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

UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations and the Rise of Football’s 1%

On 12 January 2017 UEFA published its eighth club licensing benchmarking report on European football, concerning the financial year of 2015. In the press release that accompanied the report, UEFA proudly announced that Financial Fair Play (FFP) has had a huge positive impact on European football, creating a more stable financial environment. Important findings included a rise of aggregate operating profits of €1.5bn in the last two years, compared to losses of €700m in the two years immediately prior to the introduction of Financial Fair Play.

Source: UEFA’s eighth club licensing benchmarking report on European football, slide 107.

 Meanwhile the aggregate losses dropped by 81% from €1.7bn in 2011 to just over €300m in 2015.More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2017. By Saverio Spera.

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

The Headlines

The Diarra ruling of the Tribunal of Charleroi

On 19 January 2017, the Hainaut Commercial Tribunal – Charleroi rendered its decision on the lawsuit filed by the football player Lassana Diarra against FIFA and the Belgian FA (URBSFA) for damages caused by not being able to exercise the status of a professional football player during the entire 2014/2015 season. The lawsuit is linked to the decision, rendered by the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) on April 2015, to support Lokomotiv’s decision to terminate the player’s contract and to order Diarra to pay Lokomotiv the amount of EUR 10,500,000 for having breached his contract. According to the plaintiff, Diarra’s opportunity to be recruited by Sporting Charleroi was denied due to the club being potentially considered jointly liable for Diarra’s compensation pursuant to Article 17 (2) RSTP. The Belgian court held strongly that “when the contract is terminated by the club, the player must have the possibility to sign a new contract with a new employer, without restrictions to his free movement”. This case highlighted, once again, the need to read the RSTP in the light of EU law. Moreover, the decision is laying further ground for broader challenges to the RSTP on the basis of EU law (for a deeper insight into the Diarra ruling, see the recent blog written by our senior researcher Antoine Duval) More...

Introducing the new legal challenges of E-Sports. By N. Emre Bilginoglu

Editor’s Note: Emre Bilginoglu[1] is an attorney in Istanbul and the co-founder of the Turkish E-Sports Players Association, a non-profit based in Istanbul that aims to provide assistance to professional gamers and to work on the relevant laws affecting them. 

The world is witnessing the rise of a new sport that is growing at an incredible speed: E-Sports. We are only starting to understand its legal implications and challenges.

In recent years, E-Sports has managed to attract thousands of fans to arenas to see a group of people play a video game. These people are literally professional gamers (cyber athletes)[2] who make money by competing in tournaments. Not all video games have tournaments in which professional players compete against each other.

The most played games in E-Sports competitions are League of Legends (LoL), Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). LoL and DotA are both Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, a genre of strategy video games in which the player controls a single character in one of two teams. The goal of the game is to destroy the opponent’s main structure. CS:GO is a first-person shooter (FPS) game, a genre of video games where the player engages combat through a first-person perspective. The main objective in CS:GO is to eliminate the opposing team or to terrorize or counter-terrorize, planting bombs or rescuing hostages. Other games that have (popular) E-Sports competitions include Starcraft II (real time strategy), Hearthstone (collectible card video game), Call of Duty (FPS) and FIFA (football).

The gaming requires cooperation between team players, a high level of concentration, rapid reactions and some seriously fast clicking. E-Sports is a groovy term to describe organized competitive computer gaming. The E-Sports industry is exponentially growing, amounting to values expressed in billions of dollars. According to Newzoo, a website dedicated to the collection of E-Sports data, there are some 250 million occasional viewers of E-Sports with Asia-Pacific accounting for half of the total amount. The growth of the industry is indubitably supported by online streaming media platforms. This article aims to explain what E-Sports is and to give the readers an insight on the key legal questions raised by it. More...

Time for Transparency at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. By Saverio Spera

Editor’s Note: Saverio Spera is an Italian lawyer and LL.M. graduate in International Business Law from King’s College London. He is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

The time is ripe to take a closer look at the CAS and its transparency, as this is one of the ways to ensure its public accountability and its legitimacy. From 1986 to 2013, the number of arbitrations submitted to the CAS has grown from 2 to more than 400 a year. More specifically, the number of appeals submitted almost doubled in less than ten years (from 175 in 2006, to 349 in 2013[1]). Therefore, the Court can be considered the judicial apex of an emerging transnational sports law (or lex sportiva).[2] In turn, the increased authority and power of this institution calls for increased transparency, in order to ensure its legitimacy.[3]


UEFA’s betting fraud detection system: How does the CAS regard this monitoring tool? By Emilio García.

Editor’s note: Emilio García (  is a doctor in law and head of disciplinary and integrity at UEFA. Before joining UEFA, he was the Spanish Football Federation’s legal director (2004–12) and an arbitrator at the CAS (2012–13).In this blog, Emilio García provides a brief review of a recent case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS): Klubi Sportiv Skënderbeu v UEFA (CAS 2016/A/4650)[1], in which he acted as main counsel for UEFA. 

Sport and match-fixing – A quick overview

Match-fixing is now legally defined as “an intentional arrangement, act or omission aimed at an improper alteration of the result or the course of a sports competition in order to remove all or part of the unpredictable nature of the aforementioned sports competition with a view to obtaining an undue advantage for oneself or for others”.[2] It has been said that there has always been match-fixing in sport.[3] From the ancient Olympic Games to the most important global sports competitions of today, manipulation of results has always been an all-too-frequent occurrence.

We have seen a number of very prominent instances of this kind of issue over the years. One of the most remarkable examples, which was even the subject of a film,[4] was the match-fixing episode during the 1919 World Series, where several players from the Chicago White Sox were found guilty of accepting bribes and deliberately losing matches against the Cincinnati Reds.[5]

The situation has changed considerably since then. In particular, the globalisation of the sports betting industry has had a massive impact, with recent studies estimating that between €200bn and €500bn is betted on sport every year.[6] Match-fixing does not just affect football either;[7] it is also affecting other sports, most notably tennis.[8] More...

The Diarra Ruling of the Tribunal of Charleroi: The New Pechstein, Bosman or Mutu?

Yesterday the sports law world was buzzing due to the Diarra decision of the Tribunal de Commerce du Hainaut (the Tribunal) based in Charleroi, Belgium. Newspapers were lining up (here, here and here) to spread the carefully crafted announcement of the new triumph of Jean-Louis Dupont over his favourite nemesis: the transfer system. Furthermore, I was lucky enough to receive on this same night a copy of the French text of the judgment. My first reaction while reading quickly through the ruling, was ‘OMG he did it again’! “He” meaning Belgian lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont, who after a string of defeats in his long shot challenge against FIFA’s TPO ban or UEFA’s FFP (see here and here), had [at least I believed after rushing carelessly through the judgment] manufactured a new “it”: a Bosman. Yet, after carefully re-reading the judgment, it became quickly clear to me that this was rather a new Mutu (in the sense of the latest CAS award in the ‘Mutu saga’, which I have extensively analysed on this blog and in a recent commentary for the new Yearbook of International Sports Arbitration) coupled with some reflections reminding a bit (but not really as will be explicated below) the Pechstein case.

In this blog, I will retrace briefly the story behind the case and then analyse the decision of the Belgium court. In doing so, I will focus on its reasoning regarding its jurisdiction and the compatibility of article 17(2) RSTP with EU law.More...

The Russian Doping Scandal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: The IPC’s Rio Ineligibility of Russian Paralympic Athletes

Editor's note: This blog is part of a special blog series on the Russian doping scandal at the CAS. Last year I analysed the numerous decisions rendered by the CAS ad hoc Division in Rio and earlier this year I reviewed the CAS award in the IAAF case.

Unlike the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was very much unaffected by the Russian doping scandal until the publication of the first McLaren report in July 2016. The report highlighted that Russia’s doping scheme was way more comprehensive than what was previously thought. It extended beyond athletics to other disciplines, including Paralympic sports. Furthermore, unlike the International Olympic Committee (IOC) the IPC had a bit more time to deal with the matter, as the Rio Paralympic Games were due to start “only” in September.

After the release of the McLaren Report, the IPC president Sir Philip Craven was “truly shocked, appalled and deeply saddened at the extent of the state sponsored doping programme implemented in Russia”. He immediately announced the IPC’s intention to review the report’s findings and to act strongly upon them. Shortly thereafter, on 22 July, the IPC decided to open suspension proceedings against the National Paralympic Committee of Russia (NPC Russia) in light of its apparent inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations. In particular, due to “the prevailing doping culture endemic within Russian sport, at the very highest levels, NPC Russia appears unable or unwilling to ensure compliance with and the enforcement of the IPC’s Anti-Doping Code within its own national jurisdiction”. A few weeks later, on 7 August, the IPC Governing Board decided to suspend the Russian Paralympic Committee with immediate effect “due to its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory)”. Indeed, these “obligations are a fundamental constitutional requirement for all National Paralympic Committees (NPCs), and are vital to the IPC’s ability to ensure fair competition and to provide a level playing field for all Para athletes around the world”. Consequently, the Russian Paralympic Committee lost all rights and privileges of IPC membership. Specifically, it was not entitled to enter athletes in competitions sanctioned by the IPC, and/or to participate in IPC activities. Thus, “the Russian Paralympic Committee will not be able to enter its athletes in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games”. More...

The Russian Doping Scandal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: The IAAF’s Rio Ineligibility of Russian Athletes

Since the release of the earth-shattering ARD documentary two years ago, the athletics world has been in a permanent turmoil. The International Athletics Association Federation (IAAF) is faced with both a never-ending corruption scandal (playing out in front of the French police authorities) and the related systematic doping of Russian athletes. The situation escalated in different phases led by the revelations of Russian insiders. First, in December 2014 with the ARD documentary, which demonstrated how widespread (and organized) the recourse to doping was in Russian athletics. It triggered the Pound investigation financed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which led to two damaging reports (available here and here) for the Russian anti-doping system and the IAAF itself. Thereafter, in November 2015, the IAAF had no other choice but to provisionally suspend the Russian athletics federation (ARAF then RusAF) and its members from IAAF competitions. Yet, this was only the beginning as shortly after the former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory provided a detailed sketch to the New York Times of the operation of a general state-led doping scheme in Russia. The system was designed to avert any positive doping tests for top-level Russian sportspeople and was going way beyond athletics. These allegations were later largely confirmed and reinforced by the McLaren investigation initiated by WADA in May 2016, and which published its first report in July 2016 shortly before the Rio Olympics. In June 2016, the IAAF anticipated the conclusions of the report (it had received most of McLaren’s evidence beforehand) and decided to maintain the ineligibility of Russian athletes for IAAF competitions, and for the Rio Olympics. It did, however, foresee a narrow exception for Russian athletes able to show that they were properly tested outside of Russia. Nonetheless, the athletes using this exception were to compete under a neutral flag at the Olympics. Unsurprisingly, Russian athletes led by pole superstar (and now IOC member), Yelena Isinbayeva, and the Russian Olympic Committee decided to challenge this decision in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Interestingly, while the decision was rendered on 21 July 2016, the full text of the award was publically released only on 10 October 2016. In September, I analysed the Rio CAS Ad Hoc Decisions involving Russian athletes aiming to participate to the Olympics. I will now turn to the IAAF decision, which is of great importance to the future of the anti-doping system. Indeed, it lays out the fundamental legal boundaries of the capacity of international federations to impose sanctions on their members (and their members) in order to support the world anti-doping fight. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – November and December 2016. By Saverio Spera.

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

The Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

Putting Article 19 RSTP into perspective: The bigger picture

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

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

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 3: The Curious Non-Application of Training Compensation to Women’s Football – By Rhys Lenarduzzi

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

Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 3: The Curious Non-Application of Training Compensation to Women’s Football – By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.


As recently as September 2020, questions were raised in the European Parliament on the non-application of training compensation to women’s football. Whilst this blog will predominantly consider potential inconsistencies in reasoning for and against training compensation in men’s and women’s football, the questions before the Commission were largely on the theme of disrespect and discrimination. Somewhat unfortunately, the questions raised were side-stepped, with Ms Gabriel (Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth) simply stating that: “The TFEU does not give the Commission the competence to interfere in the internal organisation of an independent international organisation such as FIFA.” This might be true in theory, though one might feel some degree of uneasiness if privy to the Commission’s role in the 2001 FIFA regulatory overhaul.

It is currently explicit in the regulations and the commentary, that in women’s football, signing clubs are not required to compensate training clubs for developing players, through the training compensation mechanism that exists in men’s football. Though it is a contentious comment and as will be expanded below, this may not have always been the case.

At Article 20 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP), one will find that the principles of training compensation shall not apply to women’s football. Further, in FIFA’s recently released Women’s Football Administrator Handbook (the handbook), it states that disputes relating to training compensation are limited for the moment to male players only.[1]

Regulations on solidarity contributions on the other hand do apply to women’s football, but given transfer fees are not so common, the use of the mechanism is not either. As an indication of how uncommon the activation of the solidarity contribution mechanism in women’s football might be, FIFA reported in the handbook just four claims with the Players’ Status Department in 2016 (three claims involving the same player), and zero since.[2] That is in comparison to hundreds of claims made per season in men’s football, where signing and owing clubs had not fulfilled their obligation to pay the solidarity contribution.

Given the aforementioned, this blog will largely focus on training compensation and how it came to be the case that this mechanism, often presented as critical in the context of men’s football, does not apply in women’s football. To do so, I will first discuss the reasoning advanced in an unpublished CAS award, which one may reasonably suspect played a fundamental role in shaping the current exemption. I will then turn to FIFA’s timely response to the award and the adoption of its Circular No. 1603. Finally, I will point out the disconnect in FIFA’s decision to adopt two radically different approaches to the issue of training compensation in male and female professional football.

1. CAS 2016/A/4598 WFC Spartak Subotica v FC Barcelona

This little-known, David vs. Goliath, Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) award on appeal of a FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) decision, might be what prompted FIFA to make the relevant changes excluding women’s football from the scope of Article 20 RSTP in 2017. Though not a public case, one might reasonably suspect the decision was the nudge that led FIFA to change the regulations and explicitly state that training compensation does not apply to women’s football, given the timing and the fact that this was ultimately a decision that went counter to the internal decision at the DRC.

A significant consideration for the CAS and one which needed to be made clear by the panel, was the distinction between whether training compensation should apply versus does apply. The CAS deemed its task was not to consider the former, regarding the latter it found the Serbian women’s club reasonably interpreted the then applicable RSTP as covering women’s football, given in other places within the same regulations there is a concerted effort to make no discriminatory distinction between the genders, and, the regulations at this stage did not explicitly state that the mechanism did not apply to women’s football.

Consequently, the award provided that FC Barcelona was to pay 2.5 years at the category 1 rate of EUR 90,000, amounting to EUR 225,000 (plus 5% interest and costs) to WFC Spartak Subotica despite numerous attempts from FC Barcelona’s legal team to aver training compensation does not apply to women’s football.

Some of the ill-received arguments were attempts to raise the question of whether training compensation should exist, largely pointing at the commercial differences and size of the game in women’s and men’s football. The panel would not deal with these questions and instead insisted on considering whether it does exist, per the regulations as they were. FC Barcelona attempted a comparative argument with Futsal where the training compensation mechanism does not apply. This was also dismissed and deemed an improper comparison. Not due to the comparison per se however, but rather the panel concluded the point may well go against the respondent, given:

“the fact that FIFA included an express exception of futsal but no equivalent exception of women’s football is at least some indication that it did not intend to exclude women's football.”[3]

The applicant relied heavily on that which was stated at the “General Provisions’ section of the RSTP (2012), namely “Terms referring to natural persons are applicable to both genders.” The tribunal saw the provision as favourable for the applicant and that the burden was with FC Barcelona to show that the RSTP ought to be interpreted another way, by either providing some additional context, history, intention or similar. The respondent was unable to do so and instead relied heavily on the previous DRC decision in its submissions and did not submit much by way of evidence at all. The panel paid particular attention to the lack of evidence given by the respondent and that this case may have looked differently had FIFA accepted an invitation to join, as FIFA may have been able to shed light on how the regulations ought to be interpreted, had they been able to provide the context and intention that FC Barcelona could not.[4]

Ultimately when it came to FC Barcelona’s submissions and the prior decision of the DRC, the CAS was uncomfortable with “a distinct undercurrent of a policy decision that the RSTP should not apply to women's football”[5] when a rigorous interpretation of the RSTP (2012) as it stood then was what was required. Furthermore, the panel landed at “an overall conclusion that the DRC reasons are flawed at various points and did not sufficiently grapple with the arguments for the Appellant.”[6]


2. 2017 amendments and FIFA Circular No. 1603

Though FIFA declined an invite to join the above CAS case,[7] it is in a sense as though the submissions made by FC Barcelona’s legal team were simultaneously on behalf of FIFA, given a heavy reliance on the prior DRC decision and what followed. In what may have appeared a clarificatory exercise at the time, it appears the 2017 amendments announced via FIFA Circular No. 1603 were at least in part a response to the above CAS case.

Within that circular, FIFA announced that the regulations “now explicitly specifies that the principles of training compensation do not apply to women's football.” It made a point that the express amendments pertaining to training compensation now reflect existing DRC jurisprudence and “clarify the always intended meaning”. Whilst that clarity is direct, it may also contain an undertone of frustration in relation to the above CAS case. FIFA were undoubtedly addressing what it perceived as a problem, though it is the following from Circular No. 1603 that might raise more questions than offer solutions: “It should be noted that the existing training compensation formula would act as a deterrent to the movement of female players and consequently stall the development of the women's game.” Sound familiar? This will be expanded upon below.

Finally on training compensation and women’s football and before addressing other issues therein, Circular No. 1603 states that “FIFA administration is working on a specific concept to be applied to the women's game in consultation with the stakeholders, bearing in mind the overall objective to promote and enhance the development of women's (professional) football.” Whilst this is for another blog and for another day, one can reasonably wonder what has been done. Or might it be the case that refraining from more regulation has resulted in more growth in the women’s game?

Noteworthy in hindsight, given the CAS case is and was not public, is that FIFA did not have the pressure it may have otherwise had to explain its regulatory amendments regarding training compensation in women’s football, that were contrary to the CAS decision. Whilst the CAS left the door open for sound arguments to be made against training compensation in women’s football, they found serious flaws in the arguments made by FC Barcelona, as well the reasons given by the DRC in the initial decision. Most notable on this front might be an out-and-out rejection of a comparison with futsal, as well rejecting a general distinction between the men’s and women’s game as being useful.  Despite this, it appears FIFA proceeded to explicitly enshrine in the RSTP that training compensation does not apply, without dealing with the fundamental questions raised but not necessarily answered in the CAS case. It is just interesting to note, that the CAS award that was challenging FIFA’s rationale was coincidentally kept confidential. This might speak for greater (and systematic) transparency with regard to the CAS’ appeal awards.

3. The Incoherence of a Double Standard Between Men’s and Women’s Football

It is certainly true, in a very general sense, that women’s and men’s football are in a different place commercially inter alia. However, as mentioned in my introductory blog, men’s football has since the late 1800s in the form of the ‘retain and transfer’ system, and now with the current mechanisms, had systems that were claimed to be imperative to incentivise training by compensating clubs for developing players (not to mention the growth and survival of the game). So why is the same rationale not applied to women’s football? Might it be reasonable to conclude that women’s football in its current stage of economic development is at an equivalent stage to where men’s football was at some point between then and now, where a system for compensating training clubs and incentivising clubs to develop youth did exist?

In any case, the rationale appears flawed, as comparing men and women’s football in the general sense is not a useful exercise. Just a brief analysis of the gap between the richest and poorest clubs in men’s football exposes it so. Other than the fact both entities are football clubs, what is the same about Real Madrid of Spain and Rèal Comboni of the Central African Republic? What are we to make of a comparison of Olympique Lyonnais Féminin (the most successful women’s football team in history and a commercially successful club and story), and Liberty Professionals F.C. men’s team of the Ghana Premier League (who do not always fill their 2,000 seat stadium)?

At paragraph II. 19 of the prior DRC decision to the above CAS case “the DRC deemed necessary to stress that the award of training compensation for the transfer of female players could possibly even hinder the further development of women’s football and render the previous efforts to have been made in vain”. A near identical claim to that made in the aforementioned FIFA Circular. This may be the case, but isn’t this just an extension of the “hindrance effect” I referred to in my previous blog regarding African players? Though not the exact same flavour of hindrance, as in the case of the African player I was largely referring to the mechanism hindering an individual from being able to transfer freely. In this instance the hindrance might be more macro in that, a growing women’s club may be set back if forced to pay compensation to the training clubs of the players they sign and in turn the women’s game suffers. In any case, the notion that training compensation might act as a deterrent or hindrance being exclusive to women’s football is absurd in theory, and even more so in my experience in practice.

The commercial differences are widely stated and perhaps overstated as reasons why signing clubs ought not or could not pay training compensation in women’s football. Whilst such a claim may at least contain a grain of truth, the commonly used argument overlooks the fact that the cost of developing and training players at grassroots level, that which is the subject of compensation, is often similar within nations and certainly across the genders. In the above CAS case, the only witness and the president of both Spartak Subotica men’s and women’s clubs, Mr Zoran Arcic, stated that the costs were almost identical for men and women and that they were paid approximately the same amounts of monthly salaries or scholarships.[8]

It has been argued that Futsal is comparable in its development with women’s football commercially, and that is why the principles of training compensation apply to neither. At paragraph II.16 of the DRC case prior to the appeal at CAS, it was averred that "the grade of professionalism reached in futsal also lies far behind the one of eleven-a-side men’s football insofar, according to the DRC, the situation may be considered as comparable to the one of the women’s game.” However it has been reported that some futsal players are signing contracts in excess of EUR1 million. How then could one conclude that training compensation regulations should apply to a small men’s club in South America or Africa, or any confederation for that matter, with entire budgets much smaller than individual players’ salaries in futsal or women’s football, when the evidence suggests the commerciality of futsal and the women’s game in size and opportunity trumps many men’s football entities.

In 2019, FIFA initiated a Club Solidarity Fund for the Women’s World Cup, which compensates or rewards clubs that trained and developed players from the age of 12 who participated in the World Cup.[9]  What is one to draw from this positive though peculiar commitment? Are only training clubs that had the fortune of one of their players going on to a world cup, worthy of being compensated? This appears inconsistent with far reaching societal effects training compensation was said to have and why it was deemed justified in the relevant cases, commentary and media. Might it be the clubs that are not able to produce players of a high enough quality to go to a World Cups that need the funding? Further, this fund will not trigger the same alleged incentives to train players that the training compensation mechanism apparently has.

An array of arguments and justifications made for a system that hinders free movement to a considerable degree, though incentivises training, was embraced in the Bernard[10] ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU. So how come women’s football should fall outside of this widely acknowledge necessity to encourage training according to FIFA? Nowhere in Bernard can one find a specific reference to men only when the importance of encouraging training is explored at length. Elsewhere in EU policy documents one finds instead the explicit recognition that “investment in and promotion of training of young talented sportsmen and sportswomen in proper conditions is crucial for a sustainable development of sport at all levels”.[11] Until the CAS award discussed above, FIFA had appeared to argue that such investment only eventuates if a training compensation system is introduced. Hence, this strange double standard between men and women’s football might deserve a much more elaborate explanation than the one put forward by FIFA.[12]

4. Conclusions

If it is the case that training women is the same or similar in cost as training men, and it is that actual cost that the training compensation mechanism is geared towards incentivising clubs to spend on youth and then be compensated for, then one might have difficulty in concluding the principles of training compensation should apply to one and not the other. If it is the case that there is vulnerability of women’s clubs and in turn of the women’s game if they had to pay training compensation, and there exists a myriad of men’s clubs in the same economic predicament, might that say something about the appropriateness of the mechanism more broadly?  Ought a player’s free movement be prioritised simultaneously with the financial viability of mid to low wealth clubs, which raises questions about the suitability of the mechanism across the genders, yet is significantly amplified by its apparent inappropriateness for women's football. 

The identification of the various flaws in the justifications for the regulations is to say nothing of whether the systems ought to exist. Rather, it is to highlight that two sets of contradictory rules are operating within the FIFA regulations and the arguments for the current state of affairs are philosophically and economically flawed.

It appears that the women’s football community has bought into this notion around transfer fees, etc. What is culturally happening then is that clubs are more likely to let a woman follow her dreams and not stand in the way in the form of demanding transfer fees (and cannot in the form of training compensation), as the concept of fees is a relatively foreign one in comparison to the men’s game. This can at first glance appear unfortunate that women’s clubs are not being compensated, but it could just as plausibly be uncovering that the important principles of free movement ought to trump a flawed redistributive system, and that in fact a system of redistribution in football could (and maybe should) be entirely divorced from the transfer system and the movement of players.

[1] FIFA Women’s Football Administrator Handbook 2020, 125.

[2] Ibid, 118.

[3] CAS 2016/A/4598 WFC Spartak Subotica v FC Barcelona at 54.

[4] Ibid at 49.

[5] Ibid at 55.

[6] Ibid at 55.

[7] Ibid at 104.

[8] CAS 2016/A/4598 WFC Spartak Subotica v FC Barcelona at 73.

[9] Women’s Football Administrator Handbook 2020, 151.

[10] Case C-325/08 Olympique Lyonnais SASP v Olivier Bernard and Newcastle UFC, ECLI: EU: C:2010:143

[11] Commission’s White Paper on Sport of 11 July 2007,6.

[12] Consider also at Annex IV to the Conclusions of the French Presidency from the European Council meeting in Nice, where it was said the “training policies for young sportsmen and women are the life blood of sport, national teams and top-level involvement in sport and must be encouraged”

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