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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.

The Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two important questions are raised by this case:

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

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

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

Act IV: On Bringing a sport into disrepute

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


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

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

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

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

Act III: On being sufficiently tested 

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

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

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

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


Act II: On being implicated

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


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

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

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

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

·       The order was a "quarantine".

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

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

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

The Russian Ballet at the CAS Ad Hoc Division in Rio - Act I: Saved by the Osaka Déjà-Vu

Since it was first introduced at the Atlanta Games in 1996,[1] the CAS ad hoc Division has never been as crowded as it was during this year’s Rio Olympics. This is mainly due to the Russian doping scandal, which has fuelled the CAS with Russian athletes challenging their ineligibility to compete at the Games. The CAS recently revealed that out of 28 awards rendered, 16 involved Russian athletes challenging their ineligibility. This Russian ballet is a direct result of the shocking findings of Richard McLaren’s Independent Person (IP) Report ordered by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). McLaren’s investigation demonstrated that the Russian State was coordinating a sophisticated doping system. The revelation triggered an outrage in the media and amongst other competitors. Numerous calls (especially by WADA and various National Anti-Doping Organisations) were heard urging the IOC to ban the entire Russian delegation from the Olympics. The IAAF decided to exclude the whole Russian athletics team, [2] with the exception of Darya Klishina, but, to the disappointment of many, the IOC refused to heed these calls and decided, instead, to put in place a specific procedure to assess on a case-by-case basis the eligibility of Russian athletes.

The IOC’s Decision (IOC Decision) of 24 July foresees that the International Federations (IFs) are competent to determine whether each Russian athlete put forward by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to participate in the Olympics meets a specific set of conditions. Moreover, the ROC was also barred from entering athletes who were sanctioned for doping in the past, even if they have already served their doping sanction. In the end, a majority of the Russian athletes (278 out of 389 submitted by the ROC) cleared the IOC’s bar relatively easily, but some of them did not, and many of the latter ended up fighting for their right to compete at the Rio Olympics before the CAS ad hoc Division.[3] In the following blogs, I will analyse the ten published CAS awards related to Russian athletes.[4] It is these legal fights that I suggest to chronicle in the following parts of this blog. To do so, I have divided them in five different (and analytically coherent) Acts:

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Compatibility of Fixed-Term Contracts in Football with Directive 1999/70/EC. Part.1: The General Framework. By Piotr Drabik

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

Compatibility of Fixed-Term Contracts in Football with Directive 1999/70/EC. Part.1: The General Framework. By Piotr Drabik

On 25 March 2015, the Labour Court of Mainz issued its decision in proceedings brought by a German footballer, Heinz Müller, against his (now former) club 1. FSV Mainz 05 (Mainz 05). The Court sided with the player and ruled that Müller should have been employed by Mainz 05 for an indefinite period following his 2009 three year contract with the club which was subsequently extended in 2011 to run until mid-2014. The judgment was based on national law implementing Directive 1999/70 on fixed-term work[1] (Directive) with the latter being introduced pursuant to art. 155(2) TFEU (ex art. 139(2) TEC). On the basis of this article, European social partners’ may request a framework agreement which they conclude to be implemented on the European Union (EU, Union) level by a Council decision on a proposal from the Commission. One of the objectives of the framework agreement,[2] and therefore of the Directive, was to establish a system to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts or relationships[3] which lies at the heart of the discussed problem.[4] Two clauses enshrined in the framework agreement are of particular relevance to the issue of fixed-term contracts in football, namely, clause 2 which governs the Directive’s scope of application, and clause 5 which concerns measures to prevent abuse. The main questions in this regard are therefore whether fixed-term contracts in football may escape the application of the Directive based on clause 2, or be compatible with it pursuant to clause 5. The present blog post presenting the general European framework for fixed-term contract, will be followed by an in depth case note on the decision in the Müller case.

I. Employment contracts in football and the scope of application of the Directive (clause 2)
The second paragraph of clause 2 names specific types of employment relationships which the Member States, after consultation with social partners, and/or social partners may exclude from the scope of application of the Directive. Clause 2(2) does not contain any explicit provisions which would allow for the possibility of football players’ contracts to be excluded from the scope of the Directive. Also, the wording of the provision indicates that the list of the employment relationships covered by the exception is exhaustive,[5] which in turn precludes the possibility of interpreting the clause in a manner which would accommodate contracts between football clubs and their players.

Clause 2(1), on the other hand, provides that the Directive ‘applies to fixed-term workers who have an employment contract or employment relationship as defined in law, collective agreements or practice in each Member State’. As a result, the definition of ‘worker’ for the purpose of the Directive has no autonomous meaning, but is subject to the national laws of the Member States.[6] Therefore, the manner in which the framework agreement has been drafted opens the possibility for the Member States to exclude some categories of workers from the scope of application of the Directive. It follows, that based on the pure wording of clause 2(1) national authorities could theoretically deprive, inter alia, football players of the protection granted under the Directive by merely classifying them as e.g. service providers.

Despite the autonomy granted to national authorities in this regard, clause 2(1) may not be understood as providing the Member States with unlimited discretion. Recital 17 of the Directive’s preamble clearly states that the Member States are to define some of the terms included in the framework agreement ‘provided that the definitions in question respect [its content].’ Moreover, art. 2 of the Directive stipulates that ‘the Member states are […] required to take any necessary measures to enable them […] to guarantee the results imposed by [the] Directive.’[7] The flexibility granted to national authorities is further limited by the need to ensure the effective implementation of EU-derived rights. The Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU, Court) rulings set the limits to the Member States’ discretion in the implementation of clause 2(1). In this regard, the CJEU ruled in Del Cerro[8] that the Directive is applicable to ‘all workers providing remunerated services in the context of a fixed-term employment relationship linking them to their employer.’[9] The Court also stated that ‘in reserving to Member States the ability to remove at will certain categories of persons from the protection offered by [the Directive] and the [framework agreement], the effectiveness of those Community instruments would be in jeopardy as would their uniform application in the Member States.’[10] Also, in the opinion of Advocate General (AG) Maduro the concept of ‘worker’ for the purpose of the Directive must be interpreted in a way which complies with its objectives.[11]  According to the AG, the Member States should not be allowed to rely on the ‘formal’ or ‘special’ nature of the rules applicable to certain employment relationships in order to exclude them from the scope of application of the Directive.[12] Consequently, excluding a specific group from the benefit of protection afforded by the Directive can only be accepted if the competent national court decides that the nature of the employment relationship concerned is ‘substantially different from that between employees falling, according to national law, within the category of workers’.[13]

A similar reasoning to the one used in Del Cerro has been applied in Sibilio[14] where the Court, relying on recital 17 and the need to preserve the Directive’s effectiveness, ruled that in the light of the objectives pursued by the framework agreement the formal classification by the national legislature cannot rule out that a person must be recognized as a ‘worker’ if such a formality is merely notional, and thus conceals the real employment relationship.[15] Therefore, in determining what constitutes an employment contract or employment relationship under national law or practice, and thus when determining the scope of application of the Directive, the definition of these concepts may not result in an arbitrary exclusion of a category of persons from the protection offered by the Directive.[16] The CJEU leaves it for the national courts to conclude whether a person falls within the definition of a ‘worker’ based on the characteristics of the work conducted and the circumstances in which it is carried out.[17] Moreover, in Fiamingo[18] and Mascolo[19] the CJEU later confirmed that no particular sector is excluded from the scope of application of the Directive.[20]

Even though the issue of who is to be considered as a ‘worker’ pursuant to the Directive does not fall within the competence of the EU, and thus, the definition established for the purpose of the internal market provisions may not be directly applied in the context of the Directive, the autonomous Union concept of ‘worker’ and the case-law of the CJEU provide guidelines and support for the national courts of the Member State. In this regard, the CJEU stated in Lawrie-Blum[21] that ‘the essential feature of an employment relationship […] is that for a certain period of time a person performs services for and under the direction of another person in return for which he receives remuneration.’[22] The Court elaborated on the matter in Trojani[23] where it ruled that ‘any person who pursues activities which are real and genuine, to the exclusion of activities on such a small scale as to be regarded as purely marginal and ancillary, must be regarded as a worker’.[24] It cannot be denied that footballers meet the criteria set out in the case-law. The activity they pursue is genuine, they conduct their work under supervision of others, namely clubs and coaches, and receive, often hefty, remuneration.[25] It is also important to add here that already in Bosman[26] the CJEU provided, first, that the existence of, or the intention to create, an employment relationship is the only requirement necessary for the purposes of the application of EU provisions concerning the free movement of workers, and second, that football players could be regarded as workers for the purpose of (now) art. 45 TFEU.[27] This particular finding has been directly confirmed in Olympique Lyonnais.[28] It is not precluded that such considerations should influence national courts in their findings concerning ‘characteristics’ and ‘circumstances’ of the activity exercised by football players should a question in this regard arise. As a result, it seems unlikely that contracts between footballers and their clubs could fall outside the scope of the Directive.

II. Employment contracts in football and measures to prevent abuse (clause 5)
Due to the fact that the social partners considered that contracts for an indefinite period are the general form of employment,[29] the Directive sets out specific measures which serve to secure one of the Directive’s main goals, i.e. prevention of abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts. In this regard, and pursuant to clause 5, the Member States after consultation with social partners, and/or the social partners, are obliged to establish at least one of the measures provided, i.e., i) objective reasons justifying renewal of fixed-term contracts or relationships; ii) the maximum total duration of successive fixed-term employment contracts or relationships; iii) the number of renewals of such contracts or relationships. This particular obligation exists when there are no equivalent legal measures already in place in the national legal orders. Moreover, in establishing the measures the national authorities are to take into account the needs of specific sectors and/or categories of workers. Since the objective reasons justification is the only measure which could facilitate the maintenance of the current status quo relating to fixed-term contracts in football, it is necessary to focus on this particular provisions.

A. Interpretation of ‘objective reasons’ justification in the CJEU’s case-law
The CJEU has had a chance to rule on the interpretation of clause 5 ‘objective reasons’ on a number of occasions. Consequently, for the purpose of relying on the justification the employer not only needs to be eligible to invoke ‘objective reasons’ defence as provided for under national law, but also the national implementing measure needs to comply with the conditions established in the Court’s case-law. In this regard, the CJEU ruled in Adeneler[30] that the concept of ‘objective reasons’ refers to ‘precise and concrete circumstances characterising a given activity, which are therefore capable in that particular context of justifying the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts.’[31] The Court further elaborated on the matter by providing that ‘[those] circumstances may result, in particular, from the specific nature of the tasks for the performance of which such contracts have been concluded and from the inherent characteristics of those tasks […].’[32] As a result, national provisions may not be of a purely formal nature, but must justify recourse to successive fixed-term contracts ‘by the presence of objective factors relating to the particular features of the activity concerned and to the conditions under which it is carried out […].’[33] Thus, ‘a national provision which merely authorises recourse to successive fixed-term employment contracts in a general and abstract manner […]’[34] does not fulfil the criteria. In this regard, the Court added that ‘recourse to fixed-term employment contracts solely on the basis of a general provision of statute or secondary legislation, unlinked to what the activity in question specifically comprises, does not permit objective and transparent criteria to be identified in order to verify whether the renewal of such contracts actually responds to a genuine need, is appropriate for achieving the objective pursued and is necessary for that purpose’.[35] Moreover, the CJEU also indicated that national laws which allow for the use of successive fixed-term contracts in the context of employers’ needs which are not of a limited duration, and thus temporary, but de facto ‘fixed and permanent’ will not be compatible with the Directive.[36] The above-mentioned findings of the Court have been confirmed in a number of judgments such as Angelidaki[37]. This case concerned individuals who claimed that their fixed-term contracts with the local authorities, which the latter decided not to extended or renew upon their expiry, should have been recognized as contracts of indefinite period as the work performed was of a ‘fixed and permanent’ nature. Reliance on the criteria provided by the CJEU in Adeneler is also evident in Mascolo in which the Court addressed the issue of compatibility with the Directive of Italian national law on the basis of which teachers recruited in schools administered by public authorities and working as temporary replacement staff were employed under successive fixed-term contracts. A similar issue to the one in Mascolo emerged in Kücük[38] which concerned a clerk in the court office who was employed on a number of successive fixed-term contracts as a replacement for several permanent employees due to temporary leave having been granted to the clerks employed for an indefinite duration. Here again the CJEU referred to the established case-law and clarified that temporary needs of employers also cover the need for replacing employees on leave even in situations where the tasks assigned to fixed-term worker are part of the undertaking’s usual activities.[39] This was the result of the need for replacement staff being of a temporary nature.[40] As the social partners themselves indicated that ‘fixed-term contracts are a feature of employment in certain sectors, occupations and activities which can suit both employers and workers’[41] it is thus necessary to evaluate whether objective reasons for the justification of fixed-term contracts in football might be identified.

B. Existence of ‘objective reasons’ justifying fixed-term contracts in football
With regard to the above, it can be argued that the specific circumstances inherent to the exercise of football as a profession are susceptible to justify the successive use of fixed-term employment contracts. In that respect, uncertainty as to players’ performance has always been an inseparable element of not only football but sports in general. No matter what level of performance a player displays over a particular span of time, it can never be excluded, rather it can be expected with certainty, that a (significant) drop in performance will take place. This concerns especially ‘older’ players, i.e. those in their thirties. It is common knowledge that after reaching a certain age athletes’ physical condition deteriorates, thus making it impossible for them to maintain a steady level of performance, and thus, to contribute to the combined efforts of the team they represent. Furthermore, FIFA transfer rules limit players’ possibility of terminating contracts. Art. 14 of the 2015 Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players allows for termination to take place where a just cause exists. In this respect, introduction of contracts for indefinite period could open the possibility for players to rely on statutory termination periods in order to dissolve contracts, and thus, to become free agents. Consequently, football clubs, and especially those which focus on youth development, could be deprived of a substantial part of their income from transfer fees. This in turn could, first, limit the incentives for training young players, and second, would make it even easier for the richer clubs to acquire talents with negative consequences on competitive balance in football. Moreover, provision 43.02 of the Regulations of the UEFA Champions League 2015-18 Cycle provides that clubs may only register 25 players for the purpose of playing in the competition. Forcing clubs to sign players on indefinite contracts, combined with a limit placed on the amount of footballers that can be registered, will make it even more challenging for youngsters to enter the first team. Furthermore, as it is usually more difficult for the employer to terminate a contract, football clubs could be (indirectly) forced to keep those footballers who no longer fit the team’s tactics or club’s policy (e.g. focus on youth). In this respect, establishing contracts for an indefinite period as the industry’s standard could again negatively influence the chances of young players signing a contract. Furthermore, clubs need to be able to adjust their squads and establish stable teams in order to effectively compete on both national and international levels, and to retain, attract and satisfy their supporters. In our view, fixed-term contracts, by their very nature, are therefore better suited to address the specific characteristics of football as a sport, and as an industry.

C. Possible obstacles to the application of ‘objective reasons’ justification to contracts in football
Nevertheless, even if it is accepted that successive fixed-term contracts between footballers and their clubs may be justified based on objective reasons, it still remains that the justification does not necessarily apply. First, the Member States are free to choose between the clause 5 measures. Consequently, the very possibility of relying on objective reasons depends on the manner in which the Directive has been implemented by the Member States.[42] Second, national implementing measures must comply with the requirements established by the CJEU. Therefore, the Member States that chose to make use of the objective reasons justification are obliged to establish objective factors on the basis of which the application of the justification will be assessed. A general provision of a purely formal nature which does not provide for such objective factors will not be deemed compatible with EU law. In this regard, the criteria or factors established under national law must be capable of being applied to contracts in football. Consequently, national law implementing clause 5 objective reasons needs to be drafted in a manner which allows football contracts to be considered for the purpose of applying the justification, which might be problematic given the fact that the issue has been largely neglected. Third, it has also been established by the CJEU that national laws which allow for the use of successive fixed-term contracts in the context of employers’ needs which are ‘fixed and permanent’ will not be compatible with the Directive. It would go contrary to the objectives pursued by clause 5, i.e. prevention of abuse arising out of successive fixed-term contracts, to allow renewal of such contracts to cover ‘fixed and permanent’ needs of employers.[43] Therefore, if the ‘needs’ of football clubs are considered to be of such a ‘fixed and permanent’ character, and it may be argued that they are, then reliance on the justification would also be endangered.

Concluding remarks
The ruling of the Mainz court questioned, at least in Germany, the current arrangements whereby contracts for a definite period have been established as the industry’s worldwide standard.[44] Consequently, it cannot be excluded that the judgment will once again feed the never-ending discussion on the impact of European law on sport, the debate on the notion of specificity of sport, and more generally, the boundaries between the European Union’s intervention in sport and the autonomy of sports governing bodies. It is safe to assume that considerable controversies will arise in case the decision of the court in Mainz is upheld at higher instances. This, however, will not be the making of the courts, but to a large extent the result of the issue being neglected for years. After all, the Directive was adopted already sixteen years ago and contains no provisions allowing sport to be exempted from its scope. It follows that based on its wording it must also apply to contracts concluded between footballers and clubs. Even though it is possible to justify the successive use of fixed-term contracts on the basis of objective reasons, this depends on the national implementing measures, which do not necessarily provide for such a possibility or are fit to accommodate football contracts.

[1] Council Directive 1999/70/EC concerning the framework agreement on fixed-term work concluded by ETUC, UNICE and CEEP [1999] OJ L 175/43 (Directive)

[2] Annex to the Directive, ETUC-UNICE-CEEP Framework Agreement on Fixed-Term Work (Framework Agreement)

[3] Framework Agreement, recital 14 and clause 1

[4] Clause 1 of the Framework Agreement also mentions a second goal, namely, the improvement of quality of fixed-term work by ensuring the application of the principle of non-discrimination. In this regard, Recital 9 of the Framework Agreement adds that the instrument is to contribute to the improvement of equality of opportunities between men and women

[5] Philippa Watson, EU Social and Employment Law (2nd edn, Oxford University Press 2014) p 241; see also case C-212/04 Konstantinos Adeneler en anderen tegen Ellinikos Organismos Galaktos (ELOG) [2006] ECR I-6057 (Adeneler), para 57

[6] However, the definition of what constitutes a fixed-term employment has an EU definition. See Directive, clause 3(1)

[7] See also art. 288 TFEU; Adeneler, para 68

[8] Case C-307/05 Yolanda Del Cerro Alonso v Osakidetza-Servicio Vasco de Salud [2007] ECR I-7109 (Del Cerro)

[9] Ibidem, para 28

[10] Ibidem, para 29

[11] Del Cerro, Opinion of AG Maduro, para 14

[12] Ibidem, para 15

[13] Ibidem; see also case C-393/10 Dermod Patrick O’Brien v Ministry of Justice [2012] published in the electronic Reports of cases (O’Brien), para 51

[14] Case C-157/11 Giuseppe Sibilio v Comune di Afragola [2012] published in the electronic Reports of cases (Sibilio)

[15] Ibidem, para 49

[16] Ibidem, para 51; see also O’Brien, para 51

[17] Sibilio, para 52

[18] Joined cases C-362/13 REC, C-363/13 REC and C-407/13 REC Maurizio Fiamingo, Leonardo Zappalà and Francesco Rotondo and Others v Rete Ferroviaria Italiana SpA [2014] not yet published (Fiamingo)

[19] Joined cases C-22/13, C-61/13 to C-63/13 and C-418/13 Raffaella Mascolo, Alba Forni and Immacolata Racca v Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca, Fortuna Russo v Comune di Napoli and Carla Napolitano and Others v Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca [2014] not yet published (Mascolo)

[20] Fiamingo, para 38; Mascolo, para 69

[21] Case C-66/85 Deborah Lawrie-Blum v Land Baden-Württemberg [1986] ECR 2121

[22] Ibidem, para 17

[23] Case C-456/02 Michel Trojani v Centre public d'aide sociale de Bruxelles (CPAS) [2004] ECR I-7573

[24] Ibidem, para 15

[25] For a more detailed discussion see Stefaan Van den Bogaert, Practical Regulation of the Mobility of Sportsmen in the EU Post Bosman (Kluwer Law International, The Hague 2005) pp 57-59

[26] Case C-415/93 Union royale belge des sociétés de football association ASBL v Jean-Marc Bosman, Royal club liégeois SA v Jean-Marc Bosman and others and Union des associations européennes de football (UEFA) v Jean-Marc Bosman [1995] ECR I-4921

[27] Ibidem, paras 74, 87, 90

[28] Case C-325/08 Olympique Lyonnais SASP v Olivier Bernard and Newcastle UFC [2010] ECR I-2177 (Olympique Lyonnais), para 29; Olympique Lyonnais, Opinion of AG Sharpston, para 38

[29] Framework Agreement, recital 6; see also Adeneler, para 61

[30] See supra note 5

[31] Ibidem, para 69

[32] Ibidem, para 70

[33] Ibidem, para 72

[34] Ibidem, para 71

[35] Ibidem, para 74

[36] Ibidem, para 88

[37] Joined cases C-378/07 to C-380/07 Kiriaki Angelidaki and Others v Organismos Nomarchiakis Autodioikisis Rethymnis, Charikleia Giannoudi v Dimos Geropotamou and Georgios Karabousanos and Sofoklis Michopoulos v Dimos Geropotamou [2009] ECR I-3071 (Angelidaki)

[38] Case C-586/10 Bianca Kücük v Land Nordrhein-Westfalen [2012] published in the electronic Reports of cases

[39] Ibidem, para 38

[40] Ibidem

[41] Framework Agreement, recital 8

[42] See e.g. Fiamingo, para 61

[43] See e.g. Angelidaki, para 103; Angelidaki, Opinion of AG Kokott, paras 106-107;

[44] In this regard art. 18(2) of 2015 FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players stipulates that ‘[t]he minimum length of a contract shall be from its effective date until the end of the season, while the maximum length of a contract shall be five years. Contracts of any other length shall only be permitted if consistent with national laws’

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