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

State aid in Croatia and the Dinamo Zagreb case


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. Literature

1. Antitrust/Competition Law and Sport

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

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

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

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


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

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


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”.   


Asser International Sports Law Blog | International transfers of minors: The sword of Damocles over FC Barcelona’s head? by Giandonato Marino and Oskar van Maren

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 transfers of minors: The sword of Damocles over FC Barcelona’s head? by Giandonato Marino and Oskar van Maren

In the same week that saw Europe’s best eight teams compete in the Champions League quarter finals, one of its competitors received such a severe disciplinary sanction by FIFA that it could see its status as one of the world’s top teams jeopardized. FC Barcelona, a club that owes its success both at a national and international level for a large part to its outstanding youth academy, La Masia, got to FIFA’s attention for breaching FIFA Regulations on international transfers of minors.  Unfortunately, at the moment FIFA has not published the decision of the Disciplinary Committee on this case, therefore our analysis is mainly based on the two official statements of FIFA and FC Barcelona.

When FC Barcelona signed the 13 years-old South Korean Lee Sung Woo, in 2011, they thought they found the “new Lionel Messi”. Little did they know that this under-aged Korean football player was to be one of the sources of the legal trouble they are in now. On 5 february, 2013, the Club received the request from FIFA via the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to provide information concerning the registration of Lee. Over the course of 2013, FIFA further asked FC Barcelona for additional information on other players. By December 2013, FC Barcelona provided FIFA information on a total of 37 minors.

According to FIFA’s official statement FC Barcelona has been found to be in breach of art.19 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (hereinafter “the Regulations”). In this regard, special attention was focused on ten minors signed between the years 2009 and 2013, including the abovementioned Lee. According to article 19 of the Regulations, international transfers of players are only permitted if the player is over the age of 18, or 16 if the player is transferred within the territory of the European Union[1]. Also according to FIFA, the RFEF has been found to have breached the same article 19 of the Regulations in the context of the transfer and registration of certain minor players. Indeed, the Regulations oblige the National Federations to enforce these provisions on national football clubs.

For a normal international transfer procedure, the Regulations impose to clubs and Federations the use of the web-based Transfer Matching System (hereinafter “the TMS”) since 2009.  The TMS ensures that all international transfers are conducted in line with the FIFA rules, thereby controlling the integrity of both clubs and Federations involved. In other words, the club willing to register a new player informs its National Federation of the transfer, who in turn informs TMS, in order for the new player to be registered in his new Federation. As regards the case at hands, the exact details of the used procedure are unknown. However, one could suspect that FC Barcelona deviated from the “usual” procedure and decided to register the minors with the Catalan Federation instead. This means that, at a certain point, the Catalan Federation had to inform the National one. According to the RFEF Secretary General, the Spanish National Federation actually refused to register the concerned minors, but the Catalan Federation proceeded anyway. This alternative registering procedure is by no means contrary to TMS, but does increase the risk for “bureaucratic mistakes”. This case highlights the difficulty in identifying a responsible party. Despite the fact that FC Barcelona, RFEF and the Catalan Federation have a shared responsibility in the administrative mess-up leading to this procedure, FIFA only sanctioned the first two.

FIFA has been clear regarding the disciplinary sanctions: in accordance with article 23 of FIFA Disciplinary Code, FC Barcelona is imposed a ban to register new players for two complete and consecutive transfer periods (summer 2014 and January 2015). Moreover, the Club received a fine of CHF 450,000 and a deadline of 90 days in which to regularise the position of all minors concerned. The RFEF, for its part, received a fine of CHF 500,000 plus a deadline of one year in order to regularise their regulatory framework on this issue. With a turnover of more than 400 million Euro per year, it is unlikely that the Club is seriously worried about the fine. However, the transfer ban places the FC Barcelona in a very unpleasant situation. The first team is in need of certain important replacements, such as a new goalkeeper and a central defender, after both Víctor Valdés and Carles Puyol announced their departure this upcoming summer. Furthermore, it remains unclear what will happen with the promised signings of the German goalkeeper Marc-André Ter Stegen and the Croatian talent Alen Halilović.

FC Barcelona announced in its aforementioned official statement, that it will be appealing to the FIFA Appeal Committee and, if necessary, further appeal to CAS. Furthermore, the Club will demand for provisional measures in order to register new players during the next transfer window at least. Meanwhile, the RFEF is yet to give a detailed statement on its future legal strategy.

The fact that FIFA sanctions one of the biggest and renowned football clubs in the world in an unprecedented way demonstrates that they take this issue seriously, no matter how big the club in question is. The rules on minors is made to protect the best interest of the child. FIFA argues that the interest in protecting the appropriate and healthy development of a minor as a whole must prevail over purely sporting interests. This position is also supported by the International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro), who fears that without the proper controls the development of a minor is not adequately protected against exploitation.

Undoubtedly, FC Barcelona will refer to the letter its former President, Sandro Rosell, sent to FIFA in March 2013. In this letter, Rosell argued that to fully safeguard the protection of minors, clubs must ensure the players can benefit from any good opportunity on their reach. In this regard, Rosell asked FIFA to consider a further exception on article 19 in favour of the clubs that have developed excellent Youth Academies. This would mean that certain clubs should be allowed to register minors regardless of their origin as long as the clubs compromise to take care of the minor until his 18th birthday.

This could be a valid argument but would require FIFA Regulations to be modified. With regard to provisional measures, the Club’s demand is very unlikely to be accepted by the FIFA Appeal Committee, since article 124 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code only permits a suspension of the economical sanction. At CAS, on the other hand, the Club should demonstrate the existence of an irreparable harm, the likelihood of success on the merits of the claim, and whether the interests of the FC Barcelona outweigh those of FIFA[2]. In this regard, FC Barcelona can refer to the Mexès case where CAS temporarily lifted the ban imposed on the Italian football club A.S. Roma[3]. Furthermore, it can also rely on a more recent precedent in this field: the Kakuta case.

Considering the potential impact of the imposed disciplinary sanctions, this legal dispute will be one of the most difficult and challenging games in FC Barcelona’s long history. But make no mistake, this is just the beginning of an exciting legal game…

[1] Article 19 stipulates a few exceptions that provide International transfers of minors to be allowed. In each case, FIFA’s Player’s Status Committee has exclusive competence to review the circumstances and permit the exception.

[2] R37 Provisional and Conservatory Measures – CAS Procedural Rules

[3] Arbitrage TAS 2005/A/916 AS Roma c. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), §39-40

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