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

Illegally obtained evidence in match-fixing cases: The Turkish perspective - By Oytun Azkanar

Editor’s Note: Oytun Azkanar holds an LLB degree from Anadolu University in Turkey and an LLM degree from the University of Melbourne. He is currently studying Sports Management at the Anadolu University.

 

Introduction

On 19 October 2017, the Turkish Professional Football Disciplinary Committee (Disciplinary Committee) rendered an extraordinary decision regarding the fixing of the game between Manisaspor and Şanlıurfaspor played on 14 May 2017. The case concerned an alleged match-fixing agreement between Elyasa Süme (former Gaziantepspor player), İsmail Haktan Odabaşı and Gökhan Sazdağı (Manisaspor players). The Disciplinary Committee acknowledged that the evidence relevant for proving the match-fixing allegations was obtained illegally and therefore inadmissible, and the remaining evidence was not sufficient to establish that the game was fixed. Before discussing the allegations, it is important to note that the decision is not only significant for Turkish football but is also crucial to the distinction between disciplinary and criminal proceedings in sports. More...

Report from the first ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference - 26-27 October at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

Close to 100 participants from 37 different countries attended the first ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference that took place on 26-27 October 2017 in The Hague. The two-day programme featured panels on the FIFA transfer system, the labour rights and relations in sport, the protection of human rights in sport, EU law and sport, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and the world anti-doping system. On top of that, a number of keynote speakers presented their views on contemporary topics and challenges in international sports law. This report provides a brief summary of the conference for both those who could not come and those who participated and would like to relive their time spent at the T.M.C. Asser Institute.More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – October 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...

Multi-Club Ownership in European Football – Part II: The Concept of Decisive Influence in the Red Bull Case – By Tomáš Grell

 

Introduction 

The first part of this two-part blog on multi-club ownership in European football outlined the circumstances leading to the adoption of the initial rule(s) aimed at ensuring the integrity of the UEFA club competitions (Original Rule) and retraced the early existence of such rule(s), focusing primarily on the complaints brought before the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the European Commission by the English company ENIC plc. This second part will, in turn, introduce the relevant rule as it is currently enshrined in Article 5 of the UCL Regulations 2015-18 Cycle, 2017/18 Season (Current Rule). It will then explore how the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) interpreted and applied the Current Rule in the Red Bull case, before drawing some concluding remarks.  More...

Multi-Club Ownership in European Football – Part I: General Introduction and the ENIC Saga – 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.

 

Introduction

On 13 September 2017, more than 40,000 people witnessed the successful debut of the football club RasenBallsport Leipzig (RB Leipzig) in the UEFA Champions League (UCL) against AS Monaco. In the eyes of many supporters of the German club, the mere fact of being able to participate in the UEFA's flagship club competition was probably more important than the result of the game itself. This is because, on the pitch, RB Leipzig secured their place in the 2017/18 UCL group stage already on 6 May 2017 after an away win against Hertha Berlin. However, it was not until 16 June 2017 that the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) officially allowed RB Leipzig to participate in the 2017/18 UCL alongside its sister club, Austrian giants FC Red Bull Salzburg (RB Salzburg).[1] As is well known, both clubs have (had) ownership links to the beverage company Red Bull GmbH (Red Bull), and therefore it came as no surprise that the idea of two commonly owned clubs participating in the same UCL season raised concerns with respect to the competition's integrity. More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – September 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 

2024 and 2028 Olympic Games to be held in Paris and Los Angeles respectively

On 13 September 2017, the Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) held in Lima, Peru, elected Paris and Los Angeles as host cities of the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games respectively. On this occasion, the IOC President Thomas Bach said that ''this historic double allocation is a 'win-win-win' situation for the city of Paris, the city of Los Angeles and the IOC''. The idea of a tripartite agreement whereby two editions of the Olympic Games would be awarded at the same time was presented by a working group of the IOC Vice-Presidents established in March 2017. Both Paris and Los Angeles have pledged to make the Olympic Games cost-efficient, in particular through the use of a record-breaking number of existing and temporary facilities. In addition to economic aspects, it will be worthwhile to keep an eye on how both cities will address human rights and other similar concerns that may arise in the run-up to the Olympic Games. More...

The limits to multiple representation by football intermediaries under FIFA rules and Swiss Law - By Josep F. Vandellos Alamilla

Editor’s note: Josep F. Vandellos Alamilla is an international sports lawyer and academic based in Valencia (Spain) and a member of the Editorial Board of the publication Football Legal. Since 2017 he is the Director of  the Global Master in Sports Management and Legal Skills FC Barcelona – ISDE.

I think we would all agree that the reputation of players’ agents, nowadays called intermediaries, has never been a good one for plenty of reasons. But the truth is their presence in the football industry is much needed and probably most of the transfers would never take place if these outcast members of the self-proclaimed football family were not there to ensure a fluid and smooth communication between all parties involved.

For us, sports lawyers, intermediaries are also important clients as they often need our advice to structure the deals in which they take part. One of the most recurrent situations faced by intermediaries and agents operating off-the-radar (i.e. not registered in any football association member of FIFA) is the risk of entering in a so-called multiparty or dual representation and the potential risks associated with such a situation.

The representation of the interests of multiple parties in football intermediation can take place for instance when the agent represents the selling club, the buying club and/or the player in the same transfer, or when the agent is remunerated by multiple parties, and in general when the agent incurs the risk of jeopardizing the trust deposited upon him/her by the principal. The situations are multiple and can manifest in different manners.

This article will briefly outline the regulatory framework regarding multiparty representation applicable to registered intermediaries. It will then focus on provisions of Swiss law and the identification of the limits of dual representation in the light of the CAS jurisprudence and some relevant decisions of the Swiss Federal Tribunal.More...



The Evolution of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Rules – Part 3: Past reforms and uncertain future. By Christopher Flanagan

Part Two of this series looked at the legal challenges FFP has faced in the five years since the controversial ‘break even’ requirements were incorporated. Those challenges to FFP’s legality have been ineffective in defeating the rules altogether; however, there have been iterative changes during FFP’s lifetime. Those changes are marked by greater procedural sophistication, and a move towards the liberalisation of equity input by owners in certain circumstances. In light of recent statements from UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin, it is possible that the financial regulation of European football will be subject to yet further change. More...

The Evolution of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Rules – Part 2: The Legal Challenges. By Christopher Flanagan

The first part of this series looked at the legal framework in which FFP sits, concluding that FFP occupied a ‘marginal’ legal position – perhaps legal, perhaps not. Given the significant financial interests in European football – UEFA’s figures suggest aggregate revenue of nearly €17 billion as at clubs’ 2015 accounts – and the close correlation between clubs’ spending on wages and their success on the field,[1] a legal challenge to the legality of FFP’s ‘break even’ requirement (the Break Even Requirement), which restricts a particular means of spending, was perhaps inevitable.

And so it followed.

Challenges to the legality of the Break Even Requirement have been brought by football agent Daniel Striani, through various organs of justice of the European Union and through the Belgian courts; and by Galatasaray in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. As an interesting footnote, both Striani and Galatasaray were advised by “avocat superstar” Jean-Louis Dupont, the lawyer who acted in several of sports law’s most famous cases, including the seminal Bosman case. Dupont has been a vocal critic of FFP’s legality since its inception. More...





The Evolution of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Rules – Part 1: Background and EU Law. By Christopher Flanagan

Editor's Note: Christopher is an editor of the Asser International Sports Law Blog. His research interests cover a spectrum of sports law topics, with a focus on financial regulatory disputes, particularly in professional football, a topic on which he has regularly lectured at the University of the West of England.

 

It is five years since the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) formally introduced ‘Financial Fair Play’ (FFP) into European football through its Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, Edition 2012. With FFP having now been in place for a number of years, we are in a position to analyse its effect, its legality, and how the rules have altered over the last half decade in response to legal challenges and changing policy priorities. This article is split into three parts: The first will look at the background, context and law applicable to FFP; Part Two will look at the legal challenges FFP has faced; and Part Three will look at how FFP has iteratively changed, considering its normative impact, and the future of the rules. More...


Asser International Sports Law Blog | State Aid and Sport: does anyone really care about rugby? By Beverley Williamson

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

State Aid and Sport: does anyone really care about rugby? By Beverley Williamson

There has been a lot of Commission interest in potential state aid to professional football clubs in various Member States.  The huge sums of money involved are arguably an important factor in this interest and conversely, is perhaps the reason why state aid in rugby union is not such a concern. But whilst the sums of money may pale into comparison to those of professional football, the implications for the sport are potentially no less serious.

At the end of the 2012/2013 season, Biarritz Olympique (Biarritz) were relegated from the elite of French Rugby Union, the Top 14 to the Pro D2.  By the skin of their teeth, and as a result of an injection of cash from the local council (which amounted to 400,000€), they were spared administrative relegation to the amateur league below, the Fédérale 1, which would have occurred as a result of the financial state of the club. Article 8 of the Statuts et Règlements Générqaux (the rules that govern professional rugby) states that if it is determined by the DNACG (Direction Nationale d’Aide et de Contrôl de Gestion; the organisation charged with overseeing the administrative, financial and legal aspects of rugby in France) that a professional team is unable to satisfy its projected financial commitments, it will be relegated to the amateur leagues. Biarritz have been one of the great Top 14 clubs, having won the league in 2005 and 2006, having reached the Heineken Cup final in 2010 and won the smaller of the European competitions, the Challenge Cup in 2012 and they look set to make their return to the Top 14 next year, something that would not have been possible had the local council not intervened, an intervention that was permitted by the DNACG.

Article 107 TFEU provides for a very inclusive definition of state aid, declaring as incompatible with the internal market any aid whatsoever, granted by the State or funded with state resources, which distorts or threatens to distort competition by favouring certain undertakings in so far as it affects trade between Member States. There is a four part test for determining whether or not state aid has been granted; (i) did the money come from state resources; (ii) was it given to an undertaking; (iii) did that money confer selective advantage; and (iv)did it have the potential to distort competition. 

The definition of state resources in this context is fairly wide, and covers money provided by local government and so is easily satisfied in this case. The European jurisprudence is clear that a sporting club or association can be considered to be an undertaking within the meaning of the Treaty provisions in so far as its economic activity is concerned; again, this is easily satisfied in this instance. Given the lack of information available as to the nature of Biarritz’s financial concerns or the terms of the grant, it is difficult to determine whether selective advantage has been conferred by the grant. Selective advantage, of this particular type, is conferred when the undertaking could not have obtained that economic advantage under normal market conditions (market economy operator principle), so had Biarritz been unable to obtain a grant on similar terms to that which was provided by the Council, selective advantage will have been obtained. Finally, the aid has to have the potential to distort competition, and idea that is explored below alongside its affect upon trade between Member States.  

The Pro D2 is an entirely domestic league, it has no international fixtures whatsoever, so potentially is a purely domestic matter. In Stevenage Borough Football Club v The Football League (1996) Times Law Review, 6 July, it was deemed too remote that Stevenage would be able to compete for a place in European competitions and so there was no effect on trade between Member States in that case. However, the Commission have been clear that trade between Member States may be affected by aid given to an undertaking that is not itself, trading across borders (Case C-102/87 France v Commission [1988] ECR 4067, para.19) and indeed, have recently opened an investigation into a second division football team in the Netherlands. The Stevenage case can be contrasted with Biarritz where, despite a rocky start to the season, they have now climbed the table and sit second place. They have a serious chance of being promoted back into the Top 14, or at the very least, occupying one of the coveted promotion playoffs spots, thereby altering who could potentially win promotion (in France two teams go up and two teams come down).  Every team in the Top 14 competes in one of two European competitions: the European Championship Cup or the European Challenge Cup.  The potential effect on trade between Member States starts therefore, to become more evident. The concept of ‘trade between Member States’ has traditionally been given a wide interpretation and can be said to include situations which affect the competitive structure of the market, within its scope. The Top 14 has fixtures with other European countries, including England, Ireland and Italy.  Who enters (and who leaves) therefore will affect the competitive structure of those international fixtures. Article 107 however, states that aid is only prohibited ‘in so far as it’ has an effect on trade between Member States, rather than in Article 101 or 102 which rely on ‘may’ as a limiting concept. The jurisprudence is clear that it is the effect of the aid, rather than the intent or form of the aid which is determinative.  A full market analysis of the effect on trade, as occurs under Article 101 and 12, is not required under Article 107, although justification for the finding of a distortion of competition, or threatened distortion, would be necessary (Case 730/79 Philip Morris Holland BV v Commission, [1980] ECR 2671). In the case of Biarritz, the provision of the 400,000€ saved the team from relegation to the Fédéral 1 and therefore put them in a position in which they could immediately fight for promotion back into the Top 14 (which they look likely to achieve). It does not appear therefore, that an investigation would stumble at this stage of its inquiry.   

Due to the inclusive nature of the Article 107 prohibition, many investigations turn on whether they satisfy the exemption criteria of 107(3). The one most typically utilised in the case of investigations of professional football clubs in 107(3)(c) which states that aid used to facilitate the development of certain economic areas or activities may not be incompatible with the internal market, or the ‘failing firm’  defence. The local mayor hinted at the economic implications for the town itself of the teams fall from professionalism, as the primary motive for providing the aid. There is however, no (public) suggestion that the club would have folded without the injection of cash, merely that it would have had to compete in the amateur Fédérale 1. The definition of a failing firm is necessarily flexible. Nevertheless, it is a requirement when considering rescue aid (as opposed to restructuring aid as appears to be the case here) that the difficulties faced by the firm be short/medium term difficulties that are dependent upon short term government help for their resolution. As Biarritz have performed so well this season, it seems that there is an argument to be made that their difficulties were indeed short-term in nature, and have been resolved by the injection of cash provided by the local council. The aid itself would also have to be a ‘one time, last time’ injection of financial help, something that is not entirely clear from the local media reports. Further, the question of whether demotion to an amateur league is comparable to the outright failure of a firm would have to be addressed. Fellow former Top 14 great and rival, Union Sportive Montalbanaise (Montauban) faced administrative relegation in 2010. The local council there did not provide the club with the money required to prevent their fall. The club filed for bankruptcy after being unable to prove to the DNACG that they would be able to address the rumoured 1.7 million Euro shortfall in their budget for that season. After 4 years in the amateur league they succeeded in winning promotion back into the Pro D 2 for the 2014/2015 season, where they currently sit mid-table. Using this as an example, and provided that the criteria laid out in 3.1.1. of the Community Guidelines on State Aid for Rescuing and Restructuring Firms in Difficulty are satisfied, it seems there is at least a basis for defending the council loan. 

However, as there is very little by the way of detailed information available as to the nature of the financial difficulties of the club or the terms of the financial assistance provided by the Council, it is impossible to be determinative as to its standing under Article 107. On the face of it though, the case of Biarritz looks at least worthy of some Commission interest and could well be an example of unlawful state aid, aid that looks likely to have enabled Biarritz re-admittance to the Top 14, the ‘richest league in the world’. 400,000€ may seem like peanuts when compared with the figures the Commission is looking at in respect of professional football, but in this case it seems, paying peanuts gets you a lot more than monkeys. 

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