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

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...


The World Anti-Doping System at a Crossroads

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Tomorrow the Foundation Board of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will gather in Glasgow for its most important meeting since the creation of the Agency. Since the broadcasting of a documentary alleging systematic doping in Russian athletics by the German public broadcaster in December 2014, the anti-doping world has been in disarray. The various independent investigations (the Pound Report and the McLaren Report) ordered by WADA into doping allegations against Russian athletes have confirmed the findings of the documentary and the truth of the accusations brought forward by Russian whistle-blowers. Undeniably, there is something very rotten in the world anti-doping system. The current system failed to register a widespread, and apparently relatively open, state-sponsored scheme aimed at manipulating any doping test conducted in Russian territory. Moreover, it was not WADA that uncovered it, but an independent journalist supported by courageous whistle-blowers. More...


The EU State aid and sport saga: The Real Madrid Decision (part 1)

Out of all the State aid investigations of recent years involving professional football clubs, the outcome of the Real Madrid case was probably the most eagerly awaited. Few football clubs have such a global impact as this Spanish giant, and any news item involving the club, whether positive or negative, is bound to make the headlines everywhere around the globe. But for many Spaniards, this case involves more than a simple measure by a public authority scrutinized by the European Commission. For them, it exemplifies the questionable relationship between the private and the public sector in a country sick of never-ending corruption scandals.[1] Moreover, Spain is only starting to recover from its worst financial crisis in decades, a crisis founded on real estate speculation, but whose effects were mostly felt by ordinary citizens.[2] Given that the Real Madrid case involves fluctuating values of land that are transferred from the municipality to the club, and vice versa, it represents a type of operation that used to be very common in the Spanish professional football sector, but has come under critical scrutiny in recent years.[3] More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – October 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
We are looking for an International Sports Law Intern (with a particular interest in the CAS)! More information can be found here.


The (terrible) State of the World Anti-Doping System

The fight against doping is still on top of the agenda after the Russian doping scandal. The national anti-doping organizations (NADOs) have reiterated their call for an in depth reform of the World Anti-Doping Agency at a special summit in Bonn, Germany. These reforms are deemed urgent and necessary to “restore confidence of clean athletes and those who value the integrity of sport” and secure “the public’s desire for a fair and level playing field”. The NADOs propose, amongst others things, to separate the investigatory, testing and results management functions from sports organizations, and to remove sports administrators from crucial anti-doping executive functions. More...




Taking the Blue Pill or the Red Pill: Should Athletes Really Check their Medications against the Prohibited List Personally? - A Comment 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. Her latest book Evidence in Anti-Doping at the Intersection of Science & Law was published in 2016 in the International Sports Law Book Series of T.M.C. ASSER Press.


INTRODUCTION

On 30 September 2016, a panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) rendered its award in the matter opposing high-profile tennis player Maria Sharapova to the International Tennis Federation (“ITF”). Maria Sharapova was appealing the two-year ban imposed on her by the ITF Tribunal in June 2016 for her use of Meldonium, a substance newly added to the WADA Prohibited List 2016[1]. Since neither the ITF nor WADA had chosen to challenge the Tribunal’s decision, the stakes of the case were rather simple: would the player convince the CAS panel that she should benefit from a finding of “No Significant Fault or Negligence”[2], thereby allowing for a reduction of the sanction down to a minimum of one year, or should the decision of the Tribunal be upheld? In its award, the CAS panel decided to grant such finding and reduced the sanction to 15 months.

This blog does not purport to be a ‘comment’ on the CAS award. Rather, it seeks to place the Sharapova matter into a broader context with respect to a specific issue: the expectations on Athletes when it comes to their awareness of the prohibited character of a substance, specifically when taking a medication[3]. In July 2016, I presented at the T.M.C Asser Institute in The Hague various current challenges of anti-doping that the Meldonium cases exposed (see the video here). One of these challenges concerned the modalities for including new substances onto the Prohibited List. This blog represents a follow-up on my presentation, in the light of the findings contained in the CAS award. More...



Case note: State aid Decision on the preferential corporate tax treatment of Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and FC Barcelona

On 28 September 2016, the Commission published the non-confidential version of its negative Decision and recovery order regarding the preferential corporate tax treatment of Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and FC Barcelona. It is the second-to-last publication of the Commission’s Decisions concerning State aid granted to professional football clubs, all announced on 4 July of this year.[1] Contrary to the other “State aid in football” cases, this Decision concerns State aid and taxation, a very hot topic in today’s State aid landscape. Obviously, this Decision will not have the same impact as other prominent tax decisions, such as the ones concerning Starbucks and Apple

Background

This case dates back to November 2009, when a representative of a number of investors specialised in the purchase of publicly listed shares, and shareholders of a number of European football clubs drew the attention of the Commission to a possible preferential corporate tax treatment of the four mentioned Spanish clubs.[2]More...



International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – September 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

September hosted the very last bit of the sport summer 2016, most notably in the form of the Rio Paralympic Games. Next to the spectacular achievements displayed during these games, in the realm of sports law similar thrilling developments hit town. The first very much expected #Sportslaw highlight was the decision by the German Bundesgerichtshof in the case concerning SV Wilhelmshaven. The second major (less expected) story was the Statement of Objections issued by the European Commission against the International Skating Union.More...


De- or Re-regulating the middlemen? The DFB’s regulation of intermediaries under EU law scrutiny at the OLG Frankfurt. By Antoine Duval and Kester Mekenkamp.

Football intermediaries, or agents, are again under attack in the news. For some, corrupt behaviour has become endemic in football’s culture. It is always dangerous to scapegoat a whole profession or a group of people. Many intermediaries are trying their best to lawfully defend the interests of their clients, but some are not. The key focus should be on providing an adequate legal and administrative framework to limit the opportunities for corrupt behaviour in the profession. This is easier said than done, however. We are dealing with an intrinsically transnationalized business, often conducted by intermediaries who are not subjected to the disciplinary power of federations. Sports governing bodies are lacking the police power and human resources necessary to force the intermediaries to abide by their private standards. In this context, this blog aims to review a recent case in front of the regional court of Frankfurt in Germany, which highlights the legal challenges facing (and leeway available to) national federations when regulating the profession. More...

Case note: TAS 2016/A/4474 Michel Platini c. Fédération Internationale de Football Association. 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.

On 3 June 2015, Sepp Blatter resigned as President of FIFA after another corruption scandal inside the world’s football governing body was brought to light by the American authorities supported by the Swiss prosecutor office. Two months after Michel Platini announced he would be a candidate for the next FIFA Presidential election, on 25 September 2015, the Swiss prosecutor opened an investigation against S. Blatter on an alleged disloyal payment he authorised to M. Platini. On 8 October 2015, the FIFA Ethics Committee announced both of them were provisionally suspended upon their hearings, a suspension that was later confirmed by CAS. In the end, M. Platini was sanctioned with an eight years ban from all football activities, later reduced to a six years ban by FIFA Appeal Commission on 24 February 2016. In the meantime, he withdrew his candidacy to become the next FIFA President. On 9 May 2016, after M. Platini appealed this sanction, the CAS confirmed the suspension but reduced it to four years, leading to his resignation from the UEFA presidency and the announcement of his intention to challenge the CAS award in front of the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

On 19 September, the CAS finally published the full text of the award in the dispute between M. Platini and FIFA. The award is in French as M. Platini requested that the procedure be conducted in that language. You will find below a summary of the ‘highlights’ of the 63-page decision. More...

The Russian Ballet at the CAS Ad Hoc Division in Rio - Act V: Saving the last (Russian) woman standing: The Klishina miracle

Editor's note: This is the (belated) fifth part/act of our blog series on the Russian eligibility cases at the CAS ad hoc Division in Rio. The other acts are available at:


Act V: Saving the last (Russian) woman standing: The Klishina miracle 

Darya Klishina is now an Olympic celebrity. She will enter the history books not because she won a gold medal or beat a world record. Instead, her idiosyncrasy lies in her nationality: she was the sole Russian athlete authorized to stand in the athletics competitions at the Rio Olympics. And yet, a few days before the start of the long jumping contest in which she was due to take part, the IAAF surprisingly decided to revoke her eligibility (‘And Then There Were None’). But Klishina appealed the decision to the CAS ad hoc Division and, as all of you well-informed sports lawyers will know, she was allowed to compete at the Olympics and finished at a decent ninth place of the long jump finals.

Two important questions are raised by this case:

  • Why did the IAAF changed its mind and decide to retract Klishina’s authorization to participate?
  • Why did the CAS overturn this decision? More...


Asser International Sports Law Blog | Is FIFA fixing the prices of intermediaries? An EU competition law analysis - By Georgi Antonov (ASSER Institute)

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

Is FIFA fixing the prices of intermediaries? An EU competition law analysis - By Georgi Antonov (ASSER Institute)

Introduction

On 1 April 2015, the new FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (hereinafter referred as the Regulations) came into force. These Regulations introduced a number of changes as regards the division of competences between FIFA and its members, the national associations. A particularly interesting issue from an EU competition law perspective is the amended Article 7 of the Regulations. Under paragraph 3, which regulates the rules on payments to intermediaries (also previously referred to as ‘agents’), it is recommended that the total amount of remuneration per transaction due to intermediaries either being engaged to act on a player’s or club’s behalf should not exceed 3% of the player’s basic gross income for the entire duration of the relevant employment contract. In the case of transactions due to intermediaries who have been engaged to act on a club’s behalf in order to conclude a transfer agreement, the total amount of remuneration is recommended to not exceed 3% of the eventual transfer fee paid in relation to the relevant transfer of the player.

In other words, the new Regulations recommend a benchmark cap on the percentage of remuneration that an intermediary engaged in negotiations with a view to concluding an employment contract or a transfer agreement can receive for his/her service. From the perspective of an antitrust lawyer such a provision immediately rings a bell of a potential distortion of competition. The Association of Football Agents (AFA), the representative body of 500 football agents in England, contends in a complaint to the European Commission that Article 7(3) of the Regulations distorts competition under EU law. In this regard, the present blog post will analyse whether Article 7(3) of the Regulations infringes Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). If so, what would be the possible justifications and which are the requirements that must be fulfilled in the case at hand.

The general rule

To begin with, Article 101(1) of the TFEU stipulates that the following shall be prohibited: “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 completion within the internal market”.[1] Thus, in order to find an infringement of Article 101(1), it must be established that 1) the FIFA Regulations constitute a decision by an association of undertakings; 2) that Article 7(3) of the Regulations may affect trade between EU Member States; and 3) that Article 7(3) of the Regulations has as its object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the internal market.

Decision by an association of undertakings

Even though, the concept of ‘decision by an association of undertakings’ is not defined in the founding treaties of the European Union, this notion has been interpreted broadly by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).[2] In order to determine whether the FIFA Regulations are to be regarded as a decision of an association of undertakings within the meaning of Article 101(1) TFEU it has to be established that the members of FIFA are undertakings for the purpose of EU competition law and that FIFA constitutes an association of undertakings. In Piau it was settled that “…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… ”.[3] Therefore, from the judgement of the Court of First Instance (now the General Court) it is plain that FIFA constitutes an association of undertakings within the meaning of Article 101(1) TFEU. As regards the concept of ‘decision’, the General Court declared that since players’ agents receive a fee on a regular basis for the provision of their service, this constitutes an economic activity which does not fall within the scope of the specific nature of sport as defined by the previous CJEU’s case-law.[4] Moreover, the Regulations adopted by FIFA are binding  on national associations members of FIFA and on clubs, players and their agents and thus those regulations constitute a decision by an association of undertakings within the meaning of Article 101(1) TFEU.[5] In addition, in a recent case, the CJEU adjudged that even a price recommendation, regardless of its exact legal status, may be regarded as constituting such a decision.[6] Therefore, from the abovementioned it follows that based on the proximity of the legal issues discussed in Piau and the main research question at hand, it is likely that the new FIFA Regulations will be deemed a decision by an association of undertakings for the purpose of Article 101(1) TFEU.

Effect on trade between Member States

According to the Commission guidelines on the effect on trade, it is the agreement or decision that must be capable of affecting trade between Member States. It implies that there must be an impact on cross-border economic activity and that it must be possible to foresee with a sufficient degree of probability that the decision may have direct or indirect, actual or potential influence on trade between EU countries.[7] Since the Regulations at hand bind all members of FIFA, including all 28 EU Member States, and concern intermediaries operating in every EU country, there is undoubtedly a potential effect on trade between Member States. As a result of the provisions under Article 7(3) of the Regulations on Working with Intermediaries, every football player or club’s agent in the EU will be potentially restricted to receive a remuneration under the specified recommended price cap. Therefore, the second condition under Article 101(1) TFEU is also fulfilled.

Object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition

Article 101(1) (a) TFEU lists “…directly or indirectly fix purchase or selling prices…” as an object by an agreement that constitutes a restriction on competition.[8] Further, the Commission has continuously interpreted recommended pricing as falling under the category of price fixing in the sense of Article 101.[9] In this line of reasoning, the CJEU stated that in order to establish that a recommendation constitutes price-fixing, account must be taken of three factors: 1) the common interest between the members of the association, 2) the nature of the recommendation and 3) the statutes of the association.[10] The same test was later applied also by the Commission in its Fenex Decision.[11] Furthermore, in its Guidelines on the applicability of Article 101 to horizontal co-operation agreements, the Commission has acknowledged that any standard terms containing provisions which influence the prices charged to customers, including recommended prices, would constitute a restriction of competition by object. The General Court has also confirmed that recommended rates may constitute indirectly a pricing system binding its members.[12] Therefore, Article 101(1) (a) TFEU has been interpreted by the Commission and the CJEU as capable of encompassing “recommended prices” under the scope of “price-fixing”.

As regards the content of Article 7(3) of the Regulations, it clearly recommends a 3% benchmark cap on the remuneration an intermediary may claim as a result of his/her service. Firstly, even though the provision recommends the percentage cap, the national football associations are bound to implement the Regulations at the national level and the decision of whether to impose the remuneration cap is ultimately determined by the football clubs and the players.[13] By being able to limit the percentage of the commission that an intermediary can receive for a certain transaction, the relevant participating clubs and football players will have the common interest to secure a bigger ‘piece of the pie’ for themselves. Secondly, the nature of the recommended cap, even though non-binding, is detailed, clear and specific. It also appears in a binding legislative document, which national associations are required to fully implement. Nonetheless, even if they decide not to apply the recommended price cap, clubs and players will still be inevitably influenced by such a recommendation in their business activities.[14] Therefore, indirectly the nature of Article 7(3) encourages national associations to follow the recommended limit on agents’ remuneration. Lastly, the statutes of FIFA (Articles 2, 5, 10 and 13), give the Association the competence to draw up regulations and ensure their enforcement, regulate the transfer of players and oblige its members to fully comply with its regulations. As a consequence, even though the remuneration cap is a recommendation by FIFA it is highly likely that de facto this provision will lead to a coordinated behaviour among clubs and players as regards limiting the maximum payment that an intermediary can receive.

Typically, agents receive between 5-10% of their player’s gross income, so the limit of 3%, if enforced, would be a serious damaging shift for agents from a financial perspective as well.[15] Moreover, Article 7(3) of the Regulations constitutes a measure that could also be detrimental to the players and the quality of service that they receive. Due to the price cap, intermediaries will be discouraged to compete and improve. The goal of players’ having experienced and professional agents, who provide a high quality of services, is to assist and guide athletes in achieving the best possible deal in usually considered short careers.[16] As a result, the benchmark cap enshrined in Article 7(3) has the object of distorting competition on the market of football intermediaries’ services by both limiting the amount of remuneration and by indirectly decreasing the quality of the provided services.

At national level, not only the AFA in the UK has contested the Regulations, but also recently, after a complaint lodged by Rogon Sport Management, the German District Court (Landgericht Frankfurt/Main) suspended the implementation of the national regulation adopted by the German Football Association (DFB) transposing the FIFA’s Regulations. The District Court ruled that the limit on agents’ commissions in player transfers constitutes and unlawful restriction on the right to provide services even though DFB was following the recommendations stipulated by FIFA.

In the alternative, even if a restriction by object cannot be established, Article 7(3) still has the effect of distorting competition under Article 101(1). The criteria establishing whether a decision by an association is restrictive by its effect include defining the relevant market and assessing the possibility to access it, while taking into account existing and new competitors.[17] It must also be appraised whether the decision restricts actual or potential competition that would have existed in its absence.[18] Concerning the present discussion, Article 7(3) of the Regulations applies on the market of football intermediaries’ services in the EU. There will be undoubtedly an effect on the behaviour of existing intermediaries since normally their remuneration has been 5-10% and now it will be capped to 3%. This amendment could have the possible effect of lowering the level of competition on the market, decreasing the quality of the provided services and possibly driving some intermediaries out of business. In the absence of the decision at hand, these effect on competition would be significantly less likely to occur. As a consequence, the decision of FIFA to recommend a restriction on the remuneration of football intermediaries will have the effect of distorting competition.

Therefore, from the abovementioned analysis it follows that the recommended remuneration cap of 3% falls under the scope of Article 101(1) TFEU and constitute a decision by an association which has effect on trade between Member States and which restricts competition within the internal market.

Possible Justification

Although, a restriction within the meaning of Article 101 has been established, it remains to be analysed whether such a restriction may be justified. In Wouters, the CJEU held that not every decision of an association of undertakings which restricts the freedom of action of the parties necessarily falls within Article 101(1).[19] In order to apply this provision, account has to be taken of the overall context in which the decision was taken, its objectives. Subsequently, it has to be considered whether the consequential restrictive effects are inherent in the pursuit of those objectives.[20] In that context, it is important to verify whether the restrictions of competition are limited to what is necessary to ensure the implementation of legitimate objectives.[21] In other words, for a restriction to be justified, there must be a legitimate reason and the restrictive measure has to be necessary and proportionate for the achievement of the legitimate aim.

In Piau, the Regulation of Agents was justified as it aimed “to raise the professional and ethical standards for the occupation of players’ agent in order to protect players, who have a short career”.[22] In this case, the General Court ruled that the Commission did not err in its assessment by deciding that the licence system in place, which imposes qualitative rather than quantitative restrictions, seeks to protect players and clubs and takes into consideration the risks incurred by players in the event of poorly negotiated transfers.[23] Moreover, according to FIFA, the European Commission, EPFL and FIFPro, it is indisputable that the aim of the new Regulations is to enhance financial transparency related to players’ transfers and the protection of minor players. In this regard, even though the Commission or the CJEU has not yet decided upon the legitimacy of Article 7(3), it can be fairly assumed that the percentage cap, aiming to protect the exploitation of football players through enhanced financial transparency, can be considered as a legitimate aim.

Nevertheless, contrary to Piau, which concerned the licensing procedure of an agent, the present Article 7 stipulates a qualitative criterion rather a quantitative one. Furthermore, it is dubious whether such a recommended benchmark is suitable for achieving the legitimate aim of protecting football players. According to some commentators, it is foreseeable that the remuneration cap will lead to underhand, illegal payments so that intermediaries can maintain the level of compensation that they receive. As a result, intermediaries will further the very problem that FIFA intends to resolve by behaving in a manner that completely negates the primary purpose of the regulations. It can thus, lead to agents looking for new inventive ways to secure payment, for instance through higher percentage for work carried out in relation to the player’s commercial rights or signing longer representation contracts, which in turn  can also result in exploiting players. Some other negative effects may be the emergence of more persons involved in player transfers (lawyers, accountants or financial advisors), leading to less legal certainty and more disputes over the question who is liable for a certain transaction. Furthermore, a protection of minor players (Article 7) and ensuring financial transparency (Article 6) are already regulated in other provisions of the Regulations and thus a 3% cap seems to be redundant limitation towards the achievement of those goals.

Instead, other less restrictive possibilities for attaining the protection of football players are available. As proposed by AFA, a model of self-regulation and accreditation of intermediaries can be set up in co-operation with the national football associations.[24] By such a system, clubs and players could ensure themselves that an intermediary is of a particular standard, even though they would have the freedom to conclude a contract with those agents who do not fulfil a binding accreditation standard.[25] Such a system will not only be more preferred than the current FIFA’s Regulations but it will also be compatible with EU competition rules.[26] Other commentators consider that a more efficient option would be for FIFA not to cap agent fees but rather to strengthen existing ‘fit and proper’ enforcement measures to ensure global compliance with those standards. In this way, the fear expressed by FIFPro that “unnecessarily large amount of money disappears from professional football through agents” will be countered by stricter enforcement measures without restricting competition on the market. Another option for FIFA to avoid anti-competitive effects is for example, the publication of historical or survey-based price information by independent parties. Such regular publications might provide more trustworthy price guides reflecting the dynamics of the relevant market, enhance price transparency and at the same time avoid distortion of competition.

In any event, the measure in question appears to go beyond what is necessary. Typically agents receive between 5-10% of the player’s gross income and thus, a 3% recommended cap is seriously damaging the financial interests of intermediaries. Here, it ought to be mentioned that during the consultation process at FIFA’s Executive Committee, which led to the approval of the Regulations, all relevant stakeholders were present (member associations, clubs, FIFPro, professional football leagues, etc.) with the exception of any intermediaries’ representatives. Subsequently, the interests of agents were neglected during the discussion and the outcome was a stronger bargaining power granted to clubs and players in relation to transfers’ negotiations. This imbalance might lead to an asymmetry of information between agents and players and thus, to a distortion of the market. Further, not only is the content of Article 7(3) too strict but it is also too general and broad, encompassing all intermediaries and not foreseeing any exceptional circumstances. There is also no procedure in place, which allows agents to prove their qualifications and loyalty. As a result, even though an intermediary must have an impeccable reputation and is not allowed to charge minor football players, he/she is still presumed to be abusing his/hers powers and there is no mechanism allowing an intermediary to rebut this presumption.

Since, Article 7(3) of the Regulations does not satisfy the broad criteria for justification in Wouters and API, it is highly unlikely that it will pass through the narrow efficiencies test laid down in Article 101(3) TFEU. Hence, this assessment will not be analysed in this blog post.

Therefore, regardless of the fact that Article 7(3) of the Regulations serves a legitimate aim, it is dubious whether this particular measure is suitable for the achievement of the said goal and it is apparent that its restrictive effects go beyond what is necessary.

Conclusion

In this post, the potential negative effects of Article 7(3) of the FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries on EU competition law were considered. It was concluded that pursuant to the Piau case and the Commission’s decisional practice, such a recommendation constitutes a decision of an association of undertakings which is capable of distorting competition within the meaning of Article 101(1). Next, it was analysed whether the legitimate reason of preventing the abusive practices of players’ exploitation can justify the restriction on competition. The author’s view is that a 3% cap on the commission granted to agents is not the most appropriate measure to do so and thus it constitutes a disproportionate restriction on EU competition rules.



[1] Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (2012) OJ C326/01 art 101.

[2] Case C-309/99 Wouters and Others [2002] ECR I-1577 para 64; Case C-35/96 Commission v Italy [1998] ECR I-3851 para 60; A recommendation by an Association can also constitute a decision, see Case C 96-82 IAZ v Commission [1983] ECR 3369 paras 20-21.

[3] Case T-193/02 Piau v Commission [2005] ECR II-0209 para 69.

[4] Ibid, para 73.

[5] Case T-193/02 Piau v Commission [2005] ECR II-0209 para 75. See also Case C-45/85 Verband der Sachversicherer v Commission [1987] ECR 405 paras 29-32 and Case C-309/99 Wouters [2002] ECR I-1577 para 71.

[6] Case C-136/12 Consiglio nazionale dei geologi v Autorità garante della concorrenza e del mercato (ECJ 18 July 2013) para 46; See also Case C-45/85 Verband der Sachversicherer v Commission [1987] ECR 405 para 32.

[7] Ibid, paras 19-24.

[8] Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (2012) OJ C326/01 art 101(1) (a).

[9] Belgian Architects’ Association [2005] OJ L4/10 paras 3 and 4; Case COMP/37.975 PO/Yamaha [2003] para 141; See also, a tariff recommendation issued by an Association of undertakings was considered to be anticompetitive in Fenex [1996] OJ L181/28 para 74.

[10] Case C-45/85 Verband der Sachversicherer v Commission [1987] ECR 405 paras 29-31.

[11] Fenex [1996] OJ L181/28 para 47.

[12] Joined Cases T-213/95 & T-18/96 Stichting Certificatie Kraanverhuurbedrijf (SCK) and Federatie van Nederlandse Kraanbedrijven (FNK) v Commission [1997] ECR II-1739 paras 159 and 161-164.

[13] See the text of Article 7 of the Regulations.

[14] See Fenex [1996] OJ L181/28 para 73.

[15] UEFA ‘Club Licensing Benchmarking Report 2012’ < http://www.uefa.org/MultimediaFiles/Download/Tech/uefaorg/General/02/09/18/26/2091826_DOWNLOAD.pdf> page 54.

[16] Case T-193/02 Piau v Commission [2005] ECR II-0209 para 102.

[17] Case C-234/89 Delimitis [1991] ECR I-0935 paras 14, 16 and 18.

[18] Ibid, para 19 and 21.

[19] Case C-309/99 Wouters and Others [2002] ECR I-1577 para 97.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Joined Cases C-184 to 187, 194, 195 & 208/13 API (CJEU 4 September 2014) para 48; Case C-519/04 P Meca-Medina [2006] ECR I-6991 para 47 and Case C-136/12 Consiglio nazionale dei geologi v Autorità garante della concorrenza e del mercato (ECJ 18 July 2013) para 54.

[22] Case T-193/02 Piau v Commission [2005] ECR II-0209 para 102.

[23] Ibid, para 100.

[24] Nick De Marco, ‘The New FA Football Intermediaries Regulations and the Disputes Likely to Arise’ (Blackstone Chambers, 27 April 2015) pages 13-14.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

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