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

Blog Symposium: The new WADA Code 2015 - Introduction

Day 1: The impact of the revised World Anti-Doping Code on the work of National Anti-Doping Agencies
Day 2: The “Athlete Patient” and the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code: Competing Under Medical Treatment
Day 3: Proof of intent (or lack thereof) under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code
Day 4: Ensuring proportionate sanctions under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code

On 1 January, a new version of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC or Code) entered into force. This blog symposium aims at taking stock of this development and at offering a preliminary analysis of the key legal changes introduced. The present blog will put the WADC into a more general historical and political context. It aims to briefly retrace the emergence of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and its Code. It will also reconstruct the legislative process that led to the adoption of the WADC 2015 and introduce the various contributions to the blog symposium.More...

To pay or not to pay? That is the question. The case of O’Bannon v. NCAA and the struggle of student athletes in the US. By Zlatka Koleva

Editor's note
Zlatka Koleva is a graduate from the Erasmus University Rotterdam and is currently an Intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

The decision on appeal in the case of O’Bannon v. NCAA seems, at first sight, to deliver answers right on time regarding the unpaid use of names, images and likenesses (NILs) of amateur college athletes, which has been an ongoing debate in the US after last year’s district court decision that amateur players in the college games deserve to receive compensation for their NILs.[1] The ongoing struggle for compensation in exchange for NILs used in TV broadcasts and video games in the US has reached a turning point and many have waited impatiently for the final say of the Court of Appeal for the 9th circuit. The court’s ruling on appeal for the 9th circuit, however, raises more legitimate concerns for amateur sports in general than it offers consolation to unprofessional college sportsmen. While the appellate court agreed with the district court that NCAA should provide scholarships amounting to the full cost of college attendance to student athletes, the former rejected deferred payment to students of up to 5,000 dollars for NILs rights. The conclusions reached in the case relate to the central antitrust concerns raised by NCAA, namely the preservation of consumer demand for amateur sports and how these interests can be best protected under antitrust law. More...

The European Commission’s ISU antitrust investigation explained. By Ben Van Rompuy

In June 2014, two prominent Dutch speed skaters, Mark Tuitert (Olympic Champion 1500m) and Niels Kerstholt (World Champion short track), filed a competition law complaint against the International Skating Union (ISU) with the European Commission.

ChanceToCompeteTwitter.png (50.4KB)

Today, the European Commission announced that it has opened a formal antitrust investigation into International Skating Union (ISU) rules that permanently ban skaters from competitions such as the Winter Olympics and the ISU World and European Championships if they take part in events not organised or promoted by the ISU. The Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, stated that the Commission "will investigate if such rules are being abused to enforce a monopoly over the organisation of sporting events or otherwise restrict competition. Athletes can only compete at the highest level for a limited number of years, so there must be good reasons for preventing them to take part in events."

Since the case originates from legal advice provided by the ASSER International Sports Law Centre, we thought it would be helpful to provide some clarifications on the background of the case and the main legal issues at stake. More...

Interview with Wil van Megen (Legal Director of FIFPro) on FIFPro’s EU Competition Law complaint against the FIFA Transfer System

Editor’s note
Wil is working as a lawyer since 1980. He started his legal career at Rechtshulp Rotterdam. Later on he worked for the Dutch national trade union FNV and law firm Varrolaan Advocaten. Currently he is participating in the Labour Law Section of lawfirm MHZ-advocaten in Schiedam in the Netherlands. He is also a member of a joint committee advising the government in labour issues.

Since 1991 he is dealing with the labour issues of the trade union for professional football players VVCS and cyclists’ union VVBW. Since 2002, he works for FIFPro, the worldwide union for professional football players based in Hoofddorp in the Netherlands. He is involved in many international football cases and provides legal support for FIFPro members all over the world. Wil was also involved in the FIFPro Black Book campaign on match fixing and corruption in Eastern Europe. More...

The Scala reform proposals for FIFA: Old wine in new bottles?

Rien ne va plus at FIFA. The news that FIFA’s Secretary General Jérôme Valcke was put on leave and released from his duties has been quickly overtaken by the opening of a criminal investigation targeting both Blatter and Platini.

With FIFA hopping from one scandal to the next, one tends to disregard the fact that it has been attempting (or rather pretending) to improve the governance of the organisation for some years now. In previous blogs (here and here), we discussed the so-called ‘FIFA Governance Reform Project’, a project carried out by the Independent Governance Committee (IGC) under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Mark Pieth of the Basel Institute on Governance. Their third and final report, published on 22 April 2014, listed a set of achievements made by FIFA in the area of good governance since 2011, such as establishing an Audit and Compliance Committee (A&C). However, the report also indicated the reform proposals that FIFA had not met. These proposals included the introduction of term limits for specific FIFA officials (e.g. the President) as well as introducing an integrity review procedure for all the members of the Executive Committee (ExCo) and the Standing Committees. More...

Why the CAS #LetDuteeRun: the Proportionality of the Regulation of Hyperandrogenism in Athletics by Piotr Drabik

Editor's note
Piotr is an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.


On 24 July the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) issued its decision in the proceedings brought by the Indian athlete Ms. Dutee Chand against the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in which she challenged the validity of the IAAF Regulations Governing Eligibility of Female with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition (Regulations). The Regulations were established in 2011 as a response to the controversies surrounding South African athlete Caster Semenya (see e.g. here, here, and here), and for the purpose of safeguarding fairness in sport by prohibiting women with hyperandrogenism, i.e. those with excessive levels of endogenous (naturally occurring) testosterone, from competing in women athletics competitions. Owing to the subject-matter that the Regulations cover, the case before the CAS generated complex legal, scientific and ethical questions. The following case note thus aims at explaining how the Panel addressed the issues raised by the Indian athlete. It follows a previous blog we published in December 2014 that analysed the arguments raised in favour of Ms. Chand. More...

Not comfortably satisfied? The upcoming Court of Arbitration for Sport case of the thirty-four current and former players of the Essendon football club. By James Kitching

Editor's note: James Kitching is Legal Counsel and Secretary to the AFC judicial bodies at the Asian Football Confederation. James is an Australian and Italian citizen and one of the few Australians working in international sports law. He is admitted as barrister and solicitor in the Supreme Court of South Australia. James graduated from the International Master in the Management, Law, and Humanities of Sport offered by the Centre International d'Etude du Sport in July 2012.


On 12 May 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had filed an appeal against the decision issued by the Australian Football League (AFL) Anti-Doping Tribunal (AADT) that thirty-four current and former players of Essendon Football Club (Essendon) had not committed any anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) identified within the AFL Anti-Doping Code (AADC). The players had each been charged with using Thymosin-Beta 4 (TB4) during the 2012 AFL season.

On 1 June 2015, WADA announced that it had filed an appeal against the decision by the AADT to clear Mr. Stephen Dank (Dank), a sports scientist employed at Essendon during the relevant period, of twenty-one charges of violating the AADC. Dank was, however, found guilty of ten charges and banned for life.

This blog will solely discuss the likelihood of the first AADT decision (the Decision) being overturned by the CAS. It will briefly summarise the facts, discuss the applicable rules and decision of the AADT, review similar cases involving ‘non-analytical positive’ ADRVs relating to the use of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method, and examine whether the Code of Sports-related Arbitration (CAS Code) is able to assist WADA in its appeal.

This blog will not examine the soap opera that was the two years leading-up to the Decision. Readers seeking a comprehensive factual background should view the excellent up-to-date timeline published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. More...

EU Law is not enough: Why FIFA's TPO ban survived its first challenge before the Brussels Court

Star Lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont is almost a monopolist as far as high profile EU law and football cases are concerned. This year, besides a mediatised challenge against UEFA’s FFP regulations, he is going after FIFA’s TPO ban on behalf of the Spanish and Portuguese leagues in front of the EU Commission, but also before the Brussels First Instance Court defending the infamous Malta-based football investment firm Doyen Sport. FIFA and UEFA’s archenemy, probably electrified by the 20 years of the Bosman ruling, is emphatically trying to reproduce his world-famous legal prowess. Despite a first spark at a success in the FFP case against UEFA with the Court of first instance of Brussels sending a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), this has proven to be a mirage as the CJEU refused, as foretold, to answer the questions of the Brussels Court, while the provisory measures ordered by the judge have been suspended due to UEFA’s appeal. But, there was still hope, the case against FIFA’s TPO ban, also involving UEFA and the Belgium federation, was pending in front of the same Brussels Court of First Instance, which had proven to be very willing to block UEFA’s FFP regulations. Yet, the final ruling is another disappointment for Dupont (and good news for FIFA). The Court refused to give way to Doyen’s demands for provisional measures and a preliminary reference. The likelihood of a timely Bosman bis repetita is fading away. Fortunately, we got hold of the judgment of the Brussels court and it is certainly of interest to all those eagerly awaiting to know whether FIFA’s TPO ban will be deemed compatible or not with EU law. More...

The New FIFA Intermediaries Regulations under EU Law Fire in Germany. By Tine Misic

I'm sure that in 1985, plutonium is available in every corner drugstore, but in 1955, it's a little hard to come by.” (Dr. Emmett L. Brown)[1]

Back to the future?

Availing oneself of EU law in the ambit of sports in 1995 must have felt a bit like digging for plutonium, but following the landmark ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Bosman case[2], 20 years later, with all the buzz surrounding several cases where EU law is being used as an efficient ammunition for shelling various sports governing or organising bodies, one may wonder if in 2015 EU law is to be “found in every drug store” and the recent cases (see inter alia Heinz Müller v 1. FSV Mainz 05, Daniel Striani ao v UEFA, Doyen Sports ao v URBSFA, FIFA, UEFA) [3] cannot but invitingly evoke the spirit of 1995.

One of the aforementioned cases that also stands out pertains to the injunction decision[4] issued on 29 April 2015 by the Regional Court (Landesgericht) in Frankfurt am Main (hereinafter: the Court) in the dispute between the intermediary company Firma Rogon Sportmanagement (hereinafter: the claimant) and the German Football Federation (Deutschen Fußball-Bund, DFB), where the claimant challenged the provisions of the newly adopted DFB Regulations on Intermediaries (hereinafter: DFB Regulations)[5] for being incompatible with Articles 101 and 102 TFEU.[6] The Court, by acknowledging the urgency of the matter stemming from the upcoming transfer window and the potential loss of clients, deemed a couple of shells directed at the DFB Regulations to be well-aimed, and granted an injunction due to breach of Article 101 TFEU. More...

Compatibility of fixed-term contracts in football with Directive 1999/70/EC. Part 2: The Heinz Müller case. By Piotr Drabik

The first part of the present blog article provided a general introduction to the compatibility of fixed-term contracts in football with Directive 1999/70/EC[1] (Directive). However, as the Member States of the European Union enjoy a considerable discretion in the implementation of a directive, grasping the impact of the Directive on the world of football would not be possible without considering the national context. The recent ruling of the Arbeitsgericht Mainz (the lowest German labour court; hereinafter the Court) in proceedings brought by a German footballer Heinz Müller provides an important example in this regard. This second part of the blog on the legality of fixed-term contract in football is devoted to presenting and assessing the Court’s decision.

I. Facts and Procedure
Heinz Müller, the main protagonist of this case, was a goalkeeper playing for 1.FSV Mainz 05 a club partaking to the German Bundesliga. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Human Rights as Selection Criteria in Bidding Regulations for Mega-Sporting Events – Part II: FIFA and Comparative Overview – By Tomáš Grell

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

Human Rights as Selection Criteria in Bidding Regulations for Mega-Sporting Events – Part II: FIFA and Comparative Overview – By Tomáš Grell

The first part of this two-part blog examined the new bidding regulations adopted by the IOC and UEFA, and concluded that it is the latter who gives more weight to human rights in its host selection process. This second part completes the picture by looking at FIFA's bidding regulations for the 2026 World Cup. It goes on to discuss whether human rights now constitute a material factor in evaluating bids to host the mega-sporting events organised by these three sports governing bodies.


FIFA: 2026 World Cup

About the host selection process

The United States, Mexico, and Canada together on the one side and Morocco on the other are bidding to host the 2026 World Cup. The bidders must now prepare and submit their Bid Books to FIFA by no later than 16 March 2018, providing the world's governing body of football with information regarding their hosting vision and strategy, the country's political system and economic situation, technical matters, other event-related matters, or human rights and environmental protection.[1] FIFA will then commission a Bid Evaluation Task Force,[2] composed of the chairman of the Audit and Compliance Committee, the chairman of the Governance Committee, one member of the Organising Committee for FIFA Competitions, and certain members of the General Secretariat with relevant expertise, to prepare a written report evaluating each bid. This report will be split into three sections, namely (i) compliance assessment; (ii) an assessment of the risks and benefits of each bid, including the risks of adverse impacts on human rights; and (iii) an assessment of key infrastructural and commercial aspects of each bid, including stadiums, transport infrastructure, organising costs, or estimated media and marketing revenues.[3] The Bid Evaluation Task Force will apply a scoring system that might eventually lead to the exclusion of a bid from the host selection process in the event of its failure to reach a required minimum score.[4] It is critical to note, however, that this scoring system will only be used to evaluate infrastructural and commercial aspects of each bid.[5] In other words, human rights or environmental protection are not subject to this scoring system.

The Bid Evaluation Task Force will forward its report to the members of the FIFA Council who will determine whether or not each bid qualifies to be voted on by the FIFA Congress.[6] While until now the decision on the venue for the FIFA's flagship event has been taken by the Council (formerly the Executive Committee), the host of the 2026 World Cup will be elected for the first time by the members of the Congress.[7] The Congress will meet for this purpose in June 2018 and it may either award the right to host the tournament to one of the candidates or reject all bids designated by the Council.[8] In the latter case, FIFA will launch a new procedure that will culminate with a final decision in May 2020.[9] It is also worthwhile noting that the entire host selection process will be overseen by an independent audit company.[10]

Human rights as selection criteria

A number of human rights requirements could be found across different bidding documents relating to the host selection process for the 2026 World Cup. This section takes a closer look at the content of these requirements. 

First, each member association bidding to host the tournament must undertake to respect all internationally recognised human rights in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles).[11] Importantly, this commitment covers not only the member association's own activities, but also the activities of other entities that are in a business relationship with the member association, be it for the production of goods or provision of services. In this respect, FIFA acknowledges that ''a significant part of human rights risk may be associated with the activities of third parties''.[12]

Second, FIFA requires that each bidder provide a human rights strategy outlining how it is going to honour its commitment mentioned above.[13] While a similar requirement also appears in the UEFA's bidding documentation for the Euro 2024, FIFA is much more specific in defining the essential elements of this strategy. Accordingly, the strategy shall include a comprehensive report ''identifying and assessing any risks of adverse human rights impacts […] with which the member association may be involved either through its own activities or as a result of its business relationships''.[14] Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the entire host selection process is the follow-up requirement that this report be complemented by an independent study carried out by an organisation with recognised expertise in the field of human rights.[15] This independent expert organisation will examine to what extent does the national context, including the national legislation, influence the member association's capacity to respect all internationally recognised human rights.[16] As part of their strategy, the bidders should further explain what measures they intend to take in order to mitigate any human rights risks identified in the comprehensive report.[17] Moreover, the strategy should contain information about the implementation of an ongoing due diligence process, the plans for meaningful community and/or stakeholder dialogue and engagement,[18] the protection of human rights defenders' and journalists' rights, or grievance mechanisms.[19]

Third, each bidder must provide a report summarising its ''stakeholder engagement process implemented as part of the development of the […] human rights strategy''.[20] Fourth and last, the government of each country bidding to host the 2026 World Cup shall express its commitment to: (i) respecting, protecting, and fulfilling human rights in connection with the hosting and staging of the tournament; and (ii) ensuring that victims of human rights abuses will have access to effective remedies.[21] To this effect, each of the involved governments is required to sign a separate declaration.

A comparative overview

It remains to be seen whether the new bidding regulations will help reduce the number and severity of adverse human rights impacts linked to mega-sporting events. For the time being, it is essential to identify the strong and weak points of these regulations.

When discussing strengths, FIFA and UEFA come to mind. Both organisations should be applauded for demanding that the bidders pledge to respect and protect internationally recognised human rights independently of the locally recognised human rights.[22] FIFA moreover extends this obligation to the activities of third parties that are in a business relationship with the bidding member association. Both FIFA and UEFA also ask for a human rights strategy that should include some crucial information such as evidence of meaningful consultation with potentially affected communities. Again, FIFA goes one step further by requiring that this strategy be accompanied by an independent expert study.

All three sports governing bodies reserve the right to assign a role to independent human rights experts in evaluating or preparing bids.[23] And while this is in itself commendable, it should be noted that such a role is limited because it does not entail decision-making competences. For instance, the expert institution responsible for developing an independent study in the host selection process for the 2026 World Cup will not have the power to exclude a bid if it ascertains that the national context significantly undermines the member association's capacity to respect internationally recognised human rights. This expert institution will certainly put more pressure on FIFA in the sense that any action contrary to the institution's recommendations will have to be publicly justified by compelling reasons, but FIFA may nevertheless decide to consider a bid even if it entails serious human rights risks. Moreover, it is difficult to understand why only infrastructural and commercial aspects of a bid are subject to the scoring system applied by the Bid Evaluation Task Force. If the main reason for this is the fact that the members of the Bid Evaluation Task Force lack expertise in the field of human rights, then the assessment of human rights aspects should perhaps be left to independent experts only. It would be crucial to give these human rights experts some power to decide whether or not a bid qualifies for the next stages of the host selection process. A greater role for independent human rights experts in evaluating bids to host mega-sporting events could come with the establishment of an independent Centre for Sport and Human Rights in 2018. However, this will probably not affect the host selection processes that are currently underway.


Including human rights within the criteria for evaluating bids to host mega-sporting events may deter many countries, especially those with a negative human rights record, from launching a bid. However, as Professor John Ruggie makes clear, human rights requirements in bidding regulations for mega-sporting events are not aimed at ''peremptorily excluding countries based on their general human rights context''.[24] Indeed, a country where human rights abuses occur can nevertheless deliver an abuse-free event. To do so, it will need to develop an effective strategy and, if selected, guarantee the implementation of this strategy from day one.

[1]    FIFA, Structure, Content, Presentation, Format and Delivery of Bid Book for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

[2]    FIFA, Bidding Registration regarding the submission of Bids for the hosting and staging of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, pp. 23-28.

[3]    Ibid. pp. 24-25. See also FIFA, Guide to the Bidding Process for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, p. 7.

[4]    FIFA, Bidding Registration, pp. 25-27.

[5]    Ibid.

[6]    Ibid. p. 31. See also FIFA Statutes, Article 69(2)(d).

[7]    FIFA, Bidding Registration, pp. 31-32. See also FIFA Statutes, Article 69(1).

[8]    FIFA, Bidding Registration, p. 31.

[9]    FIFA, Guide to the Bidding Process, p. 13.

[10]   FIFA, Bidding Registration, pp. 22-23.

[11]   FIFA, Structure, Content, Presentation, Format and Delivery of Bid Book, Section 23 – Human Rights and Labour Standards. In addition to international treaties and instruments mentioned in Principle 12 of the UN Guiding Principles, FIFA concedes that ''the scope […] of internationally recognised human rights may be enlarged to include, for instance, the United Nations instruments on the rights of indigenous peoples; women; national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; children; persons with disabilities; and migrant workers and their families''. See FIFA, Bidding Registration, p. 74.

[12]   FIFA, Structure, Content, Presentation, Format and Delivery of Bid Book, Section 23 – Human Rights and Labour Standards.

[13]   Ibid.

[14]   Ibid.

[15]   Ibid.

[16]   Ibid.

[17]   Ibid.

[18]   The community and/or stakeholder dialogue and engagement should be in line with relevant authoritative standards such as the AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Process.

[19]   FIFA, Structure, Content, Presentation, Format and Delivery of Bid Book, Section 23 – Human Rights and Labour Standards.

[20]   Ibid.

[21]   FIFA, Overview of Government Guarantees and the Government Declaration, pp. 11-12.

[22]   In this regard, FIFA also notes that ''where the national context risks undermining FIFA's ability to ensure respect for internationally recognised human rights, FIFA will constructively engage with the relevant authorities and other stakeholders and make every effort to uphold its international human rights responsibilities''. See FIFA's Human Rights Policy, para. 7.

[23]   IOC, Report of the IOC 2024 Evaluation Commission, p. 7. UEFA, Bid Regulations for the UEFA Euro 2024, Article 14. As mentioned earlier in this blog, FIFA demands that the bidders put forward a human rights strategy complemented by an independent expert study.  

[24]   John G. Ruggie, For the Game. For the World. FIFA and Human Rights, p. 32.

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