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 – October 2016. By Kester Mekenkamp.

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
We are looking for an International Sports Law Intern (with a particular interest in the CAS)! More information can be found here.


The (terrible) State of the World Anti-Doping System

The fight against doping is still on top of the agenda after the Russian doping scandal. The national anti-doping organizations (NADOs) have reiterated their call for an in depth reform of the World Anti-Doping Agency at a special summit in Bonn, Germany. These reforms are deemed urgent and necessary to “restore confidence of clean athletes and those who value the integrity of sport” and secure “the public’s desire for a fair and level playing field”. The NADOs propose, amongst others things, to separate the investigatory, testing and results management functions from sports organizations, and to remove sports administrators from crucial anti-doping executive functions. More...




Taking the Blue Pill or the Red Pill: Should Athletes Really Check their Medications against the Prohibited List Personally? - A Comment by Marjolaine Viret (University of Neuchâtel )

Editor's Note:  Marjolaine is an attorney admitted to the Geneva bar (Switzerland) who specialises in sports and life sciences.   She currently participates as a scientific collaborator at the University of Neuchâtel on a research project to produce the first article-by-article legal commentary of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code. Her latest book Evidence in Anti-Doping at the Intersection of Science & Law was published in 2016 in the International Sports Law Book Series of T.M.C. ASSER Press.


INTRODUCTION

On 30 September 2016, a panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) rendered its award in the matter opposing high-profile tennis player Maria Sharapova to the International Tennis Federation (“ITF”). Maria Sharapova was appealing the two-year ban imposed on her by the ITF Tribunal in June 2016 for her use of Meldonium, a substance newly added to the WADA Prohibited List 2016[1]. Since neither the ITF nor WADA had chosen to challenge the Tribunal’s decision, the stakes of the case were rather simple: would the player convince the CAS panel that she should benefit from a finding of “No Significant Fault or Negligence”[2], thereby allowing for a reduction of the sanction down to a minimum of one year, or should the decision of the Tribunal be upheld? In its award, the CAS panel decided to grant such finding and reduced the sanction to 15 months.

This blog does not purport to be a ‘comment’ on the CAS award. Rather, it seeks to place the Sharapova matter into a broader context with respect to a specific issue: the expectations on Athletes when it comes to their awareness of the prohibited character of a substance, specifically when taking a medication[3]. In July 2016, I presented at the T.M.C Asser Institute in The Hague various current challenges of anti-doping that the Meldonium cases exposed (see the video here). One of these challenges concerned the modalities for including new substances onto the Prohibited List. This blog represents a follow-up on my presentation, in the light of the findings contained in the CAS award. More...



Case note: State aid Decision on the preferential corporate tax treatment of Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and FC Barcelona

On 28 September 2016, the Commission published the non-confidential version of its negative Decision and recovery order regarding the preferential corporate tax treatment of Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and FC Barcelona. It is the second-to-last publication of the Commission’s Decisions concerning State aid granted to professional football clubs, all announced on 4 July of this year.[1] Contrary to the other “State aid in football” cases, this Decision concerns State aid and taxation, a very hot topic in today’s State aid landscape. Obviously, this Decision will not have the same impact as other prominent tax decisions, such as the ones concerning Starbucks and Apple

Background

This case dates back to November 2009, when a representative of a number of investors specialised in the purchase of publicly listed shares, and shareholders of a number of European football clubs drew the attention of the Commission to a possible preferential corporate tax treatment of the four mentioned Spanish clubs.[2]More...



International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – September 2016. By Kester Mekenkamp

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

September hosted the very last bit of the sport summer 2016, most notably in the form of the Rio Paralympic Games. Next to the spectacular achievements displayed during these games, in the realm of sports law similar thrilling developments hit town. The first very much expected #Sportslaw highlight was the decision by the German Bundesgerichtshof in the case concerning SV Wilhelmshaven. The second major (less expected) story was the Statement of Objections issued by the European Commission against the International Skating Union.More...


De- or Re-regulating the middlemen? The DFB’s regulation of intermediaries under EU law scrutiny at the OLG Frankfurt. By Antoine Duval and Kester Mekenkamp.

Football intermediaries, or agents, are again under attack in the news. For some, corrupt behaviour has become endemic in football’s culture. It is always dangerous to scapegoat a whole profession or a group of people. Many intermediaries are trying their best to lawfully defend the interests of their clients, but some are not. The key focus should be on providing an adequate legal and administrative framework to limit the opportunities for corrupt behaviour in the profession. This is easier said than done, however. We are dealing with an intrinsically transnationalized business, often conducted by intermediaries who are not subjected to the disciplinary power of federations. Sports governing bodies are lacking the police power and human resources necessary to force the intermediaries to abide by their private standards. In this context, this blog aims to review a recent case in front of the regional court of Frankfurt in Germany, which highlights the legal challenges facing (and leeway available to) national federations when regulating the profession. More...

Case note: TAS 2016/A/4474 Michel Platini c. Fédération Internationale de Football Association. By Marine Montejo

Editor's note: Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

On 3 June 2015, Sepp Blatter resigned as President of FIFA after another corruption scandal inside the world’s football governing body was brought to light by the American authorities supported by the Swiss prosecutor office. Two months after Michel Platini announced he would be a candidate for the next FIFA Presidential election, on 25 September 2015, the Swiss prosecutor opened an investigation against S. Blatter on an alleged disloyal payment he authorised to M. Platini. On 8 October 2015, the FIFA Ethics Committee announced both of them were provisionally suspended upon their hearings, a suspension that was later confirmed by CAS. In the end, M. Platini was sanctioned with an eight years ban from all football activities, later reduced to a six years ban by FIFA Appeal Commission on 24 February 2016. In the meantime, he withdrew his candidacy to become the next FIFA President. On 9 May 2016, after M. Platini appealed this sanction, the CAS confirmed the suspension but reduced it to four years, leading to his resignation from the UEFA presidency and the announcement of his intention to challenge the CAS award in front of the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

On 19 September, the CAS finally published the full text of the award in the dispute between M. Platini and FIFA. The award is in French as M. Platini requested that the procedure be conducted in that language. You will find below a summary of the ‘highlights’ of the 63-page decision. More...

The Russian Ballet at the CAS Ad Hoc Division in Rio - Act V: Saving the last (Russian) woman standing: The Klishina miracle

Editor's note: This is the (belated) fifth part/act of our blog series on the Russian eligibility cases at the CAS ad hoc Division in Rio. The other acts are available at:


Act V: Saving the last (Russian) woman standing: The Klishina miracle 

Darya Klishina is now an Olympic celebrity. She will enter the history books not because she won a gold medal or beat a world record. Instead, her idiosyncrasy lies in her nationality: she was the sole Russian athlete authorized to stand in the athletics competitions at the Rio Olympics. And yet, a few days before the start of the long jumping contest in which she was due to take part, the IAAF surprisingly decided to revoke her eligibility (‘And Then There Were None’). But Klishina appealed the decision to the CAS ad hoc Division and, as all of you well-informed sports lawyers will know, she was allowed to compete at the Olympics and finished at a decent ninth place of the long jump finals.

Two important questions are raised by this case:

  • Why did the IAAF changed its mind and decide to retract Klishina’s authorization to participate?
  • Why did the CAS overturn this decision? More...


The Russian Ballet at the CAS Ad Hoc Division in Rio - Act IV: On Bringing a sport into disrepute

Editor's note: This is the fourth part/act of our blog series on the Russian eligibility cases at the CAS ad hoc Division in Rio.


Act IV: On Bringing a sport into disrepute

Paragraph 2 of the IOC Decision: “The IFs will also have to apply their respective rules in relation to the sanctioning of entire NFs.” 

 

In paragraph 2 of its Decision, the IOC mentioned the possibility for IFs to “apply their respective rules in relation to the sanctioning of entire NF's”.This is exactly what the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) did when it decided on 29 July 2016 to exclude the whole Russian Weightlifting Federation (RWF) from the Rio Olympics for having brought the sport into disrepute. Indeed, Article 12. 4 of the IWF Anti-doping Policy, foresees that:

“If any Member federation or members or officials thereof, by reason of conduct connected with or associated with doping or anti-doping rule violations, brings the sport of weightlifting into disrepute, the IWF Executive Board may, in its discretion, take such action as it deems fit to protect the reputation and integrity of the sport.”More...



The Russian Ballet at the CAS Ad Hoc Division in Rio - Act III: On being sufficiently tested

Editor's note: This is the third part/act of our blog series on the Russian eligibility cases at the CAS ad hoc Division in Rio.


Act III: On being sufficiently tested 

Paragraph 2 of the IOC Decision: “The IFs should carry out an individual analysis of each athlete’s anti-doping record, taking into account only reliable adequate international tests, and the specificities of the athlete’s sport and its rules, in order to ensure a level playing field.”

Daniil Andienko and 16 other members of the Russian rowing team challenged the decision of the World Rowing Federation (FISA) to declare them ineligible for the Rio Olympics. The FISA Executive Committee took the decision on 24 July 2016 because they had not “undergone a minimum of three anti-doping tests analysed by a WADA accredited laboratory other than the Moscow laboratory and registered in ADAMS from 1 January 2015 for an 18 month period”.[1] In their submissions, the Russian applicants did not challenge the IOC Decision, and thus the criteria enshrined in paragraph 2, but only its application by FISA.[2] The Russian athletes argued that FISA’s decision deviated from the IOC Decision in that it was imposing as an additional requirement that rowers must “have undergone a minimum of three anti-doping tests analysed by a WADA accredited laboratory other than the Moscow laboratory and registered in ADAMS from 1 January 2015 for an 18-month period”.[3] The Panel acknowledged that “the IOC Executive Board decision does not refer explicitly to the requirement of three tests or to a period of 18 months”.[4] Nonetheless, it “finds that the Challenged Decision is in line with the criteria established by the IOC Executive Board decision”.[5] Indeed, the IOC’s Decision “provides that in order to examine whether the level playing field is affected or not (when admitting a Russian athlete to the Rio Olympic Games), the federation must look at the athlete's respective anti-doping record, i.e. examine the athlete's anti-doping tests” and that “[i]n doing so, the IOC Executive Board decision specifies that only "reliable adequate international tests" may be taken into account”.[6] In this regard, the Panel, and FISA, share the view that “a reliable adequate international test can only be assumed if the sample has been analyzed in a WADA-accredited laboratory outside Russia”.[7]More...



The Russian Ballet at the CAS Ad Hoc Division in Rio - Act II: On being implicated

Editor's note: This is the second part/act of our blog series on the Russian eligibility cases at the CAS ad hoc Division in Rio.

 

Act II: On being implicated


Paragraph 2 of the IOC Decision: The IFs to examine the information contained in the IP Report, and for such purpose seek from WADA the names of athletes and National Federations (NFs) implicated. Nobody implicated, be it an athlete, an official, or an NF, may be accepted for entry or accreditation for the Olympic Games.”

 

The second, and by far largest, wave of complaints involved Russian athletes barred from the game under paragraph 2 of the IOC Decision. None of those were successful in their appeals as the CAS sided with those IFs which took a tough stance with regard to the Russian State doping system. The first set of cases turned on the definition of the word “implicated” in the sense of paragraph 2 of the IOC Decision. In this regard, on 2 August the IOC sent a communication to the IFs aiming at providing some general guidelines. It reads as follows:

"In view of the recent appeals filed by Russian Athletes with CAS, the IOC considers it necessary to clarify the meaning of the notion "implicated" in the EB Decision.

The IOC does not consider that each athlete referred to in the McLaren Lists shall be considered per se "implicated. It is for each International federation to assess, on the basis of the information provided in the McLaren lists and the Independent Person Report, whether it is satisfied that the Athlete in question was implicated in the Russian State-controlled doping scheme.

To assist the International Federations in assessing each individual case, the IOC wishes to provide some information. In the IOC's opinion, an athlete should not be considered as "implicated" where:

·       The order was a "quarantine".

·       The McLaren List does not refer to a prohibited substance which would have given rise to an anti-doping rule violation or;

·       The McLaren List does not refer to any prohibited substance with respect to a given sample."

The CAS went on to address this question concretely in three cases analysed below. More...




Asser International Sports Law Blog | ISLJ International Sports Law Conference 2019 - Conference Report - 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

ISLJ International Sports Law Conference 2019 - Conference Report - By Thomas Terraz

On October 24th and 25th 2019, the T.M.C. Asser Institute and the International Sports Law Centre hosted the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) Conference for a third year in a row, bringing together a group of academics and practitioners from around the world. This year’s conference celebrated the 20th year of the International Sports Law Journal, which was originally started by Robert Siekmann. Over the past 20 years, the ISLJ has aimed to be a truly international journal that addresses global topics in sports law while keeping the highest academic standards.

With this background, the conference facilitated discussions and exchanges over six differently themed panels on international sports law’s most pertinent issues and gave participants wide opportunities to engage with one another. Additionally, this year’s edition also had the great honor of hosting two distinguished keynote speakers, Moya Dodd and Ulrich Haas, who were able to share their wealth of experience and knowledge with the conference participants.

The following report aims to give an overview of the ISLJ Conference 2019 to extract and underline the fundamental ideas raised by the different speakers.


Day 1:
Opening Speech: Moya Dodd

The conference was kickstarted by Moya Dodd, a former FIFA Council member and current ICAS member, who gave an engaging presentation on her experiences as an athlete in boardrooms of FIFA. After retiring from the Australian National Team, she began to become involved in sport governance, starting as a member of the AFC Executive Committee. She eventually made her way to the FIFA Executive Committee where she made it a priority to represent groups who did not have a voice in FIFA’s governance. In this vain, she launched a task force for women, which helped spearhead reforms that brought gender issues into light. Ms. Dodd also explained how she worked hard to keep connections with persons outside of the sports governing structures in order to represent them from the inside. In the end, she explained how the experience playing sports helped develop skills that became invaluable in the boardroom. This includes, teamwork skills, constantly striving to improve oneself, valuing persons for their capabilities, and the ability to deal with setbacks. This discussion led particularly well into the first panel of the conference, which took a magnifying glass to the role of athletes in sports governance.

Panel 1: Where is the athletes’ voice? The (il)legitimacy of international sports governing bodies

Antoine Duval and Marjolaine Viret began the first panel of the conference by exploring the athletes’ voice in the fight against doping and particularly within WADA. They explained that in order for the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) and WADA to be considered legitimate, the actors most affected by its policies, athletes, would need to be participating meaningfully and have a real input in the decision-making process. This input requires an actual reflection in the regulatory output of WADA, and it entails not only consulting with athlete stakeholders but that representatives have voting powers on both the code revision process and the administrative bodies of WADA. Their study examines to what extent the current operation of WADA is in line with these ideals by examining the role of athletes in WADA’s bodies and its actual regulatory output.

Mark Conrad studied the issue from a wider lens by explaining how the current representation of athletes in sports governing bodies is inadequate and why there needs to be a fundamental rethinking of the current athlete committee model. This model, he explains, is ineffective in truly representing athletes’ interests, since their mandates are not clearly defined and greatly rely on the good favor of the federations’ management. As an alternative model, he presented a collective bargaining approach, which already is widespread in North America, in which athlete unions would represent athletes’ interests in a bargaining process with the sports governing bodies. Such a model would give the athletes ‘real’ representation by relying on their strength in numbers and by negotiating agreements that would entitle them to specific rights. These agreements could cover salary standards, salary controls, free agency, drug testing and many other aspects of the employment relationship. He concluded by discussing the general pros and cons of such a model but that overall, since athletes would actually have an effective representation, it would overcome any of the negative effects of such a model.

Panel 2: Criminal law and sports – criminal law of sports

The day’s conversation then shifted from sports governance structures to the application of criminal law in sports. Björn Hessert kicked off the panel with a presentation on the cooperation and reporting obligations in sport investigations. He began by illustrating the catch-22 situation in which athletes may find themselves during an investigation. On the one hand, they are required to ‘cooperate fully’ with the investigation authorities, including providing self-incriminating evidence, or face sanctions. If they choose not to cooperate, then they also receive sanctions. This state of affairs may have had a direct impact on the skyrocketing number of sanctions over the past few years involving reporting and cooperation violations. Hessert argued that this situation could be significantly improved by introducing fundamental procedural rights found in criminal law systems to these investigations, such as the right to remain silent and the privilege against self-incrimination. These rights are found in article 6 (1) and (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Such a regime would force sports governing bodies to be creative in finding new strategies to investigate and prosecute alleged sports rule violations.

After Hessert’s presentation on procedural rights in sports investigations, Jan Exner took the podium to discuss the proportionality of the sanctions in the anti-doping code. He began by giving an overview of the characteristics of the sanctions in the WADC, which include a fixed sanction framework and limited flexibility for panels hearing alleged doping rule violations. He explained that due to the rigid sanction framework of the WADC, panels hearing a doping dispute are unable to go below limits set therein and that in certain exceptional cases, these sanctions may be disproportionate. Exner then illustrated some of the negative effects of the current system in which CAS panels hearing similar factual circumstances end up with delivering different sanctions. Such a predicament, Exner argues, goes against any equality of outcome of the proceedings. In the end, he contended that there should be a revised sanction framework that would allow hearing panels to go below the limits set in the WADC as long as certain criteria are met in order to ensure that the sanction is proportionate to the rule violation.

Ruby Panchal closed the panel by shining a light on match-fixing. She argued that sports governing bodies have been so concerned with doping that match fixing has not been sufficiently addressed. Much like how anti-doping rules have been significantly developed over time, anti-match-fixing laws also need to be made far more robust. Panchal explained that certain factors essential for the development of lex sportiva will be essential in the growth of this field. These factors include the validity of unilateral action clauses, a growing relationship between sports governing bodies and state courts, the creation of evidentiary processes in disciplinary proceedings, and co-operation between sports governing bodies and investigative authorities. Panchal closed her talk by examining the approach of the Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions (Macolin Convention) in addressing this regulatory void. While the Convention takes a ‘hopeful approach’, the question remains open as to how effective it will be in combatting match-fixing.

Panel 3: Transfer systems in international sports

The last panel of day one of the conference took a deep dive into transfer systems in international sports. Jan Łukomski opened the panel by studying the finalization of international football transfers and professional football players’ contracts. There are many kinds of agreements that could be potentially involved in the transfer of a football player, including offers, pre-contracts, definite contracts, that have significantly different legal effects. For example, the CAS explained in CAS 2008/A/1589 MKE Ankaragücü Spor Külübü v. J. that the difference between a pre-contract and a contract ‘is that the parties to the ‘precontract’ have not agreed on the essential elements of the contract or at least the “precontract” does not reflect the final agreement’. This is just one example of a growing CAS case law on issues of contractual validity of football contracts. In the end, Łukomski explains that often times disputes on contractual validity stems from ‘mistakes’ that were made by clubs and players during the negotiation process.

Following the examination of the transfer system in football, Xavier Mansat gave the participants a small peek into the archaic transfer model currently in place in volleyball. He took the audience on a journey of the transfer of one volleyball player by emphasizing all the different steps and actors participating in the process. Mansat also elucidated the various administrative and transfer fees that are taken out at every step by the involved actors. He closed the panel by explaining that the current system is in the process of being challenged by a new stakeholder group, Association des Clubs Professionels de Volleyball (ACPV) and that it is likely that some of the components in the current transfer framework are incompliant with EU law.

Day one ended with an opportunity for the conference participants to unwind over a dinner in the charming harbor of Scheveningen.


Day 2:

Keynote lecture: Ulrich Haas

Day two of the ISLJ Conference was launched by a lecture from Ulrich Haas, who gave an in-depth lecture on the nature and function of association tribunals in international sport. Haas underlined that while association tribunals are the most important dispute resolution mechanism in practice, legal literature on them is scarce. The sheer volume of the decisions made by association tribunals is staggering. In the case of FIFA, the decisions are around 10000-11000 per year. After having demonstrated the incredible importance of association tribunals to the functioning of sports governance, he outlined their legal basis, which is based in the freedom of association (in Switzerland and Germany). Austria, on the other hand, makes association tribunals mandatory. Haas then began to unpack the differences between authoritarian decision-making, used by association tribunals, compared to other forms of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, conciliation, and arbitration. Interestingly, he concluded that while all these differences can serve as indications of whether a body is an association tribunal or an arbitration panel, there is no set international standard to make this determination. Hence, there is a need to refer to national law in order to fill this void. In conclusion, Haas endorsed a procedural law approach over a substantive law approach to determine the appeals status of an association body’s decision.

Panel 4: Rethinking sports arbitration

The first panel of day two of the ISLJ Conference took to rethinking the current framework of sports arbitration. Veronica Lavista was first to go and presented her findings on the influence of international dispute settlement on sports. She took an empirical approach to her study by going through CAS’ case law and placing the arbitrators in those cases into different categories based on their background, such as a sports law, corporate law, or international law specialist. Based on this determination, Lavista was then able to identify that the makeup of the panel had an appreciable influence on the extent certain legal issues were discussed in the award. Lavista also underlined some of the overlaps between international dispute resolution and the CAS, including the voluntary nature of their jurisdiction, the use of ad hoc panels, and the explosion of case law over the past few decades.

Next up, Daniela Mirante and Artur Flaminio da Silva offered a case study in the Portuguese context of sports arbitration to argue that perhaps switching to a mandatory arbitration scheme would alleviate many of the issues currently present in the ‘voluntary’ arbitration model. Portugal created a permanent sport arbitration center in the Portuguese Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAD), which has a mandatory jurisdiction for ‘all sports disputes related to administrative law’. After underlining many of the issues plaguing the TAD, such as institutional independence and arbitrators’ impartiality, the confidentiality of the awards, and the high costs of arbitration, they explained the advantages of mandatory sports arbitration. First, it would get rid of the concept of consent, which they argue is a fiction since athletes must consent to arbitration or else not be able to participate in the sport. It would also reduce the time needed to render a decision since there would be less room for parties to challenge the jurisdiction of arbitration panels. They concluded that mandatory arbitration definitely could be a future path for sports arbitration but that it would have to follow a different path than the current Portuguese model.

To close the panel, Massimiliano Trovato brought forth his three ‘radical’ proposals to ensure the legitimacy of the CAS. Before unveiling the three proposals, Trovato gave a brief historical overview of the CAS and its relationship with the Olympic Movement to contextualize his arguments. He highlighted the interactions between the two and how certain individuals have held top positions in the CAS bodies and other sports governing bodies, like the IOC, leading to potential conflicts of interest. At this point, Trovato revealed his first proposal that article S4 and S6 of the CAS Statutes be amended to make the ICAS into a body ran by the arbitrators themselves, since they have both the ability and expertise to run the CAS for the interests of all the parties involved. Second, Trovato argued that the closed-list system of arbitrators be abolished under article S14 and move towards an open system. The quality of the arbitrators, Trovato explained, could still be assured by introducing certain minimum eligibility requirements for the arbitrators. The third proposal Trovato presented was that Article R65 be altered to make sports governing bodies responsible for the costs of arbitration, not the parties.  Shifting the burden would make sports governing bodies more disciplined and would help compensate for the fact that athletes are essentially forced into arbitration.

Book L(a)unch: The Court of Arbitration for Sport and its Jurisprudence: An Empirical Inquiry Into Lex Sportiva by Johan Lindholm

During lunchtime, the conference participants were treated to a very special book launch from the ISLJ’s chief editor, Johan Lindholm. His book, The Court of Arbitration for Sport and its Jurisprudence: An Empirical Inquiry Into Lex Sportiva, is an exhaustive and thorough empirical study into the CAS’ jurisprudence, its arbitrators, and its parties. Covering a period of 30 years (1984-2014), the book tries to unpack some of the most often raised arguments against the CAS and puts these claims to the ultimate test. For example, whether particular arbitrators are more likely to be chosen by certain parties. Furthermore, the book, through impressive data visualization graphics, illustrates a variety of intriguing data samples, including what kind of cases the CAS has deliberated and to what extent the CAS can call itself a global international sports tribunal.

Panel 5: Revisiting the (in)dependence and transparency of the CAS

Following the book l(a)unch, the next panel treated conference participants to a fascinating debate on the (in)dependence and transparency of the CAS. Velislava Hristova launched the panel by exploring the intersection between human rights and sports arbitration and in particular, the right to a public hearing in sport cases. She used the ECtHR case of Mutu and Pechstein v. Switzerland to illustrate the topic. Before jumping into the legal issues, Hristova gave an overview of the nearly 10-year legal history of the Pechstein Saga. She explained that the case boiled down to four main issues: whether Article 6 (1) ECHR (right to a fair and public hearing) could be applicable to sports arbitration, whether Pechstein waived this right, whether the CAS is sufficiently independent and impartial, and whether the lack of a public hearing in this case actually violated Article 6 (1). Next, Hristova analyzed the findings of the ECtHR on these four issues and explained how the ECtHR concluded that while the right to a public hearing is not absolute, the lack of a public hearing in Pechstein’s case was a violation because of the compulsory nature of sports arbitration, the fact that a public hearing was requested, the ‘nature and complexity’ of the case, and since the factual background had been contested. In the end, athletes, arbitrators and the CAS will have to take this landmark ruling into account moving forward.

Antonio Rigozzi further delved into the issue of the (in)dependence of the CAS by not only looking at the Pechstein case but also the Swiss Federal Tribunal’s (SFT) decision in the Seraing case and how these rulings could potentially impact the CAS. Concerning the Seraing case, he explained how the SFT had to determine whether the CAS is structurally independent, which differs from the Lazutina case because the SFT had to determine whether it was independent from FIFA, not the IOC. In the end, the SFT did not find it necessary to depart from its analysis in the Lazutina case and deemed the CAS to be independent so long there were no overriding reasons indicating that FIFA is given special treatment. Furthermore, the SFT noted that the CAS had made significant efforts to strengthen its independence by improving its structure and functioning. Rigozzi finished by drawing some conclusions from the Pechstein and Seraing cases. First, the Pechstein case has made public hearings at the CAS an inevitability now that Article 6 (1) ECHR is fully applicable to its proceedings, and the CAS will have to improve the optics concerning its rules on the appointment of the president of the panel. Secondly, the SFT in the Seraing made clear that while CAS could be further ‘perfected’, it was not the proper institution to take on such a project. Instead, it placed the responsibility in the hands of the Swiss legislator, and it is yet to be seen whether they will actually take the initiative to introduce change.

The panel was brought to a close by Tom Seamer, who plunged into the issue of the independence and impartiality of CAS arbitrators. He argued that there could be two main areas of improvement in this regard, the ICAS and the appointment of arbitrators. Concerning the ICAS, only minor changes would be necessary to drastically improve the status quo, such as ensuring that its president be neutral and has no connections with any sports governing body, athlete or clubs. Secondly, Seamer supported the contention that certain arbitrators are repeatedly nominated by the same parties and often make decisions in favor of that particular party. He explained that in order to test this theory, one must only look at the period in which the particular arbitrator was on the approved CAS list and then determine the proportion of cases they were called upon by a particular party during that same period. Seamer closed by asserting more needed to be done in order to tackle these issues, while acknowledging some of the challenges ahead.

Panel 6: The future of sports: sports law of the future

The last panel of the conference took the opportunity to look forward into the future of sports law and discussed the growing fields of e-sports and extreme sports. On e-sports, Cedric Aghey tackled the issue of e-sports governance and how it could be potentially integrated into the current sports governing structures, since currently there is an unharmonized e-sport structure. At the moment, e-sports relies on a variety of stakeholders operating at different levels, such as games publishers, e-sports governing bodies, and investors. In order to address this situation, Aghey argued that the e-sports definition should be narrowed only to video games that seek to emulate ‘traditional’ sports. This would allow for a rather seamless integration of these e-sports into the already existing sports federations. For example, FIFA would absorb its FIFA e-sport counterpart.

Nick Poggenklaas also presented on e-sports but instead took a wider definition of e-sports by not only limiting e-sports to games based on ‘traditional’ sports. He contended that the current regulatory framework present in e-sports is inadequate to sufficiently protect minors from the negative aspects of sport. This issue is particularly pertinent, since minors make an exceptionally large share of the e-sport athletes, which is especially worrying since there have been cases of doping and sexual and financial abuse. Such cases question whether enough is being done to really combat these problems. Thus, Poggenklaas put forth several proposals that could substantially improve the situation of minor’s rights in e-sports. He submitted that by creating an overarching e-sport governing body that would manage an abuse hotline, minors would be subject to a more rigid regulatory regime that would at least provide them with the opportunity and means to raise their concerns. Furthermore, Poggenklaas believes that the creation of players unions and further parent involvement would also help to ensure that minors’ interests are sufficiently protected.

Lastly, Angela Busacca examined extreme sports and the kind of civil liability applicable to these activities. She first described the elements and different classifications of extreme sports under Italian law. For instance, extreme sports have a component of risk and require a certain interaction with nature. They can also be placed on a scale ranging from sports that have a set of pre-defined rules to those where there are no pre-defined rules and consequently giving a free range for the athlete’s actions. In addition, extreme sports are categorized by those that have a clear governance organizational structure to those who do not have a defined structure. All these aforementioned components can have an impact on the establishment of civil liability and whom is responsible in case of an accident.


Conclusion

After two intense days of discussion and debate of international sports law’s most pressing topics through six differently themed panels, two keynote lectures, eighteen invited speakers, and many other highlights, the ISLJ Conference 2019 came to a close. The Asser International Sports Law Centre was honored to have been able to host another successful edition. On behalf of the organizers, we would like to thank all the speakers and participants who made this conference such a success and look forward to seeing you all back at the Institute soon!

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