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

What happens in Switzerland stays in Switzerland: The Striani Judgment of the Brussels Court of Appeals

In the last five years, the Striani case has been the main sword of Damocles hanging over UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations. At the very least, the only real judicial threat they have faced (apart from the relatively harmless challenge mounted in the Galatasaray case at the CAS). Indeed, a Belgian player agent, Daniele Striani, represented by Bosman’s former lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont, attempted, in various fora, to challenge the compatibility of UEFA’s CL&FFP Regulations with EU law. Striani lodged a complaint with the European Commission (which was quickly rejected in October 2014) and initiated a private action for damages before the Brussels Court of First Instance. The latter deemed itself not competent to decide on the matter, but nevertheless accepted to order a provisory stay of the enforcement of the UEFA FFP Regulations pending a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the EU (see Ben van Rompuy’s blog on the case here). The CJEU unsurprisingly rejected to enter into the matter, but UEFA and Striani decided to appeal the first instance ruling to the Court of Appeal, which rendered its decision on 11 April. It is unclear at this stage whether Striani will attempt to challenge it at the Belgian Cour de Cassation (Highest Civil Court), however this would entail considerable risks and costs and his lawyers to date have not indicated that they would do so (see here). 

While the ruling of the Court of Appeal does not touch upon the much-discussed question of the compatibility of UEFA’s FFP Regulations with EU law (see our many blogs on the question here, here and here), it remains an interesting decision to discuss broader questions related to the procedural ease in challenging regulatory decisions passed by sports governing bodies (SGBs) based in Switzerland. Competition law constitutes the main legal tool available to sports stakeholders looking to challenge existing regulatory arrangements from the outside (e.g. not going through the internal political systems of the SGBs or the CAS route). Recent cases, such as the ISU decision of the European Commission, the Pechstein case in front of the German courts or the Rule 40 decision of the German competition authority, have demonstrated the potency of competition law to question the legality of the rules and decisions of the SGBs.[1] In this regard, the decision of the Brussels Court of Appeal narrows the range of parties allowed to challenge in European courts the SGBs’ rules and decisions on the basis of competition law. More...

Can European Citizens Participate in National Championships? An Analysis of AG Tanchev’s Opinion in TopFit e.V. Daniele Biffi v Deutscher Leichtathletikverband e.V. - By Thomas Terraz

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a third year LL.B. candidate at the International and European Law programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences with a specialisation in European Law. Currently he is pursuing an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on International and European Sports Law.


1.     Introduction

To many it may seem obvious that athletes in a national championship should only be able to participate if they have the nationality of the relevant state. The Dutch Road Cycling National Championships should have Dutch cyclists, and the German Athletics Championships should have German athletes and so forth. However, in reality, foreign competitors are allowed to participate in many national championships in the EU, and there is a wide discrepancy between the rules of national sport governing bodies on this issue. There is no unified practice when investigating this point by country or by sport, and rules on participation range from a complete ban on foreign competitors to absolutely no mention of foreign athletes.[1] Thus, the question arises: should foreign athletes be able to participate in national sport championships?

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will soon be required to provide an, at least partial, answer to this dilemma as a result of an application for a preliminary ruling.  A German Court has referred three questions to the CJEU on the case TopFit e.V. Daniele Biffi v Deutscher Leichtathletikverband e.V. (DLV) which in essence ask whether EU citizenship rights and in particular, the requirement of non-discrimination on the basis of nationality, should be applied to non-nationals wishing to participate in an athletics national championship in Germany. In the meantime, the Advocate General (AG), who provides a non-binding opinion to the Court before a decision is delivered, Evgeni Tanchev has delivered an interesting opinion on the case. It addresses the claims from the applicants based on EU citizenship rights and urges the CJEU to instead review the case on the basis of the freedom of establishment.

This blog will dissect the AG’s opinion to assess the main arguments put forward in relation to freedom of establishment and EU citizenship. Furthermore, it will weigh the ramifications this case may have on the boundaries of EU law in relation to sport. To fully appreciate the AG’s opinion, it is necessary to first discuss the intriguing factual and legal background colouring this case. After all, this will not be the first time the CJEU faces thorny issues concerning discrimination on the basis of nationality and sport. More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – February and March 2019. 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.

 

The Headlines

The Court of Arbitration for Sport bans 12 Russian track and field athletes

On 1 February 2019, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) communicated that it had rendered another 12 decisions in the seemingly endless saga concerning the state-sponsored doping programme in Russia. These first-instance decisions of the CAS involve 12 Russian track and field athletes who were all found guilty of anti-doping rule violations based on the evidence underlying the reports published by professor Richard McLaren and suspended from participating in sports competitions for periods ranging from two to eight years. Arguably the most prominent name that appears on the list of banned athletes is Ivan Ukhov, the 32-year-old high jump champion from the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The case was brought by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) that sought to convince the arbitrators that the athletes in question had participated in and/or benefited from anabolic steroid doping programmes and benefited from specific protective methods (washout schedules) in the period between the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow. The CAS was acting in lieau of the Russian Athletics Federation that remains suspended and thus unable to conduct any disciplinary procedures. The athletes have had the opportunity to appeal the decisions to the CAS Appeals Arbitration Division.

Federal Cartel Office in Germany finds Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter disproportionately restrictive

At the end of February, the German competition authority Bundeskartellamt announced that it had entered into a commitment agreement with the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in which these two organisations had agreed to considerably enhance advertising opportunities for German athletes and their sponsors during the Olympic Games. The respective agreement is a direct consequence of the Bundeskartellamt’s finding that the IOC and the DOSB had abused their dominant position on the market for organising and marketing the Olympic Games by demanding that the athletes refrain from promoting their own sponsors while the Games are ongoing, as well as shortly before and after the Games. This restriction stems from Rule 40(3) of the Olympic Charter under which no competitor who participates in the Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes, unless the IOC Executive Board allows him/her to do so.

As part of fulfilling its obligations under the commitment agreement, the DOSB has relaxed its guidelines on promotional activities of German athletes during the Olympic Games. For its part, the IOC has declared that these new guidelines would take precedence over Rule 40(3) of the Olympic Charter. However, it still remains to be seen whether in response to the conclusions of the German competition authority the IOC will finally change the contentious rule.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights refuses to pronounce itself on Claudia Pechstein’s case

Claudia Pechstein’s challenge against the CAS brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has not yielded the desired result for the German athlete. On 5 February 2019, a Panel of the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR decided that the Grand Chamber would not entertain the case. This means that the judgment handed down by the 3rd Chamber of the ECtHR on 2 October 2018, in which the ECtHR confirmed that except for the lack of publicity of oral hearings the procedures of the CAS are compatible with the right to a fair trial under Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, has now become final and binding. However, the protracted legal battle between the five-time Olympic champion in speed skating and the CAS is not over yet since there is one more challenge against the CAS and its independence pending before the German Constitutional Court.  More...

New Event! FIFA and Human Rights: Impacts, Policies, Responsibilities - 8 May 2019 - Asser Institute

In the past few years, FIFA underwent intense public scrutiny for human rights violations surrounding the organisation of the World Cup 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar. This led to a reform process at FIFA, which involved a number of policy changes, such as:

  • Embracing the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights;
  • The inclusion of human rights in the FIFA Statutes;
  • Adopting new bidding rules including human rights requirements;
  • And introducing a Human Rights Advisory Board.

To take stock of these changes, the Asser Institute and the Netherlands Network for Human Rights Research (NNHRR), are organising a conference on the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and human rights, which will take place at the Asser Institute in The Hague on 8 May 2019.

This one-day conference aims to take a deeper look at FIFA’s impacts on human rights and critically investigate the measures it has adopted to deal with them. Finally, we will also address FIFA’s potential legal responsibilities under a variety of human rights laws/instruments.


Preliminary Programme

9:00 Registration & Coffee

9:45 Welcome by Antoine Duval (Asser Institute) & Daniela Heerdt (Tilburg University)

10:00 Opening Remarks by Andreas Graf (Human Rights Officer, FIFA)

10:30 Panel 1: FIFA & Human Rights: Impacts

  • Zoher Shabbir (University of York) – The correlation between forced evictions and developing nations hosting the FIFA World Cup
  • Roman Kiselyov (European Human Rights Advocacy Centre) - FIFA World Cup as a Pretext for a Crackdown on Human Rights
  • Eleanor Drywood (Liverpool University) - FIFA and children’s rights: theory, methodology and practice 

12:00 Lunch

13:00 Panel 2: FIFA & Human Rights: Policies

  • Lisa Schöddert & Bodo Bützler (University of Cologne) – FIFA’s eigen-constitutionalisation and its limits
  • Gigi Alford (World Players Association) - Power Play: FIFA’s voluntary human rights playbook does not diminish Switzerland’s state power to protect against corporate harms
  • Brendan Schwab (World Players Association) & Craig Foster - FIFA, human rights and the threatened refoulement of Hakeem Al Araibi 

14:30 Break

15:00 Panel 3: FIFA & Human Rights: Responsibilities

  • Daniel Rietiker (ECtHR and University of Lausanne) - The European Court of Human Rights and Football: Current Issues and Potential
  • Jan Lukomski (Łukomski Niklewicz law firm) - FIFA and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights : Obligations, duties and remedies regarding the labour rights         protected under the ICESCR
  • Raquel Regueiro Dubra (Complutense University of Madrid) - Shared international responsibility for human rights violations in global events. The case of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
  • Wojciech Lewandowski (Polish Academy of Sciences/University of Warsaw) - Is Bauer the new Bosman? – The implications of the newest CJEU jurisprudence for FIFA and other sport governing bodies

17:00 Closing Remarks by Mary Harvey (Chief Executive, Centre for Sports and Human Rights)


More information and registration at https://www.asser.nl/education-events/events/?id=3064

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2019 - 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.

 

The Headlines

#Save(d)Hakeem

The plight of Hakeem al-Araibi – the 25-year-old refugee footballer who was arrested last November in Bangkok upon his arrival from Australia on the basis of a red notice issued by Interpol in contravention of its own policies which afford protection to refugees and asylum-seekers – continued throughout the month of January. Bahrain – the country Hakeem al-Araibi fled in 2014 due to a (well-founded) fear of persecution stemming from his previous experience when he was imprisoned and tortured as part of the crackdown on pro-democracy athletes who had protested against the royal family during the Arab spring – maintained a firm stance, demanding that Hakeem be extradited to serve a prison sentence over a conviction for vandalism charges, which was allegedly based on coerced confessions and ignored evidence.

While international sports governing bodies were critised from the very beginning for not using enough leverage with the governments of Bahrain and Thailand to ensure that Hakeem’s human rights are protected, they have gradually added their voice to the intense campaign for Hakeem’s release led by civil society groups. FIFA, for example, has sent a letter directly to the Prime Minister of Thailand, urging the Thai authorities ‘to take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia at the earliest possible moment, in accordance with the relevant international standards’. Yet many activists have found this action insufficient and called for sporting sanctions to be imposed on the national football associations of Bahrain and Thailand.      

When it looked like Hakeem will continue to be detained in Thailand at least until April this year, the news broke that the Thai authorities agreed to release Hakeem due to the fact that for now the Bahraini government had given up on the idea of bringing Hakeem ‘home’ – a moment that was praised as historic for the sport and human rights movement.

Russia avoids further sanctions from WADA despite missing the deadline for handing over doping data from the Moscow laboratory 

WADA has been back in turmoil ever since the new year began as the Russian authorities failed to provide it with access to crucial doping data from the former Moscow laboratory within the required deadline which expired on 31 December 2018, insisting that the equipment WADA intended to use for the data extraction was not certified under Russian law. The Russian Anti-Doping Agency thus failed to meet one of the two conditions under which its three-year suspension was controversially lifted in September 2018. The missed deadline sparked outrage among many athletes and national anti-doping organisations, who blamed WADA for not applying enough muscle against the Russian authorities.

Following the expiry of the respective deadline, it appeared that further sanctions could be imposed on the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, but such an option was on the table only until WADA finally managed to access the Moscow laboratory and retrieve the doping data on 17 January 2019. Shortly thereafter, WADA President Sir Craig Reedie hailed the progress as a major breakthrough for clean sport and members of the WADA Executive Committee agreed that no further sanctions were needed despite the missed deadline. However, doubts remain as to whether the data have not been manipulated. Before WADA delivers on its promise and builds strong cases against the athletes who doped – to be handled by international sports federations – it first needs to do its homework and verify whether the retrieved data are indeed genuine.  

British track cyclist Jessica Varnish not an employee according to UK employment tribunal

On 16 January 2019, an employment tribunal in Manchester rendered a judgment with wider implications for athletes and sports governing bodies in the United Kingdom, ruling that the female track cyclist Jessica Varnish was neither an employee nor a worker of the national governing body British Cycling and the funding agency UK Sport. The 28-year-old multiple medal winner from the world and European championships takes part in professional sport as an independent contractor but sought to establish before the tribunal that she was in fact an employee of the two organisations. This would enable her to sue either organisation for unfair dismissal as she was dropped from the British cycling squad for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and her funding agreement was not renewed, allegedly in response to her critical remarks about some of the previous coaching decisions.

The tribunal eventually dismissed her challenge, concluding that ‘she was not personally performing work provided by the respondent – rather she was personally performing a commitment to train in accordance with the individual rider agreement in the hope of achieving success at international competitions’. Despite the outcome of the dispute, Jessica Varnish has insisted that her legal challenge contributed to a positive change in the structure, policies and personnel of British Cycling and UK Sport, while both organisations have communicated they had already taken action to strengthen the duty of care and welfare provided to athletes.  

 

Sports Law Related Decisions


Official Documents and Press Releases

How 2019 Will Shape the International Sports Law of the 2020s - By Thomas Terraz

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a fourth year LL.B. candidate at the International and European Law programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences with a specialisation in European Law. Currently he is pursuing an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on International and European Sports Law.

 

1.     Introduction

As we begin plunging into a new decade, it can be helpful to look back and reflect on some of the most influential developments and trends from 2019 that may continue to shape international sports law in 2020 and beyond. Hence, this piece will not attempt to recount every single sports law news item but rather identify a few key sports law stories of 2019 that may have a continued impact in the 2020s. The following sections are not in a particular order.More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2020 - By Thomas Terraz

Editor's note: This report compiles the most relevant legal news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. 

 

The Headlines

IOC Athlete Commission releases its Rule 50 Guidelines for Tokyo 2020

The IOC Athlete Commission presented its Rule 50 Guidelines for Tokyo 2020 at its annual joint meeting with the IOC Executive Board. It comes as Thomas Bach had recently underlined the importance of political neutrality for the IOC and the Olympic Games in his New Year’s message. Generally, rule 50 of the Olympic Charter prohibits any political and religious expression by athletes and their team during the Games, subject to certain exceptions. The Guidelines clarify that this includes the ‘field of play’, anywhere inside the Olympic Village, ‘during Olympic medal ceremonies’ and ‘during the Opening, Closing and other official ceremonies’. On the other hand, athletes may express their views ‘during press conferences and interview’, ‘at team meetings’ and ‘on digital or traditional media, or on other platforms. While rule 50 is nothing new, the Guidelines have reignited a debate on whether it could be considered as a justified restriction on one’s freedom of expression.

 

The IOC has made the case that it is defending the neutrality of sport and that the Olympics is an international forum that should help bring people together instead of focusing on divisions. Specifically, Richard Pound has recently made the argument that the Guidelines have been formulated by the athletes themselves and are a justified restriction on free expression with its basis in ‘mutual respect’. However, many commentators have expressed their skepticism to this view (see here, here and here) citing that politics and the Olympics are inherently mixed, that the IOC is heavily involved in politics, and that the Olympics has often served as the grounds for some of history’s most iconic political protests. All in all, the Guidelines have certainly been a catalyst for a discussion on the extent to which the Olympics can be considered neutral. It also further highlights a divide between athlete committees from within the Olympic Movement structures and other independent athlete representation groups (see Global Athlete and FIFPro’s statements on rule 50).

 

Doping and Corruption Allegations in Weightlifting 

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has found itself embroiled in a doping and corruption scandal after an ARD documentary was aired early in January which raised a wide array of allegations, including against the President of the IWF, Tamás Aján. The documentary also included hidden camera interviews from a Thai Olympic medalist who admits having taken anabolic steroids before having won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games and from a team doctor from the Moldovan national team who describes paying for clean doping tests. The IWF’s initial reaction to the documentary was hostile, describing the allegations as ‘insinuations, unfounded accusations and distorted information’ and ‘categorically denies the unsubstantiated’ accusations. It further claims that it has ‘immediately acted’ concerning the situation with the Thai athletes, and WADA has stated that it will follow up with the concerned actors. However, as the matter gained further attention in the main stream media and faced increasing criticism, the IWF moved to try to ‘restore’ its reputation. In practice, this means that Tamás Aján has ‘delegated a range of operation responsibilities’ to Ursual Papandrea, IWF Vice President, while ‘independent experts’ will conduct a review of the allegations made in the ARD documentary. Richard McLaren has been announced to lead the investigation and ‘is empowered to take whatever measures he sees fit to ensure each and every allegation is fully investigated and reported’. The IWF has also stated that it will open a whistleblower line to help aid the investigation.More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – November and December 2019- By Thomas Terraz

Editor's note: This report compiles the most relevant legal news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. 

 

The Headlines

WADA Conference and the Adoption of 2021 WADA Code Amid Calls for Reform

On November 5-7, WADA held its Fifth World Conference on Doping in Sport where it faced a busy schedule, including the adoption of the revised 2021 World Anti-Doping Code and the election of a new WADA President and Vice-President by the Foundation Board. Concerning the latter, Witold Bańka, Poland’s Minister of Sport and Tourism, was elected as WADA President and Yang Yang, a former Chinese speed skater, elected as Vice-President, replacing Sir Craig Reedie and Linda Helleland respectively.  As Helleland leaves her position, she has expressed some strong views on the state of sport governance, particularly that ‘there is an absence of good governance, openness and independence in the highest levels of international sports’. Helleland was not the only one to recently voice governance concerns, as Rob Koehler, Director General of Global Athlete, also called for a ‘wholesale structural change at WADA’, which includes giving ‘independent’ athletes a vote in WADA’s Foundation Board, ensuring a greater ‘separation of powers’ and ensuring greater protection of athletes’ rights.

In the midst of the calls for reform, the amended 2021 WADA Code and the amended International Standards were also adopted after a two year, three stage code review process. Furthermore, a major milestone in athletes’ rights was achieved with the adoption of the Athletes’ Anti-Doping Rights Acts (separate from the WADA Code), which enumerates certain basic rights to help ‘ensure that Athlete rights within anti-doping are clearly set out, accessible, and universally applicable’. On the other hand, the Act ‘is not a legal document’, which clearly circumscribes some of the potential effects the Act may have. Nonetheless, athlete representative groups have ‘cautiously welcomed’ some of the changes brought by the 2021 WADA Code, such as the ‘modified sanctions for substances of abuse violations’.

Sung Yang’s Historical Public Hearing at the CAS

After much anticipation, the second public hearing in CAS history occurred on November 15 in Montreux, Switzerland in the Sun Yang case (details of this case were discussed in August and September’s monthly report), which was livestreamed and can be seen in its totality in four different parts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). This was an extremely unique opportunity, which hopefully will become a more common occurrence, to see just how CAS hearings are conducted and perhaps get a taste of some of the logistical issues that can emerge during live oral hearings. One of these problems, accurate translations, rapidly became apparent as soon as Sun Yang sat in the witness chair to give his opening statements. The translators in the box seemed to struggle to provide an intelligible English interpretation of Sun Yang and other witnesses’ statements, while Sun Yang also seemingly had trouble understanding the translated questions being posed to him. The situation degenerated to such an extent that ultimately one of WADA’s officials was called to replace the translators. However, the translation drama did not end there, since during Sun Yang’s closing statements an almost seemingly random person from the public appeared next to Sun Yang who claimed to have been requested from Sun Yang’s team to ‘facilitate’ the translation. Franco Frattini, president of the panel, questioned the identity of the ‘facilitator’ and explained that one could not just simply appear before the court without notice. Interestingly, Sun Yang’s legal team also rapidly intervened claiming that it had not been made of aware of the inclusion of the supporting translator, further complicating the matter. In the end, Sun Yang concluded his statements with the translation from the WADA official.

While it was Sun Yang’s legal team that had provided the original translators in the box, it still raises the question as to how translation at CAS could be improved to ensure a certain standard of translators. After all, quality translation is critical to the parties’ right to be heard under Article 6 (e) ECHR. Regardless, in the end, neither parties made an objection that their right to be heard was violated.

Russian Doping Saga Continues: WADA Compliance Review Committee Recommends Strong Sanctions

As was already discussed in August and September’s monthly report, WADA uncovered numerous inconsistencies concerning data taken from the Moscow Laboratory. After further investigation, WADA’s Compliance Review Committee has recommended that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) be found non-compliant with the WADA Code. Accompanying the recommendation, the Compliance Review Committee also suggested several sanctions, which include prohibiting Russian athletes from participating in major events like the Olympic Games and ‘any World Championships organized or sanctioned by any Signatory’ for the next four years unless they may ‘dmonstrate that they are not implicated in any way by the non-compliance’. It would also see an embargo on events hosted in Russia during the same period. However, these sanctions did not go far enough for some, like Travis Tygart, chief executive of USADA, who wishes to prevent a repeat of Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018 ‘in which a secretly-managed process permitting Russians to compete – did not work’. On the other hand, the IOC has advocated for a softer, individual based approach that pursues ‘the rules of natural justice and respect human rights’. In the midst of these developments, the Athletics Integrity Unit also decided to charge several members of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF), including its President Dmitry Shlyakhtin, after a 15 month investigation for ‘tampering and complicity’ concerning a Russian athlete’s whereabouts violations.

Following many calls for strong consequences, the WADA Executive Committee met on December 9th and adopted the recommendations of the Compliance Review Committee. Athlete representatives have expressed their disappointment with the sanctions, calling the decision ‘spineless’ since it did not pursue a complete ban on Russian participation at events such as Euro 2020 and the 2020 Olympics. At this point, RUSADA has sent notice to WADA that it will be disputing the decision of WADA’s Executive Committee’s decision at the CAS.More...


Balancing Athletes’ Interests and The Olympic Partner Programme: the Bundeskartellamt’s Rule 40 Decision - By Thomas Terraz

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a fourth year LL.B. candidate at the International and European Law programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences with a specialisation in European Law. Currently he is pursuing an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on International and European Sports Law.

 

1        Introduction

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), after many years of ineffective pushback (see here, here and here) over bye law 3 of rule 40[1] of the Olympic Charter (OC), which restricts the ability of athletes and their entourage to advertise themselves during the ‘blackout’ period’[2] (also known as the ‘frozen period’) of the Olympic Games, may have been gifted a silver bullet to address a major criticism of its rules. This (potentially) magic formula was handed down in a relatively recent decision of the Bundeskartellamt, the German competition law authority, which elucidated how restrictions to athletes’ advertisements during the frozen period may be scrutinized under EU competition law. The following blog begins by explaining the historical and economic context of rule 40 followed by the facts that led to the decision of the Bundeskartellamt. With this background, the decision of the Bundeskartellamt is analyzed to show to what extent it may serve as a model for EU competition law authorities. More...

Is UCI the new ISU? Analysing Velon’s Competition Law Complaint to the European Commission - By Thomas Terraz

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a fourth year LL.B. candidate at the International and European Law programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences with a specialisation in European Law. Currently he is pursuing an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on International and European Sports Law.

 

1.     Introduction

The UCI may soon have to navigate treacherous legal waters after being the subject of two competition law based complaints (see here and here) to the European Commission in less than a month over rule changes and decisions made over the past year. One of these complaints stems from Velon, a private limited company owned by 11 out of the 18 World Tour Teams,[1] and the other comes from the Lega del Ciclismo Professionistico, an entity based in Italy representing an amalgamation of stakeholders in Italian professional cycling. While each of the complaints differ on the actual substance, the essence is the same: both are challenging the way the UCI exercises its regulatory power over cycling because of a growing sense that the UCI is impeding the development of cycling as a sport. Albeit in different ways: Velon sees the UCI infringing on its ability to introduce new race structures and technologies; the Lega del Ciclismo Professionistico believes the UCI is cutting opportunities for semi-professional cycling teams, the middle ground between the World Tour Teams and the amateur teams.

While some of the details remain vague, this blog will aim to unpack part of the claims made by Velon in light of previous case law from both the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to give a preliminary overview of the main legal issues at stake and some of the potential outcomes of the complaint. First, it will be crucial to understand just who/what Velon is before analyzing the substance of Velon’s complaint. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – October 2019 by Thomas Terraz

Editor's note: This report compiles the most relevant legal news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. 


The Headlines

International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) Conference 2019

The T.M.C. Asser Institute and the Asser International Sports Law Centre held the third International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) Conference on October 24-25. The Conference created a forum for academics and practitioners to discuss, debate and share knowledge on the latest developments of sports law. It featured six uniquely themed panels, which included topics such as ‘Transfer systems in international sports’ and ‘Revisiting the (in)dependence and transparency of the CAS’ to ‘The future of sports: sports law of the future’. The ISLJ Conference was also honored to have two exceptional keynote speakers: Moya Dodd and Ulrich Haas. To kick off the conference, Moya Dodd shared her experiences from an athlete’s perspective in the various boardrooms of FIFA. The second day was then launched by Ulrich Haas, who gave an incredibly thorough and insightful lecture on the importance, function and legal basis of association tribunals in international sport. For a detailed overview of this year’s ISLJ Conference, click here for the official conference report.

The Asser International Sports Law Centre was delighted to have been able to host another great edition of the ISLJ Conference and is thankful to all the participants and speakers who made this edition such a success.

Moving towards greater transparency: Launch of FIFA’s Legal Portal

On October 31, FIFA announced that it was introducing a new legal portal on its website that will give greater access to numerous documents that previously were kept private. FIFA explains that this is in order to help increase its transparency, which was one of the key ‘Guiding Principles’ highlighted in FIFA 2.0: The Vision for the Future released in 2016. This development comes as many sport governing bodies face increasing criticism for the opacity of its judicial bodies’ decisions, which can have tremendous economic and societal impacts. The newly available documents will include: ‘decisions rendered on the merits by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and the FIFA Appeal Committee (notified as of 1 January 2019); decisions rendered on the merits by the FIFA Ethics Committee (notified since 1 January 2019); decisions rendered on the merits by the FIFA Players’ Status Committee and the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber; non-confidential CAS awards in proceedings to which FIFA is a party (notified since 1 January 2019); list of CAS arbitrators proposed by FIFA for appointment by ICAS, and the number of times they have been nominated in CAS proceedings’. The list of decisions from all the aforementioned bodies are updated every four months, according to their respective webpages. However, time will ultimately tell how consistently decisions are published. Nevertheless, this move is a major milestone in FIFA’s journey towards increasing its transparency.

Hong Kong Protests, Human Rights and (e)Sports Law: The Blizzard and NBA controversies

Both Blizzard, a major video game developer, and the NBA received a flurry of criticism for their responses to persons expressing support for the Hong Kong protests over the past month. On October 8, Blizzard sanctioned Blitzchung, a professional Hearthstone player who expressed support of the Hong Kong protest during a post-match interview, by eliminating the prize money he had won and suspending him for one year from any Hearthstone tournament. Additionally, Blizzard will cease to work with the casters who conducted the interview. With mounting disapproval over the sanctions,  J. Allen Brack, the president of Blizzard, restored the prize money and reduced the period of ineligibility to 6 months.

The NBA controversy started when Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted his support for the protests in Hong Kong. The tweet garnered much attention, especially in China where it received a lot of backlash, including an announcement from CCTV, the official state broadcaster in China, that it was suspending all broadcasts of the NBA preseason games. In attempts to appease its Chinese audience, which is a highly profitable market for the NBA, Morey deleted the tweet and posted an apology, and the NBA responded by saying that the initial tweet was ‘regrettable’. Many scolded these actions and accused the NBA of censorship to which the NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, responded that the NBA remains committed to freedom of expression.

Both cases highlighted how (e)sport organizations may be faced with competing interests to either guarantee greater protection of human rights or to pursue interests that perhaps have certain financial motivations. More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – August and September 2019 - By Thomas Terraz

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

Another Russian Doping Crisis? Inconsistencies Uncovered in the Data from the Moscow Lab

Storm clouds are brewing once more in the Russian Doping Saga, after several inconsistencies were uncovered by WADA from data retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory. More specifically, a certain number of positive tests had been removed from the data WADA retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory compared to the one received from the original whistleblower. WADA launched a formal compliance procedure on 23 September, giving three weeks for Russian authorities to respond and provide their explanations. WADA’s Compliance Review Committee is set to meet on 23 October in order to determine whether to recommend declaring Russia non-compliant.

Russian authorities are not the only ones now facing questions in light of these new revelations. Criticism of WADA’s decision to declare Russia compliant back in September 2018 have been reignited by stakeholders. That original decision had been vehemently criticized (see also Edwin Moses’ response), particularly by athlete representative groups.

The fallout of these data discrepancies may be far reaching if Russian authorities are unable to provide a satisfying response. There are already whispers of another impending Olympic Games ban and the possibility of a ban extending to other sports signed to the WADA Code. In the meantime, the IAAF has already confirmed that the Russian Athletes would compete as ‘authorised neutral athletes’ at the World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar.

Legal Challenges Ahead to Changes to the FIFA Football Transfer Market

FIFA is set to make amendments to its player transfer market that take aim at setting new boundaries for football agents. These changes will prohibit individuals from representing both the buying and selling club in the same transaction and set new limits on agent commissions (3 percent for the buying club and player representative and 10 percent for the selling team). FIFA is already in the process of creating a central clearinghouse through which all transfer payments would have to pass through, including agent commissions. FIFA will be making a final decision on these proposed changes at the FIFA Council meeting on 24 October.

If these proposed changes are confirmed, they will almost certainly be challenged in court. The British trade organization representing football agents, Association of Football Agents, has already begun its preparations for a costly legal battle by sending a plea to its members for donations. It claims that it had not been properly consulted by FIFA before this decision had been made. On the other hand, FIFA claims that ‘there has been a consultation process with a representative group of agents’ and that FIFA kept ‘an open dialogue with agents’. Regardless, if these proposed changes go through, FIFA will be on course to a looming legal showdown.

CAS Public Hearing in the Sun Yang Case: One Step Forward for Transparency?

On 20 August, 2019, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced that the hearing in the appeal procedure of the Sun Yang case will be held publicly. It will be only the second time in its history that a public hearing has been held (the last one being in 1999, Michelle Smith De Bruin v. FINA). WADA has appealed the original decision of the FINA Doping Panel which had cleared Sun Yang from an alleged anti-doping rule violation. The decision to make the hearing public was at the request of both parties. The hearing is set to take place November 15th and is likely to be an important milestone in improving the CAS’ transparency.

Sun Yang, who has already served a doping ban for a previous violation in 2014, has also been at the center of another controversy, where Mack Horton, an Australian swimmer, refused to shake hands and stand on the podium with Sun Yang at the world championships in Gwangju. More...

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.More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Overdue payables in action: Reviewing two years of FIFA jurisprudence on the 12bis procedure – Part 2. By Frans M. de Weger and Frank John Vrolijk.

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

Overdue payables in action: Reviewing two years of FIFA jurisprudence on the 12bis procedure – Part 2. By Frans M. de Weger and Frank John Vrolijk.

Editor's Note: Frans M. de Weger is legal counsel for the Federation of Dutch Professional Football Clubs (FBO) and CAS arbitrator. De Weger is author of the book “The Jurisprudence of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber”, 2nd edition, published by T.M.C. Asser Press in 2016. Frank John Vrolijk specialises in Sports, Labour and Company Law and is a former legal trainee of FBO and DRC Database.

This second blog will focus specifically on the sanctions available for FIFA under Article 12bis. It will provide explanatory guidelines covering the sanctions imposed during the period surveyed.


Introduction

The possibility to impose sanctions under article 12bis constitutes one of the pillars of the 12bis procedure. Pursuant to Article 12bis of the RSTP, edition 2016, the DRC and the PSC may impose a sanction on a club if the club is found to have delayed a due payment for more than 30 days without a prima facie contractual basis[1] and the creditor have put the debtor club in default in writing, granting a deadline of at least 10 days.[2] The jurisprudence in relation to Article 12bis also shows that sanctions are imposed ex officio by the DRC or the PSC and not per request of the claimant.

If the basic conditions for the application of Article 12bis are fulfilled, said provision provides for the following sanctions that may be imposed on the defaulting club:

1.    a warning;

2.    a reprimand;

3.    a fine; or

4.    a ban from registering any new players, either nationally or internationally, for one or two entire and consecutive registration periods (hereinafter: “the registration ban”).[3]

Based on the wording of Article 12bis, i.e. the use of the word ‘may’, it is left to the discretionary power of the DRC and the PSC to decide whether or not to impose a sanction on the debtor club.[4] However, this discretionary power has never been used in favour of a defendant in all the published DRC or PSC decisions under review. In other words, a sanction, going from a warning to a transfer ban of two entire and consecutive periods, was imposed in all decisions. Despite the fact that it follows from Article 12bis(4) that sanctions may apply cumulatively, this option was only used once.[5] It seems that it will come into play only if the debtor club did not comply with its obligations on multiple occasions and only after the maximum sanction of a transfer ban of two entire and consecutive periods has been imposed on the debtor club. The discretionary power under Article 12bis is different from the sanction of a transfer ban as laid down in Article 17(4) of the RSTP. The latter article states that the competent body ‘shall’ sanction, as opposed to Article 12bis, which states that the competent body ‘may’ sanction.[6]


 The Warning

Out of the 99 published 12bis decisions of the DRC, 17 warnings have been imposed. Additionally, seven warnings have been imposed out of the 38 published 12bis decisions before the PSC. As follows from the jurisprudence of FIFA,[7] (only) a warning will be given by the FIFA committees in the event two conditions are cumulatively met:

1.             the club (duly) replied to the claim; and

2.             it is not a repeated offence.

It is however important to note that the height of the outstanding amount of overdue payables is not correlated with the imposition of a warning. The outstanding overdue payables in the 24 proceedings ending with a warning range from an overdue payable of 3,468 Euros (hereinafter: “EUR”) in two decisions of the DRC,[8] up to an amount of EUR 1,000,000 in a PSC decision.[9]

The jurisprudence also points out that the debtor club must reply to the claim in order to contain the possible sanction to a warning. Although several decisions refer to the fact that the club should have “duly replied to the claim”,[10] other decisions do not mention “duly” and these consider it enough that the club only “replied to the claim”.[11] Despite this difference in terminology, we conclude that almost any form of reply provided by the debtor club will be considered sufficient. In fact, no distinctive value is ascribed to the word “duly”.

The respondents gave divergent reasons for their non-compliances. One club contested the applicability of Article 12bis,[12] other clubs stated to have administrative difficulties[13] or financial difficulties,[14] whereas others claimed that they were communicating with the player’s agent to settle the matter amicably.[15] Apart from the claim related to the applicability of Article 12bis, which was rejected because the claimant lodged his claim after the entry into force of Article 12bis RSTP,[16] all the arguments raised were not considered valid reasons for non-payment of the outstanding monies. Although the jurisprudence does not give an exact answer to the question what would be considered “a prima facie contractual basis”, it can be concluded that the aforementioned circumstances did not fulfil these criteria.

Notwithstanding the above, the condition of having “(duly) replied to the claim” has recently been tackled by the DRC. In its decision of 23 May 2016, the respondent replied to the claim per e-mail.[17] The DRC considered this reply not to be sufficient to fulfil the standards of “(duly) replied to the claim” because “the Respondent only replied to the claim by e-mail and e-mail petitions shall have no legal effect in accordance with art. 16 par. 3 of the Procedural Rules.” In other words, the respondent should have replied by fax or ordinary mail.

Additionally and in line with the above, the DRC or the PSC has only imposed a warning when there was no repeated offence. In other words, the respondent in a 12bis procedure must actually be considered as a “first offender” in order to (only) get a warning. From the 24 decisions in which a warning has been imposed, there is only one not fulfilling the abovementioned two conditions.[18] In this (PSC) decision, the respondent party did not reply to the claim. However, during the course of the proceedings the respondent made a partial payment to the claimant.[19] Therefore, the PSC decided to impose a warning on the respondent, irrespective of the absence of a reply. In light of this decision, it must be kept in mind that making a partial payment during the course of the 12bis proceedings might alleviate the duty to ‘reply to the claim’.


 The Reprimand

Only two of the decisions published by FIFA contain a reprimand.[20] One decision was issued by the DRC,[21] the other one by the PSC.[22]

In the DRC decision, overdue payables of EUR 40,000 were due to the claimant based on a termination agreement.[23] In its reply to the claim, the respondent admitted that it had to pay compensation to the claimant, but only until he would have found a new club. The respondent considered that, since the claimant found a new club immediately after the agreed termination, no compensation was due.[24] Notwithstanding this, the DRC judge considered that there was no documentary evidence with regard to the argument of the respondent. Therefore, the DRC judge considered that the respondent had delayed a due payment for more than 30 days without a prima facie contractual basis. Based on the foregoing paragraph and the fact that the respondent replied to the claim, one would think that a sanction in the form of a warning should be imposed on the respondent. However, the DRC highlighted that the DRC judge had already imposed a warning on the respondent previously. Thus, it referred to Article 12bis(6), which establishes that “a repeated offence will be considered as an aggravating circumstance and lead to more severe penalty”.[25] Therefore, a reprimand was imposed.[26] In a similar decision of 26 May 2016, the PSC also imposed a reprimand.[27]

In conclusion, one could say that a reprimand is considered as a severe sanction and thus will not be imposed on a first offender. Although there have only been two (published) decisions of FIFA wherein a reprimand was actually imposed, one can expect that a reprimand will be imposed on a repeated offender who replied to the claim in his first and second 12bis procedure. The crucial advice that can be derived from the above analysis is that a respondent club should always reply in a 12bis procedure, because the warning and reprimand do not bring any financial or sportive consequences with it, contrary to the fine and the registration ban, which will be discussed hereunder.


The Fine
Introduction 

The only sanction that leads to direct financial consequences is the fine. The fine is a sanction that can be imposed in a 12bis procedure and needs to be paid by the debtor club to FIFA. As opposed to the warning and the reprimand, the jurisprudence shows that a fine will be imposed in the event that the respondent did not reply to the claim.

66 out of the 99 DRC and 29 out of the 38 PSC decisions involved a fine. After analysing the jurisprudence, we conclude that it is necessary to distinguish between a fine in a DRC procedure and a PSC procedure. In fact, the amount of the outstanding overdue payables differs considerably in both procedures.[28] Additionally, the level of the corresponding fines in DRC procedures compared to the PSC procedures are different.[29] The amounts of overdue payables in a 12bis procedure before the PSC are structurally higher than the amounts in a 12bis procedure before the DRC, while the amount of the fine is not structurally higher in a PSC procedure. Due to these differences between the DRC and the PSC, we decided to discuss the use of fines in the DRC and PSC procedures separately. Our aim was to determine how the judges define the level of the fine in a 12bis procedure. To do so, we use the so-called “category method”, which will be explained below.

Fines imposed by the DRC 

After analysing the decisions of FIFA in which fines were imposed, it seems that they do not correspond to a percentage of the outstanding overdue payables.[30] Instead, the level of a fine can be determined by means of several categories of fines. At least four general conclusions can be derived from the jurisprudence regarding the level of the fine for a defaulting club. 

Firstly, the level of the fine imposed by the DRC increases when the overdue payable is higher. Secondly, there are three categories of fines: i) a fine for the club which did not reply to the claim and is considered to be a first offender (First Category Offence);[31] ii) a fine for a club which did not reply to the claim and has been found by the DRC to have neglected its contractual obligations in the recent past (not being a 12bis procedure) (Second Category Offence) ;[32] and iii) a fine for a club which did not reply to the claim and has been sanctioned in a 12bis procedure previously (Third Category Offence).[33] Thirdly, the fine for a respondent club in a Second Category Offence is double the size of the fine for a respondent club in a First Category Offence.[34] Finally, the fine in a Third Category Offence is three times the size of the given fine in a First Category Offence.[35]

Based on our comprehensive study, we can conclude that the DRC determines the level of the fine by taking into consideration the above-mentioned three categories (First, Second and Third Category Offence) subject to an approximate range in relation to the outstanding amount due. Although the ranges are very hard to define with only 66 published DRC decisions yet, the below table sheds some light and provides for eight standard situations referring to various ranges of overdue payables: 

Situation

Range overdue payables  (in $/€)

Height of the fine (in CHF)

 

Situation 1

 

0,01 – 11,000

First Category  Offence: 1,000

Second Category  Offence: 2,000

Third Category  Offence: 3,000

 

Situation 2

 

11,001 – 20,000[36]

First Category  Offence: 2,000

Second Category  Offence: 4,000

Third Category  Offence: 6,000

 

Situation 3

 

20,001 – 50,000

First Category  Offence: 5,000

Second Category Offence: 10,000

Third Category Offence: 15,000

 

Situation 4

 

50,001 – 75,000

First Category Offence: 7,500

Second Category Offence: 15,000

Third Category Offence: 22,500

 

Situation 5

 

75,001 – 100,000

First Category Offence: 10,000

Second Category Offence: 20,000

Third Category Offence: 30,000

 

Situation 6

 

100,001 – 150,000

First Category Offence: 15,000

Second Category Offence: 30,000

Third Category Offence: 45,000

 

Situation 7

 

150,000 > at least 350,000

First Category Offence: 20,000

Second Category Offence: 40,000

Third Category Offence: 60,000

 

Situation 8

 

950,000[37] and higher

First Category Offence: 30,000

Second Category Offence: 60,000

Third Category Offence: 90,000

Figure 2[38]


Fines imposed by the PSC 

With regard to the PSC decisions, the authors tried to use the same method as for the DRC procedures. At first sight, it looks as if the PSC and the DRC use the same ranges for fines. However, the PSC decisions seem more arbitrary. It is therefore more difficult to draw definitive conclusions in relation to the PSC 12bis decisions. For example, in the decision of 12 October 2015, decided by a PSC’s Single Judge, a fine of CHF 15,000 was handed out to a first offender club with an overdue payable of EUR 1 million.[39] However, one can doubt whether this fine can be considered appropriate. In fact, a first offender club in another decision received the same fine, although with smaller overdue payables of EUR 200,000.[40] Another striking decision involves a fine of CHF 7,500 based on an overdue payable of USD 50,000.[41] In a comparable situation before the DRC, also with regard to a first offender, the club was sanctioned with a fine of CHF 5,000.[42] It is also remarkable that (only) in some cases the single judges did motivate the higher fines by mentioning the criteria for a Second- or Third Category Offence. After analysing these decisions more closely, one notices that two of the three Single Judges always mention the criteria of the Second- or Third Category Offence, while one only did it once (out of his six decisions). Because of this absence of motivation, one cannot definitely conclude whether these decisions fall into the Second- and Third Category Offence as defined in the context of the DRC’s jurisprudence. However, looking past these (minor) inconsistencies, we believe that most of the PSC decisions do fall within the ranges set out in Figure 2.[43] Additionally, one starts to see emerging an additional category, which is the fine of CHF 25,000. Figure 3 provides an overview of the height of the fines in relation to the various overdue payables in PSC proceedings.

 

Situation

Range overdue payable ($/€)

Height of the fine (in CHF)

 

Situation 1

 

0,01 – 11,000

First Category Offence: 1,000

Second Category Offence: 2,000

Third Category Offence: 3,000

 

Situation 2

 

11,000 – 20,000[44]

First Category Offence: 2,000

Second Category Offence: 4,000

Third Category Offence: 6,000

 

Situation 3

 

20,000 – 50,000

First Category Offence: 5,000

Second Category Offence: 10,000

Third Category Offence: 15,000

 

Situation 4

 

50,000 – 75,000

First Category Offence: 7,500

Second Category Offence: 15,000

Third Category Offence: 22,500

 

Situation 5

 

75,000 – 100,000

First Category Offence: 10,000

Second Category Offence: 20,000

Third Category Offence: 30,000

 

Situation 6

 

100,000 – 250,000[45]

First Category Offence: 15,000

Second Category Offence: 30,000

Third Category Offence: 45,000

 

Situation 7

 

250,000 – 500,000[46]

 

First Category Offence: 20,000

Second Category Offence: 40,000

Third Category Offence: 60,000

 

Situation 8

 

500,000 – 750,000[47]

First Category Offence: 25,000

Second Category Offence: 50,000

Third Category Offence: 75,000

 

Situation 9

 

750,000 and higher[48]

First Category Offence: 30,000

Second Category Offence: 60,000

Third Category Offence: 90,000

Figure 3


Transfer Ban

The toughest sanction that can be imposed by the DRC or the PSC in a 12bis procedure is the ban from registering any new players, either nationally or internationally, for one or two entire and consecutive registration periods. Contrary to the transfer ban enshrined in Article 17(4) of the RSTP, in a 12bis procedure a club can be banned from registering new players for the next one or two registration periods. This ban will be imposed if the amount due to the claimant is not paid by the respondent within 30 days as from the date of notification of an Article 12bis decision.[49]

Out of the 137 published 12bis decisions, 16 decisions (15 from the DRC, 1 from the PSC) indicated that a ban will be imposed if the amount due to the respective claimant is not paid by the respondent within 30 days as from the date of notification of the decision. Moreover, 13 decisions refer to a ban for one entire registration period. In three decisions the DRC decided to threaten a ban for the next entire two registration periods. 

What is striking is that in all decisions the respondents did not only not reply to the claim (or only after the investigation phase was closed which is equivalent to not replying)[50], but more importantly the respondents were found to have breached their financial obligations several times before. Either, the defaulting clubs were found to have delayed several outstanding payments for more than 30 days, or the respondent had (also) been found by the DRC as well as the DRC judge responsible for not complying with its financial obligations on various other recent occasions. We also encountered cases in which both conditions were met.[51]

Another striking element of the decisions in 12bis procedures is that the amount due is not deemed relevant to justify the imposition of a registration ban on the debtor club. In fact, a registration ban has been imposed with regard to an overdue payable of EUR 7,500,[52] but also regarding an overdue payable of EUR 250,000.[53]  

It seems that a ban for one entire period will be imposed in two situations:

1) the debtor club has been found by the DRC or the PSC to have delayed a due payment for more than 30 days without a prima facie contractual basis once, as a result of which a fine was imposed, and the debtor club has been found by the DRC to be responsible for not complying with its financial obligations towards players on various occasions in the recent past;[54] or

2) the debtor club has been found by the DRC or the PSC to have delayed a due payment for more than 30 days without a prima facie contractual basis twice, as a result of which a fine was imposed in at least one of the decisions.[55]

Put differently: the jurisprudence of the DRC and the PSC clearly shows a debtor club systematically receiving a registration ban for one entire period if the club had neglected its financial obligation towards players in more than one earlier decision by the DRC or the PSC, and if in these proceedings the respondent failed to reply to the claim and therefore received a fine from FIFA. What remains not entirely clear is what the DRC and PSC exactly mean by “various occasions in the recent past”. This could also refer to convictions in employment-related matters prior to the introduction of the 12bis procedure on 1 April 2015.

In the only PSC decision wherein a registration ban for one entire period was imposed, the debtor club had only once been found by the PSC to have delayed a due payment for more than 30 days without a prima facie contractual basis, as a result of which a fine was imposed.[56] The decision of the PSC did not mention that the respondent was responsible for not complying with its financial obligations towards players on various occasions in the recent past. This might suggest a differing interpretation between the DRC and the PSC.

The two years of jurisprudence further show that a registration ban for two entire and consecutive periods will be imposed when the debtor club has been found by the DRC or the PSC to have delayed a due payment for more than 30 days without a prima facie contractual basis twice, as a result of which fines (or even a registration ban of 1 period)[57] has been imposed and the debtor club has been found by the DRC to be responsible for not complying with its financial obligations towards players on various occasions in the recent past.[58]


Final Remarks 

The 12bis procedure can be considered as a powerful instrument for swift dispute resolution, which could be of great benefit to players and clubs. FIFA has put in place a fast track procedure and a strong enforcement system with respect to overdue payables by defaulting clubs towards players and clubs. So far, FIFA has contributed to the resolution of international disputes in 12bis procedures in a very efficient manner leading to a shortened timeframe for decisions, with an average duration of approximately two months.

The sanctioning power of FIFA is one of the fundamental strengths of the 12bis procedure. In all the 137 published decisions of the DRC and the PSC, a sanction was imposed on the defaulting clubs, varying from a warning to a registration ban. 

From the FIFA decisions, in which fines were imposed on defaulting clubs, it can also be derived that the level of the fine is determined by taking into consideration the earlier-mentioned three categories of wrongdoings (First, Second and Third Category Offence), subject to an approximate range in relation to the outstanding amount due. However, the 12bis decisions of the DRC so far are more systematic and predictable than the PSC’s. Finally, the heaviest sanction, the transfer ban, will only be imposed in case the defaulting club not only did not reply to the claims, but also breached its financial obligations several times in the past. Fortunately, FIFA does not shy away from using sanctions, but only clubs that went too far will face the more severe ones.

Although the conclusions drawn by the authors can help practitioners confronted to 12bis procedures, they are based only on the published jurisprudence between 1 April 2015 and 1 April 2017. It must be taken into account that FIFA committees might change their interpretation and implementation practice regarding the 12bis procedure in the future. However, the jurisprudence of FIFA committees reviewed and analysed in this article can at least shed some light on the functioning of FIFA’s 12bis procedure, and in particular on its effective sanctioning regime, over the last two years.


[1] Art. 12bis(2) RSTP, edition 2016.

[2] Art. 12bis(3) RSTP, edition 2016.

[3] Art. 12bis(4) RSTP, edition 2016.

[4] Art. 12bis(2) RSTP and Art. 12bis(4) RSTP, edition 2016.

[5] DRC 14 November 2016, no. op11161545-E. For a more detailed analysis of DRC decisions, the authors make reference to this more extensive ISLJ article.

[6] Although it follows however from a literal interpretation of Art. 17(4) RSTP that it is a duty of the competent body to impose sporting sanctions whenever a club is found to have breached an employment contract during the protected period, according to the CAS there is a well-accepted and consistent practice of the FIFA DRC not to apply automatically a sanction but to leave it to its free discretion to evaluate the particular and specific circumstances on a case by case basis. See CAS 2014/A/3765 Club X. v. D. & FIFA, award of 5 June 2015.

[7] See inter alia DRC 16 February 2016, no. op02161765.

[8] DRC 28 January 2016, no. op1501703 and DRC 28 January 2016, no. op01161539.

[9] See PSC 7 May 2015, no. op0515353. Even EUR 50,000 higher in PSC 2 June 2016, no. op0616540. The highest outstanding payable in a DRC decision is EUR 950,000. See DRC 11 September 2015, no. 09151030.

[10] See inter alia DRC 28 January 2016, no. op01161539.

[11] See inter alia DRC 13 January 2016, no. op0116826.

[12] DRC 15 October 2015, no. op1015914. See also CAS 2015/A/4153 Al-Gharafa SC v. Nicolas Fedor & FIFA, award of 9 May 2016 and CAS 2016/A/4387 Delfino Pescara 1936 v. Royal Standard Liège & FIFA, award of 8 July 2016. 

[13] PSC 9 July 2015, no. op0715599 and PSC 7 May 2015, no. op0515353.

[14] DRC 13 January 2016, no. op0116826, DRC 25 April 2016, no. op0416115, DRC 7 July 2016, no. op0716778, PSC 2 June 2016, no. op0616540 and PSC 13 September 2016, no. op09161090.

[15] DRC 16 February 2016, no. op02161765 and DRC 15 March 2016, no. op0316303.

[16] Also confirmed in CAS 2016/A/4387 Delfino Pescara 1936 v. Royal Standard Liège & FIFA, award of 8 July 2016.

[17] DRC 23 May 2016, no. op0516571. The DRC can be quite sceptical towards information that is contained in emails. See inter alia DRC 31 July 2013, no. 07133206.

[18] PSC 3 June 2015, no. op0615400.

[19] For a more detailed analysis of the DRC decision, see our pending ISLJ article.

[20] However, some decisions – wherein a heavy sanction such as a transfer ban was issued – refer to an earlier conviction of the debtor club wherein a reprimand was given. See inter alia DRC 26 October 2016, no. op10160931-E.

[21] See DRC 26 November 2015, no. op11151356.

[22] See PSC 26 May 2016, no. op05160482.

[23] DRC 26 November 2015, no. op11151356.

[24] DRC 26 November 2015, no. op11151356, paras. (II) 7 and 8.

[25] DRC 26 November 2015, no. op11151356, para. (II) 17.

[26] DRC 26 November 2015, no. op11151356, para. (II) 18.

[27] For a more detailed analysis of this decision, see our pending ISLJ article.

[28] For a more detailed analysis of DRC decisions in this regard, see our pending ISLJ article.

[29] Cf. DRC 28 January 2016, no. op01161541 and PSC 12 October 2015, no. op10151035. In the DRC decision, the debtor club had an overdue payable of USD 100,807. In this case, the DRC imposed a fine of CHF 15,000. In the PSC decision, the debtor club had an overdue payable of EUR 1 million. However, the PSC imposed the same fine of CHF 15,000.

[30] For a more detailed analysis of the “percentage method”, see our pending ISLJ article.

[31] If these criteria were cumulatively met, the jurisprudence points out that a fine was given by FIFA to a club in a 12bis procedure. A First Category Offence was also given to a debtor club who responded to the claim, but was already sanctioned with a warning and reprimand in earlier 12bis procedures. In that case, the warning and the reprimand sanctions were exhausted and, thus, a fine was ordered by the DRC.

[32] See inter alia DRC 18 May 2016, no. op0516646. For a more detailed analysis of the DRC decisions, see our pending ISLJ article.

[33] See inter alia DRC 3 July 2015, no. op0715641. For a more detailed analysis of the DRC decision, t see our pending ISLJ article.

[34] For a more detailed illustration of DRC decisions, see our pending ISLJ article.

[35] Idem.

[36] This range differs from the range the authors have set in a previous article (see Global Sports Law and Taxation Reports, ‘Overview of the jurisprudence of the FIFA DRC in 12bis procedures’, March 2017). This difference is based on recently published jurisprudence: see DRC 28 February 2017, no. op02172117-E.

[37] DRC 11 September 2015, no. 09151030.

[38] For a more detailed analysis of DRC decisions, see our pending ISLJ article.

[39] PSC 12 October 2015, no. op10151035.

[40] PSC 12 October 2015, no. op10151010. Even more striking is the fact that this decision was dealt with on the same date as the aforementioned decision in footnote 61 above, by the same Single Judge. Only two weeks later, in PSC 29 October 2015, no. op10151014, the PSC imposed a fine of CHF 25,000 with regard to an overdue payable of EUR 590,000 to a first offender club.

[41] PSC 9 July 2015, no. op0715584.

[42] DRC 5 October 2015, no. op10151049.

[43] Only PSC 12 October 2015, no. op10151035 seems to be the odd one out.

[44] See footnote  58.

[45] This border is brought to 250,000, based on PSC 16 November 2015, no. op11151300, wherein a fine based on a Third Category Offence of CHF 45,000 was imposed with an overdue payable of USD 250,000, which sets the border at approximately 250,000.

[46] This border is brought to 500,000, based on PSC 25 February 2016, no. op0216170, wherein a fine of CHF 20,000 based on a First Category Offence was imposed with an overdue payable of EUR 450,093, which sets the border at approximately 500,000.

[47] This border is brought to 750,000, based on the decision PSC 29 June 2016, no. op0616676, wherein a fine of CHF 30,000 based on a First Category Offence was imposed with an overdue payable of EUR 750,000. In a decision with an overdue payable of EUR 675,000 (PSC 24 November 2015, no. op11151385), a fine of CHF 50,000 based on a Second Category Offence was given, which sets the border at approximately 750,000.

[48] At least until an overdue payable of USD 1,367,500 falls within this category; see PSC 21 August 2015, no. op0815530.

[49] See inter alia DRC 8 September 2016, no. op0916308. However, this may differ in a situation where sanctions are imposed cumulatively.

[50] See DRC 8 September 2016, no. op0916308 and DRC 15 July 2016, no. op0716703.

[51] In the context of a retroactive application of Article 12bis, as discussed in the context of the CAS award of 17 June 2016 (see CAS 2015/A/4310 Al Hilal Saudi Club v. Abdou Kader Mangane, award of 17 June 2016), it can be questioned whether the decisions of FIFA bodies prior to the date of 1 April 2015 (which per definition were decisions in ‘regular’ FIFA proceedings) can be taken into account and held against the club in default. For a more detailed analysis of this legal issue of retro-active application, see our pending ISLJ article. See also Lombardi, P., Worlds Sports Law Report, September 2016, “Article 12bis of the FIFA Regulations: 18 months on”, p. 5.

[52] DRC 26 May 2016, no. op0516585.

[53] PSC 20 June 2016, no. op0616676.

[54] See inter alia DRC 8 September 2016, no. op0916308.

[55] See inter alia DRC 27 October 2015, no. op10151248, wherein the debtor club had received a fine in both earlier decisions. In DRC 17 October 2016, no. op10161355-E, the debtor club had only received a fine in the second decision.

[56] PSC 20 June 2016, no. op0616676.

[57] DRC 29 July 2016, no. op0716699. The previous decision, wherein a transfer ban for one entire period was imposed, is also published: DRC 4 February 2016, no. op02161733.

[58] See inter alia DRC 13 September 2016, no. op09161247.

Comments are closed