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

Call for papers: Annual International Sports Law Conference of the International Sports Law Journal - 25 & 26 October - Asser Institute, The Hague

 Call for papers: Annual International Sports Law Conference of the International Sports Law Journal

Asser Institute, The Hague

25 and 26 October 2018

The editorial board of the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) is inviting you to submit abstracts for its second ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law, which will take place on 25 and 26 October at the Asser Institute in The Hague. The ISLJ published by Springer in collaboration with Asser Press is the leading academic publication in the field of international sports law. Its readership includes academics and many practitioners active in the field. This call is open to researchers as well as practitioners. 

We are also delighted to announce that Prof. Franck Latty (Université Paris Nanterre), Prof. Margareta Baddeley (Université de Genève), and Silvia Schenk (member of FIFA’s Human Rights Advisory Board) have confirmed their participation as keynote speakers.

Abstracts could, for example, tackle questions linked to the following international sports law subjects:

  • The interaction between EU law and sport
  • Antitrust and sports regulation
  • International sports arbitration (CAS, BAT, etc.)
  • The functioning of the world anti-doping system (WADA, WADC, etc.)
  • The global governance of sports
  • The regulation of mega sporting events (Olympics, FIFA World Cup, etc.)
  • The transnational regulation of football (e.g. the operation of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players or the UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations)
  • The global fight against corruption in sport  
  • Comparative sports law
  • Human rights in sport 

Please send your abstract (no more than 300 words) and CV no later than 30 April 2018 to a.duval@asser.nl. Selected speakers will be informed by 15 May.

The selected participants will be expected to submit a draft paper by 1 September 2018. All papers presented at the conference are eligible for publication in a special edition of the ISLJ.  To be considered for inclusion in the conference edition of the journal, the final draft must be submitted for review by 15 December 2018.  Submissions after this date will be considered for publication in later editions of the Journal.

The Asser Institute will cover one night accommodation for the speakers and will provide a limited amount of travel grants (max. 300€). If you wish to be considered for a grant please justify your request in your submission. 

Nudging, not crushing, private orders - Private Ordering in Sports and the Role of States - By Branislav Hock

Editor's note: Branislav Hock (@bran_hock)  is PhD Researcher at the Tilburg Law and Economics Center at Tilburg University. His areas of interests are transnational regulation of corruption, public procurement, extraterritoriality, compliance, law and economics, and private ordering. Author can be contacted via email: b.hock@uvt.nl.


This blog post is based on a paper co-authored with Suren Gomtsian, Annemarie Balvert, and Oguz Kirman.


Game-changers that lead to financial success, political revolutions, or innovation, do not come “out of the blue”; they come from a logical sequence of events supported by well-functioning institutions. Many of these game changers originate from transnational private actors—such as business and sport associations—that produce positive spillover effects on the economy. In a recent paper forthcoming in the Yale Journal of International Law, using the example of FIFA, football’s world-governing body, with co-authors Suren Gomtsian, Annemarie Balvert, and Oguz Kirman, we show that the success of private associations in creating and maintaining private legal order depends on the ability to offer better institutions than their public alternatives do. While financial scandals and other global problems that relate to the functioning of these private member associations may call for public interventions, such interventions, in most cases, should aim to improve private orders rather than replace them. 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...

Resolution of Disputes Arising From Football Contracts in Turkey. By N. Emre Bilginoglu

Editor’s note: N. Emre Bilginoglu[1] is a lawyer based in Istanbul. His book entitled “Arbitration on Football Contracts” was published in 2015.


Introduction

With a total market value of approximately 911 million EUR, the Turkish Super League ranks as one of the prominent football leagues in Europe. Five of the eighteen teams that make up half of the total market value are based in Istanbul, a busy megalopolis that hosts a population of fifteen million inhabitants.[2] As might be expected, the elevated market value brings forth a myriad of disputes, mainly between the clubs and the players. However, other crucial actors such as coaches and agents are also involved in some of the disputes. These actors of the football industry are of all countries, coming from various countries with different legal systems.

One corollary of rapid globalisation is the development of transnational law, which is quite visible in the lex sportiva.[3] Like foreign investors, foreign actors of the sports industry look for some legal security before signing a contract. FIFA does protect these foreign actors in some way, providing players and coaches legal remedies for employment-related disputes of an international dimension. But what if the legal system of the FIFA member association does not provide a reasonable legal remedy for its national actors?[4] 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...


Policing the (in)dependence of National Federations through the prism of the FIFA Statutes. By Tine Misic

…and everything under the sun is in tune,

but the sun is eclipsed by the moon…[1] 


The issue

Ruffling a few feathers, on 30 May 2015 the FIFA Executive Committee rather unsurprisingly, considering the previous warnings,[2] adopted a decision to suspend with immediate effect the Indonesian Football Federation (PSSI) until such time as PSSI is able to comply with its obligations under Articles 13 and 17 of the FIFA Statutes.[3] Stripping PSSI of its membership rights, the decision results in a prohibition of all Indonesian teams (national or club) from having any international sporting contact. In other words, the decision precludes all Indonesian teams from participating in any competition organised by either FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). In addition, the suspension of rights also precludes all PSSI members and officials from benefits of any FIFA or AFC development programme, course or training during the term of suspension. This decision coincides with a very recent award by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in this ambit, which shall be discussed further below.[4]More...


The Pechstein ruling of the Oberlandesgericht München - Time for a new reform of CAS?

Editor's note (13 July 2015): We (Ben Van Rompuy and I) have just published on SSRN an article on the Pechstein ruling of the OLG. It is available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2621983. Feel free to download it and to share any feedback with us!


On 15 January 2015, the earth must have been shaking under the offices of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne when the Oberlandesgericht München announced its decision in the Pechstein case. If not entirely unpredictable, the decision went very far (further than the first instance) in eroding the legal foundations on which sports arbitration rests. It is improbable (though not impossible) that the highest German civil court, the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), which will most likely be called to pronounce itself in the matter, will entirely dismiss the reasoning of the Oberlandesgericht. This blogpost is a first examination of the legal arguments used (Disclaimer: it is based only on the official press release, the full text of the ruling will be published in the coming months).More...



Prof. Weatherill's lecture on : Three Strategies for defending 'Sporting Autonomy'

On 10 April, the ASSER Sports Law Centre had the honour of welcoming Prof. Weatherill (Oxford University) for a thought-provoking lecture.

In his lecture, Prof. Weatherill outlined to what extent the rules of Sports Governing Bodies enjoy legal autonomy (the so-called lex sportiva) and to what extent this autonomy could be limited by other fields of law such as EU Law. The 45 minutes long lecture lays out three main strategies used in different contexts (National, European or International) by the lex sportiva to secure its autonomy. The first strategy, "The contractual solution", relies on arbitration to escape the purview of national and European law. The second strategy, is to have recourse to "The legislative solution", i.e. to use the medium of national legislations to impose lex sportiva's autonomy. The third and last strategy - "The interpretative or adjudicative solution"- relies on the use of interpretation in front of courts to secure an autonomous realm to the lex sportiva


Enjoy!


 

Asser International Sports Law Blog | The Evolution of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Rules – Part 3: Past reforms and uncertain future. By Christopher Flanagan

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 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.


FFP from 2010 to 2015 

FFP was integrated into UEFA’s licensing requirements in the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations Edition 2010.  In the 2010 Edition, implementation of FFP was to be overseen by the UEFA Club Financial Control Panel. Disciplinary action was carried out by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body, whose decisions could be appealed to the UEFA Appeals Board.

In the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations Edition 2012, the oversight and disciplinary procedure of FFP was amended. The functions of the Club Financial Control Panel, Control and Disciplinary Body, and Appeals Board were replaced with a two-tier Club Financial Control Body (CFCB). The two chambers of the CFCB are the Investigatory Chamber, which actively monitors FFP compliance; and the Adjudicatory Chamber, which levies sanctions for non-compliance.

Under Article 53.1 of the 2012 Edition rules, the CFCB “carries out its duties as specified in the present regulations and the Procedural rules governing the UEFA Club Financial Control Body” (the Procedural Rules). The bespoke Procedural Rules establish a framework for the composition of the CFCB, the decision making processes of both the Investigatory and Adjudicatory Chambers, and the rules applicable to the whole proceedings. Like the Club Licensing and FFP Regulations, the Procedural Rules have gone through iterative changes (2014, and 2015 editions).

The Procedural Rules are a welcome development to FFP, ensuring the independence of the CFCB (Articles 6 and 7); bestowing broad investigatory powers upon the Investigatory Chamber (Article 13); and setting clear parameters for disciplinary action and process, including setting out potential disciplinary measures (Article 29). Overall, the Procedural Rules increase the legal sophistication of the end-to-end FFP process, and in doing so reduce the risk of irrational or arbitrary outcomes.  This protects clubs and UEFA; clubs who are in breach of FFP have clear guidance on the process that will be followed; clubs who adhere to FFP are reassured that those clubs who breach the rules will be put through a sophisticated investigation and (if necessary) disciplinary process (and additionally, pursuant to Article 22, where third party clubs and member associations are affected and have a legitimate interest in joining proceedings before the Adjudicatory Chamber, may do so); and UEFA, in having a clear and detailed rules governing procedure, helps to insulate FFP from legal challenge.

(By way of aside, in light of the changes to the procedure governing FFP sanctions, it is noteworthy that Bursaspor, in CAS 2014/A/3870 Bursaspor Kulübü Derneği v. Union des Associations Européennes de Football, argued that Control and Disciplinary Body and Appeals Board were “not professional on financial subjects”, although the Turkish club was unsuccessful in its appeal, and UEFA’s rebuttal was to highlight that the Club Financial Control Panel was made up of “financial and legal experts” and that the creation of the CFCB was “principally motivated by a desire to streamline the process”.)

Amongst the Procedural Rules, Article 33 stipulates that decisions of the Adjudicatory Chamber are to be published (subject to redaction to protect confidential information or personal data), which has the effect not just of increasing the transparency of UEFA’s decision making, but also of increasing the transparency of the financial affairs of European club football.


Settlement Agreements

One of the more dramatic changes implemented by the Procedural Rules was the implementation of ‘Settlement Agreements’, which are “aimed at ensuring that clubs in breach of the break-even requirement become compliant within a certain timeframe and are designed to be effective, equitable and dissuasive.

Settlement Agreements have been described as “basically a plea bargain”. Redolent of the settlement procedures in many competition law or white collar crime regimes, Settlement Agreements are consensual agreements entered into between a party who has breached FFP and the CFCB, which avoid the need for a breach to be referred to the Adjudicatory Chamber (Article 15.1).   Settlement Agreements have been viewed by the CAS as effectively giving clubs a ‘second chance’ to comply with FFP (CAS 2016/A/4692 Kardemir Karabükspor v. UEFA), albeit with more stringent conditions applied.

Settlement Agreements may include sanctions and timeframes for compliance (Article 15.2) and are monitored by the CFCB Chief Investigator (Article 15.4). If there is a breach of a settlement agreement, the matter is then referred to the Adjudicators Chamber.


FFP from 2015

The next major changes to FFP were implemented in the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations Edition 2015.

Introduction of Voluntary Agreements 

In contrast to the ex post compliance approach of Settlement Agreements, Voluntary Agreements are an ex ante mechanism for clubs to derogate from the normal FFP standards, with the ultimate aim of complying with the break-even requirement. Voluntary Agreements are defined as being “a structured set of obligations which are individually tailored to the situation of the club, break-even targets defined as annual and aggregate break-even results for each reporting period covered by the agreement, and any other obligations as agreed with the UEFA Club Financial Control Body investigatory chamber” (Edition 2015, Annex XII A.5). They can last for up to four reporting periods (Annex XII A.3).

In order to enter into a Voluntary Agreement, a club must adhere to certain procedural requirements. These include submitting a long-term business plan “based on reasonable and conservative assumptions” (Annex XII B.2(a)).

On the face of it, the concept of the Voluntary Agreements–allowing clubs with new owners to incur debts on the promise of future FFP compliance–sounds like a recipe for sort of financial peril FFP was created to avoid.  However, in order to be allowed to enter into a Voluntary Agreement, there must be put in place “an irrevocable commitment(s) by an equity participant(s) and/or related party(ies) to make contributions for an amount at least equal to the aggregate future break-even deficits for all the reporting periods covered by the voluntary agreement” (Annex XII B.2(c)).

Break Even Limit Increase

Another significant change implemented by the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations Edition 2015 was a variation to the quantum of the break even limits in certain circumstances. The limits were increased from €5m to €45m for assessment periods 2013/14 and 2014/15, and €30m for assessment periods 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18  “if it is entirely covered by a direct contribution/payment from the club owner(s) or a related party” (Article 61.2).

This balance between short-term losses, guaranteed in the event of financial failure (per the Voluntary Agreement process) or offset by owner input, against long term sustainability are superficially congruent with the objectives identified by UEFA for its licensing regime, which include “to introduce more discipline and rationality in club football finances; to encourage clubs to operate on the basis of their own revenues; to encourage responsible spending for the long-term benefit of football; and to protect the long-term viability and sustainability of European club football” (Article 2 (c)-(f)).  But this takes a somewhat narrow view of the impact of spending in football. A club’s spending affects not just a buying and selling club in a market transaction for a player’s registration, but affects the overall market in football players.

Inflation in the market for player registrations far outstrips inflation across the broader economy (by one estimate, inflation in football transfer fees runs ten times higher than inflation in the “normal” economy – and those figure were calculated before Paris Saint Germain doubled the record transfer fee with the purchase of Neymar in the summer of 2017. Player wage growth runs at over 10% per annum. Voluntary Agreements and increased owner investment may contribute to this vertiginous inflation. This runs in contrast to some of UEFA’s messaging around FFP. For example, it has previously been stated that FFP was intended to “decrease pressure on salaries and transfer fees and limit inflationary effect”.

Of course, it should be borne in mind that there is nothing inherently wrong with inflation where it is sustainable; but when considered in an environment where capital is accruing to the wealthy elite (top 15 European clubs) at a quicker rate than the rest of the market (see UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations and the Rise of Football’s 1% by van Maren for further analysis), there is a risk of bifurcation of the financial capabilities of football clubs, with inflation marginalising the non-elite.  European clubs have seen revenue growth at over 9% per annum on UEFA’s figures, although since 2009, the average English Premier League club has added “five times more revenue than the average Italian Serie A or French Ligue Un club”. Inflation, if not intrinsically problematic, certainly has the potential to cause problems; and UEFA, in administering and approving Voluntary Agreements, and in weakening its stance on owners offsetting losses, should consider the impact on inflation and stability. Voluntary Agreements and financial input by owners are potentially gateways to the elite level; however, this should not be at the expense of those who do not have wealthy owners or pre-existing wealth.

Perhaps more significantly, there is a normative dimension to the introduction of Voluntary Agreements and the relaxation of financial input from benefactors. The message behind FFP was one of “revolutionising European football”, with then President of UEFA Michel Platini saying that UEFA would “never [be] going back on this.” Quite conversely, the changes brought about by the 2015 Edition of FFP were welcomed with a message of FFP being “eased”. This is disappointing because, on UEFA’s own figures, FFP has had a considerable positive impact on the European football financial landscape. On one view, allowing equity input from owners is a pro-competitive encouragement of exogenous investment; on another, it is rowing back from a positive and successful policy initiative at the expense of those not fortunate enough to have a benefactor owner.


The impact of FFP

In defence of its loosening of the restriction on loss-making, UEFA would doubtless point to the positive impact the FFP has had to date,[1] which, perhaps, creates financial latitude that once did not exist.

As a part of FFP, the clubs under UEFA’s direct jurisdiction report standardised, audited, financial information. UEFA publishes annual benchmarking reports, which draw upon the information clubs submit. Since the introduction of FFP, there has been a general positive trend in European clubs’ finances.

For example, UEFA’s 7th Benchmarking Report, covering the financial year 2014, showed wage growth to have slowed to its “lowest rate in recent history” at 3%. Overdue payables (essentially debts that clubs owe but have not paid on time) had reduced by 91%. The most recent report published by UEFA, its eight Club Licensing Benchmarking Report, covering the financial year 2015, indicates that clubs “have generated underlying operating profits of €1.5bn in the last two years, compared with losses of €700m in the two years before the introduction of [FFP]”; whereas “Combined bottom-line losses have decreased by 81% since the introduction of [FFP]”.

Of course, there are methodological problems in ascribing the improvement in European clubs’ finances exclusively to FFP when in reality there are a combination of factors at play. However, what we can comfortably say is that there is an evident correlation between FFP and the stabilisation of the football financial landscape.

There is also a second-order effect of FFP at play. UEFA, in its position as the game’s regulator, in introducing FFP, has had a hegemonic influence on the governance of the game at national level.  For example, in England, domestic iterations of FFP have been instituted in the Football League, and the Premier League has introduced its own Short Term Cost Control Measures.

Thus, by setting the tone of sustainability expectations, UEFA has influenced the financial stability of clubs outside of its jurisdiction. This is highlighted neatly in the following passage from UEFA’s eight Benchmarking Report:

The centrepiece of financial fair play, the break-even rule, may not directly address small and medium-sized clubs with costs and incomes below €5m, but financial fair play has other direct and indirect impacts on these clubs. Direct in that UEFA and the Club Financial Control Body pass their eyes over detailed financial data from all clubs competing in UEFA competitions and in particular take careful, regular note of all overdue payables. And indirect in that financial fair play has resulted in a significantly higher level of scrutiny of club finances and the actions of club owners and directors. In addition, some countries, such as Cyprus, have introduced their own versions of financial fair play, tailored to their clubs and the scale of their financial activities.” 

So, whilst UEFA can legitimately point to the more secure position across the financial landscape as a good reason that Voluntary Agreements or wider economic input from owners will do no harm, it should continue to reflect on the message this loosening of FFP may send to the wider football market.


FFP Exemptions

One area of change for which UEFA should be applauded is in its use of certain exemptions from the FFP ‘break even’ calculation. These include areas such as infrastructure and youth football, both essential to the game’s long-term sustainability. By exempting these areas from the break even calculation, clubs’ owners are incentivised to invest (by equity rather than debt) in the game’s future, without an impact on short-term competitiveness.

More recently (from 2015), UEFA has moved to exclude expenditure on women’s football from the break-even calculation (Annex X C(i). Again, UEFA should be praised for taking positive steps to encourage growth across less wealthy areas of the game.


The Future of FFP after Neymar

Over the summer of 2017, public interest in FFP has reignited. The rules are now becoming synonymous with Neymar and his new club, Paris Saint Germain, after the Brazilian player’s reported €222m release clause was activated, doubling the world record fee for a player transfer.   This move, followed by French player Kylian Mbappe joining Paris Saint Germain from Monaco for similarly large fee, has upset some in the game.

These events pose a significant problem for UEFA. It is not yet known whether PSG are in breach of FFP (and, of course, it is conceivable that they have sufficient financial capabilities to fund the purchases without any breach of the rules); however, the transactions have raised questions, including La Liga President Javier Tebas stating that he believed PSG were guilty of “infringing on UEFA regulations, financial fair play and EU laws”, and Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger saying that “it looks like we have created rules that cannot be respected…there are too many legal ways to get around it.” 

The public grievances around FFP precipitated by PSG’s spending do, to an extent, seem to conflate simply spending large sums of money with breaching FFP. The rules do not prohibit spending large sums on transfers or otherwise; rather, they limit how much debt can be incurred by a club, assessed over a three year rolling period, with only limited equity input from an owner. The rules were not designed to prevent a €222m transfer per se (with the fee amortised across the length of the contract period, as is standard practice in the football industry); rather, they were designed to ensure that any such spending was sustainable, and did not put clubs at risk.

However, FFP is a reactive, not a proactive tool. Clubs report spending after the event; they are not required to seek permission from UEFA to make a capital investment. This ex post approach does perhaps reveal a flaw in managing any egregious short-term infractions that should arise, the impact of which will be felt by other clubs before UEFA, through the CFCB, can have its say.

The broader problem associated with PSG’s spending is one of opacity. PSG is owned by Oryx Qatar Sports Investments, which is an investment vehicle for the state of Qatar. There were contemporary (unconfirmed) reports that the deal would be structured to take place off of PSG’s accounting books, with Neymar being paid the value of his release clause directly for agreeing to become an ambassador to the Qatar World Cup, so that he could in turn pay his own release clause.  If true, this would notionally take the release clause fee off of PSG’s books, but would almost certainly qualify as a related party transaction with the meaning of FFP’s Annex X F and thus remain examinable by the CFCB. Similarly, it was reported that PSG’s loan-come-purchase of Kylian Mbappe was “complex”. While complicated transfer arrangements are to be expected in a game that is going through increasing commercial sophistication, there are evidently some suspicions that PSG are attempting to circumvent FFP (or, more colourfully, ‘peeing in the pool’).

However, UEFA anticipated clubs employing ‘creative’ tactics to superficially comply with FFP, and gave the CFCB jurisdiction to consider “at all times…the overall objectives of these regulations, in particular to defeat any attempt to circumvent these objectives” (Article 72.1). (At this stage, one can only speculate as to what, if any, FFP objectives PSG may have breached, but the CFCB will surely consider Article 2.2 (a) and (c) - (f)).

UEFA has publicly stated that it is investigating PSG’s FFP compliance, saying “The investigation will focus on the compliance of the club with the break-even requirement, particularly in light of its recent transfer activity”. Of course, this should not be particularly surprising given the CFCB annually examines the finances of each club that enters into UEFA competitions under the standard FFP procedure, but it will be interesting to observe how CFCB’s investigation progresses, and, if PSG is found to have breached FFP in letter or in spirit, what punishment is meted out to PSG. 

Whether PSG’s aggressive spending was emboldened by UEFA’s weakening of the more restrictive elements of FFP will remain unknown.  Similarly, one can only speculate as to whether the dilution of FFP, through changes such as the implementation of Settlement Agreements and Voluntary Agreements, came about as a result of legal challenges already brought and defended by UEFA; or whether UEFA is insulating itself from further legal challenges; or whether UEFA is simply altering the rules for the good of the game. As detailed in Part One of this series, the legality of FFP will rest on its proportionality. These changes have moved FFP towards a more flexible, and arguably more proportionate, proposition; but, given the public exposure that PSG’s spending has precipitated,UEFA will surely wish to ensure that FFP is not seen as a paper tiger.

The matter is on UEFA’s agenda. Even before the events involving PSG in the summer of 2017, incoming UEFA president, Aleksander Čeferin, spoke about the possibility of a fixed wage cap and closing the gap between the game’s haves and have nots. Such changes would certainly make FFP more congruent with its name. FFP is not about being ‘fair’ in the sense of being egalitarian or introducing a level playing field. It is a gentle brake applied to the rate of growth in the game, aimed predominantly at reducing long-term loss making and insolvency. Perhaps the rules might have been less controversial from the outset, and might not have been a mechanism for the frustration ventilated by sum following PSG’s purchase of Neymar and Mbappe, if instead of being called FFP, the rules were called ‘financial management rules’, and absolved themselves from the pretence of ‘fairness’.

Alternatively, UEFA could revisit FFP, implementing a genuinely egalitarian set of rules – a hard salary cap, a luxury tax, the abolition of the transfer market, or some combination of those things and others. This would, however, undoubtedly engender its own set of legal challenges, as we have seen with FFP. 

Whilst the challenges to various aspects of FFP have been largely ineffective in defeating FFP (see for example CAS 2016/A/4692 Kardemir Karabükspor v. UEFA; CAS 2016/A/4492 Galatasary v. UEFA; CAS 2014/A/3870 Bursaspor Kulübü Derneği v. UEFA; CAS 2014/A/3533 Football Club Metallurg v. UEFA; CAS 2013/A/3067 Málaga CF SAD v. UEFA; CAS 2012/A/2824 Beşiktaş JK v UEFA; CAS 2012/A/2821 Bursaspor Kulübü Dernegi v. UEFA; CAS 2012/A/2702 Györi ETO v. UEFA ), the rules have, against the backdrop of repeated disputes about their legality, iteratively changed, including a move towards greater liberalisation in respect of equity input into clubs by owners. 

And so UEFA finds itself at a crossroads. FFP, bombarded with legal challenges (which it has to date ridden) has gradually developed and liberalised as financial stability in European football has improved. Now, with the transfer market having escalated, the efficacy of the rules has come into question. UEFA must decide on the path it wishes to take; whether to liberate the market altogether,  whether to institute a truly ‘fair’ system, or whether to continue on FFP’s current centrist ground. Aleksander Čeferin, a lawyer by extraction, is certain to face a legal and political struggle in whichever direction he turns.


[1] For further discussion on the efficacy of FFP, see Neil Dunbar (2015) "The union of European football association’s club licensing and financial fair play regulations - are they working?" ISSN 1836-1129 http://epublications.bond.edu.au/slej/27

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