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

Doyen’s Crusade Against FIFA’s TPO Ban: The Ruling of the Appeal Court of Brussels

Since last year, Doyen Sports, represented by Jean-Louis Dupont, embarked on a legal crusade against FIFA’s TPO ban. It has lodged a competition law complaint with the EU Commission and started court proceedings in France and Belgium. In a first decision on Doyen’s request for provisory measures, the Brussels Court of First Instance rejected the demands raised by Doyen and already refused to send a preliminary reference to the CJEU. Doyen, supported by the Belgium club Seraing, decided to appeal this decision to the Brussels Appeal Court, which rendered its final ruling on the question on 10 March 2016.[1] The decision (on file with us) is rather unspectacular and in line with the first instance judgment. This blog post will rehash the three interesting aspects of the case.

·      The jurisdiction of the Belgian courts

·      The admissibility of Doyen’s action

·      The conditions for awarding provisory measures More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – February 2016

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 eagerly awaited FIFA Presidential elections of 26 February provided for a “new face” at the pinnacle of international football for the first time since 1998. One could argue whether Infantino is the man capable of bringing about the reform FIFA so desperately needs or whether he is simply a younger version of his predecessor Blatter. More...


Book Review: Despina Mavromati & Matthieu Reeb, The Code of the Court of Arbitration for Sport—Commentary, Cases, and Materials (Wolters Kluwer International 2015). By Professor Matthew Mitten

Editor’s note: Professor Mitten is the Director of the National Sports Law Institute and the LL.M. in Sports Law program for foreign lawyers at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He currently teaches courses in Amateur Sports Law, Professional Sports Law, Sports Sponsorship Legal and Business Issues Workshop, and Torts. Professor Mitten is a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and has served on the ad hoc Division for the XXI Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

This Book Review is published at 26 Marquette Sports Law Review 247 (2015).


This comprehensive treatise of more than 700 pages on the Code of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) (the Code) is an excellent resource that is useful to a wide audience, including attorneys representing parties before the CAS, CAS arbitrators, and sports law professors and scholars, as well as international arbitration counsel, arbitrators, and scholars.  It also should be of interest to national court judges and their law clerks because it facilitates their understanding of the CAS arbitration process for resolving Olympic and international sports disputes and demonstrates that the Code provides procedural fairness and substantive justice to the parties, thereby justifying judicial recognition and enforcement of its awards.[1]  Because the Code has been in existence for more than twenty years—since November 22, 1994—and has been revised four times, this book provides an important and much needed historical perspective and overview that identifies and explains well-established principles of CAS case law and consistent practices of CAS arbitrators and the CAS Court Office.  Both authors formerly served as Counsel to the CAS and now serve as Head of Research and Mediation at CAS and CAS Secretary General, respectively, giving them the collective expertise and experience that makes them eminently well-qualified to research and write this book.More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2016

Editor’s note: Our first innovation for the year 2016 will be a monthly report compiling 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 world of professional sport has been making headlines for the wrong reasons in January. Football’s governing body FIFA is in such a complete governance and corruption mess that one wonders whether a new President (chosen on 26 February[1]) will solve anything. More recently, however, it is the turn of the athletics governing body, IAAF, to undergo “the walk of shame”. On 14 January the WADA Independent Commission released its second report into doping in international athletics. More...


International Sports Law in 2015: Our Reader

This post offers a basic literature review on publications on international and European sports law in 2015. It does not have the pretence of being complete (our readers are encouraged to add references and links in the comments under this blog), but aims at covering a relatively vast sample of the 2015 academic publications in the field (we have used the comprehensive catalogue of the Peace Palace Library as a baseline for this compilation). When possible we have added hyperlinks to the source.[1]

Have a good read. More...

Goodbye 2015! The Highlights of our International Sports Law Year

2015 was a good year for international sports law. It started early in January with the Pechstein ruling, THE defining sports law case of the year (and probably in years to come) and ended in an apotheosis with the decisions rendered by the FIFA Ethics Committee against Blatter and Platini. This blog will walk you through the important sports law developments of the year and make sure that you did not miss any. More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: In defence of the compatibility of FIFA’s TPO ban with EU law

FIFA’s Third-Party Ownership (TPO) ban entered into force on the 1 May 2015[1]. Since then, an academic and practitioner’s debate is raging over its compatibility with EU law, and in particular the EU Free Movement rights and competition rules. 

The European Commission, national courts (and probably in the end the Court of Justice of the EU) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will soon have to propose their interpretations of the impact of EU law on FIFA’s TPO ban. Advised by the world-famous Bosman lawyer, Jean-Louis Dupont, Doyen has decided to wage through a proxy (the Belgian club FC Seraing) a legal war against the ban. The first skirmishes have already taken place in front of the Brussels Court of first instance, which denied in July Seraing’s request for provisional measures. For its part, FIFA has already sanctioned the club for closing a TPO deal with Doyen, thus opening the way to an ultimate appeal to the CAS. In parallel, the Spanish and Portuguese leagues have lodged a complaint with the European Commission arguing that the FIFA ban is contrary to EU competition law. One academic has already published an assessment of the compatibility of the ban with EU law, and many practitioners have offered their take (see here and here for example). It is undeniable that the FIFA ban is per se restrictive of the economic freedoms of investors and can easily be constructed as a restriction on free competition. Yet, the key and core question under an EU law analysis, is not whether the ban is restrictive (any regulation inherently is), but whether it is proportionate, in other words justified. More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals – Sporting Lisbon’s rebellion in the Rojo case. By Antoine Duval and Oskar van Maren

In this blog we continue unpacking Doyen’s TPO deals based on the documents obtained via footballleaks. This time we focus on the battle between Doyen and Sporting over the Rojo case, which raises different legal issues as the FC Twente deals dealt with in our first blog.

 

I.              The context: The free-fall of Sporting

Sporting Lisbon, or Sporting Club de Portugal as the club is officially known, is a Portuguese club active in 44 different sports. Although the club has the legal status of Sociedade Anónima Desportiva, a specific form of public limited company, it also has over 130.000 club members, making it one of the biggest sports clubs in the world.

The professional football branch of Sporting is by far the most important and famous part of the club, and with its 19 league titles in total, it is a proud member of the big three cartel, with FC Porto and Benfica, dominating Portuguese football. Yet, it has not won a league title since 2002. More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: FC Twente's Game of Maltese Roulette. By Antoine Duval and Oskar van Maren

The first part of our “Unpacking Doyen’s TPO deals” blog series concerns the agreements signed between Doyen Sports and the Dutch football club FC Twente. In particular we focus on the so-called Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA) of 25 February 2014. Based on the ERPA we will be able to better assess how TPO works in practice. To do so, however, it is necessary to explore FC Twente’s rationale behind recourse to third-party funding. Thus, we will first provide a short introduction to the recent history of the club and its precarious financial situation. More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO deals - Introduction

The football world has been buzzing with Doyen’s name for a few years now. Yet, in practice very little is known about the way Doyen Sports (the Doyen entity involved in the football business) operates. The content of the contracts it signs with clubs was speculative, as they are subjected to strict confidentiality policies. Nonetheless, Doyen became a political (and public) scapegoat and is widely perceived as exemplifying the ‘TPOisation’ of football. This mythical status of Doyen is also entertained by the firm itself, which has multiplied the (until now failed) legal actions against FIFA’s TPO ban (on the ban see our blog symposium here) in a bid to attract attention and to publicly defend its business model. In short, it has become the mysterious flag bearer of TPO around the world. Thanks to a new anonymous group, inspired by the WikiLeaks model, we can now better assess how Doyen Sports truly functions. Since 5 November someone has been publishing different types of documents involving more or less directly the work of Doyen in football. These documents are all freely available at http://footballleaks.livejournal.com/. By doing so, the group has given us (legal scholars not involved directly in the trade) the opportunity to finally peruse the contractual structure of a TPO deal offered by Doyen and, as we purport to show in the coming weeks, to embark upon a journey into Doyen’s TPO-world. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 4: The New FIFA Clearing House – An improvement to FIFA’s training compensation and solidarity mechanisms? - 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. 4: The New FIFA Clearing House – An improvement to FIFA’s training compensation and solidarity mechanisms? - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi recently completed a Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and a Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) 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.

In September 2018, the Football Stakeholders Committee endorsed the idea of a Clearing House that was subsequently approved in October of the same year by the FIFA Council. A tender process commenced in July 2019 for bidders to propose jurisdiction, operation and establishment. Whilst many questions go unanswered, it is clear that the Clearing House will be aimed at closing the significant gap between what is owed and what is actually paid, in respect to training compensation and solidarity payments. The Clearing House will have other functions, perhaps in regard to agents’ fees and other transfer related business, though those other operations are for another blog. It will hence act as an intermediary of sorts, receiving funds from a signing and therefore owing club (“new” club) and then moving that money on to training clubs. Whilst separate to FIFA, to what extent is unclear.

I have landed at the position of it being important to include a section in this blog series on the soon to commence Clearing House, given it appears to be FIFA’s (perhaps main) attempt to improve the training compensation and solidarity mechanisms. As will be expanded upon below, I fear it will create more issues than it will solve. Perhaps one should remain patient and optimistic until it is in operation, and one should be charitable in that there will undoubtedly be teething problems. However, it is of course not just the function of the Clearing House that is of interest, but also what moving forward with the project of the Clearing House represents and leaves unaddressed, namely, the issues I have identified in this blog series.

1. Operation and Function of the Clearing House

The Clearing House will apparently work in the following ways:

When a player is registered as a professional for the first time, or, in the case an international transfer becomes known via TMS (Transfer Matching System), a Preliminary Player Passport will be created. This will contain the information acquired by FIFA from the relevant national associations and money owing will be calculated, per the FIFA redistributive mechanisms (enshrined in Article 20 and Annex 4 of the RSTP in the case of training compensation, and at Article 21 and Annex 5 in the case of the solidarity mechanism; see Blog 1 for a comprehensive overview). Aforesaid calculation will be undertaken by FIFA and not the Clearing House, and the Preliminary Passport will be reviewed, then given the green light or conversely disputed by the relevant member associations, rather than the training clubs supposedly due compensation. Payment directions, including bank accounts and official contact details of clubs and national associations connected to the redistribution will then be communicated by FIFA to the Clearing House. An invoice may then be issued to the new club and the obligation of that club is to pay accordingly, to the Clearing House. The Clearing House will then distribute to the training clubs, though its mandate extends to confirming and ensuring the amounts and details are correct, and the money makes it to its destination. FIFA will be made aware of which payment obligations have been fulfilled, and which have not. It is FIFA and not the Clearing House then who may sanction non-compliant clubs.

For a more comprehensive overview of the Clearing House, please see Toni Roca’s piece on the LawInSport website; FIFA’s Clearing House: The Future Of Solidarity Mechanism & Training Compensation.

2. Potential Positives & Success of a Kind

One can see the positive side of modernising, centralising and digitising the transfer system, so as to improve compliance and efficiency in accordance with the regulations as they stand and the payment obligations that arise from those regulations. If achieved, FIFA can say it has ticked that box and many stakeholders will be pleased.

As mentioned in the second blog of this series, “In 2018, it was reported that just USD$67.7m of the USD$351.5m due to be distributed in solidarity contributions, was actually paid. That is a mere 19.3% of what should have trickled down and perhaps just as alarming is that this percentage has been worsening”. If FIFA does in fact close the gap between what is owed and what is paid by way of the Clearing House, that would indeed be success of kind. Hundreds of millions of dollars might make it to training clubs, some of those undoubtedly do not need the compensation, but a large share of those that might benefit are the kind of club I have referred to throughout this series as nurseries and/or victims of the so-called muscle drain. If achieved, one would then have to take their hats off to FIFA, as a specific objective would have been accomplished.

Success in the way imagined above would just be solving one issue, however. I appreciate that hundreds of millions of dollars can go a long way in achieving some form of redistributive solidarity and the fruits of that redistribution could potentially be far-reaching. Though lingering behind this hypothetical success would of course be, what proceeding with the Clearing House ignores.

3. Cause for Concern

Whilst one has to applaud FIFA’s efforts towards improvements, there appears a myriad of questions left unanswered not only about the Clearing House but additionally about the redistributive mechanisms themselves. To proceed under the guise that all is well with these systems and that all that needs to be remedied is the gap between what is owed and what is actually paid, is to ignore much of what I have raised in this blog series.

The following excerpt from a relevant FIFA webpage captures the organisations’ position.

“The original objectives and principles of the transfer rules remain sound: the protection of contractual stability; encouragement of training; solidarity between the elite and grassroots; protection of minors; competitive balance; and ensuring the regularity of sporting competitions”. 

To expand, this kind of sentiment highlights FIFA’s intention to proceed without answering the fundamental questions, as though it is the position held by all that these systems are targeted at legitimate objectives and adequate to attain them. This is clearly not just a case of once the Clearing House is in operation, the systems will simply work perfectly. To put the practical critique aside momentarily, the establishment of the Clearing House is no response to a fundamental critique, the philosophical flaws in justification for the redistributive mechanisms and it appears the hindrance cause by the systems to players’ free movement will continue to be ignored. 

Additionally, and returning to a practical perspective, with the Clearing House relying on a Players Passport, the compliance or non-compliance of national associations to provide and maintain the correct information seems to be what the project hinges on. Historically, some national federations have not been so reliable in this sense, so this is likely to be another aspect that will need significant attention. There may be less disputes given the supposed streamlining of the payment process, but might this quickly be forgotten given the introduction of the Clearing House seems to simultaneously mean an increased administrative burden on FIFA and the national associations? Then let us not proceed as though there will be no disputes at all. We are yet to be made aware what the process will be in the case of a dispute over the amounts calculated, a dispute over the Preliminary Passport, or the expiry dates of outstanding payments, to point to a few issues that may arise. Afterall, the dynamics of a transfer will change with the introduction of the intermediary Clearing House and will take some getting used to. Furthermore, it looks as though the training clubs owed money will not be involved directly in the process of disputes, which is to be dealt with by the member associations. This is questionable, as not all clubs have good relationships with their national associations, nor are national associations necessarily more trustworthy or better positioned to handle a dispute. On occasions it has been found that the reason a training club has not received their training compensation or solidarity payment, was because it was being held by a national federation (see section 4. of Blog 2 for a personal anecdote of an instance as such).

4. Concluding remarks

This account of questions and concerns is not exhaustive, and yet I would emphasise the issues with training compensation and solidarity mechanism more generally. Could the establishment of the Clearing House in fact raise more questions and cause more problems than it solves, given it may just semi-solve one problem, that of the gap between what is owed and what is paid? It is reasonable to ponder whether the commencement of the Clearing House in fact houses, protects and reinforces FIFA’s commitment to systems that are ultimately flawed, when time and energy could be better spent completely overhauling them. As it stands, and if one finds themselves sympathetic to the issues I have identified throughout this series, one can be reasonably concerned that the establishment of the Clearing House prolongs the arrival of a preferable alternative system.

In my next and final blog of this series, I intend to consider alternative systems of redistribution. I will also take the opportunity to address the idea that football clubs are incentivised by training compensation and solidarity payments.

Comments are closed