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

The legality of surety undertakings in relation to minor football players: the Lokilo case. By Adriaan Wijckmans

Editor's note: Adriaan Wijckmans is an associate specialized in sports law at the Belgium law firm Altius.

In a recent judgment, the Brussels Court of First Instance confirmed the legality of a so-called surety undertaking, i.e. an agreement in which the parents of a minor playing football guarantee that their child will sign a professional contract with a football club as soon as the child reaches the legal age of majority.

This long-awaited ruling was hailed, on the one hand, by clubs as a much needed and eagerly anticipated confirmation of a long-standing practice in Belgian football[1] and, on the other hand, criticised by FIFPro, the international player’s trade union, in a scathing press release. More...



Kosovo at the Court of Arbitration for Sport – Constructing Statehood Through Sport? By Ryan Gauthier (Thompson Rivers University)

Editor's Note: Ryan is Assistant Professor at Thompson Rivers University, he defended his PhD at Erasmus University Rotterdam in December 2015. His dissertation examined human rights violations caused by international sporting events, and how international sporting organisations may be held accountable for these violations. 


“Serious sport…is war minus the shooting.” – George Orwell

 

In May 2016, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) admitted the Football Federation of Kosovo (Kosovo) as a member. The voting was close, with 28 member federations in favour, 24 opposed, and 2 whose votes were declared invalid. The practical outcome of this decision is that Kosovo would be able participate in the UEFA Euro championship, and that Kosovo teams could qualify for the UEFA Champions’ League or Europa League. More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – February 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. More...

FIFA's Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses in Qatar – Part II: The Zurich Court's Ruling - By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell comes from Slovakia and is currently an LL.M. student in Public International Law at Leiden University. He contributes also to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a part-time intern.

This is a follow-up contribution to my previous blog on FIFA's responsibility for human rights abuses in Qatar published last week. Whereas the previous part has examined the lawsuit filed with the Commercial Court of the Canton of Zurich ('Court') jointly by the Dutch trade union FNV, the Bangladeshi Free Trade Union Congress, the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation and the Bangladeshi citizen Nadim Shariful Alam ('Plaintiffs') against FIFA, this second part will focus on the Court's ruling dated 3 January 2017 ('Ruling').[1]  More...



FIFA's Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses in Qatar - Part I: The Claims Against FIFA - By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell comes from Slovakia and is currently an LL.M. student in Public International Law at Leiden University. He contributes also to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a part-time intern.

On 2 December 2010, the FIFA Executive Committee elected Qatar as host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup ('World Cup'), thereby triggering a wave of controversies which underlined, for the most part, the country's modest size, lack of football history, local climate, disproportionate costs or corruption that accompanied the selection procedure. Furthermore, opponents of the decision to award the World Cup to the tiny oil-rich Gulf country also emphasized the country's negative human rights record.

More than six years later, on 3 January 2017, the Commercial Court of the Canton of Zurich ('Court') dismissed the lawsuit filed against FIFA[1] jointly by the Dutch trade union FNV, the Bangladeshi Free Trade Union Congress, the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation and the Bangladeshi citizen Nadim Shariful Alam ('Plaintiffs').[2] The Plaintiffs requested the Court to find FIFA responsible for alleged human rights violations of migrant workers in connection with the World Cup in Qatar. Had the Plaintiffs' claims been upheld by the Court, such decision would have had far-reaching consequences on the fate of thousands of migrants, mostly from India, Nepal and Bangladesh, who are currently working on the construction of sporting facilities and other infrastructure associated with organization of the World Cup. More...

Doyen vs. Sporting II: The Bitter End of Sporting’s Fight at the Swiss Federal Supreme Court. By Shervine Nafissi

Editor’s Note: Shervine Nafissi (@SNafissi) is a Phd Student in sports law and teaching assistant in corporate law at University of Lausanne (Switzerland), Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC).

 

Introduction

The factual background

The dispute concerns a TPO contract entitled “Economic Rights Participation Agreement” (hereinafter “ERPA”) concluded in 2012 between Sporting Lisbon and the investment fund Doyen Sports. The Argentine player was transferred in 2012 by Spartak Moscow to Sporting Lisbon for a transfer fee of €4 million. Actually, Sporting only paid €1 million of the fee while Doyen Sports financed the remaining €3 million. In return, the investment company became the owner of 75% of the economic rights of the player.[1] Thus, in this specific case, the Portuguese club was interested in recruiting Marcos Rojo but was unable to pay the transfer fee required by Spartak Moscow, so that they required the assistance of Doyen Sports. The latter provided them with the necessary funds to pay part of the transfer fee in exchange of an interest on the economic rights of the player.

Given that the facts and circumstances leading to the dispute, as well as the decision of the CAS, were fully described by Antoine Duval in last week’s blog of Doyen vs. Sporting, this blog will solely focus on the decision of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court (“FSC”) following Sporting’s appeal against the CAS award. As a preliminary point, the role of the FSC in the appeal against CAS awards should be clarified.More...

Doyen vs. Sporting I: Doyen’s Pyrrhic Victory at the CAS

At the end of December 2015, the CAS decided on a very public contractual dispute between Sporting Clube de Portugal Futebol SAD (Sporting) and Doyen Sports Investments Limited (Doyen). The club was claiming that Doyen’s Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA) was invalid and refused to pay Doyen’s due share on the transfer of Marcos Rojo to Manchester United. The dispute made a lot of noise (see the excellent coverage by Tariq Panja from Bloomberg here, here and here) as it was the first TPO case heard by the CAS after FIFA’s ban. Yet, and it has to be clear from the outset, the case does not affect the legality of FIFA’s TPO ban; it concerned only the compatibility of Doyen’s ERPA with Swiss civil law. The hearing took place in June 2015, but the case was put under a new light by the football leaks revelations unveiled at the end of 2015 (see our blog from December 2015). Despite these revelations, the CAS award favoured Doyen, and was luckily for us quickly made available on the old football leaks website. This blog will provide a commentary of the CAS decision. It will be followed in the coming days by a commentary by Shervine Nafissi on the judgment, on appeal, by the Swiss Federal Tribunal. More...

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...


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