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

Human Rights Protection and the FIFA World Cup: A Never-Ending Match? - By Daniela Heerdt

Editor’s note: Daniela Heerdt is a PhD candidate at Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. Her PhD research deals with the establishment of responsibility and accountability for adverse human rights impacts of mega-sporting events, with a focus on FIFA World Cups and Olympic Games. She recently published an article in the International Sports Law Journal that discusses to what extent the revised bidding and hosting regulations by FIFA, the IOC and UEFA strengthen access to remedy for mega-sporting events-related human rights violations.


The 21st FIFA World Cup is currently underway. Billions of people around the world follow the matches with much enthusiasm and support. For the time being, it almost seems forgotten that in the final weeks leading up to the events, critical reports on human rights issues related to the event piled up. This blog explains why addressing these issues has to start well in advance of the first ball being kicked and cannot end when the final match has been played. More...



Call for papers: Annual International Sports Law Conference of the International Sports Law Journal - 25 & 26 October - Asser Institute, The Hague

 Call for papers: Annual International Sports Law Conference of the International Sports Law Journal

Asser Institute, The Hague

25 and 26 October 2018

The editorial board of the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) is inviting you to submit abstracts for its second ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law, which will take place on 25 and 26 October at the Asser Institute in The Hague. The ISLJ published by Springer in collaboration with Asser Press is the leading academic publication in the field of international sports law. Its readership includes academics and many practitioners active in the field. This call is open to researchers as well as practitioners. 

We are also delighted to announce that Prof. Franck Latty (Université Paris Nanterre), Prof. Margareta Baddeley (Université de Genève), and Silvia Schenk (member of FIFA’s Human Rights Advisory Board) have confirmed their participation as keynote speakers.

Abstracts could, for example, tackle questions linked to the following international sports law subjects:

  • The interaction between EU law and sport
  • Antitrust and sports regulation
  • International sports arbitration (CAS, BAT, etc.)
  • The functioning of the world anti-doping system (WADA, WADC, etc.)
  • The global governance of sports
  • The regulation of mega sporting events (Olympics, FIFA World Cup, etc.)
  • The transnational regulation of football (e.g. the operation of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players or the UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations)
  • The global fight against corruption in sport  
  • Comparative sports law
  • Human rights in sport 

Please send your abstract (no more than 300 words) and CV no later than 30 April 2018 to a.duval@asser.nl. Selected speakers will be informed by 15 May.

The selected participants will be expected to submit a draft paper by 1 September 2018. All papers presented at the conference are eligible for publication in a special edition of the ISLJ.  To be considered for inclusion in the conference edition of the journal, the final draft must be submitted for review by 15 December 2018.  Submissions after this date will be considered for publication in later editions of the Journal.

The Asser Institute will cover one night accommodation for the speakers and will provide a limited amount of travel grants (max. 300€). If you wish to be considered for a grant please justify your request in your submission. 

Stepping Outside the New York Convention - Practical Lessons on the Indirect Enforcement of CAS-Awards in Football Matters - By Etienne Gard

Editor’s Note: Etienne Gard graduated from the University of Zurich and from King's College London. He currently manages a project in the field of digitalization with Bratschi Ltd., a major Swiss law firm where he did his traineeship with a focus in international commercial arbitration.

1. Prelude

On the 10th of June, 1958, the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, widely known as the “New York Convention”, was signed in New York by 10 countries.[1] This rather shy figure progressively grew over the decades to now reach 157 signatory countries, turning the New York Convention into the global recognition and enforcement instrument it is today. As V.V. Veeder’s puts it, “One English law lord is said to have said, extra judicially, that the New York Convention is both the Best Thing since sliced bread and also whatever was the Best Thing before sliced bread replaced it as the Best Thing.”[2]

However, among the overall appraisal regarding the New York Convention, some criticisms have been expressed. For instance, some states use their public policy rather as a pretext not to enforce an award than an actual ground for refusal.[3]  A further issue is the recurring bias in favor of local companies.[4] Additionally, recognition and enforcement procedures in application of the New York Convention take place in front of State authorities, for the most part in front of courts of law, according to national proceeding rules. This usually leads to the retaining of a local law firm, the translation of several documents, written submissions and one, if not several hearings. Hence, the efficiency of the New York Convention as a recognition and enforcement mechanism comes to the expense of both money and time of both parties of the arbitral procedure.

In contrast with the field of commercial arbitration, where the New York Convention is often considered the only viable option in order to enforce an award, international football organizations, together with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”), offer an effective enforcement alternative. This article aims at outlining the main features of the indirect enforcement of CAS awards in football matters in light of a recent case. More...



The International Partnership against Corruption in Sport (IPACS) and the quest for good governance: Of brave men and rotting fish - By Thomas Kruessmann

Editor's note: Prof. Thomas Kruessmann is key expert in the EU Technical Assistant Project "Strengthening Teaching and Research Capacity at ADA University" in Baku (Azerbaijan). At the same time, he is co-ordinator of the Jean-Monnet Network "Developing European Studies in the Caucasus" with Skytte Institute of Political Studies at the University of Tartu (Estonia).


The notion that “fish rots from the head down” is known to many cultures and serves as a practical reminder on what is at stake in the current wave of anti-corruption / integrity and good governance initiatives. The purpose of this blog post is to provide a short update on the recent founding of the International Partnership against Corruption in Sport (IPACS), intermittently known as the International Sports Integrity Partnership (IPAS), and to propose some critical perspectives from a legal scholar’s point of view.

During the past couple of years, the sports world has seen a never-ending wave of corruption allegations, often followed by revelations, incriminations and new allegation. There are ongoing investigations, most notably in the United States where the U.S. Department of Justice has just recently intensified its probe into corruption at the major sports governing bodies (SGBs). By all accounts, we are witnessing only the tip of the iceberg. And after ten years of debate and half-hearted reforms, there is the widespread notion, as expressed by the Council of Europe’s (CoE’s) Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Resolution 2199/2018 that “the sports movement cannot be left to resolve its failures alone”. More...



International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2018 - 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 

Anti-doping whereabouts requirements declared compatible with the athletes' right to privacy and family life

On 18 January 2018, the European Court of Human Rights rendered a judgment with important consequences for the world of sport in general and the anti-doping regime in particular. The Strasbourg-based court was called upon to decide whether the anti-doping whereabouts system – which requires that a limited number of top elite athletes provide their National Anti-Doping Organisation or International Federation with regular information about their location, including identifying for each day one specific 60-minute time slot where the athlete will be available for testing at a pre-determined location – is compatible with the athletes' right to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and their freedom of movement pursuant to Article 2 Protocol No. 4 of the Convention. The case was brought by the French cyclist Jeannie Longo and five French athlete unions that had filed their application on behalf of 99 professional handball, football, rugby, and basketball players.

While acknowledging that the whereabouts requirements clash with the athletes' right to private and family life, the judges took the view that such a restriction is necessary in order to protect the health of athletes and ensure a level playing field in sports competitions. They held that ''the reduction or removal of the relevant obligations would lead to an increase in the dangers of doping for the health of sports professionals and of all those who practise sports, and would be at odds with the European and international consensus on the need for unannounced testing as part of doping control''. Accordingly, the judges found no violation of Article 8 of the Convention and, in a similar vein, ruled that Article 2 Protocol No. 4 of the Convention was not applicable to the case.

 

Football stakeholders preparing to crack down on agents' excessive fees

It has been a record-breaking January transfer window with Premier League clubs having spent an eye-watering £430 million on signing new acquisitions. These spiralling transfer fees enable football agents, nowadays also called intermediaries, to charge impressive sums for their services. However, this might soon no longer be the case as the main stakeholders in European football are preparing to take action. UEFA, FIFPro, the European Club Association and the European Professional Football Leagues acknowledge in their joint resolution that the 2015 FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries failed to address serious concerns in relation to the activities of intermediaries/agents. They recognise in broad terms that a more effective regulatory framework is needed and call among other things for a reasonable and proportionate cap on fees for intermediaries/agents, enhanced transparency and accountability, or stronger provisions to protect minors.

 

The CAS award in Joseph Odartei Lamptey v. FIFA 

On 15 January 2018, FIFA published on its website an arbitral award delivered on 4 August 2017 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the dispute between the Ghanian football referee Joseph Odartei Lamptey and FIFA. The CAS sided with FIFA and dismissed the appeal filed by Mr Lamptey against an earlier decision of the FIFA Appeal Committee which (i) found him to have violated Article 69(1) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code as he unlawfully influenced the 2018 World Cup qualifying match between South Africa and Senegal that took place on 12 November 2016; (ii) as a consequence, banned him for life from taking part in any football-related activity; and (iii) ordered the match in question to be replayed. In reaching its conclusion, the CAS relied heavily on multiple reports of irregular betting activities that significantly deviated from usual market developments.  More...


Towards a Suitable Policy Framework for Cricket Betting in India - By Deeksha Malik

Editor's note: Deeksha Malik is a final-year student at National Law Institute University, India. Her main interest areas are corporate law, arbitration, and sports law. She can be reached at dkshmalik726@gmail.com.


In 2015, while interrogating cricketer Sreesanth and others accused in the IPL match-fixing case, Justice Neena Bansal, sitting as Additional Sessions Judge, made the following observations as regards betting on cricket matches.

“Cricket as a game of skill requires hand-eye-coordination for throwing, catching and hitting. It requires microscopic levels of precision and mental alertness for batsmen to find gaps or for bowlers to produce variety of styles of deliveries’ (medium pace, fast, inswing, outswing, offspin, legspin, googly). The sport requires strategic masterminds that can select the most efficient fielding positions for piling pressure on the batsmen. Based on above description, cricket cannot be described anything, but as a game of skill.”

The debate on the issue of betting in sports has since resurfaced and gained the attention of sportspersons, media, sports bodies, policymakers, and the general public. In April 2017, the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar agreed to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking an order directing the government to come up with an appropriate framework for regulating betting in sports. The arguments put forth in the PIL present various dimensions. One of these pertains to economic considerations, a submission that regulated betting would be able to generate annual revenue of Rs. 12,000 crores by bringing the earnings therefrom within the tax net. As for policy considerations, it was submitted that a proper regulation in this area would enable the government to distinguish harmless betting from activities that impair the integrity of the game such as match-fixing. Further, betting on cricket matches largely depends on the skill of the concerned players, thereby distinguishing it from pure chance-based activities.

The issue of sports betting witnesses a divided opinion till this day. This is understandable, for both sides to the issue have equally pressing arguments. Aside from its regulation being a daunting task for authorities, sports betting is susceptible to corruption and other unscrupulous activities. At the same time, it is argued that it would be better for both the game and the economy if the same is legalised. More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – December 2017. 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 International Skating Union's eligibility rules declared incompatible with EU competition law

On 8 December 2017, the European Commission announced that it had rendered a decision in the case against the International Skating Union (ISU). The Commission upheld the complaint lodged in October 2015 by two Dutch professional speed skaters Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt, represented in this case by Ben Van Rompuy and Antoine Duval (you can read their joint statement here), and ruled that the ISU's eligibility rules preventing athletes from participating in speed skating competitions not approved by the ISU under the threat of severe penalties are in violation of EU competition law. In particular, the Commission held that these rules restrict the commercial freedom of (i) athletes who may be deprived of additional source of income as they are not allowed to participate in speed skating competitions other than those authorised by the ISU; and (ii) independent organisers who are unable to attract top athletes. And while the Commission recognised that sporting rules with restrictive effects might be compatible with EU law if they pursue a legitimate objective such as the protection of athletes' health and safety or the protection of the integrity and proper conduct of sport, it found that the ISU's eligibility rules pursue only its own commercial interests to the detriment of athletes and independent organisers of speed skating competitions. The ISU eventually escaped financial sanctions, but it must modify or abolish its eligibility rules within 90 days; otherwise it would be liable for non-compliance payments of up to 5% of its average daily turnover. For more information on this topic, we invite you to read our recent blog written by Professor Stefano Bastianon.

 

The International Olympic Committee bans Russia from the upcoming Winter Olympic Games

The world has been waiting impatiently for the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision on the participation of Russian athletes in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. This was finally communicated on 5 December 2017. Having deliberated on the findings of the Schmid Commission, the IOC Executive Board decided to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee with immediate effect, meaning that only those Russian athletes who demonstrate that they had not benefited from the state-sponsored doping programme will be able to participate in the Games. Such clean athletes will be allowed to compete under the Olympic Flag, bearing the name 'Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)' on their uniforms. Further to this, the IOC Executive Board sanctioned several officials implicated in the manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia, including Mr Vitaly Mutko, currently the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and formerly the Minister of Sport. Mounting public pressure subsequently forced Mr Mutko to step down as head of the Local Organising Committee for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Meanwhile, 21 individual Russian athletes were sanctioned (see here, here, here, and here) in December (in addition to 22 athletes in November) by the IOC Oswald Commission that is tasked with investigating the alleged doping violations by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The Oswald Commission also published two full decisions in the cases against Evgeny Belov and Aleksandr Tretiakov who were both banned from all future editions of the Games. It is now clear that the Court of Arbitration for Sport will have quite some work in the coming weeks as the banned athletes are turning to this Swiss-based arbitral tribunal to have their sanctions reviewed (see here and here).

 

Universal Declaration of Player Rights

14 December 2017 was a great day for athletes all over the globe. On this day, representatives of the world's leading player associations met in Washington D.C. to unveil the Universal Declaration of Player Rights, a landmark document developed under the aegis of the World Players Association that strives to protect athletes from ongoing and systemic human rights violations in global sport. The World Players Association's Executive Director Brendan Schwab emphasised that the current system of sports governance ''lacks legitimacy and fails to protect the very people who sit at the heart of sport'' and stated that ''athlete rights can no longer be ignored''. Among other rights, the Declaration recognises the right of athletes to equality of opportunity, fair and just working conditions, privacy and the protection of personal data, due process, or effective remedy.

 

Chris Froome failed a doping test during the last year's Vuelta a España

The world of cycling suffered yet another blow when it transpired that one of its superstars Chris Froome had failed a doping test during the last year's Vuelta a España, a race he had eventually emerged victorious from for the first time in his career. His urine sample collected on 7 September 2017 contained twice the amount of salbutamol, a medication used to treat asthma, than permissible under the World Anti-Doping Agency's 2017 Prohibited List. Kenyan-born Froome has now hired a team of medical and legal experts to put forward a convincing explanation for the abnormal levels of salbutamol in his urine and thus to avoid sanctions being imposed on him. More...

The ISU Commission's Decision and the Slippery Side of Eligibility Rules - By Stefano Bastianon (University of Bergamo)

Editor’s note: Stefano Bastianon is Associate Professor in European Law at the University of Bergamo and lawyer admitted to the Busto Arsizio bar. He is also member of the IVth Division of the High Court of Sport Justice (Collegio di Garanzia dello sport) at the National Olympic Committee.

1. From the very beginning, the outcome of the ISU case was highly predictable, at least for those who are familiar with the basics of antitrust law. Nevertheless, more than twenty years after the Bosman judgment, the sports sector has shown the same shortsightedness and inability to see the forest for the trees. Even this attitude was highly predictable, at least for those who know the basics of sports governance. The final result is a clear-cut decision capable of influencing the entire sports movement. More...



Human Rights as Selection Criteria in Bidding Regulations for Mega-Sporting Events – Part II: FIFA and Comparative Overview – By Tomáš Grell

The first part of this two-part blog examined the new bidding regulations adopted by the IOC and UEFA, and concluded that it is the latter who gives more weight to human rights in its host selection process. This second part completes the picture by looking at FIFA's bidding regulations for the 2026 World Cup. It goes on to discuss whether human rights now constitute a material factor in evaluating bids to host the mega-sporting events organised by these three sports governing bodies. More...

Human Rights as Selection Criteria in Bidding Regulations for Mega-Sporting Events – Part I: IOC and UEFA – By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell holds an LL.M. in Public International Law from Leiden University. He contributes to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a research intern.


It has been more than seven years since the FIFA Executive Committee awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. And yet only in November 2017 did the Qatari government finally agree to dismantle the controversial kafala system, described by many as modern-day slavery. Meanwhile, hundreds of World Cup-related migrant workers have reportedly been exposed to a wide range of abusive practices such as false promises about the pay, passport confiscation, or appalling working and living conditions.[1] On top of that, some workers have paid the highest price – their life. To a certain extent, all this could have been avoided if human rights had been taken into account when evaluating the Qatari bid to host the tournament. In such a case, Qatar would not have won the bidding contest without providing a convincing explanation of how it intends to ensure that the country's poor human rights record will not affect individuals, including migrant workers, contributing to the delivery of the World Cup. An explicit commitment to abolish the kafala system could have formed an integral part of the bid.

Urged by Professor John Ruggie and his authoritative recommendations,[2] in October 2017 FIFA decided to include human rights within the criteria for evaluating bids to host the 2026 World Cup, following similar steps taken earlier this year by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UEFA in the context of the Olympic Winter Games 2026 and the Euro 2024 respectively. This two-part blog critically examines the role human rights play in the new bidding regulations adopted by the IOC, UEFA, and FIFA. The first part sheds light on the IOC and UEFA. The second part then takes a closer look at FIFA and aims to use a comparative analysis to determine whether the new bidding regulations are robust enough to ensure that selected candidates abide by international human rights standards.More...


Asser International Sports Law Blog | Policing the (in)dependence of National Federations through the prism of the FIFA Statutes. By Tine Misic

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

Policing the (in)dependence of National Federations through the prism of the FIFA Statutes. By Tine Misic

…and everything under the sun is in tune,

but the sun is eclipsed by the moon…[1] 


The issue

Ruffling a few feathers, on 30 May 2015 the FIFA Executive Committee rather unsurprisingly, considering the previous warnings,[2] adopted a decision to suspend with immediate effect the Indonesian Football Federation (PSSI) until such time as PSSI is able to comply with its obligations under Articles 13 and 17 of the FIFA Statutes.[3] Stripping PSSI of its membership rights, the decision results in a prohibition of all Indonesian teams (national or club) from having any international sporting contact. In other words, the decision precludes all Indonesian teams from participating in any competition organised by either FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). In addition, the suspension of rights also precludes all PSSI members and officials from benefits of any FIFA or AFC development programme, course or training during the term of suspension. This decision coincides with a very recent award by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in this ambit, which shall be discussed further below.[4]

The former decision, substantiated upon the alleged governmental infringement of the independence of PSSI, is the latest in a line of similar decisions adopted by FIFA in recent years. It succeeds inter alia the suspension of the Nigerian Football Federation and subsequent non-recognition of its General Assembly decisions,[5] and the suspensions of the Cameroonian Football Association[6], the Football Federation of Belize,[7] the Kenya Football Federation,[8] and the Islamic Republic of Iran Football Federation.[9]

The common denominator of all these decisions is the alleged impediment of third parties, usually governments or their related bodies, in the affairs of national football associations. In the Indonesian case, the trigger was the imposition of additional licensing criteria for football clubs by BOPI, an agency of the Indonesian Ministry of Youth and Sports, which resulted in two clubs (Arema and Persebaya) being precluded from competing in the Indonesian Super League (ISL) and subsequent measures adopted by the ministry aimed at relieving PSSI of all of its responsibilities.[10] While in the Nigerian case, an initial High Court injunction prevented the elected Executive Committee from taking office, and a later intervention from the Nigerian Department of State Security Service (SSS), resulted in the suspension of the Nigerian Football Federation[11] and subsequently in the non-recognition of its General Assembly decisions,[12] the other cited cases include violations in the form of, among others, “blatant government interference”,[13] non-provision of security services from government forces,[14] and violation of the independence of the decision-making process of the national football governing body.[15] 


Grounds for intervention by FIFA

The normative basis for the aforementioned interventions lies primarily within Articles 13, 14 and 17 of the FIFA Statutes.[16] The Members’ obligation of an independent management of their affairs is embedded in Article 13(1)(i), which states that: ”Members have the following obligations... to manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties...” Strengthening that notion, Article 17(1) provides that: “Each Member shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties.” Furthermore, the second paragraph of Article 17 explicitly points out that all the bodies need to be elected or appointed within each respective Member, which prima facie appears even more stringent than Article 7 bis of the UEFA Statutes, that constitutes:”...their executive body is freely elected and that their other bodies are elected or appointed in a completely independent way.”[17]

Enjoying full discretion that stems from its Statutes, FIFA acts upon information received about the alleged violations, usually from the Members themselves. Prior to the adoption of a decision, a “prevention” phase takes place, during which FIFA, through means of correspondence with respective Members or/and third parties involved, addresses the alleged infringements and usually allows for a deference period for compliance with specific conditions. Members and/or third parties are warned that non-compliance may result in possible sanctions. Article 13(2) of the Statutes expressly provides that: “Violation of the above-mentioned obligations by any Member may lead to sanctions provided for in these Statutes.”

One of the most daunting repercussions FIFA may avail itself of is the suspension of a Member. In accordance with Article 14(1) of the Statutes, the primary responsibility for suspending a Member lies with the Congress. However, and as seen in the cases cited above, when violations are deemed to be so serious to require prompt attention, the Executive Committee or even the Emergency Committee may step in and adopt the relevant decision.[18] If not lifted beforehand, such a decision must be confirmed by a three-quarter majority at the next Congress, otherwise it is automatically lifted. A suspension leads to a loss of all membership rights, which effectively prevents other Members from entertaining any sporting contact with the suspended Member. Moreover, the suspension does not preclude the Disciplinary Committee from imposing further sanctions (e.g. fines, return of awards, deduction of points, etc.).[19]

Another measure for addressing an eventual non-compliance with the obligation of independent management of affairs is the non-recognition of wrongfully elected bodies or decisions passed by such bodies in accordance with Article 17(2) of the Statutes. In other words, FIFA has the authority not to recognize an election of a body of one of its Members, if such an election lacks uncompromised independence vis-à-vis third parties, as was the case with the Nigerian Football Federation.

Lastly, it is also worth mentioning that sanctions may be imposed regardless of the grounds and fault for interference of third parties since Article 13(3) of the Statutes, by going beyond the actual interference, provides that: “Violations of par. 1(i) may also lead to sanctions even if the third-party influence was not the fault of the Member concerned.” This basically means that FIFA shall not entertain explanations of third party interventions that may possibly even be justified under the provisions of national law. 


To comply, or not to comply – the CAS escape route

Since a suspension decision virtually ostracises and isolates a Member, a valid point to raise is, whether apart from yielding and fulfilling the imposed conditions, other means remain available to the disgraced Member to challenge such a decision. The same could be said for the situation pertaining to the non-recognition of elected bodies of particular Members.

In accordance with Article 66 of the Statutes any dispute arising between FIFA and its Members shall be resolved by CAS applying the relevant FIFA regulations and subsidiarily Swiss law. The exclusive jurisdiction of CAS is further strengthened in Article 67 of the Statutes which also outlines the procedural requirements for an appeal against a final decision passed by one of the FIFA bodies. Moreover, the Members explicitly agree not to avail themselves of recourse to ordinary courts of law, which significantly narrows their options down.[20]

Given that jurisprudence in named cases is relatively scarce, it is worth having a closer look at the above mentioned award rendered by CAS in the joined cases brought before it by the Nigerian Football Federation.[21] Notwithstanding the previous FIFA decision to suspend the appellant, which was later lifted, the form of relief sought with the appeal was the annulment of two decisions in the form of letters, addressed at the appellant by FIFA. Considering the Court’s conclusion, stemming from the relevant CAS jurisprudence,[22] to dismiss the appeal against the second letter because it did not constitute an appealable decision since it did not contain a ruling affecting the rights of the appellant, hence lacking the animus decidendi,[23] the onus of the award was on the first challenged letter.

In its preliminary remarks the Panel narrowed down the subjective and the objective scope of the review saying that it:”...may only assess de novo, putting itself in FIFA’s place, whether FIFA had sufficient factual and legal grounds, in terms of Article 17 of its Statutes, to adopt the decisions allegedly set forth in the letters challenged by the Appellant.[24] By abstaining from assessing the eventual legality of the third party infringement, and despite harbouring some doubts about the (non)compliance of the elections with the national law, it further stated that:”...this Panel may not assess the validity of the various NFF elections on the basis of the NFF rules or of Nigerian law, because such appraisal falls outside the scope of FIFA’s authority under Article 17 of its Statutes and, thus, falls outside of the Panel’s scope of review.[25]

By observing that none of the parties challenged the Court’s jurisdiction, applying the FIFA regulations and additionally Swiss law pursuant to Article R58 of the CAS Code, and by dismissing the Respondent’s arguments pertaining to the admissibility and the Appellant’s active standing, the Panel addressed the legitimacy of FIFA’s non-recognition of the elections pursuant to Article 17 of the Statutes in the merits of the award.[26]

As per the legal grounds of the decision, the Panel stressed that: “The purpose of Article 17 is to grant FIFA the power to not recognize an election where the member association’s electoral process does not guarantee the complete independence of the election.[27] It went further saying: “...the Panel is of the view that the requirement of “complete independence” found in para. 2 must be understood in the light of para. 1 of Article 17, forbidding “influence from third parties”. Accordingly, an electoral process does not guarantee such complete independence where the election is not managed in a totally independent manner and, in particular, where it is influenced by third parties of any kind (e.g. government officials or bodies).[28]

Having established FIFA’s authority, the Panel subsequently assessed the relevant evidence submitted by the parties. After determining the relevant factual circumstances, the Panel noted that the intervention from the State Security Services (SSS) influenced the unfolding of the election and consequently of the General Assembly itself, constituting a manifest insufficiency of the independence of the election from the influence of third parties pursuant to Article 17 of the Statutes.[29] The appeal was thus duly dismissed on merits as well.

By dismissing the appeal, and in spite of recognizing the connection of the dispute with “a longstanding struggle occurring in Nigerian football between different personalities and factions fighting for leadership within the NFF”,[30] the Court, by setting a precedent to a certain extent, distanced itself from assessing the compliance of the interference with national law, hence virtually affirming FIFA’s discretion in the evaluation of the circumstances leading to its intervention, which appears to leave an eventual appeal by the Indonesian Football Federation with very slim chances of success. 


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?[31]

When it comes to independence and third party influence issue, the Members are subject to instant scrutiny from FIFA and are swiftly held accountable, even when they hold no responsibility for a third party intervention, as may be seen in the above cited cases. The same cannot be said when the situation is reversed. FIFA is often not submitted to the same levels of accountability checks as those who are affected by its decisions.[32]

While in some instances FIFA’s prompt intervention appears well-grounded, since interference from a third party is manifestly ill-founded, as may be seen in the case of the Nigerian Football Federation (interventions from State Security Forces and unidentified armed individuals seem to go way beyond the borders of necessity, and can hence hardly be justified), other cases, namely the latest suspension of the PSSI, show that FIFA may have been slightly too quick when pulling the trigger. All the more so, given the circumstantial background of the case (e.g. pressing issues related inter alia to financial, tax and ownership issues of the clubs participating in national leagues which the PSSI, despite previous warnings, was unable or unwilling to cope with, and which in some extreme cases resulted in players losing their lives due to lack of medical care owed to arrears of health care contributions by the clubs), and the government’s intervention could arguably to a certain extent be seen as necessary.[33]

However, as seen above, under the existing rules FIFA is not inclined to look beyond the mere interference of third parties and verify whether such actions might be justified, thus possibly breaching the principle of proportionality which is recognized as a general principle by CAS.[34] Since such discretion seems to have been condoned by the latest CAS decision,[35] one may wonder whether there is actually any room for a more thorough and systematic factual assessment of the background of such interferences in the light of a possible justification, which inevitably raises questions of the eventual (over)restrictive nature of the relevant Statutes provisions themselves. Furthermore, the fact that any government intervention, regardless of the eventual acceptability and consideration of local specificities of each respective Member, is to be seen as a punishable infringement, puts the issue within the frame of the perpetual conundrum of the legitimate boundaries of the lex sportiva.

Since FIFA is virtually accountable to no-one from the hierarchical point of view, and given that governments, with the exception of the Swiss government, have no supervisory powers over it (some would argue that FIFA may itself be seen as a government),[36] the only plausible route for the assessment of the proportionality of the Statutes would seem to be through the legal accountability channel, using EU law, especially its provisions on competition and internal market.[37] In fact, given the precedents (e.g. Charleroi)[38] and the recent legal challenge of FIFA’s decision to ban Third-Party Ownership,[39] these rules appear to have become an increasingly important tool to hold the organization accountable, regardless of the latest developments regarding the prosecution of its officials.[40] A further analysis as to whether such a route remains available to potential appellants from outside of the European Union would, however, go beyond the scope of this paper. 


Conclusion

As presented throughout this brief overview, FIFA has seemingly developed a zero-tolerance policy for any governmental interference regarding the affairs of its Members, thus arguably safeguarding their independence. It has consistently availed itself of one of the most stringent corrective measures for alleged violations envisaged by its Statutes, suspending the non-compliant Members, hence often provoking strong emotional response within the pertinent countries.[41] Whereby such sanctions might be deemed necessary in certain cases, non-consideration of factual background and eventual justifications in others has led to accusations of double standards,[42] and raised questions of proportionality of the relevant Statutes provisions and the borders of the rules governing “purely sporting issues”.

The outcome of the deadlock in the latest case of PSSI remains to be seen, with the government’s intention to thoroughly reform the Indonesian football suggesting that a swift solution might not quite lie around the corner.[43] Given that compliance with the imposed conditions appears to be the route that will be taken in this case, and as long as provisions of the Statutes are not submitted to scrutiny of a competent judicial body, arguably in the form of the European Court of Justice, any future third party interferences shall most likely continue to be dealt with strictly by FIFA and the non-compliant Members will keep finding themselves “on the dark side of the moon”.[44]



[1] Pink Floyd, Eclipse (Dark Side of the Moon, EMI, 1973).

[2] Letter of FIFA to the Republic of Indonesia Minister of Youth and Sports, written in Zurich and sent on 10 April 2015.

[3] Decision of the FIFA Executive Committee: Suspension of the Indonesian Football Federation (PSSI), adopted in Zurich on 30 May 2015.

[4] Joined cases CAS 2014/A/3744 and CAS 2014/A/3766 Nigerian Football Federation v. FIFA, award of 18 May 2015.

[5] Decision of the FIFA Emergency Committee: Suspension of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), adopted in Zurich on 9 July 2014.

[6] Decision of the FIFA Emergency Committee: Suspension of the Cameroonian Football Association, adopted in Zurich on 4 July 2013 (FIFA Circular no. 1367, Zurich, 4 July 2013).

[7] Decision of the FIFA Emergency Committee: Suspension of the Football Federation of Belize, adopted in Zurich on 17 June 2011.

[8] Decision of the FIFA Emergency Committee: Suspension of the Kenya Football Federation, adopted in Zurich on 2 June 2004.

[9] Decision of the FIFA Emergency Committee: Suspension of the Islamic Republic of Iran Football Federation (IRIFF), adopted in Zurich on 23 November 2006.

[10] FIFA Decision of 30 May 2015, cited supra note 3.

[11] FIFA Decision of 9 July 2014, cited supra note 5.

[12] Letter of FIFA to Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), written in Zurich and sent on 29 August 2014.

[13] FIFA Decision of 2 June 2004, cited supra note 8.

[14] FIFA Decision of 17 June 2011, cited supra note 7.

[15] FIFA Decision of 23 November 2006, cited supra note 9.

[16] FIFA Statutes (Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes, Standing Orders of the Congress), adopted in São Paulo on 11 June 2014.

[17] UEFA Statutes (Rules of Procedure of the UEFA, Congress Regulations governing the Implementation of the UEFA Statutes), adopted in Astana on 24 March 2014.

[18] FIFA Statutes, cited supra note 16, Art. 33.

[19] Ibid., Arts. 63, 65.

[20] Ibid., Art. 68.

[21] Nigerian Football Federation v. FIFA, cited supra note 4.

[22] Case CAS 2005/A/899 FC Aris Thessaloniki v. FIFA & New Panionios N.F.C., award of 15 July 2005, para. 12; Case CAS 2004/A/659 Galatasaray SK v. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) & Club Regatas Vasco da Gama & F. J., award of 17 March 2005, paras. 23-25.

[23] Nigerian Football Federation v. FIFA, cited supra note 4, paras. 192,196.

[24] Ibid., para. 160.

[25] Ibid., para 160.

[26] Ibid., paras. 160-182.

[27] Ibid., para. 200.

[28] Ibid., para. 200.

[29] Ibid., paras. 203-211.

[30] Ibid., para. 213.

[31]Who guards the guardians?” (translation mine); Juvenal, Satires, (Book II, Satire VI, 1st and early 2nd centuries AD), lines 347–8.

[32] R. Pielke Jr., How can FIFA be held accountable? (Sport Management Review, Issue 16, 2013), pp. 258.

[33] FIFPro, Death of Mendieta must be the turning point for Indonesia, http://www.fifpro.org/en/news/death-of-mendieta-must-be-turning-point-for-indonesia (last visited 28 June 2015).

[34] See inter alia Cases CAS Arbitration CAS 2005/A/830 S. v. FINA, award of 15 July 2005, CAS 2009/A/2012 Doping Authority Netherlands v. N., award of 11 June 2010, CAS 2012/A/2740 Marcelo Carracedo v. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), award of 18 April 2013.

[35] Nigerian Football Fedration v. FIFA, cited supra note 4.

[36]S. Bradley, FIFA reforms face resistance – and huge support (swissinfo.ch, 5 December 2012), http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/football-scandals_fifa-reforms-face-resistance---and-huge-support/34067104 (last visited 28 June 2015).

[37] R. Pielke, cited supra note 32, pp. 259-262.

[38] Case A/05/03843, SA Sporting du Pays de Charleroi ao v FIFA, Tribunal de Commerce de Charleroi, 15 May 2006 (Case was referred to the European Court of Justice, but did not reach a judgment since the parties reached a settlement out of court),

[39] A. Duff, Portugal, Spain Said to Complain to EU on Soccer Finance Rules (BloombergBusiness, 4 February 2015), http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-04/portugal-spain-said-to-complain-to-eu-on-soccer-finance-ban (last visited 28 June 2015).

[40] BBC News, Fifa corruption inquiries: Officials arrested in Zurich (bbc.com, 27 May 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32895048 (last visited 28 June 2015).

[41] ESPN, Iranian Federation suspended by FIFA (espn.com, 23 November 2006), http://www.espnfc.com/story/393454/iranian-federation-suspended-by-fifa (last visited 28 June 2015).

[42] M. Zandi, Is FIFA's Decision in the Best Interest of Football (Association Internationale De La Presse Sportive),http://www.aipsmedia.com/index.php?cod=551&page=news&tp=n#.VZAhwRuqqko (last visited 28 June 2015).

[43] Reuters, Indonesia government takes responsibility for ban (uk.reuters.com, 31 May 2015), http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/05/31/uk-soccer-fifa-indonesia-idUKKBN0OG03920150531 (last visited 28 June 2015).

[44] Pink Floyd, Brain Damage (Dark Side of the Moon, EMI, 1973).

Comments are closed