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

Why we should stop focusing on Caster Semenya by Marjolaine Viret (University of Neuchâtel)

Editor's Note:  Marjolaine is an attorney admitted to the Geneva bar (Switzerland) who specialises in sports and life sciences.  She currently participates as a scientific collaborator at the University of Neuchâtel on a research project to produce the first article-by-article legal commentary of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code.

Over the past days, we have been flooded by media reports discussing the “Caster Semenya-case”, reports rapidly relayed in social networks. Since the debate has a distinct legal component and since almost every report appears to draw significantly from the legal background, I granted myself permission – as compensation so to speak - to publish a somewhat more personal, less legal, post than I usually would.

Let me make one thing clear from the outset – I am still ‘agnostic’ about the question of how to solve the issues surrounding the male versus female divide in sports. Each time I have been asked to write or speak on the subject, I have tried to stick to describing the legal situation and its implications. I do not have the miracle solution as to how to handle this infinitely complex issue. And I am not sure anyone can claim to hold that solution at this point. Like everyone, I am doing my research and trying to be humble enough to stay within the realm of my competences. More...

Sporting nationality and the Olympic Games: selected issues by Yann Hafner (University of Neuchâtel)

Editor’s note: Yann Hafner is a Phd researcher at the University of Neuchâtel specialized in sports and nationality issues. He is also Legal Affairs Manager at the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball. Yann is an editor of the ASSER International Sports Law Blog and has previously published on the blog on nationality conundrums at the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil (see here).  

This contribution aims to decipher the relationship between sporting nationality and the Olympic Games. To this end, the author will first define sporting nationality and discuss athletes’ eligibility in national team in the context of the Olympic Games. Then, selected issues in relation with sporting nationality and the Olympic Games (with an emphasis on issues related to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games) will be investigated. More...

Regulating the human body in sports: Lessons learned from the Dutee Chand case - by Dr Marjolaine Viret & Emily Wisnosky

Editor's note: Marjolaine Viret and Emily Wisnosky are both editors of the ASSER International Sports Law Blog specialized in anti-doping matters, they are also involved in the World Anti-Doping Commentary project funded by the Swiss National Science Fund.


A remarkable aspect of the run-up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games was the stream of negative media reports portraying broad-scale public mistrust in sport, with the most prominent topic being the doping scandals in athletics and questions surrounding the participation of Russia.  

A different controversy, but one also directed at the credibility of sports, has exposed a few female Olympians to repeated, and at times rather intrusive, media scrutiny. In June 2016, it was reported that Indian track-and-field athlete Dutee Chand had qualified for the Rio Olympic Games by breaking the national record, thus to become the first Indian athlete to run the 100m at the Olympics since 1980. The attention that Dutee Chand’s qualification attracted within international media, however, was not related only to her outstanding results. It came as part of a medical, ethical and legal controversy that has existed for many years relating to ‘policing’ the male versus female divide in sports. Another athlete who has found herself in the midst of this controversy is South African runner Semenya Caster, whose participation in the Olympics has been the object of much conjecture.

The divide between male and female athletes forms the core of most sports’ competition rules, including athletics. The justification for this basic divide has rarely been questioned as such, but has been a matter for debate when it comes to handling atypical situations on both sides of the ‘dividing line’ ­ such as ‘transgender’ or ‘intersex’ athletes. A category of athletes that has, especially, been viewed as a challenge to the divide is composed of female athletes affected by ‘hyperandrogenism’, a health condition that results in naturally elevated androgen levels, including testosterone levels.

On 24 July 2015, a CAS panel rendered a decision involving Dutee Chand (“Dutee Chand” or “the Athlete”) that has fuelled the ongoing debate about the policies regulating hyperandrogenism in sport. Much has been reported in the media about the case: controversial issues include whether the CAS was the appropriate forum to assess these questions; whether the decision was appropriate, both on the merits and on the procedure; and what the consequences of the CAS award would be, for the parties, for athletics and for the sporting community at large.

Much like the current crisis surrounding doping in sports, the public attention on women with (proven or suspected) hyperandrogenism is driven by a concern that an athlete’s physiology – natural or artificially induced ­ could distort competition, destroying the ‘level playing field’ that supports the Olympic ideal. Both topics are also often brought back to the goal of protecting an athlete’s health. Parallels are further found in the strong reactions both topics evoke, and the steps taken by the regulating authorities to convince the public that everything in their power is being done to preserve a level playing field.

A less obvious but equally important point of comparison can be found in the issues both topics raise concerning the legal validity of decisions made by sports organizations, especially in a science-related context. This blog focuses on those more ‘legal’ aspects, through the prism of the decision of the CAS in the Dutee Chand matter and its legal implications. After touching briefly on the background of the case, we will comment on two aspects of the Chand award with respect to challenges in regulating hyperandrogenism in sport within the confines of the law: First from the viewpoint of a CAS panel called upon to evaluate the validity of a set of regulations, and second from the viewpoint of the sports organizations seeking to both adequately protect fairness in sport and to provide a legally valid (and effective) regulatory solution.[1]


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – July 2016 - By Marine Montejo

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 have overlooked. 

The Headlines

The McLaren Report on Russia’s State Doping System

It is difficult not to start this monthly report without referring to the never-ending Russian doping investigation that is shaking the sporting world. On 18 July, the independent investigation on Sochi 2014 winter Olympics led by Prof. McLaren, a Canadian law professor, and requested by the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”), released its report. It confirmed evidence of widespread, State-sponsored doping in Russian sports and called for a full ban on the country from the next Rio Olympics. In response to the report, the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) vowed to take the “toughest sanctions available”. However, and despite the race against time in the run-up to Rio 2016, the IOC delayed its decision for several days amid a WADA statement and several press articles calling for a ban of Russia from Rio Olympics. Meanwhile, it did open an investigation against Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, the head official who allegedly supervised the overall doping cover up and explored all possible legal actions against Russia. On 21 July, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) rejected the appeal of the Russian Olympic Committee and 68 Russian athletes against the International Association of Athletics Federations (“IAAF”) decisions to suspend All Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF) from IAAF membership given the evidence of a state-sponsored doping system. As a consequence, Russian track and field athletes were also banned from Rio 2016 Olympics. With the IAAF welcoming this decision, one could think that nothing was standing in the way of a full Olympic ban for all Russian athletes. While some Russian athletes announced that they would appeal the CAS award to the Swiss Federal Court. Yelena Isinbayeva, the banned pole vault champion, even took it a step further by claiming that she would challenge the IAAF decision as far as the European Court of Human Rights. Yet, it is very improbable that any of these challenges be decided in time for the Rio Games.More...

Brexit and EU law: Beyond the Premier League (Part 2). By Marine Montejo

Editor's note: Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre. 

Part 2. EU competition law and sports funding

The first analysed impact of Brexit on sport was the one regarding EU internal market rules and free movement. However, all sport areas that are of interest to the European Union will be impacted by the result of the future Brexit negotiations. This second part of the blog will focus on EU competition law and the media sector as well as direct funding opportunities keeping in mind that if the UK reaches for an EEA type agreement competition law and state aid rules will remain applicable as much as the funding programs.  More...

With or without them? Russia’s state doping system and the Olympic fate of Russian athletes. By Antoine Duval, Kester Mekenkamp and Oskar van Maren

On Monday 18 July 2016, Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren presented the Independent Person Report to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), regarding the alleged Russian doping program surrounding the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The report was expected to seriously threaten the participation of Russian Athletes to the rapidly approaching Rio Games, starting on 5 August. In the weekend prior to the report’s publishing, Reuters obtained a leaked letter drafted by the CEO’s of the US and Canadian anti-doping agencies, which according to the New York Times was backed by “antidoping officials from at least 10 nations— including those in the United States, Germany, Spain, Japan, Switzerland and Canada — and 20 athlete groups”, urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban all Russian athletes from the upcoming Olympics.



Brexit and EU law: Beyond the Premier League (Part 1). By Marine Montejo

Editor's note: Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

The result of the Brexit referendum on 23 June 2016 took the European Union (almost) by surprise. A lot has been said and written about the impact of the United Kingdom leaving the EU. As in all other areas, the British sport sector will also face the effects of the modification of the relationship between the EU and its (probable) former Member State, the UK. It is nearly impossible to foresee all consequences as the UK has not even triggered article 50 TFEU yet to officially start the exit negotiations. However, as the UK position toward the EU will change in any case, this two-part blog aims to examine the main practical implications of such an exit for the UK, but also for the EU, in relation to the actual application of EU law in sport and the EU sport policy.

Unless stated otherwise, the use of the terms Brexit in this blog should be understood as a complete exit of the UK from the European Union. This blog focus in particular on this worst case scenario and its consequences for UK sport. However, it is highly improbable that the future Brexit negotiations with the EU will end up without some kind of special agreement between the two parties the first of which being an EEA type of agreement with full access to the internal market and applicability of EU law. 

The first part of this blog will examined the consequences for UK sport in terms of access to the EU internal market and the applicability of free movement principles. The second part is focused on specific impacts with regard of others domain of EU law for professional and grassroots UK sport.  More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – June 2016. By Kester Mekenkamp

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

What a month June turned out to be. Waking up the morning after the 23rd, the results of the UK referendum on EU membership were final. The words of Mark Twain: “Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today”, might provide the most apt description of the mood felt at the time.[1] The Leave campaign’s narrow victory has brought along tremendous economic, political and legal uncertainties for both the UK and the (other) Member States. To give but one example, with regard to the implications of Brexit on Europe’s most profiting football league, we recommend an older blog by Daniel Geey and Jonny Madill. More...

The EU State aid and sport saga: The Showdown

It’s been a long wait, but they’re finally here! On Monday, the European Commission released its decisions regarding State aid to seven Spanish professional football clubs (Real Madrid on two occasions) and five Dutch professional football clubs. The decisions mark the end of the formal investigations, which were opened in 2013. The Commission decided as follows: no State aid to PSV Eindhoven (1); compatible aid to the Dutch clubs FC Den Bosch, MVV Maastricht, NEC Nijmegen and Willem II (2); and incompatible aid granted to the Spanish football clubs Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Valencia CF, Athletic Bilbao, Atlético Osasuna, Elche and Hércules (3). 

The recovery decisions in particular are truly historic. The rules on State aid have existed since the foundation of the European Economic Community in 1958, but it is the very first time that professional football clubs have been ordered to repay aid received from (local) public authorities.[1] In a way, these decisions complete a development set in motion with the Walrave and Koch ruling of 1974, where the CJEU held that professional sporting activity, and therefore also football, is subject to EU law. The landmark Bosman case of 1995 proved to be of great significance as regards free movement of (professional) athletes and the Meca-Medina case of 2006 settled that EU competition rules were equally applicable to the regulatory activity of sport. The fact that the first ever State aid recovery decision concerns major clubs like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Valencia, give the decisions extra bite. Therefore, this blog post will focus primarily on the negative/recovery decisions[2], their consequences and the legal remedies available to the parties involved.[3] More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – May 2016. By Marine Montejo

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

Challenged membership put a lot of emphasis on football federations in May. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) has rendered an award, on 27 April 2016, ordering the FIFA Council to submit the application of the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) for FIFA membership to the FIFA Congress (the body authorised to admit new members to FIFA). The GFA has sought since 1999 to become a member of UEFA and FIFA. In May 2013, it became a member of the UEFA and went on to seek membership of FIFA. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | The entitlement to Training Compensation of “previous” clubs under EU Competition Law. By Josep F. Vandellos Alamilla

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 entitlement to Training Compensation of “previous” clubs under EU Competition Law. By Josep F. Vandellos Alamilla

Editor’s note: Josep F. Vandellos is an international sports lawyer associated to RH&C (Spain). He is also a member of the Editorial Board of the publication Football Legal and a guest lecturer in the ISDE-FC Barcelona Masters’ Degree in Sports Management and Legal Skills.

Article 6 of Annexe IV (Training compensation) of the FIFA-RSTP (Ed. 2016) contains the so-called “Special Provisions for the EU/EEA” applicable to players moving from one association to another inside the territory of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA).
The provisions regarding training compensation result from the understanding reached between FIFA and UEFA with the European Union in March 2001[1], and subsequent modifications introduced in the FIFA-RSTP revised version of 2005 to ensure the compatibility of the transfer system with EU law.[2]
This blog will focus on the exception contained in article 6(3) Annexe IV of the FIFA-RSTP. According to this article, when “the former club” fails to offer a contract to the player, it loses its right to claim training compensation from the players’ new club, unless it can justify that it is entitled to such compensation. Instead, the right of “previous clubs” to training compensation is fully preserved irrespective of their behaviour with the player.[3] From a legal standpoint, such discrimination between the “former club” and the “previous clubs” raises some questions that I will try to address in this paper.
For that purpose, the author will depart from the restrictive interpretation of article 6(3) adopted by the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) and continue with a substantive assessment of the rule, firstly by looking at its purposive aim and secondly, by evidencing the potential negative impact on players’ mobility and its inherent anticompetitive effects. 

A. Article 6(3) Annexe IV of the FIFA-RSTP (Ed. 2016)

Article 6(3) of the FIFA-RSTP reads as follows: “3. If the former club does not offer the player a contract, no training compensation is payable unless the former club can justify that it is entitled to such compensation. The former club must offer the player a contract in writing via registered post at least 60 days before the expiry of his current contract. Such an offer shall furthermore be at least of an equivalent value to the current contract. This provision is without prejudice to the right to training compensation of the player’s previous club(s).”[4]
In summary, as a general rule, the former club of the player loses its right to claim training compensation if it fails to offer the player a contract in the terms described by the article, or cannot demonstrate a legitimate interest.
So far, the DRC has been consistent in interpreting that the obligation to offer the player a contract lies exclusively with the former club of the player as opposed to the previous clubs. In other words, the previous club is entitled to ask for training compensation when the player signs the first professional contract[5] no matter whether they offered the player a contract or showed bona fide interest in retaining him.
At first glance, this rigid interpretation might appear controversial in light of the more pragmatic approach towards the formal requirements of article 6(3) adopted in the CAS award 2009/A/1757 between MTK Budapest v. FC Internazionale Milano SpA[6]. In this case, in order to conclude that MTK Budapest was still entitled to request training compensation despite not having offered the player a contract in the terms indicated in the regulation, the adjudicating Panel emphasized that “[the] aims of sporting justice shall not be defeated by an overly formalistic interpretation of the FIFA Regulations which would deviate from their original intended purpose”.[7]
The DRC has thus systematically admitted claims of previous clubs against clubs that have registered professional players for the first time (e.g. DRC decision of 17 May 2016[8]) without delving into whether such clubs are indeed entitled to training compensation or not.
In an attempt to defy such dogmatic approach to the issue, I question whether the different references made in Annexe IV of the FIFA RSTP to the “former club[9] could and should instead be interpreted more extensively, so as to include all former clubs (thus including previous clubs) where a player has been registered. Firstly, by having a look at the systematic context of the rule and its purposive interpretation[10], and secondly, by taking into consideration the potential competitive disadvantages between European clubs resulting from the regulation.
As to the rationale of the rule, the FIFA DRC jurisprudence (vid. e.g. DRC Decision of 27 April 2006 ref. no. 461185[11]) indicates that “the spirit of and purpose of article 6 para 3 of Annexe 4 of the RSTP, 2016 edition, is to penalise clubs which are obviously not interested in the players’ services as a professional, no matter if the club would have to offer the player an employment contract for the first time or a renewal due to the expiry of an already existing contract.”[12]
It appears therefore, contrary to the spirit of the rule that a club that has shown no interest in keeping the player as a professional, a roster or for its academy, can at a later stage request to be rewarded for the training of that player, irrespective of whether it was the former club, strictly speaking, or the former former club, so to speak (i.e. the previous club in the RSTP exact wording).
One could easily argue at this point, and I would subscribe to it, that at very young ages it is either legally prohibited for training clubs to offer a contract, or unreasonable to require clubs to offer contracts to all its players in order to safeguard their potential right to training compensation.  This was highlighted by the CAS Panel in the CAS award 2006/A/1152 ADO Den Haag v. Newcastle United FC[13] which was the appeal against the above cited DRC Decision of 27 April 2006.
However, nothing prevents training clubs to at least show a genuine interest in retaining the player as an amateur by formally offering him to continue training with them or even through a simple positive evaluation of the player. In order to alleviate the unreasonable burden that such obligation would suppose on training clubs, a solution could be to require the genuine interest at least, for players as from the season of their 16th birthday. This would coincide with the age when in most EU countries players are legally allowed to sign employment contracts, and form a strict sportive perspective, the age from when training compensation is calculated in full according to article 5(3) of Annexe IV.
The final reference in article 6(3) (i.e. “This provision is without prejudice to the right to training compensation of the players’ previous club(s)”) helps to ground this interpretation. It is difficult to justify from a legal standpoint, why previous clubs should be exempted (as they, in fact, are) from observing the same rules and obligations as the former clubs, especially considering the principle of free movement of workers in the EU. The right to claim training compensation is, being redundant, “without prejudice to the right (…) of the players’ previous club(s)”. Previous clubs should therefore, demonstrate as well their entitlement to training compensation by evidencing a genuine interest in the player, such as former clubs do. 
To illustrate the situation, consider the case were an EU football club omits to offer one of its players (e.g. 18 years old) a professional contract in the terms of article 6(3) of Annexe IV, and that player further registers as an amateur with another EU club for one season. That second club also fails to offer the player (now 19 years old) a professional contract. After two seasons as an amateur, the player, finally signs a professional contract with a third EU club at the age of 20 years. The current interpretation of the exception leads to conclude that the first club, which failed to offer the player a professional contract, perhaps because he was simply not sufficiently interesting to retain, would now be reinstated in the right to claim training compensation, while the former club, under identical circumstances and reasons would be deprived from it.
Within those parameters, de lege ferenda the exception of article 6(3) could reasonably be extended to those previous clubs that failed to show the so-called bona fide interest. This way, by failing to show real interest in keeping a player, the previous clubs would be also prevented from asking training compensation upon the first registration of the player as a professional, to the same extend as the former club when it fails to offer the player a contract, in the terms indicated by the exception.
Turning now the attention, to EU law, the conclusions on why article 6(3) Annexe 4 current interpretation seems unfair and should be reformulated, point towards the same direction. 

B. Article 6(3) Annexe IV of the FIFA RSTP and EU competition law

The Bosman ruling and its most recent successor, the Bernard ruling, stand out as constant reminders that EU Law applies to the realm of European club football insofar as it constitutes an economic activity in the sense of Article 2 of the Treaty.[14] It is nowadays unarguable that football is a real economic activity and that the regulations adopted by its governing bodies must respect EU Law as long as they apply in the territory of the EU, or in case the player concerned has a European passport and is transferring to an EU Member State. Only rules which are “inherent to sport” such as the rules of the game, and other “practices likely to be exempted” meaning, those activities not necessarily linked to sport but which are worth of protection, could potentially fall outside the remit of EU competition law (the sporting exception) as pointed out by the “Helsinki Report on Sport” in 1999. However, the decision in the Meca-Medina case went even further, overcoming the traditional distinction between rules of purely sporting nature from others, to determine that rules cannot be of purely sporting nature when they have economic repercussions, and consequently, making it possible to explore new legal avenues to test regulations that in principle may seem outside the scope of EU competition law (such as the doping regulations in Meca-Medina).
According to Bosman[15] and Bernard, training compensation is a practice worth of protection, but it is undeniable that its rules have strong economic implications, for they are expressly meant to financially reward[16] football clubs involved in the training and education of players when these move to other clubs. For that reason, they fall under the remit of EU Law.
The legitimate aim of the training compensation system is also embraced by legal scholars. For example, while delving into the aftermath of the Bosman case and the agreement reached between FIFA and the EU Commission in 2001, S. Weatherill remarked that “(…). Sport has special features that deserve respect. In accordance with Bosman, it should be regarded as legally permissible for football to devise an internal taxation system to transfer money into the hands of nursery clubs, as part of a scheme for sustaining a larger number of clubs than would survive in ‘pure’ market conditions and to diminish gaps in economic strength between clubs.”[17]
However, it is my firm belief that Annexe IV of the FIFA RSTP has in many ways gone beyond the indications in Bosman, the Helsinki Report[18] and later in Bernard. In this last case, the Court referred to a system meant to compensate[19] and not reward training; and it is precisely that difference regarding the foundations of the system implemented by FIFA that leads to disproportionate results when the amounts to pay as training compensation are superior to the real costs incurred by the training clubs.[20]
All these issues jeopardize free mobility within the EU[21], for they restrict the chances of clubs to recruit players, and have an impact on the commercial relations between clubs and players in the sense of Article 101. By way of example, a Romanian football club registering a 21-year old player trained in Romania as a professional for the first time, would end up paying the training club a significantly lower amount of training compensation than a Hungarian club of the same category, wishing to sign that same player. The reason for that is that whilst in the first scenario the Romanian club would be subject to the internal training compensation mechanism; in the second scenario, the Hungarian club would be subject to the FIFA regulations that impose higher training compensations.
With these premises in mind, the testing of article 6(3) Annexe IV of the FIFA RSTP under EU competition law seems appropriate, although the application of EU competition law in this type of cases will probably remain an exception.[22]
In short, Article 101 TFEU[23] prohibits agreements, decisions of associations and concerted practices which may affect trade between Member States and have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion within the internal market.[24] Saskia King, explaining the so-called “objective criterion”[25], has highlighted that “when determining whether an agreement restricts competition under Article 101(1) TFEU, ‘object’ expresses a true alternative to ‘effect’ and as such requires separate consideration”. Therefore, if the object of the agreement is anticompetitive, there is no need to look behind the effects.
A primary aspect of competition law is the identification of the relevant market where a possible anticompetitive practice takes place. In the present context, the relevant market is the transfer market of football players, that is, the market on which the offer and supply of players meets and clubs compete against each other to recruit the best players.[26] Geographically speaking, the market is limited to the territory of the Member States of the EU.
Assuming also, that the FIFA RSTP (ed. 2016) qualifies as a “decision by an association of undertakings[27] and that the rules of training compensation have an appreciable affect in trade between Member States[28] since any change of clubs for players under the age of 23 requires the payment of a training compensation[29]; the questions left to answer are therefore, whether or not article 6(3) of Annexe IV of the FIFA-RSTP (Ed. 2016), in its current formulation is (1) likely to prevent, restrict or distort competition in the EU transfer market of football players under Article 101(1) TFEU and more importantly, (2) whether the restrictive effects are proportionate and “[reasonably] necessary for the organization and proper conduct of sport?”[30]
As to the first question, it is my view that both the object and the effects produced by, article 6(3) restrict and distort competition between clubs, for they discriminate former clubs vis-à-vis previous clubs with regard to their right to claim training compensation. Additionally, the compensation limits the ability of clubs to take on players acting as free agent.
As to the second question, the Meca-Medina case –though in a different context[31]- offered valuable guidance to test the compatibility of rules of sports associations with EU competition law: “42. Not every agreement between undertakings or every decision of an association of undertakings which restricts the freedom of action of the parties or of one of them necessarily falls within the prohibition laid down in Article 81(1) EC. For the purposes of application of that provision to a particular case, account must first of all be taken of the overall context in which the decision of the association of undertakings was taken or produces its effects and, more specifically, of its objectives. It has then to be considered whether the consequential effects restrictive of competition are inherent in the pursuit of those objectives (Wouters and Others, paragraph 97) and are proportionate to them.”
Following the Meca-Medina reasoning, and focusing on the rationale behind article 6(3) Annexe IV, in the CAS award 2006/A/1152 ADO Den Haag v. Newcastle United FC, the CAS Panel corrected the view of the original DRC decision of 27 April 2006. Specifically, it remarked that the aim of the rule is “to ensure that no player, whether amateur or professional, in whom the training club has no interest, is impeded to accept the offer of another club because he carries some sort of ‘compensation price tag”[32] rather than to penalize clubs failing to offer a contract to their amateur players. The unquestionably legitimate goal of “the exception to the exception” - as the Panel calls article 6(3) - is thus to limit the obstacles to the free mobility of players aforementioned.
However, as to “whether the consequential effects restrictive of competition are inherent in the pursuit of those objectives and are proportionate to them” there cannot be a positive answer. To me it is doubtful whether the anticompetitive effects produced by establishing different conditions between former clubs and previous clubs are inherent or a necessary consequence to ensure the objective of rule (i.e. contributing to free mobility). I believe the contrary to be true. (i.e. uently,conditions ctive of the rule, tt of EU Law. by scholars.r compensation. in the application of such principle. nsatI bI be The effects generated by the current interpretation of article 6(3) collide with the aim of the rule (i.e. protecting free mobility), for reinstating previous clubs in their rights to claim training compensation irrespective of their behaviour vis-à-vis the player, compromises free movement within the EU and creates unfair competitive advantages for previous clubs.
In conclusion, my suggestion is to rethink, the current formulation of article 6(3) (if not the entire training compensation system) and correct its detrimental effects by preventing all previous clubs that fail to offer players a professional contract or to show bona fide interest as from the season in which a player turns 16 years old from requesting training compensation. It is certainly not the role of the CAS to do so, but the responsibility of the EU Commission to take an active lead to ensure full compliance of football regulations with EU law. 

[1] See FIFA Executive Committee, “Commentary on the Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players”, Annex 4 (29 June 2005) at page 124.

[2] European Commission Press Release of 5 March 2001, “Outcome of discussions between the Commission and FIFA/UEFA on FIFA Regulations on international football transfers”.

[3] A bona fide and genuine interest in keeping the player must be demonstrated before the DRC cf. Arbitration CAS award 2009/A/1757 MTK Budapest v. FC Internazionale Milano S.p.A., award of 30 July 2009.

[4] FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, article 6(3) Annexe IV.

[5] In cases of subsequent transfer, the club entitled to claim training compensation will always be the “former club”.

[6]“17. As noted earlier, it is the 2005 Regulations which apply in the present case. At the same time, however, FIFA itself has clarified that the aim of the revisions introduced in 2005 was simply to “facilitate the evidence of a contract offer being made”. In its Decision, the DRC stated that “...when revising the Regulations it was decided to integrate in the 2005 edition of the Regulations some formal preconditions in order to facilitate the evidence that a contract offer was effectively made...This is the actual aim of the relevant formalities”. Consequently, the Panel does not interpret the 2005 revisions to the Regulations as constituting a substantive or material alteration to the 2001 regulatory regime because, as FIFA has said, the changes introduced related only to matters of form, and not of substance.”

[7] See para. 31 of the award. Although, the transfer structure used in this case could qualify as a bridge transfer used for the purpose of circumventing the FIFA regulations on transfer compensation.

[8] Decision of the Single Judge of the Sub-committee of the DRC case Budapest Honved FC (Hungary) v. AFC ASA 2013 Targu Mures (Romania) ref. TMS 243. Unpublished.

[9] See also FIFA RSTP, article 2 para. 2 of Annex IV.

[10] See the CAS award 2007/A/1363 TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen v/ETTU, award of 5 October 2007 para 12 page 8: “10. By interpreting rules and regulations of associations, the starting point and the predominant element of construction is the wording (literal interpretation). Other elements such as the systematic context, the purpose and the history of the rule may contribute to the correct understanding of the meaning of the rule. This principle is accepted in both civil and common law and it has been constantly applied by CAS panels. It is also embedded in the law of Luxembourg (see, e.g., Art. 1156 of the Code Civil of Luxembourg) and the parties have not argued otherwise.” Emphasis added.

[11] Decision not published.

[12] De Weger, The Jurisprudence of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber, Asser Press, 2nd Edition, 2016. Page 401.

[13] See para. 22 of the CAS award 2006/A/1152 ADO Den Haag v. Newcastle United FC, award of 7 February 2007.

[14] See also Case 36/74, Walrave and Koch v UCI, ECLI:EU:C:1974:140.

[15] Case C-415/93, Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Football Association and Others v Bosman and Others, ECLI:EU:C:1995:463, paras. 106-110.

[16] See FIFA Executive Committee, “Commentary on the Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players”, article 1(2) and Annex 4 para. 1 (Objectives), page 112.

[17] S. Weatherill, European Sports Law Collected Papers, Asser Press, 2nd Edition (2014), pages 218 and 219.

[18] See Report from the Commission to the European Council of 10 December 1999 with a view to safeguarding current sports structures and maintaining the social function of sport within the Community framework – The Helsinki Report on Sport - para. The Report refers to a system of objectively calculated payments that are related to the costs of training.

[19] Case C-325/08, Olympique Lyonnais SASP v Olivier Bernard and Newcastle UFC, ECLI:EU:C:2010:143, paras. 44 and 45.

[20] As an example of this disproportionality, a simple comparison between the training costs established for Cat. III UEFA clubs (30.000 Euro per) with the training costs established for internal transfers by the Romanian Football Football Federation (5.000 RON per year equivalent to 1.107 Euro).

[21] Training compensation rules were recently tested against EU law, and in particular with regard to the freedom of movement of workers, by TAS-CAS in the Riverola case (CAS award 2014/A/Bologna FC 1909 SpA v. FC Barcelona). The award is not public, but a full comment and legal analysis is published in: Luca Smacchia, “The Riverola case: how the enforcement of FIFA rules may restrict the freedom of movement for workers within the EU”, Football Legal, #5 (June 2016), pages 20-24.

[22] See e.g. Ben Van Rompuy, “Sport and EU Competition Law: New developments and unfinished business”, Asser International Sports Law Blog (22 May 2015).

[23] Article 101 TFEU: “The following shall be prohibited as incompatible with the internal market: all agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices which may affect trade between Member States and which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the internal market, and in particular those which: (…) (d) apply dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage;”

[24]The distinction between "restrictions by object" and "restrictions by effect" arises from the fact that certain forms of collusion between undertakings can be regarded, by their very nature, as being injurious to the proper functioning of normal competition.” - Commission Staff Working Document of 25 June 2014, Guidance on restrictions of competition “by object” for the purpose of defining which agreements may benefit from the De Minimis Notice, page 3.

[25] Saskia King, “Agreements that restrict competition by object under Article 101 (1) TFEU: Past, present and future”, PhD Thesis – The London School of Economics and Political Science (2015), Page 28.

[26] “The combined investment of summer and winter transfer windows in the top five European leagues was almost €3.4 billion. That was up by 29 per cent versus last season and again a record high ever.” - Soccerex Transfer Review Winter Edition 2016, Prime Time Sport, page 4.

[27] See, for example, Case T-193/02, Piau v. Commission, ECLI:EU:T:2005:22, para. 69: “As regards, first, the concept of an association of undertakings, and without it being necessary to rule on the admissibility of the arguments put forward by an intervener which go against the claims made by the party in support of which it is intervening, it is common ground that FIFA's members are national associations, which are groupings of football clubs for which the practice of football is an economic activity. These football clubs are therefore undertakings within the meaning of Article 81 EC and the national associations grouping them together are associations of undertakings within the meaning of that provision.”

[28] For an in-depth economic data analysis see, e.g., FIFA T.M.S., Global Transfer Market 2012 Highlights, pages 14 and 15 – Overall Market Activity - and pages 23 and 24 - Player Age.

[29] David Nilsson, “The Revised FIFA Regulations for the Status and Transfers of Players’ Compatibility with EU competition law – the Transfer System revised”. Master Thesis. Faculty of Law - University of Lund, (September 2006).

[30] Supra, 30.

[31] Doping rules under EU competition law.

[32] See para. 20 page 7 of the award: The Panel does not share the DRC’s view that the purpose of the first sentence of Article 6 para. 3 is to penalise clubs which do not offer professional terms to their amateur players. Rather, in the Panel’s opinion, the purpose of the above provision is to ensure that no player, whether amateur or professional, in whom the training club has no interest is impeded to accept the offer of another club because he carries some sort of “compensation price tag”.


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