and 21 TFEU and ruled that the DLV’s justifications for the rule change were disproportionate.

All things considered, there are a variety of ways TopFit may have a lasting impact. For example, the ‘golden rule’ of EU sports law had once been that an economic dimension was always needed to trigger the applicability of EU law. This is clearly no longer the case as the CJEU in TopFit expressly confirmed that European citizenship rights, which do not require an economic dimension to be invoked, could be relied upon in a sports related case, meaning that all sport activity is subject to EU law. Additionally, TopFit may have unlocked the true potential behind European citizenship rights by giving them horizontal direct effect, which may have ramifications far beyond sports law.[1]  In the years ahead, it will be interesting to see whether this will trigger a flood of new cases based on European citizenship rights.

3.     Decision of the Bundeskartellamt (German Competition Authority) Concerning Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter

As has become tradition in the lead up to an Olympic year, athletes have once more been pushing back against bye-law 3 of rule 40 of the Olympic Charter (OC), which restricts advertisements from athletes participating in the Olympic Games. While rule 40’s intent is to combat ambush marketing at the Games to protect the value of the Olympic Partner Programme (TOP), athletes have argued that it severely restricts their ability to financially exploit their sport achievements during the Olympic Games, which for many is a once in a lifetime opportunity for greater exposure.[2] This is compounded by the fact that many athletes struggle to make a living from their sport. This situation most recently culminated in a decision of the Bundeskartellamt (the German competition law authority) that focused on this issue. In its preliminary assessment of the case, the Bundeskartellamt took a restrictive view of when limitations on athlete advertisements could be justified by narrowly interpreting ambush marketing and finding that restrictions on advertisement must aim to protect specific intellectual property rights. In the end, the Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund (Germany’s national Olympic committee) made several commitments to resolve the case.[3]

The decision is likely to (and has already to a certain extent[4]) help spark a shift in the IOC’s position on this issue. Furthermore, the British Olympic Association has just recently faced a new complaint on behalf of some of its athletes. Regardless, it is clear the European Commission is closely following the situation and given the Bundeskartellamt’s decision is only enforceable within Germany, there is a continued possibility that the Commission and ultimately the CJEU may eventually have a final say on this issue. Rule 40 undoubtedly is an issue that deserves attention, especially with Tokyo 2020 around the corner.

4.     Sun Yang’s Public Hearing at the CAS

2019 also proved to be quite the historic year for sport arbitration since for the second time in its 35-year history, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) conducted a public hearing. It signals that the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) Pechstein decision is starting to have a transformative effect at the CAS. To quickly recap, the ECtHR had found in Pechstein that clauses that impose CAS arbitration as a condition to participate in sport activity amount to forced arbitration, meaning that in cases resulting from such circumstances (especially disciplinary cases) the CAS must observe Article 6§1 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), which sets out the right to a fair trial.[5] This includes that ‘in principle, litigants have a right to a public hearing’.[6] Consequently, parties have greater room to request a public hearing at the CAS, especially when the dispute is of a disciplinary nature.[7] Hence, Sun Yang’s public hearing may be heralding a new era where public hearings at the CAS become a common display.

Sun Yang’s hearing also highlighted some of the practical challenges of conducting live hearings when the proceedings are in a different language as some of the parties and/or witnesses. As covered in our monthly report, the interpreters failed to properly translate multiple testimonies during the Sun Yang hearing. Many wondered whether there would be a need for greater safeguards in terms of the quality of translation given how it can affect one’s right to be heard. However, the CAS maintained that it could not directly hire its own ‘official’ translators because it would potentially threaten its ‘independence and neutrality’. Yet, one could envision that the CAS would set certain minimum standards for parties’ interpreters and or manages a list of accredited interpreters from which the parties could pick. In any event, this case signals the beginning of a new public era in sports arbitration that will profoundly shift the way the game is played at the CAS in the 2020s.

5.     New FIFA Legal Portal

FIFA has taken a step towards increasing its transparency through the launch of a new legal portal in which it has undertaken to publish all the decisions of the Disciplinary Committee, Appeal Committee, the Adjudicatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee, the Dispute Resolution Chamber, the Player Status Committee, the CAS where FIFA is a party, and a multitude of other documents with a legal dimension. According to FIFA, these decisions will be updated every 4 months, meaning that a new batch of decisions should be expected to be posted soon. The initiative for the FIFA Legal portal was resulting from a push for greater transparency in its governance as a cornerstone of its 2016 FIFA 2.0: The Vision for the Future.

Increasing transparency in this manner will give greater room for stakeholders and the general public to keep FIFA accountable, review the work of its disciplinary bodies and criticise the legal reasoning they use. However, only time will tell whether this portal will deliver a reliable and useful level of transparency enabling a rigorous public scrutiny on FIFA.

6.     Caster Semenya Case

Caster Semenya’s struggles with World Athletics (formerly IAAF) continued in 2019, culminating in a CAS award followed by an interim decision of the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT), both in favor of World Athletics. The case revolved around World Athletics’ DSD Regulations (difference of sex development) that required athletes competing in the female category in certain events (400m to one mile) at an international level to keep their testosterone levels below five nmol/L. Caster Semenya challenged these regulations arguing that they were ‘unfairly’ discriminating against females and especially those with ‘certain physiological traits’ because they were not scientifically based, they are ‘unnecessary to ensure fair competition within the female classification’ and would likely ‘cause grave, unjustified and irreparable harm’. The CAS award found that the DSD Regulations are discriminatory, however, they are also proportionate to World Athletics’ ‘aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics’. The award was subsequently appealed to the Swiss Federal Tribunal who in a second interim decision lifted its provisional suspension of the DSD Regulations. With this decision, Caster Semenya was barred from participating in the World Championships in Doha.

Looking at the case as a whole, some have underlined the manner in which World Athlete’s regulations only target women and argued that it is fundamentally rooted in gender stereotypes. It also illustrates how certain assumptions on sex[8] have shaped World Athletics policies on this issue, while others also contend that it is unethical to force athletes to have to reduce their testosterone levels if there is no underlying medical need.[9]  To be fair, the issue is not entirely black and white and nuanced arguments have also been made in support of testosterone testing.[10] In any event, this case will necessarily become an important classic of international sports law and most likely linger in the docket of the ECtHR (or of the South African constitutional court) for years to come. It will refine the scope of the autonomy of SGBs and test the reputation of the CAS.   

7.     Russian Doping Scandal Continues

The last, and perhaps the news item that received the most media attention, is the ongoing Russian doping scandal. Worries arose once again earlier this year after inconsistencies were uncovered from data retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory. In response, the WADA Executive Committee decided unanimously on December 9 in favor of a four-year period of non-compliance, following the recommendation of WADA’s Compliance Review Committee. RUSADA swiftly appealed the WADA’s decision to the CAS.

The reemergence of the Russian doping scandal has reignited discussions on whether the original decision to declare Russia compliant in September 2018 was perhaps premature. At the time, that decision had been especially criticized by athlete representative groups. This round of the Russian doping scandal may prove to be a greater test on WADA’s ability to keep credibility with the world’s athletes and the general public. Some, like Richard Pound have contended that the new sanctions are tough,[11] but others have argued that more could be done and that leaving the door open to certain ‘approved’ Russian athletes puts clean sport at risk. So far, Russia‘s leadership have mainly characterized the investigation and following sanctions as a witch-hunt stemming from anti-Russian sentiment. The scandal will loom large over the Tokyo Olympics and will probably lead to a fresh wave of Russian cases before the CAS and the SFT.

8.     Conclusion

2019 was a rich year for international and European sports law with many landmark decisions taken, which will have a long-lasting effect on the field. Changes linked to the transparency of sports justice and governance are more likely to have unpredictable transformative consequences as they will enhance the ability of the media to subject sports arbitrators and administrators to rigorous scrutiny. Furthermore, the Rule 40 case and the TopFit decision are also strong reminders of the power of EU law (be it competition law or citizenship rights) as a vehicle to check the decisions of the SGBs. Finally, the Semenya case is certainly the CAS award of the year. It pushed to the forefront a fundamental ethical and philosophical question: Should SGBs be entitled to define the sporting sex of an athlete? What is their legitimacy in taking such a decision?

[1] It is possible that these situations may still be limited since the CJEU’s decision indicates that a power disparity is needed between the parties. See Case C-22/18 TopFit e.V. Daniele Biffi v Deutscher Leichtathletikverband e.V. [2019] ECLI:EU:C:2019:497, para 39.

[2] See our previous blog on rule 40 (and the Bundeskartellamt’s decision), which goes in depth on rule 40’s inception and purpose.

[3] Commitments included: ‘(1) no more authorization required for advertisements during the frozen period and instead athletes can request that the DOSB review planned advertisements beforehand to confirm if it meets the admissibility criteria; (2) advertisement campaigns may now be launched during the frozen period; (3) pictures of athletes during Olympic competitions may be used for advertisement so long as it does not include protected Olympic logos, symbols or designations; (4) videos are restricted only to the German House, the Olympic village or the back of house areas and (5) sports related sanctions are no longer available (only economic sanctions are possible) and athletes may have recourse to German courts.’

[4] Rule 40 OC has been reformulated from a ban on athlete advertisement with certain exceptions to where athlete advertisements are allowed subject to restrictions.

[5] See Antoine Duval, ‘The “Victory” of the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the European Court of Human Rights: The End of the Beginning for the CAS’ (Asser International Sports Law Blog, 10 October 2018).

[6]Guide on Article 6 of the European Convention on Huma Rights’ (ECtHR 2019).

[7] The R57 of the Code was amended in January of last year. See the current version of R57 CAS Code.

[8] While this piece was written in relation to the previous IAAF regulations ‘Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women's Competition’, it is still relevant to the current regulations: Cheryl Cooky and Shari L Dworkin, ‘Policing the Boundaries of Sex: A Critical Examination of Gender Verification and the Caster Semenya Controversy’ [2013] 50 Journal of Sex Research 103.

[9] This piece also was written concerning the previous IAAF regulations, it also is still relevant to the current discussion: Malcolm Ferguson-Smith and Dawn Bavington, ‘Natural Selection for Genetic Variants in Sport: The Role of Y Chromosome Genes in Elite Female Athletes with 46,XY DSD’ [2014] 44 Sports Medicine 1629.

[10] This piece also was written concerning the previous IAAF regulations, it also is still relevant to the current discussion: Francisco J. Sánchez , María José Martínez-Patiño and Eric Vilain, ‘The New Policy on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes is Not About “Sex Testing”’ [2013] 50 Journal of Sex Research 112.

[11] See also LawInSport’s interview with Jonathan Taylor QC, chair of WADA’s Compliance Review Committee, explaining the reasoning behind the recommendations.

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