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

New Event! Zoom In on International Skating Union v. European Commission - 20 January - 16.00-17.30 (CET)

On Wednesday 20 January 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret, is organising a Zoom In webinar on the recent judgment of the General Court in the case International Skating Union (ISU) v European Commission, delivered on 16 December 2016. The Court ruled on an appeal against the first-ever antitrust prohibition decision on sporting rules adopted by the European Commission. More specifically, the case concerned the ISU’s eligibility rules, which were prohibiting speed skaters from competing in non-recognised events and threatened them with lifelong bans if they did (for more details on the origin of the case see this blog). The ruling of the General Court, which endorsed the majority of the European Commission’s findings, could have transformative implications for the structure of sports governance in the EU (and beyond).

We have the pleasure to welcome three renowned experts in EU competition law and sport to analyse with us the wider consequences of this judgment.


Guest speakers:

Moderators:


Registration HERE


Zoom In webinar series

In December 2020, The Asser International Sports Law Centre in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret launched a new series of zoom webinars on transnational sports law: Zoom In. You can watch the video recording of our first discussion on the arbitral award delivered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the Blake Leeper v. International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) case on the Asser Institute’s Youtube Channel. Click here to learn more about the Zoom In webinar series.

Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 3: The Curious Non-Application of Training Compensation to Women’s Football – By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.

 

As recently as September 2020, questions were raised in the European Parliament on the non-application of training compensation to women’s football. Whilst this blog will predominantly consider potential inconsistencies in reasoning for and against training compensation in men’s and women’s football, the questions before the Commission were largely on the theme of disrespect and discrimination. Somewhat unfortunately, the questions raised were side-stepped, with Ms Gabriel (Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth) simply stating that: “The TFEU does not give the Commission the competence to interfere in the internal organisation of an independent international organisation such as FIFA.” This might be true in theory, though one might feel some degree of uneasiness if privy to the Commission’s role in the 2001 FIFA regulatory overhaul.

It is currently explicit in the regulations and the commentary, that in women’s football, signing clubs are not required to compensate training clubs for developing players, through the training compensation mechanism that exists in men’s football. Though it is a contentious comment and as will be expanded below, this may not have always been the case.

At Article 20 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP), one will find that the principles of training compensation shall not apply to women’s football. Further, in FIFA’s recently released Women’s Football Administrator Handbook (the handbook), it states that disputes relating to training compensation are limited for the moment to male players only.[1]

Regulations on solidarity contributions on the other hand do apply to women’s football, but given transfer fees are not so common, the use of the mechanism is not either. As an indication of how uncommon the activation of the solidarity contribution mechanism in women’s football might be, FIFA reported in the handbook just four claims with the Players’ Status Department in 2016 (three claims involving the same player), and zero since.[2] That is in comparison to hundreds of claims made per season in men’s football, where signing and owing clubs had not fulfilled their obligation to pay the solidarity contribution.

Given the aforementioned, this blog will largely focus on training compensation and how it came to be the case that this mechanism, often presented as critical in the context of men’s football, does not apply in women’s football. To do so, I will first discuss the reasoning advanced in an unpublished CAS award, which one may reasonably suspect played a fundamental role in shaping the current exemption. I will then turn to FIFA’s timely response to the award and the adoption of its Circular No. 1603. Finally, I will point out the disconnect in FIFA’s decision to adopt two radically different approaches to the issue of training compensation in male and female professional football. More...


New Event! Zoom In on Transnational Sports Law - Blake Leeper v. IAAF - 4 December at 4pm (CET)

The Asser International Sports Law Centre in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret is launching a new series of zoom webinars on transnational sports law: Zoom In. The first discussion (4 December at 16.00) will zoom in on the recent arbitral award delivered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the Blake Leeper v. International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) case.

In this decision, reminiscent of the famous Pistorius award rendered a decade ago, the CAS panel ruled on the validity of an IAAF rule that places the burden on a disabled athlete to prove that a mechanical aid used to compete in IAAF-sanctioned competitions does not give them an overall competitive advantage. While siding with the athlete, Blake Leeper, on the burden of proof, the CAS panel did conclude that Leeper’s prosthesis provided him an undue advantage over other athletes and hence that the IAAF could bar him from competing in its events.

To reflect on the key aspects of the decision and its implications, we have invited scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds to join the zoom discussion. 

Confirmed guests

 Moderators


The webinar is freely available, but registration here is necessary.

Last call to register to the 2021 edition of the Sports Law Arbitration Moot - Deadline 1 December

Dear all,

Our Slovenian friends (and former colleague) Tine Misic and Blaž Bolcar are organising the second edition of the Sports Law Arbitration Moot (SLAM).

The best four teams of the SLAM competition will compete in the finals, which will be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on 30th and 31st March, 2021.

This is a great opportunity for students to familiarise themselves with the world of sports arbitration, to meet top lawyers and arbitrators in the field, and to visit beautiful Ljubljana.

Go for it!

You'll find more information and can register at https://sportlex.si/slam/en

Pistorius revisited: A comment on the CAS award in Blake Leeper v. IAAF - By Marjolaine Viret

On 23 October 2020, a panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (‘CAS’) rendered an award in the matter opposing Mr Blake Leeper (‘Mr Leeper’ or ‘the Athlete’) to the International Association of Athletics Federation (‘IAAF’).[1] The CAS panel was asked to make a ruling on the validity of the IAAF rule that places on a disabled athlete the burden to prove that a mechanical aid used to compete in IAAF-sanctioned competitions does not give such athlete an overall competitive advantage.

The award is remarkable in that it declared the shift of the burden of proof on the athlete invalid, and reworded the rule so that the burden is shifted back on the IAAF to show the existence of a competitive advantage. Thus, while the IAAF won its case against Blake Leeper as the panel found that the sport governing body had discharged its burden in casu, the outcome can be viewed as a victory for disabled athletes looking to participate in IAAF-sanctioned events. It remains to be seen how this victory will play out in practice. Beyond the immediate issue at stake, the case further presents an illustration of how – all things equal – assigning the burden of proof can be decisive for the real-life impact of a policy involving complex scientific matters, as much as the actual legal prerequisites of the underlying rules.

This article focuses on some key aspects of the award that relate to proof issues in the context of assessing competitive advantage. Specifically, the article seeks to provide some food for thought regarding burden and degree of proof of an overall advantage, the contours of the test of ‘overall advantage’ designed by the CAS panel and its possible bearing in practice, and potential impact of the ruling on other areas of sports regulations such as anti-doping.

The award also analyses broader questions regarding the prohibition of discrimination in the regulation of sports, as well as the interplay with international human rights instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’), which are not explored in depth here. More...

Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 2: The African Reality – By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.


Having considered the history and justifications for the FIFA training compensation and solidarity mechanisms in my previous blog, I will now consider these systems in the African context. This appears to be a worthwhile undertaking given these global mechanisms were largely a result of European influence, so understanding their (extraterritorial) impact beyond the EU seems particularly important. Moreover, much has been written about the “muscle drain” affecting African football and the need for such drain to either be brought to a halt, or, more likely and perhaps more practical, to put in place an adequate system of redistribution to ensure the flourishing of African football that has essentially acted as a nursery for European football for at least a century. In the present blog, I intend to draw on my experiences as a football agent to expand on how FIFA’s redistributive mechanisms function in practice when an African player signs in Europe via one of the many kinds of entities that develop or purport to develop talent in Africa. I will throughout address the question of whether these mechanisms are effective in a general sense and more specifically in relation to their operation in Africa.More...



International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – October 2020 - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.


The Headlines

Aguero and Massey-Ellis incident: An Opportunity for Change and Education?

In mid-October a clip went viral of Argentinian star Sergio Aguero putting his hands on sideline referee, Sian Massey-Ellis. A heated debate ensued in many circles, some claiming that Aguero’s conduct was commonplace, others taking aim at the appropriateness of the action, around players touching official and a male touching a female with an unsolicited arm around the back, the squeeze and pull in. Putting the normative arguments aside for a moment, the irony of the debate was that all sides had a point. Football, almost exclusively, has grown a culture of acceptance for touching officials despite the regulations. Male officials who have let such conduct slide, have arguably let their female colleague down in this instance.

Whilst a partial defence of Aguero might be that this kind of conduct takes place regularly, the incident could serve as a learning experience. If Massey-Ellis’ reaction was not enough, the backlash from some of the public might provide Aguero and other players the lesson, that touching a woman in this way is not acceptable.

Returning to football, the respect and protection of officials in sport, the key here appears to be cracking down on touching officials entirely. This is not a foreign concept and football need only look at the rugby codes. Under no circumstances does the regulations or the culture permit that a player from the rugby codes touch a referee. It is likely the case that the obvious extra level of respect for officials in these sports derives from a firm culture of no touching, no crowding officials, communicating with officials through the team captain only, with harsh sanctions if one does not comply.

The Football Association of England has decided no action was necessary, raising questions of how seriously they take the safety of officials, and gender issues. This is ultimately a global football issue though, so the confederations or international bodies may need step in to ensure the protections that appear at best fragile.  


Rugby Trans issue

The World Rugby Transgender guideline has been released and contains a comprehensive unpacking of the science behind much of the regulatory framework. Despite many experts applauding World Rugby on the guidelines and the extensive project to reach them, the England Rugby Football Union is the first to defy the World Rugby ruling and transgender women will still be allowed to play women’s rugby at all non-international levels of the game in England for the foreseeable future. This clash between national bodies and the international body on an important issue is concerning and will undoubtedly be one to keep an eye on.

 

CAS rejects the appeal of Munir El Haddadi and the Fédération Royale Marocaine de Football (FRMF)

The refusal to authorise a footballer to change national federation is in the headlines with the CAS dismissing the appeal of the player and Moroccan federation, confirming the original determination of the FIFA Players’ Status Committee.

This has been given considerable recent attention and seemingly worth following, perhaps best summed up by FIFA Director of Football Regulatory, James Kitching, where in a tweet he notes: “The new eligibility rules adopted by the FIFA Congress on 18 September 2020 have passed their first test. We will be publishing our commentary on the rules in the next fortnight. Watch this space.” More...



Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part.1: The historical, legal and political foundations - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.


In 2019, training compensation and solidarity contributions based on FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) amounted to US$ 75,5 million. This transfer of wealth from the clubs in the core of the football hierarchy to the clubs where the professional players originated is a peculiar arrangement unknown in other global industries. Beyond briefly pointing out or reminding the reader of how these systems work and the history behind them, this blog series aims to revisit the justifications for FIFA-imposed training compensation and the solidarity mechanism, assess their efficacy and effects through a case study of their operation in the African context, and finally analyse the potential impact of upcoming reforms of the FIFA RSTP in this context.

First, it is important to go back to the roots of this, arguably, strange practice. The current transfer system and the legal mechanisms constituting it were largely the result of a complex negotiation between European football’s main stakeholders and the European Commission dating back to 2001. The conclusion of these negotiations led to a new regulatory system enshrined in Article 20 and Annex 4 of the RSTP in the case of training compensation, and at Article 21 and Annex 5 in the case of the solidarity mechanism. Before paying some attention to the historical influences and how we arrived at these changes, as well as the justifications from the relevant bodies for their existence, let us briefly recall what training compensation and the solidarity mechanisms actually are. More...



Invalidity of forced arbitration clauses in organised sport…Germany strikes back! - By Björn Hessert

Editor's note: Björn Hessert is a research assistant at the University of Zurich and a lawyer admitted to the German bar.

 

The discussion revolving around the invalidity of arbitration clauses in organised sport in favour of national and international sports arbitral tribunals has been at the centre of the discussion in German courtrooms.[1] After the decisions of the German Federal Tribunal[2] (“BGH”) and the European Court of Human Rights[3] (“ECtHR”) in the infamous Pechstein case, this discussion seemed to have finally come to an end. Well…not according to the District Court (LG) of Frankfurt.[4] On 7 October 2020, the District Court rendered a press release in which the court confirmed its jurisdiction due to the invalidity of the arbitration clause contained in the contracts between two beach volleyball players and the German Volleyball Federation[5] (“DVV”) – but one step at a time. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – September - October 2020 - By Rhys Lenarduzzi


The Headlines


Human rights and sport  

Caster Semenya

Human rights issues are taking the headlines in the sporting world at present. A short time ago, Caster Semenya’s appeal at the Swiss Federal Tribunal against the CAS decision was dismissed, perhaps raising more questions than answering them. Within the last few days however, the message from the Semenya camp has been that this is not over (see here).  See the contributions from a range of authors at Asser International Sports Law Blog for a comprehensive analysis of the Semenya case(s) to date.

Navid Afkari

As the sporting world heard of the execution of Iranian Wrestler Navid Afkari, a multitude of legal and ethical questions bubbled to the surface. Not least of all and not a new question: what is the responsibility of sport and the governing bodies therein, in the space of human rights?  And, if an athlete is to acquire a high profile through sporting excellence, does that render athletes vulnerable to be made an example of and therefore in need of greater protection than is currently afforded to them? There are differing views on how to proceed. Consider the following from the World Players Association (Navid Afkari: How sport must respond) and that from the IOC (IOC Statement on the execution of wrestler Navid Afkari) which shows no indication through this press releases and other commentary, of undertaking the measures demanded by World Players Association and other socially active organisations. (See also, Benjamin Weinthal - Olympics refuses to discuss Iranian regime’s murder of wrestler).

Yelena Leuchanka

As this is written and relevant to the above, Yelena Leuchanka is behind bars for her participation in protests, resulting in several sporting bodies calling for her immediate release and for reform in the sporting world around how it ought to deal with these issues. As a member of the “Belarus women's national basketball team, a former player at several WNBA clubs in the United States and a two-time Olympian”, Leuchanka has quite the profile and it is alleged that she is being made an example of. (see here)

Uighur Muslims and Beijing Winter Olympics

British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab does not rule out Winter Olympics boycott over Uighur Muslims. ‘The foreign secretary said it was his "instinct to separate sport from diplomacy and politics" but that there "comes a point where that might not be possible".’ Though Raab’s comments are fresh, this issue is shaping as a “watch this space” scenario, as other governments might echo a similar sentiment as a result of mounting pressure from human rights activist groups and similar, in lead up to the Winter Games. More...



Asser International Sports Law Blog | ‘The reform of football': Yes, but how? By Marco van der Harst

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 reform of football': Yes, but how? By Marco van der Harst

'Can't fight corruption with con tricks
They use the law to commit crime
And I dread, dread to think what the future will bring
When we're living in gangster time'
The Specials - Gangsters


The pressing need for change 

The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) of the Council of Europe (CoE), which is composed of 318 MPs chosen from the national parliaments of the 47 CoE member states, unanimously adopted a report entitled ‘the reform of football’ on January 27, 2015. A draft resolution on the report will be debated during the PACE April 2015 session and, interestingly, (only?) FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter has been sent an invitation

The PACE report highlights the pressing need of reforming the governance of football by FIFA and UEFA respectively. Accordingly, the report contains some interesting recommendations to improve FIFA’s (e.g., Qatargate[1]) and UEFA’s governance (e.g., gender representation). Unfortunately, it remains unclear how the report’s recommendations will actually be implemented and enforced. 

The report is a welcomed secondary effect of the recent Qatargate directly involving former FIFA officials such as Jack Warner, Chuck Blazer, and Mohamed Bin Hammam[2] and highlighting the dramatic failures of FIFA’s governance in putting its house in order. Thus, it is undeniably time to correct the governance of football by FIFA and its confederate member UEFA – nolens volens. The real question is how to do it.



            Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images                   Photograph: Octav Ganea/AP


The main recommendations of the report 

In order to successfully investigate and disciplinary sanction violations made by its members, the report calls on FIFA and UEFA to revamp their institutions. Issues like corruption, nepotism, cronyism, conflict of interests can only be solved if:

  • The rules and decisions are clear, transparent and accountable (i.e. sanctioned) at a central level (Congress)
  • The flow of money is clear, transparent and accountable (i.e. sanctioned) at a central level (Congress)

  • Those who are in charge could be held accountable in a judicial or democratic, transparent and clear way before Congress

  • The duration of the terms of office should be limited at all levels (President, Congress, Committees)
  • The rules and decisions made by independent FIFA/UEFA officials should be made ‘for the good of the game’ and not for personal gains

  • Possible conflicts of interests should be prevented

  • Gender equality with regard to democratic representation (Congress, Committees). 


The report’s lack of clarity on the role of Switzerland

In order to implement the report’s recommendations, it is necessary to fully appreciate the essential role Switzerland could play because, inter alia, FIFA and UEFA are both associations under Swiss law. While taking into account the upcoming implementation of Lex FIFA i.e. the criminalisation of corruption in sport in Switzerland, one needs also to analyse the potential role of Swiss private law to ensure a comprehensive implementation of the report’s recommendations on reforming the governance of football by FIFA and UEFA. 


Good governance, corporate governance or association governance?

‘Good governance’ should be distinguished from ‘corporate governance’. The main and essential difference between the two is that the former concerns the protection of the public interest and the latter the protection of the corporation concerned. Accordingly, the set of duties, responsibilities and competences of, e.g., public law authorities are different from those who serve in a commercial enterprise. Considering the public and private law context and the different demands with regard to using the available instruments thereof, it is important to discern the differences between good governance and corporate governance.[3]

According to the European Commission ‘[c]orporate governance defines relationships between a company’s management, its board … and its … stakeholders[4]. It determines the way companies are managed and controlled’[5] by those stakeholders for the former’s and the latter’s interest.

In principle, corporate governance is mainly the (social) responsibility of the respective corporation[6] whereby those stakeholders play a crucial role to ensure that certain standards[7] such as transparency and accountability – with regard to, e.g., FIFA’s and UEFA’s economic and rule-making activities – would be respected in accordance with mandatory rules of national and EU law[8].

All international sports governing bodies located in Switzerland such as FIFA and UEFA have been recognized as private law associations under Article 60 et seq. of the Swiss Civil Code (CC). Since 1981, Switzerland has also recognized the public law status of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).[9]

Under Swiss law, an association could be a profit-organization that may make turnovers or profits comparable to commercial enterprises.[10] Essentially, however, a corporation differs from an association, namely the former has to be financially accountable to its shareholders whereas the latter is required to be democratically and financially accountable to its members.[11] In order to ensure that those members make use of their membership rights, it is fundamental that the decision-making process with regard to anti-corruption compliance structures and democratic structures are strictly adhered in accordance with mandatory rules of law. Accordingly, it may also be a starting point for associations to act in accordance with the principles of ‘association governance’ if they were – indeed – implemented in mandatory law and applied correctly.[12] 


Constraints to association governance

As one of the state parties to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), Switzerland is inter alia bound by Article 11 of the ECHR i.e. the fundamental right to freedom of (assembly and) association, which is subject to restrictions that are in accordance with the law and necessary in a democratic society. Accordingly, those associations have a restricted competence[13] to set the rules, to apply and to enforce them uniformly to their members.[14]

According to Article 23 Federal Constitution (FC), a private law association with a non-economic objective (i.e. political, religious, scientific, cultural, social or non-profit) has the right of freedom of association i.e. the right to establish or dissolve, to voluntarily be (come) a member or to leave and to participate in the association’s activities, which is not subject to state approval or state supervision. [15] As profit associations are only protected by the right of economic freedom pursuant to Article 27 FC, it is of vital importance for non-profit associations not to aim for monetary or financial benefits for its members.[16]

FIFA’s intent to exist as a non-profit organization is apparent from their articles of association.[17] According to Article 2(a) FIFA statutes, its main objective is: ‘[…] to improve the game of football constantly and promote it globally in the light of its unifying, educational, cultural and humanitarian values, particularly through youth and development programmes’. UEFA has a corresponding objective pursuant to Article 2 UEFA statutes. As long as the surplus of revenues will be spent on its non-commercial objectives under those articles of association, the non-profit status of FIFA – and, mutatis mutandis, UEFA – would not be challenged by Switzerland[18]. However, as a legislator, a judicator and as a state party to the CoE, Switzerland should critically assess those associations’ non-profit objectives and the significant surplus from their economic activities plus the distributions thereof in view of the report’s recommendations on financial transparency and accountability in order to respect the – underlying – association governance principles.[19]

FIFA and UEFA[20] are both established and registered[21] as private law associations under Article 60 et seq. CC[22] and, moreover, bound to respect the Swiss mandatory rules of law under Article 63(2) CC. Thus, mandatory rules cannot be disregarded by the articles of association i.e the self-regulatory framework of FIFA and UEFA. If an association’s resolution were to breach mandatory rules, it would be either voidable (i.e. to be challenged within a month of the notification) or null and void (i.e. to be raised at any time) under Article 75 CC.[23]

In case the articles of association do not address a particular issue, the non-mandatory rules of law would apply.[24] In particular, it should be noted that Articles 64-69b CC mostly[25] refer to mandatory procedural rules with regard to the articles of association. For instance, an association is required to have two organs, namely the general meeting of members that has supremacy over all other organs (Article 64(1) CC) and a committee consisting of members – and non-members if not explicitly forbidden by the articles of association[26] – that are elected by the supreme governing body (Article 69 CC). Other organs may be established pursuant to the articles of association.[27]

In other words, it is up to the, e.g., FIFA articles of association to self-regulate the composition, the independence of the Ethics Committee’s members and the transparency of its work. It is therefore not clear how this particular recommendation (please consider p. 8 of the report) can actually be implemented and enforced by the Swiss authorities. A similar assessment could be made, mutatis mutandis, with regard to all the other recommendations of the report.


Civil liability

Apart from the aforesaid memberships’ rights deriving from the decision-making process with regard to anti-corruption compliance structures and democratic structures, associations could also be held liable by their members because a membership is a contractual agreement between two private parties. In other words, the extra-legal part of association governance may be corrected by the rules of civil liability (including tort).

In accordance with Article 1 in conjunction with Article 155(f) of the Private International Law Act (PILA), Articles 52-59 (‘legal entities’) and Articles 60-79 (‘associations’) CC are applicable to all members of both associations.[28] If a private person or legal entity decides to be(come) a member of a private law association, the respective articles of association, regulations or decisions are contractually binding. Apart from membership contracts, there are – of course – other forms of private law’ relationships available whereby one may contractually be bound (in[29])directly to the FIFA or UEFA rules or decisions like, e.g., labour contracts, commercial contracts, player’ licences or host city agreements (e.g., Qatargate).

In this regard, the mandatory rules of civil law include, in particular public policy, bona mores and the protection of personality rights.[30]

Given that the public policy restrictions have already been assessed in an earlier blog post[31], this blog will specifically focus on bona mores and the protection of personality rights. 

As regards to bona mores, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruled that in case an article of association contains a third party’s veto right regarding all decisions of the association’s general assembly, it would be null and void for violating bona mores and the right of autonomy of associations.[32]

In reference to the Swiss notion of personality rights (e.g., the right to professional fulfilment through sporting activities, or the right to economic freedom[33])[34], which must be regarded as the equivalent of human rights horizontally applied to private law’ relationships, Article 27 CC stipulates that ‘[n]o person can wholly or partially renounce its capacity to have rights and to effect legal transactions’.[35] Accordingly, if it cannot be established that the law, the athlete’s consent or the existence of an overriding public/private interest may justify an infringement to, e.g., an athlete’s right to economic freedom (i.e. restraint of trade), it must be regarded as null and void under Article 28 CC.[36] Hence, as legislator and as State party to the CoE, Switzerland should have the duty to critically assess whether FIFA or UEFA may infringe their members’ contractual rights as protected by mandatory rules of law, in particular public policy and the protection of personality rights (i.e. contractual freedoms) in the light of the report’s recommendations on financial and on democratic transparency in order to respect the – underlying – association governance principles. 


Criminal liability

As regards the impact of mandatory rules of criminal law on international sports federations based in Switzerland, the first package of Lex FIFA - that will enter into force in the first half of 2015 if uncontested (i.e. a referendum[37]) - defines their respective ‘presidents’ as ‘politically-exposed persons’ (PEPs) i.e. persons with a prominent public function[38]. As PEPs are in a position to potentially commit financial offences (money laundering or corruption), banks are required to closely monitor those accounts (and of their families!) for any suspicious financial transaction. If PEPs and/or their families were to receive cash payments greater than CHF100,000, the respective bank would be obliged to identify them, to keep a record of the transactions and to clarify the background thereof. In case there is any evidence of criminal activities, the bank must report the unusual transactions to the Swiss authorities.[39] However, and surprisingly, the first package of Lex FIFA does not cover UEFA because ‘it is technically a[n] European organisation’ according to the approved legislative proposal[40] and as interpreted by its initiator Roland Büchel MP.

As part of the future second package of Lex FIFA, Switzerland will implement legislation to make corruption in sport a criminal offence. Insofar, private bribery (i.e. passive/active bribery in the private sector) is only regarded as a criminal offence under Article 4a and Article 23 of the Swiss Federal Unfair Competition Law following a complaint.[41] 


Conclusions

The lofty goals of the Council of Europe’s report on reforming football’s governance are laudable in principle, however they lack a clear reflection on the legal means available to attain them. To this end, it is the main point of this blog post’s author to attract the attention of the reader on the particular responsibility of Switzerland in this regard. Due to FIFA and UEFA being legally seated in Switzerland, Swiss law is tasked with the tough mission, in light of recent events, to enforce via private law and criminal law association governance standards on both non-profit organizations. The future implementation of Lex FIFA with regard to the criminalisation of corruption in sport, is a first step in the right direction. What’s rather missing, however, is a private law perspective. A comprehensive implementation of the report’s recommendations can only be achieved if the interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Swiss Code were to be in line with the report’s recommendations. Indeed, as a prominent Council of Europe’ state party, Switzerland should be stricter when assessing the (un)justifiability of a possible infringement by FIFA or UEFA of a member’s rights under the Swiss notion of mandatory rules of law. In this regard, it should also take into consideration the PACE report’s recommendations on reforming the governance of football by FIFA and UEFA.



[1] E.g. Qatargate: la confession accablante, France Football No. 3582, 9 December 2014, p. 19 et seq.

[2] Connarty, The reform of football governance, PACE report, 27 January 2015, p. 17.

[3] Addink, Goed bestuur, Kluwer 2010, p. 6.

[4] ‘See OECD Principles of Corporate Governance, 2004, p. 11, accessible at

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/32/18/31557724.pdf. ‘The EU corporate governance framework includes legislation in areas such as corporate governance statements, transparency of listed companies, shareholders’ rights and takeover bids as well as ‘soft law’, namely recommendations on the role and on the remuneration of companies’ directors.’

[5] COM 2012(740) final, Action Plan: European company law and corporate governance - a modern legal framework for more engaged shareholders and sustainable companies, p. 2-3.

[6] E.g., Giesen, Alternatieve regelgeving and privaatrecht, Monografieën Privaatrecht, Kluwer 2007, p. 29.

[7] COM 2012(740) final, Action Plan: European company law and corporate governance - a modern legal framework for more engaged shareholders and sustainable companies, p. 3.

[8] COM 2012(740) final, Action Plan: European company law and corporate governance - a modern legal framework for more engaged shareholders and sustainable companies, p. 3.

[9] Valloni & Pachmann, Sports law in Switzerland, Wolters Kluwer 2011, p. 65.

[10] Handschin, Good governance: lessons for sports organizations?, in: Bernasconi, International sports law and jurisprudence of the CAS, 2014, p. 118. Notes ommitted.

[11] Handschin, Good governance: lessons for sports organizations?, in: Bernasconi, International sports law and jurisprudence of the CAS, 2014, p. 118. Notes ommitted.

[12] Handschin, Good governance: lessons for sports organizations?, in: Bernasconi, International sports law and jurisprudence of the CAS, 2014, p. 119. Notes ommitted.

[13] Please do take into account Weatherill’s statement on conditional autonomy of sports federations under EU law: Weatherill, Is the Pyramid Compatible with EC Law?, ISLJ 2005(3–4), p. 3–7, republished in: Weatherill, European Sports Law Collected Papers Second Edition 2014, available at: http://www.springer.com/law/international/book/978-90-6704-938-2.

[14] Valloni & Pachmann, Sports law in Switzerland, Wolters Kluwer 2011, p. 40-44.

[15] Jakob, Huber and Rauber, Nonprofit law in Switzerland, The Johns Hopkins comparative nonprofit sector project, Working Paper No. 47, March 2009, p. 3, 5.

[16] Jakob, Huber and Rauber, Nonprofit law in Switzerland, The Johns Hopkins comparative nonprofit sector project, Working Paper No. 47, March 2009, p. 5.

[17] Pieth, Governing FIFA – concept paper and report, 19 September 2011, p. 12. Tomlinson, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) : the men, the myths and the money, 2014, p. 28.

[18] Pieth, Governing FIFA – concept paper and report, 19 September 2011, p. 12.

[19] By the way, the EU-28 member states are obliged to act in accordance with the Court of Justice rulings in, inter alia, Walrave (Case 36-74, ECR 1974 1405), Bosman (Case C-415/93, ECR 1995 I-4921) and Meca Medina (Case C-519/04 P, ECR 2006 I-6991) with regard to the economic and rule-making activities of UEFA and FIFA. For more information please see Weatherill, European Sports Law Collected Papers Second Edition 2014, available at: http://www.springer.com/law/international/book/978-90-6704-938-2.

[20] Valloni & Pachmann, Sports law in Switzerland, Wolters Kluwer 2011, p. 67-69.

[21] Article 1 FIFA statutes; Article 1 UEFA statutes.

[22] Valloni & Pachmann, Sports law in Switzerland, Wolters Kluwer 2011, p. 19, 40.

[23] Handschin, Good governance: lessons for sports organizations?, in: Bernasconi, International sports law and jurisprudence of the CAS, 2014, p. 126-127. Notes ommitted.

[24] Jakob, Huber and Rauber, Nonprofit law in Switzerland, The Johns Hopkins comparative nonprofit sector project, Working Paper No. 47, March 2009, p. 6.

[25] With the notable exception of Article 75 CC.

[26] BGE 73 II 1.

[27] Jakob, Huber and Rauber, Nonprofit law in Switzerland, The Johns Hopkins comparative nonprofit sector project, Working Paper No. 47, March 2009, p. 6.

[28] Valloni & Pachmann, Sports law in Switzerland, Wolters Kluwer 2011, p. 19.

[29] E.g., a dynamic reference to accept the jurisdiction of the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

[30] Morgan, The relevance of Swiss law in doping disputes, in particular from the perspective of personality rights – a view from abroad, in: Revue de droit suisse, Band 132 (2013) I Heft 3, p. 344-345. Fenners, Der ausschluss der staatlichen gerichtsbarkeit in organisierten sport, Zurich 2006, paras. 111-113. Baddeley, L’Association sportive face au droit – Les limites de son autonomie, Basel 1994, p. 108.

[31] Marco van der Harst, Can (national or EU) public policy stop CAS awards?, 22 July 2014, available at: http://www.asser.nl/SportsLaw/Blog/post/can-national-or-eu-public-policy-stop-cas-awards-by-marco-van-der-harst-ll-m-phd-candidate-and-researcher-at-the-aislc.

[32] BGE 97 II 108 et seq. Valloni & Pachmann, Sports law in Switzerland, Wolters Kluwer 2011, p. 41.

[33] Let’s not forget that there are two sports law cases pending versus Switzerland at the European Court of Human Rights: Adrian Mutu (No. 40575/10) and Claudia Pechstein (No. 67474/10).

[34] Morgan, The relevance of Swiss law in doping disputes, in particualr from the perspective of personality rights – a view from abroad, in: Revue de droit suisse, Band 132 (2013) I Heft 3, p. 344, note 6: Decision 4A_558/2011 of 27 March 2012; ATF 134 III 193 (Further notes omitted).

[35] E.g., Morgan, The relevance of Swiss law in doping disputes, in particualr from the perspective of personality rights – a view from abroad, in: Revue de droit suisse, Band 132 (2013) I Heft 3, p. 344-345.

[36] E.g., Morgan, The relevance of Swiss law in doping disputes, in particualr from the perspective of personality rights – a view from abroad, in: Revue de droit suisse, Band 132 (2013) I Heft 3, p. 344-345.

[37] Deadline: April 2, 2015. Source: http://www.admin.ch/opc/de/federal-gazette/2014/9689.pdf.

[38] In order to prevent being blacklisted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Switzerland had to implement the 2012 Recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) with regard to combating money laundering and terrorist financing.

[39] Sources: http://www.sportsintegrityinitiative.com/swiss-law-requires-bank-account-monitoring-sports-federation-heads/ and http://www.rolandbuechel.ch/news_850_lex-fifa-interessiert-auch-die-russen-buechel-auf-den-russischen-sputnik-news.xhtml.

[40] Bundesgesetz zur Umsetzung der 2012 revidierten Empfehlungen der Groupe d’action financière, December 12, 2014, p. 9697-9698. Available at: http://www.admin.ch/opc/de/federal-gazette/2014/9689.pdf.

[41] Cassini, Corporate responsibility and compliance programs in Switzerland, in: Manacorda, Centonze and Forti (eds.), Preventing corporate corruption: the anti-bribery compliance model, Springer 2014, p. 493.


Comments are closed