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 “Victory” of the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the European Court of Human Rights: The End of the Beginning for the CAS

My favourite speed skater (Full disclosure: I have a thing for speed skaters bothering the ISU), Claudia Pechstein, is back in the news! And not from the place I expected. While all my attention was absorbed by the Bundesverfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe (BVerfG or German Constitutional Court), I should have looked to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECtHR). The Pechstein and Mutu joint cases were pending for a long time (since 2010) and I did not anticipate that the ECtHR would render its decision before the BVerfG. The decision released last week (only available in French at this stage) looked at first like a renewed vindication of the CAS (similar to the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH) ruling in the Pechstein case), and is being presented like that by the CAS, but after careful reading of the judgment I believe this is rather a pyrrhic victory for the status quo at the CAS. As I will show, this ruling puts to rest an important debate surrounding CAS arbitration since 20 years: CAS arbitration is (at least in its much-used appeal format in disciplinary cases) forced arbitration. Furthermore, stemming from this important acknowledgment is the recognition that CAS proceedings must comply with Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), in particular hearings must in principle be held in public and decisions freely available to all. Finally, I will criticise the Court’s finding that CAS complies with the requirements of independence and impartiality imposed by Article 6 § 1 ECHR. I will not rehash the  well-known facts of both cases, in order to focus on the core findings of the decision. More...

ISLJ International Sports Law Conference 2018 - Asser Institute - 25-26 October - Register Now!

Dear all,

Last year we decided to launch the 'ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference' in order to give a public platform to the academic discussions on international sports law featured in the ISLJ. The first edition of the conference was a great success (don't take my word for it, just check out #ISLJConf17 on twitter), featuring outstanding speakers and lively discussions with the room. We were very happy to see people from some many different parts of the world congregating at the Institute to discuss the burning issues of their field of practice and research.

This year, on 25 and 26 October, we are hosting the second edition and we are again welcoming well-known academics and practitioners in the field. The discussions will turn around the notion of lex sportiva, the role of Swiss law in international sports law, the latest ISU decision of the European Commission, the Mutu/Pechstein ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, or the reform proposal of the FIFA Regulations on the Transfer and Status of Players. It should be, it will be, an exciting two days!

You will find below the final programme of the conference, please feel free to circulate it within your networks. We have still some seats left, so don't hesitate to register (here) and to join us.

Looking forward to seeing you and meeting you there!

Antoine

Football Intermediaries: Would a European centralized licensing system be a sustainable solution? - By Panagiotis Roumeliotis

Editor's note: Panagiotis Roumeliotis holds an LL.B. degree from National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece and an LL.M. degree in European and International Tax Law from University of Luxembourg. He is qualified lawyer in Greece and is presently working as tax advisor with KPMG Luxembourg while pursuing, concomitantly, an LL.M. in International Sports Law at Sheffield Hallam University, England. His interest lies in the realm of tax and sports law. He may be contacted by e-mail at ‘p.roumeliotis@hotmail.com’.


Introduction

The landmark Bosman Ruling triggered the Europeanization of the labour market for football players by banning nationality quotas. In turn, in conjunction with the boom in TV revenues, this led to a flourishing transfer market in which players’ agents or intermediaries play a pivotal role, despite having a controversial reputation.

As a preliminary remark, it is important to touch upon the fiduciary duty of sports agents towards their clients. The principal-agent relationship implies that the former employs the agent so as to secure the best employment and/or commercial opportunities. Conversely, the latter is expected to act in the interest of the player as their relationship should be predicated on trust and confidence, as much was made clear in the English Court of Appeal case of Imageview Management Ltd v. Kelvin Jack. Notably, agents are bound to exercise the utmost degree of good faith, honesty and loyalty towards the players.[1]

At the core of this blog lies a comparative case study of the implementation of the FIFA Regulations on working with intermediaries (hereinafter “FIFA RWI”) in eight European FAs covering most of the transfers during the mercato. I will then critically analyze the issues raised by the implementation of the RWI and, as a conclusion, offer some recommendations. More...



Seraing vs. FIFA: Why the rumours of CAS’s death have been greatly exaggerated

Rumours are swirling around the decision (available in French here) of the Court of Appeal of Brussels in the case opposing RFC Seraing United to FIFA (as well as UEFA and the Belgian Football Federation, URSBFA) over the latter’s ban on third-party ownership. The headlines in various media are quite dramatic (see here and here), references are made to a new Bosman, or to a shaken sport’s legal system. Yet, after swiftly reading the decision for the first time on 29th August, I did not have, unlike with the Pechstein ruling of the Oberlandesgericht München, the immediate impression that this would be a major game-changer for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the role of arbitration in sports in general. After careful re-reading, I understand how certain parts of the ruling can be misunderstood or over-interpreted. I believe that much of the press coverage failed to accurately reflect the reasoning of the court and to capture the real impact of the decision. In order to explain why, I decided to write a short Q&A (including the (not water-proof) English translations of some of the key paragraphs of the decision).

 More...

New Article Published! The Olympic Charter: A Transnational Constitution Without a State?

My latest article has just been published online by the Journal of Law and Society. It is available open access here.

The article stems from a conference organised by Jiri Priban from Cardiff University on Gunther Teubner's idea of societal constitutionalism applied to transnational regimes. My role was to test whether his descriptive and normative framework was readily applicable to the lex sportiva, and in particular its overarching "constitutional" text: the Olympic Charter.

As you will see my conclusion is mixed. I find that the Olympic Charter (OC) displays many constitutional features and is even able to regularly defend successfully its autonomy vis-à-vis national states and their laws. However, while I document some inception of limitative constitutional rules, such as the ban on discrimination or the principle of fair play, I also conclude that those have limited impact in practice. While constitutional changes to the OC can be triggered by scandal, resistance and contestation, as illustrated by the emergence of environmental concerns after the Albertville Games and the governance reshuffle of the IOC after the Salt Lake City scandal, I am also sceptical that these were sufficient to tackle the underlying problems, as became obvious with the unmatched environmental damage caused by the Sotchi Games in 2014.

In conclusion, more than sporadic public outrage, I believe that the intervention of national law and, even more, European Union law will be capable and needed to rein the Olympic regime and impose external constitutional constraints on its (at least sometimes) destructive operations.

Here is the abstract of the article: This article examines various aspects of Teubner's theory of societal constitutionalism using the lex sportiva as an empirical terrain. The case study focuses on the operation of the Olympic Charter as a transnational constitution of the Olympic movement. It shows that recourse to a constitutional vocabulary is not out of place in qualifying the function and authority of the Charter inside and outside the Olympic movement. Yet, the findings of the case study also nuance some of Teubner's descriptive claims and question his normative strategy.

Good read! (And do not hesitate to share your feedback)


New Position - Internship in International Sports Law - Deadline 15 August


The T.M.C. Asser Instituut offers post-graduate students the opportunity to gain practical experience in the field of international and European sports law.  The T.M.C. Asser Instituut, located in The Hague, is an inter-university research institute specialized in international and European law. Since 2002, it is the home of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre, a pioneer in the field of European and international sports law. More...


Human Rights Protection and the FIFA World Cup: A Never-Ending Match? - By Daniela Heerdt

Editor’s note: Daniela Heerdt is a PhD candidate at Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. Her PhD research deals with the establishment of responsibility and accountability for adverse human rights impacts of mega-sporting events, with a focus on FIFA World Cups and Olympic Games. She recently published an article in the International Sports Law Journal that discusses to what extent the revised bidding and hosting regulations by FIFA, the IOC and UEFA strengthen access to remedy for mega-sporting events-related human rights violations.


The 21st FIFA World Cup is currently underway. Billions of people around the world follow the matches with much enthusiasm and support. For the time being, it almost seems forgotten that in the final weeks leading up to the events, critical reports on human rights issues related to the event piled up. This blog explains why addressing these issues has to start well in advance of the first ball being kicked and cannot end when the final match has been played. More...



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. 

Stepping Outside the New York Convention - Practical Lessons on the Indirect Enforcement of CAS-Awards in Football Matters - By Etienne Gard

Editor’s Note: Etienne Gard graduated from the University of Zurich and from King's College London. He currently manages a project in the field of digitalization with Bratschi Ltd., a major Swiss law firm where he did his traineeship with a focus in international commercial arbitration.

1. Prelude

On the 10th of June, 1958, the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, widely known as the “New York Convention”, was signed in New York by 10 countries.[1] This rather shy figure progressively grew over the decades to now reach 157 signatory countries, turning the New York Convention into the global recognition and enforcement instrument it is today. As V.V. Veeder’s puts it, “One English law lord is said to have said, extra judicially, that the New York Convention is both the Best Thing since sliced bread and also whatever was the Best Thing before sliced bread replaced it as the Best Thing.”[2]

However, among the overall appraisal regarding the New York Convention, some criticisms have been expressed. For instance, some states use their public policy rather as a pretext not to enforce an award than an actual ground for refusal.[3]  A further issue is the recurring bias in favor of local companies.[4] Additionally, recognition and enforcement procedures in application of the New York Convention take place in front of State authorities, for the most part in front of courts of law, according to national proceeding rules. This usually leads to the retaining of a local law firm, the translation of several documents, written submissions and one, if not several hearings. Hence, the efficiency of the New York Convention as a recognition and enforcement mechanism comes to the expense of both money and time of both parties of the arbitral procedure.

In contrast with the field of commercial arbitration, where the New York Convention is often considered the only viable option in order to enforce an award, international football organizations, together with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”), offer an effective enforcement alternative. This article aims at outlining the main features of the indirect enforcement of CAS awards in football matters in light of a recent case. More...



The International Partnership against Corruption in Sport (IPACS) and the quest for good governance: Of brave men and rotting fish - By Thomas Kruessmann

Editor's note: Prof. Thomas Kruessmann is key expert in the EU Technical Assistant Project "Strengthening Teaching and Research Capacity at ADA University" in Baku (Azerbaijan). At the same time, he is co-ordinator of the Jean-Monnet Network "Developing European Studies in the Caucasus" with Skytte Institute of Political Studies at the University of Tartu (Estonia).


The notion that “fish rots from the head down” is known to many cultures and serves as a practical reminder on what is at stake in the current wave of anti-corruption / integrity and good governance initiatives. The purpose of this blog post is to provide a short update on the recent founding of the International Partnership against Corruption in Sport (IPACS), intermittently known as the International Sports Integrity Partnership (IPAS), and to propose some critical perspectives from a legal scholar’s point of view.

During the past couple of years, the sports world has seen a never-ending wave of corruption allegations, often followed by revelations, incriminations and new allegation. There are ongoing investigations, most notably in the United States where the U.S. Department of Justice has just recently intensified its probe into corruption at the major sports governing bodies (SGBs). By all accounts, we are witnessing only the tip of the iceberg. And after ten years of debate and half-hearted reforms, there is the widespread notion, as expressed by the Council of Europe’s (CoE’s) Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Resolution 2199/2018 that “the sports movement cannot be left to resolve its failures alone”. More...



Asser International Sports Law Blog | The French “betting right”: a legislative Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. By Ben Van Rompuy

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 French “betting right”: a legislative Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. By Ben Van Rompuy

The European Commission has published the “Study on Sports Organisers’ Rights in the EU”, which was carried out by the ASSER International Sports Law Centre (T.M.C. Asser Institute) and the Institute for Information Law (University of Amsterdam). 

The study critically examines the legal protection of rights to sports events (sports organisers’ rights) and various issues regarding their commercial exploitation in the field of media and sports betting, both from a national and EU law perspective.  

In a number of posts, we will highlight some of the key findings of the study. 


“It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty.” 


In recent years, numerous national and European sports organisers have called for the adoption of a specific right to consent to the organisation of bets (“right to consent to bets”), by virtue of which no betting operator could offer bets on a sports event without first entering into a contractual agreement with the organiser. 

A sports organisers’ right to consent to bets was first introduced in Victoria (Australia) in 2007. Yet it was the recognition of a similar right in France that created the true momentum for sports organisers to advocate its adoption at the EU or EU-wide national level. The argument is twofold. First, a right to consent to bets would entitle sports organisers to demand a “fair financial return” for the commercial exploitation of theirs sports events by betting operators. Second, it would establish a statutory obligation for betting operators to work in partnership with sports organisers to preserve the integrity of sports events. According to the contractual provisions agreed upon by the involved parties, mutual obligations (for e.g. fraud detection) and conditions of information exchange can be identified. 


A restriction to the freedom to provide services? 

From an EU internal market law perspective, it is important to note that the conditions implementing a right to consent to bets are capable of constituting a restriction of the free movement of services within the Union (within the meaning of Article 56 TFEU). Indeed, the requirement for betting operators to obtain consent for the organisation of sports bets could impede or render less attractive the free provision of gambling services.[1] 

The Court of Justice (CJ) has consistently held that restrictions on gambling activities are acceptable only if justified by an imperative requirement in the general interest and compliant with the principle of proportionality. The CJ has accepted the prevention of fraud as a legitimate objective justification. The financing of public interest activities through proceeds from gambling services, on the other hand, can only be accepted as a beneficial consequence that is incidental to the restrictive policy adopted.[2]  

It follows that a strict regulatory framework that genuinely reflects a concern to prevent the manipulation of sports events must accompany the introduction of a right to consent to bets. 


The origins of the French betting right 

With the enactment of a new gambling law in 2010, the French legislator, following case law precedent recognizing sports bets as a form of commercial exploitation of sports events, introduced a right to consent to bets in the French Sports Code. 

Interestingly, the concept of the right to consent to bets evolved considerably during the course of the legislative process.  

When the draft law opening up online gambling and betting to competition and regulation was introduced in the French parliament, the rationale of the right to consent to bets was solely expressed in terms of generating a “fair financial return” to sport. Under Chapter IX (“Provisions concerning the exploitation of sports events”) of the original draft law, the following addition to Article L.334-1 of the Sports Code was proposed: 

“The use, for commercial purposes, of any characteristic element of sporting events or competitions, notably names, calendars, data or results, requires the consent of the owners of the exploitation rights under conditions, in particular of a financial nature, defined by contract, subject to the provisions of articles L. 333-6 to L.333-9”.[3]

On 5 March 2009, the French authorities notified the draft law to the European Commission, in accordance with the provisions of Directive 98/34/EC of 22 June 1988.[4] In its detailed opinion, the Commission stressed that several provisions of the draft law would infringe Article 56 TFEU if they were to be adopted without due consideration of the Commission’s objections. Amongst other things, the Commission rightly observed that the financing of sport through gambling revenues could not justify an obstacle to free movement, in this case the requirement to obtain consent from the sports organiser. The Commission further noted that the characteristic elements that are already in the possession of sports organisers, such as calendars, data or results, could not qualify for sui generis database right protection.  

It was only during the subsequent first reading of the draft law in the French National Assembly that the statutory recognition of the right to consent to bets was presented as a means of preserving sports integrity. On 21 July 2009, the French Minister for the Budget declared: 

“in reality, the interest of this right for sport is not financial but ethical, by requiring commercial agreements between gambling operators and the organisers of sports competitions, this right finally will give professional sport the means to make the operators share their concerns in matters of competition ethics”.[5]

 Accordingly, the relevant provision was substantially amended to address the concerns about its compliance with the EU internal market rules. First, it no longer mentioned that the consent to the organisation of bets was related to the use of fixtures and schedules. Second, the title of Chapter IX was changed to “Provisions concerning the exploitation of sports events and the fight against fraud and cheating in the context of these events” (emphasis added). Third, multiple paragraphs were added, so as to stipulate that (1) the betting right contracts should impose obligations on betting operators concerning fraud detection and prevention and (2) the financial contribution is intended to compensate for costs incurred by sports organisers for anti-fraud mechanisms.[6]


The proof of the pudding is in the eating  

On the basis of an in-depth assessment of the exploitation of the French right to consent to bets, the study concludes that the rationale of safeguarding the integrity of sports events did not really override its economic rationale. 

Decree No. 2010-614 requires the betting right marketing contracts to specify information and transparency obligations imposed on operators to detect fraud and prevent the risk of harm to the integrity of sports events.[7] Contrary to the relatively strong language about the stipulation of “information and transparency obligations” imposed on the operators, Decree No. 2010-614 merely requires the holder of the right to consent to bets to specify in the contracts the measures it “intends” to introduce for preventing the risk for the integrity of the events in question. However, the law does not mandate the effective implementation of these integrity measures. Furthermore, although the compensation paid for the right to organise bets must take account “in particular the costs incurred in detecting and preventing fraud”, there is no guarantee that the income is allocated to fraud prevention and detection. 

If Member States would consider introducing a right to consent to bets, it appears critical from an EU law perspective that it is genuinely designed to protect a non-economic public interest objective in a proportional manner. The Victorian (Australia) regulatory regime is recommended as a best practice model. Here, the financial return is truly a compensation for the integrity assurances given by the sports bodies. Before a sports body is legally entitled to exercise the right to consent to bets, it must first invest time and resources into developing adequate integrity mechanisms. Furthermore, in case the sports body fails to fulfil its contractual obligations, the gambling regulator may revoke its ability to exercise the right to consent to bets. Indeed, the rights and obligations in the betting right agreements must work both ways: sports betting operators are also entitled to expect that the sports organisers truly implement the integrity policies.  

For a detailed exploration of the virtues of a right to consent to bets and the challenges of adopting such a mechanism from a legal, institutional, and practical perspective, check out the full study available at http://ec.europa.eu/sport/news/2014/study-on-sport-organisers-rights_en.htm.


[1] All measures that prohibit, impede or render less attractive the exercise of the fundamental freedoms must be regarded as restrictions, see e.g. C-439/99 Commission v Italy [2002] ECR I-305, para. 22; Case C-205/99 Analir and Others v Administratión General del Estado [2001] ECR I-271, para. 21.

[2] See e.g. Joined Cases C 316/07, C 358/07 to C 360/07, C 409/07 and C 410/07 Markus Stoß and Others v Wetteraukreis and Others [2010] ECR I-8069, para. 104; C-67/98 Questore di Verona v Diego Zenatti [1999] ECR I-7289, para. 36; Judgment of the EFTA Court in Case 3/06 (Ladbrokes) para. 63.

[3] Unofficial translation by the research team (“L’utilisation, à des fins commerciales, de tout élément caractéristique des manifestations ou compétitions sportives, notamment leur dénomination, leur calendrier, leurs données ou leurs résultats, ne peut être effectuée sans le consentement des propriétaires des droits d’exploitation, dans des conditions, notamment financières, définies par contact, sous réserve des dispositions des articles L. 333-6 à L. 333-9”).

[4] Directive 98/34/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 June 1998 laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations (1998) OJ L 204/37. This “Transparency Directive” requires Member States to notify their rules on information society services in draft form, and generally observe a standstill period of at least three months before formal adoption, in order to allow other Member States and the European Commission to raise concern about potential trade barriers within the EU.

[5] Assemblée Nationale, Audition de M. Éric Woerth, ministre du budget, des comptes publics, de la fonction publique et de la réforme de l'État au cours de la réunion du 21 Juillet 2009.

[6] In the context of the second reading of the draft law in the French Senate, the rapporteur of the Finance Committee welcomed this solution to accommodate the European Commission’s concerns regarding Article 52. Sénate, Rapport n° 209 (2009-2010) de M. François Trucy, fait au nom de la commission des finances, déposé le 19 janvier 2010.

[7] Décret no. 2010-614 du 7 Juin 2010 relatif aux conditions de commercialisation de droits portant sur l’organisation de paris en relation avec une manifestation ou compétition sportives, Article 2.

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