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

RFC Seraing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: How FIFA’s TPO ban Survived (Again) EU Law Scrutiny

Doyen (aka Doyen Sports Investment Limited) is nothing short of heroic in its fight against FIFA’s TPO ban. It has (sometimes indirectly through RFC Seraing) attacked the ban in front of the French courts, the Belgium courts, the European Commission and the Court of Arbitration for Sport. This costly, and until now fruitless, legal battle has been chronicled in numerous of our blogs (here and here). It is coordinated by Jean-Louis Dupont, a lawyer who is, to say the least, not afraid of fighting the windmills of sport’s private regulators. Yet, this time around he might have hit the limits of his stubbornness and legal ‘maestria’. As illustrated by the most recent decision of the saga, rendered in March by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in a case opposing the Belgium club RFC Seraing (or Seraing) to FIFA. The arguments in favour of the ban might override those against it. At least this is the view espoused by the CAS, and until tested in front of another court (preferably the CJEU) it will remain an influential one. The French text of the CAS award has just been published and I will take the opportunity of having for once an award in my native language to offer a first assessment of the CAS’s reasoning in the case, especially with regard to its application of EU law. More...

The Validity of Unilateral Extension Options in Football – Part 1: A European Legal Mess. By Saverio Spera

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

                 

In the football world the use of unilateral extension options (hereafter UEOs) in favour of the clubs is common practice. Clubs in Europe and, especially, South America make extensive use of this type of contractual clauses, since it gives them the exclusive possibility to prolong the employment relationship with players whose contracts are about to come to an end. This option gives to a club the right to extend the duration of a player’s contract for a certain agreed period after its initial expiry, provided that some previously negotiated conditions are met. In particular, these clauses allow clubs to sign young promising players for short-term contracts, in order to ascertain their potential, and then extend the length of their contracts.[1] Here lies the great value of UEOs for clubs: they can let the player go if he is not performing as expected, or unilaterally retain him if he is deemed valuable. Although an indisputably beneficial contractual tool for any football club, these clauses are especially useful to clubs specialized in the development of young players.[2] After the Bosman case, clubs have increasingly used these clauses in order to prevent players from leaving their clubs for free at the end of their contracts.[3] The FIFA Regulations do not contain any provisions regulating this practice, consequently the duty of clarifying the scope and validity of the options lied with the national courts, the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) and the CAS. This two-part blog will attempt to provide the first general overview on the issue.[4] My first blog will be dedicated to the validity of UEOs clauses in light of national laws and of the jurisprudence of numerous European jurisdictions. In a second blog, I will review the jurisprudence of the DRC and the CAS on this matter. More...

Call for papers: ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law - 26-27 October 2017

The editorial board of the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) is very pleased to invite you to submit abstracts for its first Annual Conference on International Sports Law. The ISLJ, published by Springer in collaboration with ASSER Press, is the leading publication in the field of international sports law. Its readership includes both academics and many practitioners active in the field. On 26-27 October 2017, the International Sports Law Centre of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut and the editorial board of the International Sports Law Journal will host in The Hague the first ever ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law. The conference will feature panels on the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the world anti-doping system, the global governance of sports, the FIFA transfer regulations, comparative sports law, and much more.

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International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – March 2017. By Tomáš Grell

 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.

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The legality of surety undertakings in relation to minor football players: the Lokilo case. By Adriaan Wijckmans

Editor's note: Adriaan Wijckmans is an associate specialized in sports law at the Belgium law firm Altius.

In a recent judgment, the Brussels Court of First Instance confirmed the legality of a so-called surety undertaking, i.e. an agreement in which the parents of a minor playing football guarantee that their child will sign a professional contract with a football club as soon as the child reaches the legal age of majority.

This long-awaited ruling was hailed, on the one hand, by clubs as a much needed and eagerly anticipated confirmation of a long-standing practice in Belgian football[1] and, on the other hand, criticised by FIFPro, the international player’s trade union, in a scathing press release. More...



Kosovo at the Court of Arbitration for Sport – Constructing Statehood Through Sport? By Ryan Gauthier (Thompson Rivers University)

Editor's Note: Ryan is Assistant Professor at Thompson Rivers University, he defended his PhD at Erasmus University Rotterdam in December 2015. His dissertation examined human rights violations caused by international sporting events, and how international sporting organisations may be held accountable for these violations. 


“Serious sport…is war minus the shooting.” – George Orwell

 

In May 2016, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) admitted the Football Federation of Kosovo (Kosovo) as a member. The voting was close, with 28 member federations in favour, 24 opposed, and 2 whose votes were declared invalid. The practical outcome of this decision is that Kosovo would be able participate in the UEFA Euro championship, and that Kosovo teams could qualify for the UEFA Champions’ League or Europa League. More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – February 2017. By Tomáš Grell

 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. More...

FIFA's Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses in Qatar – Part II: The Zurich Court's Ruling - By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell comes from Slovakia and is currently an LL.M. student in Public International Law at Leiden University. He contributes also to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a part-time intern.

This is a follow-up contribution to my previous blog on FIFA's responsibility for human rights abuses in Qatar published last week. Whereas the previous part has examined the lawsuit filed with the Commercial Court of the Canton of Zurich ('Court') jointly by the Dutch trade union FNV, the Bangladeshi Free Trade Union Congress, the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation and the Bangladeshi citizen Nadim Shariful Alam ('Plaintiffs') against FIFA, this second part will focus on the Court's ruling dated 3 January 2017 ('Ruling').[1]  More...



FIFA's Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses in Qatar - Part I: The Claims Against FIFA - By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell comes from Slovakia and is currently an LL.M. student in Public International Law at Leiden University. He contributes also to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a part-time intern.

On 2 December 2010, the FIFA Executive Committee elected Qatar as host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup ('World Cup'), thereby triggering a wave of controversies which underlined, for the most part, the country's modest size, lack of football history, local climate, disproportionate costs or corruption that accompanied the selection procedure. Furthermore, opponents of the decision to award the World Cup to the tiny oil-rich Gulf country also emphasized the country's negative human rights record.

More than six years later, on 3 January 2017, the Commercial Court of the Canton of Zurich ('Court') dismissed the lawsuit filed against FIFA[1] jointly by the Dutch trade union FNV, the Bangladeshi Free Trade Union Congress, the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation and the Bangladeshi citizen Nadim Shariful Alam ('Plaintiffs').[2] The Plaintiffs requested the Court to find FIFA responsible for alleged human rights violations of migrant workers in connection with the World Cup in Qatar. Had the Plaintiffs' claims been upheld by the Court, such decision would have had far-reaching consequences on the fate of thousands of migrants, mostly from India, Nepal and Bangladesh, who are currently working on the construction of sporting facilities and other infrastructure associated with organization of the World Cup. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – February 2016

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 – February 2016

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 eagerly awaited FIFA Presidential elections of 26 February provided for a “new face” at the pinnacle of international football for the first time since 1998. One could argue whether Infantino is the man capable of bringing about the reform FIFA so desperately needs or whether he is simply a younger version of his predecessor Blatter. Both men are of course Swiss[1], and both were general secretaries of an international football governing body (UEFA and FIFA respectively) before becoming FIFA President. Only time will tell whether Infantino manages to cleanse FIFA from all the corruption and demonstrate that he is the right man for the job. In this regard, Infantino’s portrait by Sam Borden is definitely worth a read.

Though no FIFA official was lifted from his hotel bed by the police in the days before this FIFA Extraordinary Congress, the build-up was not entirely flawless. Two of the four Presidential Candidates, Prince Ali and Jérôme Champagne, turned to CAS prior to the elections with the aim of “incorporating transparent voting booths as well as independent scrutineers, in order to safeguard the integrity of the voting process and to ensure that the vote is conducted in secret. In addition, Prince Ali also asked for the FIFA Presidential Election to be postponed in the event the CAS could not rule on the request for provisional measures before the election.”[2] Unfortunately for the two candidates, on 24 February CAS rejected their requests (press releases are accessible here and here), promising that the “full order with grounds will be communicated in a few days”. Yet, the CAS website remained mute since then.

At that same Extraordinary FIFA Congress of 26 February, several reforms were also approved. The reforms include term limits for the FIFA President, FIFA Council members and members of the Audit and Compliance Committee and of the judicial bodies of max. 12 years, and the disclosure of individual compensation on an annual basis of the FIFA President, all FIFA Council members, the Secretary General and relevant chairpersons of independent standing and judicial committees. A summary of these reforms can be read here.

Another headline involving FIFA was the FIFA’s Appeal Committee’s decision to uphold the sanctions imposed on the Belgian club FC Seraing for infringing the rules on Third Party Ownership (TPO). The sanctions include a fine of CHF 150.000 and a complete transfer ban for four consecutive transfer windows starting in the summer of 2016. TPO (or FIFA’s decision to ban the practice) was once again making headlines in February, in large part thanks to the website of footballleaks (for more on the people behind this website, I recommend this interview published by Der Spiegel). On 1 February footballleaks published the Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA) between Doyen Sport and the Spanish club Sevilla FC regarding the economic rights of the French football player Geoffrey Kondogbia. Another ERPA that was made accessible for the general public also involved Doyen and a Spanish club, namely Sporting de Gijón.

In addition to new agreement releases by footballleaks, the consequences of earlier releases were slowly being felt in February. For example, the release of the Gareth Bale transfer agreement between Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid on 20 January caused quite a few raised eyebrows throughout Europe. Most interestingly, three Members of the European Parliament officially asked the European Commission whether it is planning to “take action under its competition law and state aid responsibilities”, since one of the banks involved in the transfer agreement (Bankia) was previously saved by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) with public money. The Commission’s answer to this question can be expected shortly.

As regards other issues involving EU law and sport, February was a relatively quiet month. The most interesting new development took place on 22 February with the Euroleague Basketball stating that it submitted a competition complaint before the European Commission against FIBA and FIBA Europe. In a nutshell, Euroleague Basketball is attacking the “unacceptable and illegal threats and pressures that FIBA and its member federations are making against clubs, players and referees to force them to abandon the Euroleague and the Eurocup and only participate in FIBA competitions”. The point of view of FIBA on this issue can be read here. It remains open whether the Commission decides to investigate the matter formally.

This same question can be asked about FIFPro’s complaint against the transfer system. FIFPro has decided to launch #GameChangers campaign to support the complaint and pressure the European Commission into opening an investigation. For an in-depth analysis of the issue, I recommend this piece by Nick de Marco and Alex Mills. 

A report listing the sportslaw headlines would be incomplete these days without references to all the doping related news. It is worth remembering that the two reports by the WADA Independent Commission into doping in international athletics[3] lead to the IAAF banning for life three of its senior officials.[4] This IAAF decision was appealed by the three officials in front of CAS on 1 February. The outcome of this appeal is currently still pending. The Russian Government, meanwhile, heavily criticised the two reports, holding that there is no evidence that it was involved in State-supported doping.  


Case law

The German Appeal Court in Rheinland-Pfalz reached a decision in the Müller case on 17 February.  Contrary to what the Labour Court of Mainz held in March 2015[5], the Appeal Court argued that football players are employed under a fixed-term contract. The judgment has not been made public (yet), so we do not know the full extent of the Appeal Court’s legal argumentation. Further appeal options were available to Müller, but it is unclear whether he exercised them.

On 4 February, another German Appeal Court (the OLG Frankfurt) rendered its decision in the Rogon case (we commented the first ruling on provisory measure in June) involving the German implementation of the new FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries. Here again, the full text of the ruling is still missing and we can only elaborate on press reports (here and here). Yet, it seems that the Court has decided to partially uphold the new Regulations (especially the no-fee for minors provision), while it also stroke down some aspects of the new rules (especially the intermediary’s duty to register with the DFB). 


Official Documents and Press Releases


In the news

Athletics

Australian Football

Baseball

Cycling

Football

Speed skating – Pechstein

Tennis

Other


Academic materials



[1] In fact, Infantino grew up in the town of Brig, less than 10 km from Visp, Blatter’s home town.

[2] Media Release by the Court of Arbitration for Sport of 24 February 2016, “CAS rejects HRH Prince Ali Al Hussein’s request for urgent provisional measures”, http://www.tas-cas.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Media_Release_4459_decision.pdf accessed 23 March 2016.

[3] The Independent Commission Report #1 of 9 November 2015, https://wada-main-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/resources/files/wada_independent_commission_report_1_en.pdf accessed 24 March 2016; and The Independent Commission Report #2 of 14 January 2016, https://wada-main-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/resources/files/wada_independent_commission_report_2_2016_en_rev.pdf accessed 24 March 2016.

[4] I.e. Papa Massata Diack, Valentin Balakhnichev and Alexei Melnikov.

[5] For more information on the Müller case in first instance, read the blogs by Piotr Drabik: “Compatibility of Fixed-Term Contracts in Football with Directive 1999/70/EC. Part.1: The General Framework”, http://www.asser.nl/SportsLaw/Blog/post/part-1-compatibility-of-fixed-term-contracts-in-football-with-directive-1999-70-ec-the-general-framework-by-piotrek-drabik accessed 24 March 2016; and “Compatibility of fixed-term contracts in football with Directive 1999/70/EC. Part 2: The Heinz Müller case”, http://www.asser.nl/SportsLaw/Blog/post/compatibility-of-fixed-term-contracts-in-football-with-directive-1999-70-ec-part-2-the-heinz-muller-case-by-piotr-drabik accessed 24 March 2016.

[6] Prof. Ben Van Rompuy of the Asser Institute contributed tot his report with his piece “The role of the betting industry”, pages 236-241.

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