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 – November and December 2016. By Saverio Spera.

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 Russian State Doping Scandal and the crisis of the World Anti-Doping System

Russian doping and the state of the Anti-Doping System has been the dominant international sports law story in November and December. This is mainly due to the release of the second report of the McLaren’s investigation on 9 December 2016. The outcome of McLaren’s work showed a “well-oiled systemic cheating scheme” that reached to the highest level of Russian sports and government, involving the striking figure of 30 sports and more than 1000 athletes in doping practices over four years and two Olympic Games. The report detailed tampering with samples to swap out athletes’ dirty urine with clean urine.More...


FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors - Part 3: The compatibility of Article 19 with EU law. By Kester Mekenkamp.

Editor’s note: Kester Mekenkamp is an LL.M. student in European Law at Leiden University and an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre. This blog is, to a great extent, an excerpt of his forthcoming thesis, which he shall submit in order to complete his master’s degree.

This final blog aims to provide some broader perspective, by sketching first the grander scheme in which Article 19 RSTP – FIFA's provision on the protection of minors – operates. Thereafter, the focus will shift towards testing Article 19 RSTP, thereby keeping in mind the previous blogs (Part 1: The Early Years and Part 2: The 2009 reform and its aftermath), against EU free movement law.  


Putting Article 19 RSTP into perspective: The bigger picture

After having investigated the nuts and bolts of FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors in the first two parts of this blog, it might be useful to address its bigger picture.

Article 19 RSTP and its accompanying provisions regulate only a small share of the targeted activity. There is, unfortunately, also an illegal world. Circumvention of the prohibition is allegedly commonplace.[1] Visas and passports can be falsified.[2] Work permits can be obtained on the basis of jobs arranged by clubs.[3] More...


FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors - Part 2: The 2009 reform and its aftermath. By Kester Mekenkamp.

Editor’s note: Kester Mekenkamp is an LL.M. student in European Law at Leiden University and an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre. This blog is, to a great extent, an excerpt of his forthcoming thesis, which he shall submit in order to complete his master’s degree.


This is the second part of a three-piece blog on FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors, Article 19 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players. The contribution in its entirety aims to provide an encompassing overview of the rule’s lifespan since its inception in 2001. The previous (first) part has shed light on the “birth” and “first years” of the provision, and as such illustrated the relevant developments from 2001 till 2009. This second part covers the rule’s “adolescent years”, which span from 2009 to the present. The major changes put forward in the 2009, 2015 and 2016 versions of the RSTP will be addressed. Thereafter the important CAS decisions concerning Article 19, Muhic, Vada I and II, FC Barcelona, RFEF, and the FIFA decisions relating to Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, will be scrutinized. The third, and final, part will constitute a substantive assessment of the provision under EU Internal Market law.

Given that the version adopted in 2008 left Article 19 untouched, the 2009 RSTP represented the next significant step in the regulation of the protection of minors. It had become clear that the system as used up to that point was inadequate to achieve its goal,[1] most notably because several national associations still neglected to strictly apply the rules.[2] More...


FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors - Part 1: The Early Years. By Kester Mekenkamp.

Editor’s note: Kester Mekenkamp is an LL.M. student in European Law at Leiden University and an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre. This blog is, to a great extent, an excerpt of his forthcoming master thesis. 


On 24 November 2016, a claim was lodged before a Zurich commercial court against FIFA’s transfer regulations by a 17-year-old African football player.[1] The culprit, according to the allegation: The provision on the protection of minors, Article 19 of the Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players.[2] The claimant and his parents dispute the validity of this measure, based on the view that it discriminates between football players from the European Union and those from third countries. Besides to Swiss cartel law, the claim is substantiated on EU citizenship rights, free movement and competition law. Evidently, it is difficult to assess the claim’s chance of success based on the sparse information provided in the press.[3] Be that as it may, it does provide for an ideal (and unexpected) opportunity to delve into the fascinating subject of my master thesis on FIFA’s regulatory system aimed at enhancing the protection of young football players and its compatibility with EU law. This three-part blog shall therefore try to provide an encompassing overview of the rule’s lifespan since its inception in 2001. More...


The entitlement to Training Compensation of “previous” clubs under EU Competition Law. By Josep F. Vandellos Alamilla

Editor’s note: Josep F. Vandellos is an international sports lawyer associated to RH&C (Spain). He is also a member of the Editorial Board of the publication Football Legal and a guest lecturer in the ISDE-FC Barcelona Masters’ Degree in Sports Management and Legal Skills.


Article 6 of Annexe IV (Training compensation) of the FIFA-RSTP (Ed. 2016) contains the so-called “Special Provisions for the EU/EEA” applicable to players moving from one association to another inside the territory of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA).
The provisions regarding training compensation result from the understanding reached between FIFA and UEFA with the European Union in March 2001[1], and subsequent modifications introduced in the FIFA-RSTP revised version of 2005 to ensure the compatibility of the transfer system with EU law.[2]
This blog will focus on the exception contained in article 6(3) Annexe IV of the FIFA-RSTP. According to this article, when “the former club” fails to offer a contract to the player, it loses its right to claim training compensation from the players’ new club, unless it can justify that it is entitled to such compensation. Instead, the right of “previous clubs” to training compensation is fully preserved irrespective of their behaviour with the player.[3] From a legal standpoint, such discrimination between the “former club” and the “previous clubs” raises some questions that I will try to address in this paper. More...



The EU State aid and sport saga: The Real Madrid Decision (part 2)

This is the second and final part of the ‘Real Madrid Saga’. Where the first part outlined the background of the case and the role played by the Spanish national courts, the second part focuses on the EU Commission’s recovery decision of 4 July 2016 and dissects the arguments advanced by the Commission to reach it. As will be shown, the most important question the Commission had to answer was whether the settlement agreement of 29 July 2011 between the Council of Madrid and Real Madrid constituted a selective economic advantage for Real Madrid in the sense of Article 107(1) TFEU.[1] Before delving into that analysis, the blog will commence with the other pending question, namely whether the Commission also scrutinized the legality of the operation Bernabeú-Opañel under EU State aid law. By way of reminder, this operation consisted of Real Madrid receiving from the municipality the land adjacent to the Bernabéu stadium, while transferring in return €6.6 million, as well as plots of land in other areas of the city. More...

Resolution of Disputes Arising From Football Contracts in Turkey. By N. Emre Bilginoglu

Editor’s note: N. Emre Bilginoglu[1] is a lawyer based in Istanbul. His book entitled “Arbitration on Football Contracts” was published in 2015.


Introduction

With a total market value of approximately 911 million EUR, the Turkish Super League ranks as one of the prominent football leagues in Europe. Five of the eighteen teams that make up half of the total market value are based in Istanbul, a busy megalopolis that hosts a population of fifteen million inhabitants.[2] As might be expected, the elevated market value brings forth a myriad of disputes, mainly between the clubs and the players. However, other crucial actors such as coaches and agents are also involved in some of the disputes. These actors of the football industry are of all countries, coming from various countries with different legal systems.

One corollary of rapid globalisation is the development of transnational law, which is quite visible in the lex sportiva.[3] Like foreign investors, foreign actors of the sports industry look for some legal security before signing a contract. FIFA does protect these foreign actors in some way, providing players and coaches legal remedies for employment-related disputes of an international dimension. But what if the legal system of the FIFA member association does not provide a reasonable legal remedy for its national actors?[4] More...


The World Anti-Doping System at a Crossroads

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Tomorrow the Foundation Board of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will gather in Glasgow for its most important meeting since the creation of the Agency. Since the broadcasting of a documentary alleging systematic doping in Russian athletics by the German public broadcaster in December 2014, the anti-doping world has been in disarray. The various independent investigations (the Pound Report and the McLaren Report) ordered by WADA into doping allegations against Russian athletes have confirmed the findings of the documentary and the truth of the accusations brought forward by Russian whistle-blowers. Undeniably, there is something very rotten in the world anti-doping system. The current system failed to register a widespread, and apparently relatively open, state-sponsored scheme aimed at manipulating any doping test conducted in Russian territory. Moreover, it was not WADA that uncovered it, but an independent journalist supported by courageous whistle-blowers. More...


The EU State aid and sport saga: The Real Madrid Decision (part 1)

Out of all the State aid investigations of recent years involving professional football clubs, the outcome of the Real Madrid case was probably the most eagerly awaited. Few football clubs have such a global impact as this Spanish giant, and any news item involving the club, whether positive or negative, is bound to make the headlines everywhere around the globe. But for many Spaniards, this case involves more than a simple measure by a public authority scrutinized by the European Commission. For them, it exemplifies the questionable relationship between the private and the public sector in a country sick of never-ending corruption scandals.[1] Moreover, Spain is only starting to recover from its worst financial crisis in decades, a crisis founded on real estate speculation, but whose effects were mostly felt by ordinary citizens.[2] Given that the Real Madrid case involves fluctuating values of land that are transferred from the municipality to the club, and vice versa, it represents a type of operation that used to be very common in the Spanish professional football sector, but has come under critical scrutiny in recent years.[3] More...

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...




Asser International Sports Law Blog | Kosovo at the Court of Arbitration for Sport – Constructing Statehood Through Sport? By Ryan Gauthier (Thompson Rivers University)

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

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.



A few days later, Kosovo, along with Gibraltar, were admitted into the Fédération Internationale de Football (FIFA) as members. This marked the increasing recognition of Kosovo as an independent entity for sporting purposes, with Kosovo’s National Olympic Committee receiving recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in December 2014.

The admission of Kosovo as an independent competitor in the sporting world has touched off controversy, particularly in Serbia. Kosovo has attempted to assert its independence from Serbia for more than two decades, with a formal declaration of independence in 2008 – a declaration that was referred to the International Court of Justice who found that the declaration was not a violation of international law (I.C.J. Reports 2010, p. 403). The Football Federation of Serbia (Serbia) sought review of UEFA’s decision, and took its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). CAS upheld UEFA’s decision in January 2017 (CAS 2016/A/4602).

 

The CAS Decision

Serbia’s argument to the CAS was that UEFA violated its own regulations by admitting Kosovo as a member. Other grounds, namely procedural grounds, and an alleged violation of Serbia’s freedom of association rights, were raised. However, the CAS denied Serbia relief on those grounds, and I’ll leave a discussion of those aside in order to get to the decision on the substance of UEFA’s regulations.

The main point of contention in the complaint was the interpretation of the UEFA Statutes Art. 5(1), which deals with the admission of new members:

Membership of UEFA is open to national football associations situated in the continent of Europe, based in a country which is recognised by the United Nations as an independent state, and which are responsible for the organisation and implementation of football-related matters in the territory of their country.

The CAS panel found this provision to be ambiguous based on the reality that the United Nations does not recognise states. Instead, an entity must be a state to become a member of the United Nations (UN Charter, Art. 4(1)). Since the part of the provision at issue, whether or not Kosovo could be admitted since it was not “recognised by the United Nations as an independent state”, was void, how was the provision to be interpreted?

The CAS turned to four principles of statutory interpretation, based on the Swiss Civil Code: the genesis of the law, a systematic interpretation, common practice and understanding, and the ratio (purpose) of the provision. The CAS found the first three principles to be unhelpful, as these principles ultimately uncovered elements that only led to the ambiguity in the first place.

The CAS finally turned to the ratio of the provision. It found that the purpose of the provision was to have one football federation per country, and to limit secessions of football federations only to instances where the secession was supported in a broader political sense. The CAS stated that: “the attempt to mirror the solutions and realities of the political map onto the sporting world makes a lot of sense” (para. 123). The panel also noted that the Olympic Charter and FIFA Statutes defined a “country” as “an independent state recognised by the international community”, and pointed out that Kosovo’s sports bodies had been recognised by the IOC and other international sporting federations under this definition. As a result, the CAS found that the definition of “country” had a common understanding in the sporting community, and it was one that did not require UN membership.

 

The Gibraltar Decision

Both UEFA’s decision, and the CAS case, have their roots in the late 1990s, but in regards to a territory on the other side of Europe – Gibraltar. Gibraltar is not an independent state, but is a territory of the United Kingdom. It is also a source of diplomatic conflict between the United Kingdom, and Gibraltar’s neighbour – Spain. Gibraltar applied for UEFA membership in 1997. Having had its own football association since 1895, and with the UEFA requirements then only requiring that a UEFA member have its own football association that oversees football in the territory, Gibraltar’s application looked to be a lock. Indeed, the application was initially positively received by UEFA, and looked to be a done deal by the year 2000.

However, UEFA repeatedly delayed making a final determination, in part because of Spanish opposition to Gibraltar’s membership (the English Football Association, for its part, was supportive of Gibraltar). After more than two years, UEFA still had not made a determination on Gibraltar’s membership. Yet, they had received, processed, and approved an application by Kazakhstan to join UEFA after it had left the Asian Football Confederation in 2001. UEFA remained pretty busy during this time, as they changed their rules regarding the admission of new members to UEFA. The new change was the language that was at issue in the Kosovo case – that a new member be recognised as an independent state by the United Nations.

The case was brought before the CAS (2002/O/410), where Gibraltar sought a declaration that its application be considered under the pre-2001 rules that it had initially applied under, and that its application be accepted by UEFA. The CAS agreed with Gibraltar that UEFA could not change its rules mid-stream, finding that upholding such a change would violate a presumption against retrospectivity in regards to substantive laws, and principles of good faith. The CAS ordered UEFA to decide on Gibraltar’s membership based on the pre-2001 rules. After two more arbitrations heard by the CAS in 2006 and 2013, Gibraltar was admitted as a UEFA member in 2013. Gibraltar’s status as a FIFA member was similarly accomplished through CAS decisions.

 

Sport as a Playground for International Law

With all apologies to this blog’s Editor-in-Chief Antoine Duval, sport is not just a playground for transnational law, but also for international law. Scholars of international relations and international law are frequently surprised with the complexity and the depth of sports’ legal system. But perhaps more surprising is the consistent surprise that sports is more than simply “low politics”, and something that can be safely ignored in light of other areas such as military force, international trade, and the like.

I suggest that a case such as Kosovo’s quest for recognition by sporting bodies does matter for international law and international relations more generally. On the merits, these cases are administrative law exercises, whereby the CAS is merely ensuring that UEFA has complied with its own procedures, and the Kosovo case is a statutory interpretation exercise. However, I think that these cases – particularly the Kosovo case, should help shape our understanding of establishing a state.

There is a debate in international law over when a political entity becomes a “state” – with the attendant rights and obligations. The “constitutive” theory argues that an entity can only become a state when other states recognize it. The “declaratory” theory argues that so long as certain “facts on the ground” are established (usually the Montevideo Convention requirements of territory, population, government, and the capacity to enter into foreign relations), recognition is merely a declaration of what is already the case.

Kosovo is in the midst of attempting to establish its statehood. Currently, 110 UN member states recognise Kosovo. However, Serbia, Russia, and China, amongst others, do not. In establishing its statehood, Kosovo is unlikely to obtain UN membership anytime soon, with two of the permanent members of the Security Council likely to veto any attempt by Kosovo to join.

However, Kosovo appears to be taking a page from the playbook of states that went through de-colonization – not only obtain a seat at the UN, but obtain recognition from the IOC (and other sporting bodies). Next to having a seat at the UN, participation in the Olympic Games is one of the most visible signifiers of statehood. What could a more powerful signal of independence than having one’s athletes march in the opening ceremonies of an Olympic Games, waving the state’s flag, and having its anthem play upon winning a gold medal in front of thousands of people live and billions of people watching from home?

 


Source: http://www.nbcolympics.com/news/judo-day-2-preview-majlinda-kelmendi-eyes-olympic-history.

If you are skeptical that states care about who participates in international sporting events, Taiwan remains a prime example. Taiwan does not compete as “Taiwan”, or as the “Republic of China” along with its national flag – but instead its athletes compete under “Chinese Taipei”, using a different flag with the Olympic Rings on it. This was as a result of a deal brokered by the IOC and the People’s Republic of China in 1979 to get the People’s Republic of China to participate in the Olympic Games – a deal eventually accepted by Taiwan in 1981.

What cases like Chinese Taipei and Kosovo suggest is that although recognition is important in establishing statehood, it may not be limited to state recognition. While states may be the only organisations that have international legal personality, there are cracks forming in that monolithic conceptualization of international law. It is clear that sporting organizations such as the IOC, FIFA, and UEFA do not have international legal personality. However, they act as global administrative bodies, responsible for the organization of much of global sport. As such, these bodies have the reach and arguably, influence of the UN bodies – creatures of states that have international legal personality.

A real concern over constructing statehood through, inter alia sporting competition is that it may create a “slippery slope”. After all, if Gibraltar – certainly not a state – and Kosovo – questionably a state – can join UEFA, FIFA, or have a National Olympic Committee recognized, what is to stop other entities from doing the same? “Alternative” competitions involving entities that are not recognized as states, such Northern Cyprus, or ethnic groups such as the Sami of Scandinavia or the Romani of Europe, have taken place. Could one of these entities apply to join the international sporting community? The line-drawing by international sporting organisations has thus far proven to be problematic. However, this is a question perhaps best left for future research.

So, in the end, does the UEFA admission and CAS decision make Kosovo a state? Legally-speaking, probably not. Becoming a state entails not only rights at international law, but also obligations. It seems perhaps a stretch to say that a decision by a private arbitral body that oversees a specialized area would be determinative of a highly-contentious issue. However, one step below that is the political question of whether recognition by these sporting bodies helps Kosovo’s claims to statehood. I think the answer is as follows: If you ask the “man on the street” whether Kosovo was a state as Majlinda Kelmendi (the flag-bearer in the photo above) stood on the podium after winning a gold medal in judo at the 2016 Summer Games, or while that man watches the Kosovo team participate in the UEFA Euro and FIFA World Cups – that answer is more and more likely to be “yes”.

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