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

RFC Seraing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: How FIFA’s TPO ban Survived (Again) EU Law Scrutiny

Doyen (aka Doyen Sports Investment Limited) is nothing short of heroic in its fight against FIFA’s TPO ban. It has (sometimes indirectly through RFC Seraing) attacked the ban in front of the French courts, the Belgium courts, the European Commission and the Court of Arbitration for Sport. This costly, and until now fruitless, legal battle has been chronicled in numerous of our blogs (here and here). It is coordinated by Jean-Louis Dupont, a lawyer who is, to say the least, not afraid of fighting the windmills of sport’s private regulators. Yet, this time around he might have hit the limits of his stubbornness and legal ‘maestria’. As illustrated by the most recent decision of the saga, rendered in March by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in a case opposing the Belgium club RFC Seraing (or Seraing) to FIFA. The arguments in favour of the ban might override those against it. At least this is the view espoused by the CAS, and until tested in front of another court (preferably the CJEU) it will remain an influential one. The French text of the CAS award has just been published and I will take the opportunity of having for once an award in my native language to offer a first assessment of the CAS’s reasoning in the case, especially with regard to its application of EU law. More...

The Validity of Unilateral Extension Options in Football – Part 1: A European Legal Mess. By Saverio Spera

Editor’s Note: Saverio Spera is an Italian lawyer and LL.M. graduate in International Business Law at King’s College London. He is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

                 

In the football world the use of unilateral extension options (hereafter UEOs) in favour of the clubs is common practice. Clubs in Europe and, especially, South America make extensive use of this type of contractual clauses, since it gives them the exclusive possibility to prolong the employment relationship with players whose contracts are about to come to an end. This option gives to a club the right to extend the duration of a player’s contract for a certain agreed period after its initial expiry, provided that some previously negotiated conditions are met. In particular, these clauses allow clubs to sign young promising players for short-term contracts, in order to ascertain their potential, and then extend the length of their contracts.[1] Here lies the great value of UEOs for clubs: they can let the player go if he is not performing as expected, or unilaterally retain him if he is deemed valuable. Although an indisputably beneficial contractual tool for any football club, these clauses are especially useful to clubs specialized in the development of young players.[2] After the Bosman case, clubs have increasingly used these clauses in order to prevent players from leaving their clubs for free at the end of their contracts.[3] The FIFA Regulations do not contain any provisions regulating this practice, consequently the duty of clarifying the scope and validity of the options lied with the national courts, the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) and the CAS. This two-part blog will attempt to provide the first general overview on the issue.[4] My first blog will be dedicated to the validity of UEOs clauses in light of national laws and of the jurisprudence of numerous European jurisdictions. In a second blog, I will review the jurisprudence of the DRC and the CAS on this matter. More...

Call for papers: ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law - 26-27 October 2017

The editorial board of the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) is very pleased to invite you to submit abstracts for its first Annual Conference on International Sports Law. The ISLJ, published by Springer in collaboration with ASSER Press, is the leading publication in the field of international sports law. Its readership includes both academics and many practitioners active in the field. On 26-27 October 2017, the International Sports Law Centre of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut and the editorial board of the International Sports Law Journal will host in The Hague the first ever ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law. The conference will feature panels on the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the world anti-doping system, the global governance of sports, the FIFA transfer regulations, comparative sports law, and much more.

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International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – March 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.

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The legality of surety undertakings in relation to minor football players: the Lokilo case. By Adriaan Wijckmans

Editor's note: Adriaan Wijckmans is an associate specialized in sports law at the Belgium law firm Altius.

In a recent judgment, the Brussels Court of First Instance confirmed the legality of a so-called surety undertaking, i.e. an agreement in which the parents of a minor playing football guarantee that their child will sign a professional contract with a football club as soon as the child reaches the legal age of majority.

This long-awaited ruling was hailed, on the one hand, by clubs as a much needed and eagerly anticipated confirmation of a long-standing practice in Belgian football[1] and, on the other hand, criticised by FIFPro, the international player’s trade union, in a scathing press release. More...



Kosovo at the Court of Arbitration for Sport – Constructing Statehood Through Sport? By Ryan Gauthier (Thompson Rivers University)

Editor's Note: Ryan is Assistant Professor at Thompson Rivers University, he defended his PhD at Erasmus University Rotterdam in December 2015. His dissertation examined human rights violations caused by international sporting events, and how international sporting organisations may be held accountable for these violations. 


“Serious sport…is war minus the shooting.” – George Orwell

 

In May 2016, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) admitted the Football Federation of Kosovo (Kosovo) as a member. The voting was close, with 28 member federations in favour, 24 opposed, and 2 whose votes were declared invalid. The practical outcome of this decision is that Kosovo would be able participate in the UEFA Euro championship, and that Kosovo teams could qualify for the UEFA Champions’ League or Europa League. 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...

FIFA's Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses in Qatar – Part II: The Zurich Court's Ruling - By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell comes from Slovakia and is currently an LL.M. student in Public International Law at Leiden University. He contributes also to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a part-time intern.

This is a follow-up contribution to my previous blog on FIFA's responsibility for human rights abuses in Qatar published last week. Whereas the previous part has examined the lawsuit filed with the Commercial Court of the Canton of Zurich ('Court') jointly by the Dutch trade union FNV, the Bangladeshi Free Trade Union Congress, the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation and the Bangladeshi citizen Nadim Shariful Alam ('Plaintiffs') against FIFA, this second part will focus on the Court's ruling dated 3 January 2017 ('Ruling').[1]  More...



FIFA's Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses in Qatar - Part I: The Claims Against FIFA - By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell comes from Slovakia and is currently an LL.M. student in Public International Law at Leiden University. He contributes also to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a part-time intern.

On 2 December 2010, the FIFA Executive Committee elected Qatar as host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup ('World Cup'), thereby triggering a wave of controversies which underlined, for the most part, the country's modest size, lack of football history, local climate, disproportionate costs or corruption that accompanied the selection procedure. Furthermore, opponents of the decision to award the World Cup to the tiny oil-rich Gulf country also emphasized the country's negative human rights record.

More than six years later, on 3 January 2017, the Commercial Court of the Canton of Zurich ('Court') dismissed the lawsuit filed against FIFA[1] jointly by the Dutch trade union FNV, the Bangladeshi Free Trade Union Congress, the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation and the Bangladeshi citizen Nadim Shariful Alam ('Plaintiffs').[2] The Plaintiffs requested the Court to find FIFA responsible for alleged human rights violations of migrant workers in connection with the World Cup in Qatar. Had the Plaintiffs' claims been upheld by the Court, such decision would have had far-reaching consequences on the fate of thousands of migrants, mostly from India, Nepal and Bangladesh, who are currently working on the construction of sporting facilities and other infrastructure associated with organization of the World Cup. More...

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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 Impact of the new FIFA Regulations for Intermediaries: A comparative analysis of Brazil, Spain and England. By Luis Torres

INTRODUCTION

Almost a year after their announcement, the new FIFA Regulations on working with Intermediaries (“FIFA Regulations”) came into force on 1 April 2015. Their purpose is to create a more simple and transparent system of regulation of football agents. It should be noted, however, that the new FIFA rules enable every national football association to regulate their own system on players’ intermediaries, provided they respect the compulsory minimum requirements adopted. In an industry that is already cutthroat, it thus remains to be seen whether FIFA’s “deregulation” indeed creates transparency, or whether it is a Pandora’s Box to future regulatory confusion.

This blog post will provide an overview of the new FIFA Regulations on working with intermediaries and especially its minimum requirements. Provided that national associations are encouraged to “draw up regulations that shall incorporate the principles established in these provisions”[1], three different national regulations have been taken as case-studies: the English FA Regulations, the Spanish RFEF Regulations and the Brazilian CBF Regulations. After mapping their main points of convergence and principal differences, the issues that could arise from these regulatory differences shall be analyzed.  More...

Blog Symposium: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified. By Prof. Dr. Christian Duve

Introduction: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law.
Day 1: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it.
Day 2: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions
Day 3: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football.
Day 4: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective. 

Editor’s note: Finally, the last blog of our TPO ban Symposium has arrived! Due to unforeseen circumstances, FIFA had to reconsider presenting its own views on the matter. However, FIFA advised us to contact Prof. Dr. Christian Duve to author the eagerly awaited blog on their behalf. Prof. Dr. Christian Duve is a lawyer and partner with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and an honorary professor at the University of Heidelberg. He has been a CAS arbitrator until 2014. Thus, as planned, we will conclude this symposium with a post defending the compatibility of the TPO ban with EU law. Many thanks to Prof. Dr. Duve for having accepted this last-minute challenge! More...






Blog Symposium: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective. By Daniel Geey

Introduction: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law.
Day 1: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it.
Day 2: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions
Day 3: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football.
Day 5: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified.

Editor's note: In this fourth part of our blog symposium on FIFA's TPO ban Daniel Geey shares his 'UK perspective' on the ban. The English Premier League being one of the first leagues to have outlawed TPO in 2010, Daniel will outline the regulatory steps taken to do so and critically assess them. Daniel is an associate in Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP's Competition and EU Regulatory Law Group. As well as being a famous 'football law' twitterer, he has also published numerous articles and blogs on the subject.

 

What is Third Party Investment?
In brief Third Party Investment (TPI) in the football industry, is where a football club does not own, or is not entitled to, 100% of the future transfer value of a player that is registered to play for that team. There are numerous models for third party player agreements but the basic premise is that companies, businesses and/or individuals provide football clubs or players with money in return for owning a percentage of a player’s future transfer value. This transfer value is also commonly referred to as a player’s economic rights. There are instances where entities will act as speculators by purchasing a percentage share in a player directly from a club in return for a lump sum that the club can then use as it wishes. More...





Blog Symposium: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football. By Ariel N. Reck

Introduction: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law.
Day 1: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it.
Day 2: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions
Day 4: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective.
Day 5: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified.

Editor’s note: Ariel N. Reck is an Argentine lawyer specialized in the football industry. He is a guest professor at ISDE’s Global Executive Master in International Sports Law, at the FIFA CIES Sports law & Management course (Universidad Católica Argentina) and the Universidad Austral Sports Law diploma (Argentina) among other prestigious courses. He is a regular conference speaker and author in the field of sports law.

Being an Argentine lawyer, Ariel will focus on the impact FIFA’s TPO ban will have (and is already having) on South American football.More...





Blog Symposium: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions - By Dr. Raffaele Poli (Head of CIES Football Observatory)

Introduction: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law.
Day 1: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it.
Day 3: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football.
Day 4: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective.
Day 5: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified.

Editor’s note: Raffaele Poli is a human geographer. Since 2002, he has studied the labour and transfer markets of football players. Within the context of his PhD thesis on the transfer networks of African footballers, he set up the CIES Football Observatory based at the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) located in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Since 2005, this research group develops original research in the area of football from a multidisciplinary perspective combining quantitative and qualitative methods. Raffaele was also involved in a recent study on TPO providing FIFA with more background information on its functioning and regulation (the executive summary is available here).

This is the third blog of our Symposium on FIFA’s TPO ban, it is meant to provide an interdisciplinary view on the question. Therefore, it will venture beyond the purely legal aspects of the ban to introduce its social, political and economical context and the related challenges it faces. More...






Blog Symposium: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it. The point of view of La Liga.

Introduction: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law.
Day 2: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions
Day 3: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football.
Day 4: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective.
Day 5: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified.

Editor's note: This is the first blog of our symposium on FIFA's TPO ban, it features the position of La Liga regarding the ban and especially highlights some alternative regulatory measures it would favour. La Liga has launched a complaint in front of the European Commission challenging the compatibility of the ban with EU law, its ability to show that realistic less restrictive alternatives were available is key to winning this challenge. We wish to thank La Liga for sharing its legal (and political) analysis of FIFA's TPO ban with us.

INTRODUCTION

The Spanish Football League (La Liga) has argued for months that the funding of clubs through the conveyance of part of players' economic rights (TPO) is a useful practice for clubs. However, it also recognized that the practice must be strictly regulated. In July 2014, it approved a provisional regulation that was sent to many of the relevant stakeholders, including FIFA’s Legal Affairs Department. More...






Blog Symposium: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law - Introduction - Antoine Duval & Oskar van Maren

Day 1: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it.
Day 2: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions
Day 3: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football.
Day 4: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective.
Day 5: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified.

On 22 December 2014, FIFA officially introduced an amendment to its Regulations on the Status and Transfers of Players banning third-party ownership of players’ economic rights (TPO) in football. This decision to put a definitive end to the use of TPO in football is controversial, especially in countries where TPO is a mainstream financing mechanism for clubs, and has led the Portuguese and Spanish football leagues to launch a complaint in front of the European Commission, asking it to find the FIFA ban contrary to EU competition law.

Next week, we will feature a Blog Symposium discussing the FIFA TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law. We are proud and honoured to welcome contributions from both the complainant (the Spanish football league, La Liga) and the defendant (FIFA) and three renowned experts on TPO matters: Daniel Geey ( Competition lawyer at Fieldfisher, aka @FootballLaw), Ariel Reck (lawyer at Reck Sports law in Argentina, aka @arielreck) and Raffaele Poli (Social scientist and head of the CIES Football Observatory). The contributions will focus on different aspects of the functioning of TPO and on the impact and consequences of the ban. More...





The CAS and Mutu - Episode 4 - Interpreting the FIFA Transfer Regulations with a little help from EU Law

On 21 January 2015, the Court of arbitration for sport (CAS) rendered its award in the latest avatar of the Mutu case, aka THE sports law case that keeps on giving (this decision might still be appealed to the Swiss Federal tribunal and a complaint by Mutu is still pending in front of the European Court of Human Right). The decision was finally published on the CAS website on Tuesday. Basically, the core question focuses on the interpretation of Article 14. 3 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players in its 2001 version. More precisely, whether, in case of a dismissal of a player (Mutu) due to a breach of the contract without just cause by the player, the new club (Juventus and/or Livorno) bears the duty to pay the compensation due by the player to his former club (Chelsea). Despite winning maybe the most high profile case in the history of the CAS, Chelsea has been desperately hunting for its money since the rendering of the award (as far as the US), but it is a daunting task. Thus, the English football club had the idea to turn against Mutu’s first employers after his dismissal in 2005, Juventus and Livorno, with success in front of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC), but as we will see the CAS decided otherwise[1]. More...

The UCI Report: The new dawn of professional cycling?

The world of professional cycling and doping have been closely intertwined for many years. Cycling’s International governing Body, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), is currently trying to clean up the image of the sport and strengthen its credibility. In order to achieve this goal, in January 2014 the UCI established the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) “to conduct a wide ranging independent investigation into the causes of the pattern of doping that developed within cycling and allegations which implicate the UCI and other governing bodies and officials over ineffective investigation of such doping practices.”[1] The final report was submitted to the UCI President on 26 February 2015 and published on the UCI website on 9 March 2015. The report outlines the history of the relationship between cycling and doping throughout the years. Furthermore, it scrutinizes the role of the UCI during the years in which doping usage was at its maximum and addresses the allegations made against the UCI, including allegations of corruption, bad governance, as well as failure to apply or enforce its own anti-doping rules. Finally, the report turns to the state of doping in cycling today, before listing some of the key practical recommendations.[2]

Since the day of publication, articles and commentaries (here and here) on the report have been burgeoning and many of the stakeholders have expressed their views (here and here). However, given the fact that the report is over 200 pages long, commentators could only focus on a limited number of aspects of the report, or only take into account the position of a few stakeholders. In the following two blogs we will try to give a comprehensive overview of the report in a synthetic fashion.

This first blogpost will focus on the relevant findings and recommendations of the report. In continuation, a second blogpost will address the reforms engaged by the UCI and other long and short term consequences the report could have on professional cycling. Will the recommendations lead to a different governing structure within the UCI, or will the report fundamentally change the way the UCI and other sport governing bodies deal with the doping problem? More...

Book Review - Camille Boillat & Raffaele Poli: Governance models across football associations and leagues (2014)

Camille Boillat & Raffaele Poli: Governance models across football associations and leagues (2014)

Vol. 4, Centre International d'Etude du Sport, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, softback, 114 pages, ISBN 2-940241-24-4, Price: €24




Source: http://www.cies.ch/en/cies/news/news/article/new-publication-in-the-collection-editions-cies-governance-models-across-football-associations-an/

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Asser International Sports Law Blog | The Pechstein ruling of the Oberlandesgericht München - Time for a new reform of CAS?

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 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).

 

The Pechstein Saga

Few are able to remember the start of Claudia Pechstein’s legal crusade through all available jurisdictions in the northern hemisphere[1]. Thus, a concise summary of the previous episodes is in order. Claudia Pechstein is a German Speed-Skater, multiple Olympic Gold Medallist and World Champion. In 2009, she was one of the first athletes caught for doping on the basis of the blood profiling system introduced by the International Skating Union (ISU)[2]. Henceforth, the ISU banned her from all competitions for two years. This triggered a long and embroiled legal saga. She appealed the ban in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), based on an arbitration agreement included in her license with the national and international federations. The CAS dismissed (CAS 2009/A/1912 & 1913 and CAS OG 10/04) her claims and confirmed the two-year ban. Subsequently, she contested (twice!) the award in front of the Swiss Federal Tribunal (Case 4A_612/2009, 10 February 2010 and Case 4A_144/2010, 28 September 2010), but was both times unsuccessful. Her case is also pending before the European Court of Human Rights. Meanwhile, she started an action for damages (around € 4 Million) in front of the local Court of Munich (Landesgericht München). This Court released its judgment on 26 February 2014, despite recognizing the invalidity of the arbitration clause, it considered that the award’s res judicata effect was to be recognized because Pechstein did not contest the competence of CAS when she appealed the ISU’s decision to it. Pechstein decided to appeal the judgment to the Oberlandesgericht München, which in its decision from 15 January 2015 embraced her claims.

 

The Decision of the Oberlandesgericht München

The overall position of the Oberlandesgericht concerning the CAS award is straightforward. The court considers the arbitration clause between the ISU and Claudia Pechstein as contrary to German (and maybe European) antitrust law, which is part of German public policy, and, therefore, refuses on the basis of Article V (2) (b) New York Convention of 1958 to recognize the validity in Germany of the CAS awards rendered in the Pechstein case. But, why is it so?

First of all, the judges point out a typical (but often overlooked) fact about International Sports Governing bodies: they are monopolists. In other words, they control the market(s) for international sports competitions and nowadays (at least in speed-skating) no professional athlete can afford, if he is to live from his sport, to miss those competitions. Yet, German antitrust law bans an undertaking placed in a dominant position from imposing contractual conditions that differ from what they would be in a normal competitive environment. Hence, the Court held that the ISU was unlawfully imposing onto Claudia Pechstein the signing of a CAS arbitration clause. But, is a forced arbitration clause per se constitutive of an antitrust violation? The Court is subtler. In fact, it acknowledges that an arbitration clause imposed by a Sports Governing Body does not constitute per se an antitrust violation. To the contrary, the Court clearly states that there are good reasons (for example the uniform application of anti-doping regulations) to subject the resolution of sporting disputes between athletes and Sports Governing Bodies to a unique world court for sport. What is the problem then?  

In the eyes of the German court, the problem lies with CAS and its institutional set-up. First of all, the Sports Governing Bodies (International federations, NOCs and IOC) have a decisive influence on who is potentially called to be an arbitrator in CAS arbitration. Here, without clearly alluding to it in the press release, the Court has the closed list of CAS arbitrators in mind. In short, only a predefined number of people can act as arbitrators before CAS. Those arbitrators are appointed on the CAS list by ICAS, the CAS code in force at the time of the case foresaw that 3/5 of the arbitrators were appointed upon proposals made by the Sports Governing Bodies[3]. This has changed. As from the 1 January 2014 the ICAS is free to appoint whomever it deems appropriate on the list[4]. Nevertheless, the Court finds that, at least for the time Pechstein was facing the CAS, the Sports Governing Bodies were in a structurally favourable position regarding the composition of the arbitral panel. In practice, athletes were forced to ratify this disequilibrium due to the monopoly of Sports Governing Bodies on the access to international sporting competitions.

Furthermore, the German judges consider that this imbalance plagues also the nomination process of a president of an arbitral panel. Indeed, under article R54 of the CAS Code, the president of the CAS Appeals Arbitration Division is responsible to nominate the presidents of the panels[5]. However, the president of the CAS appeals division is himself nominated by the ICAS[6], which consists mainly of representatives of the Sports governing bodies[7], and is often a personality close to them[8]. Currently, the ICAS has 20 members, of which 14 have (or had) direct ties with Sports Governing bodies and none is connected to the existing athlete’s unions. This institutional bias entrenches the structural imbalance in favour of the Sports Governing Bodies already identified by the Court apropos the closed list of arbitrators. Thus, the independence of the panel cannot be guaranteed and the fairness of the arbitral process safeguarded. Therefore, in light of the monopolistic position of the ISU and the lack of independence of CAS panels, the imposition of an arbitration clause depriving the athlete of her constitutional right to a judge constitutes a breach of German antitrust law.

Consequently, and contrary to the first instance Landesgericht[9], the Oberlandesgericht refuses to recognize, on the basis of Article 5 par. 2  b) of the 1958 New York Convention, the validity of the CAS awards invoked by ISU to oppose the damage claims raised by Pechstein. The Court leaves open the question of the damage claims, the partial ruling on the jurisdiction being susceptible to an appeal to the highest German civil Court, the BGH.

 

Towards a Gundel 2.0 for CAS: Reform or die!

The Pechstein Saga is not finished yet; an appeal to the BGH by ISU is to be expected. However, one should not underestimate the symbolic value of the Oberlandesgericht’s ruling and the threat it constitutes to the work of CAS. Indeed, if the ruling were to be confirmed by the BGH it would basically imply that CAS awards are unenforceable in German courts and that athletes may therefore (successfully or not) claim damages against the Sports Governing Bodies imposing sanctions on the basis of these awards. From the press release it remains unclear whether the decision is based solely on German antitrust law or also on EU antitrust law. Nonetheless, this decision might also be constructed as an abuse of a dominant position in the sense of article 102 TFEU and could gain validity in the EU as a whole. This would be a dramatic setback for sports arbitration, nothing short than the death of CAS.

But, it need not come to such extremity. As recognized by the Oberlandesgericht, the CAS fulfils an important function in the sporting world. It is a necessary institution to provide a level legal playing field when issues of doping or transfers are leading to acrimonious transnational disputes. Additionally, it also has advantages for the athletes, as it is usually perceived as cheaper and faster than state justice[10]. All of this is duly acknowledged in the decision. In short, what the German Court is asking for is an institutional reform of CAS. This restructuring would entail a fundamental reshuffling of the internal functioning of the CAS. Indeed, the German judges have identified the two main weak points of CAS, the forced arbitration coupled with its lack of independence[11]. The forced arbitration can be accepted if, and only if, the structural independence of CAS from the Sports Governing Bodies is warranted[12]. The challenge to CAS can be formulated as follows: cut the ties that bind you to the Sports Governing Bodies or we will not accept the validity of the arbitration clause underpinning your competence.

In fact, the CAS was at a fairly similar (less dramatic) crossroad after the Gundel case of the Swiss Federal Tribunal in 1993[13]. In the Gundel case, the SFT recognized the independence of CAS but also clearly indicated that it would not do so if the IOC were a party to a dispute in front of CAS. This led to what is known as the Paris agreement, an in depth structural reform of CAS[14]. Mainly, the ICAS was created to separate the management of CAS from the IOC. The SFT expressed its satisfaction with the reforms in its famous Lazutina case and blessed the CAS with the full recognition of its independence[15]. This, however, did not mean that the recognition of the independence of CAS was legally a given beyond Switzerland. To the contrary, it was (and is) still hotly debated in the literature[16]. Now, the German court basically says the Paris agreement is not enough, we need a new one, ensuring that athletes (and other stakeholders like clubs or supporters) get a true say in the ICAS. It is time for the CAS’s institutional structure to better reflect the diversity of actors affected by its decisions. If not, CAS awards will not be recognized in Germany and, by extension, the entire territory of the EU, thus leading the sports justice into a profound crisis.

 



[1] All the relevant legal documents are available on her website at http://www.claudia-pechstein.de/gerichtsunterlagen.php

[2] On the dispute see D. McArdle, ‘Longitudinal Profiling, Sports Arbitration and The Woman Who Had Nothing to Lose. Some Thoughts on Pechstein v International Skating Union”, available at https://dspace.stir.ac.uk/bitstream/1893/3356/1/Pechstein%20final.pdf

[3] Article S14 CAS Code, edition 2004

[4] The new article S14 CAS Code reads as follows:

« In establishing the list of CAS arbitrators, ICAS shall call upon personalities with appropriate legal training, recognized competence with regard to sports law and/or international arbitration, a good knowledge of sport in general and a good command of at least one CAS working language, whose names and qualifications are brought to the attention of ICAS, including by the IOC, the IFs and the NOCs. ICAS may identify the arbitrators with a specific expertise to deal with certain types of disputes. »

[5] Article R54 CAS Code 2004 (and 2014) reads as follows: “If three arbitrators are to be appointed, the President of the Division shall appoint the President of the Panel upon appointment of the arbitrator by the Respondent and after having consulted the arbitrators.”

[6] Article S6 par.2 CAS Code 2004 (and 2014)

[7] Article S4 CAS Code 2014 foresees that:
« ICAS is composed of twenty members, experienced jurists appointed in the following manner :

1.     four members are appointed by the International Federations (IFs), viz. three by the Association of Summer Olympic IFs (ASOIF) and one by the Association of the Winter Olympic IFs (AIOWF), chosen from within or outside their membership;

2.     four members are appointed by the Association of the National Olympic Committees (ANOC), chosen from within or outside its membership;

3.     four members are appointed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), chosen from within or outside its membership;

4.     four members are appointed by the twelve members of ICAS listed above, after appropriate consultation with a view to safeguarding the interests of the athletes;

5.     four members are appointed by the sixteen members of ICAS listed above, chosen from among personalities independent of the bodies designating the other members of the ICAS. »

[8] The current president, Corinne Schmidhauser, is a member of the Legal Committee of the Fédération Internationale de Ski (International Ski Federation). It is surely telling that Thomas Bach, the current IOC president, was her predecessor at that post.

[9] The first instance Court (Landesgericht München) considered that due to Pechstein’s appeal and lack of contestation of the CAS’s competence, the award had gained res judicata effect. See paragraphs  IV.2) of the judgment.

[10] A point made by D. Yi, ‘Turning medals into metal:  Evaluating the Court of Arbitration for Sport as an International tribunal’, available at http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1024&context=student_papers

[11] Antonio Rigozzi has highlighted these weaknesses in his Phd thesis, see A. Rigozzi L’arbitrage international en matière de sport, Bruylant, 2005, pp.273-349 and 421-426. See also, M. Maisonneuve, L’arbitrage des litiges sportifs, L.G.D.J, 2011, pp. 141-221 and pp. 267-313.

[12] In principle the Swiss Federal Tribunal has a similar view outlined in the Cañas case (4P.172/2006), but it considers that the CAS already offers « sufficient guarantees of independence and impartiality » (par. 4.3.2.3.). Thus, its assessment of the CAS’s independence is diametrically opposed to the one conducted by the Oberlandesgericht.

[13] Decision 4P.217/1992 of 15 March 1993 (Gundel v FEI), ATF 119 II 271, translated in CAS Digest I,.p. 545

[14] For an introduction on the Paris agreement see, http://www.tas-cas.org/en/general-information/history-of-the-cas.html#c74

[15] Decision 4P.267–270/2002 du 27 mai 2003, Lazutina c. CIO, ATF 129 III 445, Bull. ASA 2003, p. 601

[16] For a recent contribution to this debate see A. Vaitiekunas, The Court of Arbitration for Sport : Law-making and the question of independence, Stämpfli Publishers, 2014 

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