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

Compatibility of Fixed-Term Contracts in Football with Directive 1999/70/EC. Part.1: The General Framework. By Piotr Drabik

Introduction
On 25 March 2015, the Labour Court of Mainz issued its decision in proceedings brought by a German footballer, Heinz Müller, against his (now former) club 1. FSV Mainz 05 (Mainz 05). The Court sided with the player and ruled that Müller should have been employed by Mainz 05 for an indefinite period following his 2009 three year contract with the club which was subsequently extended in 2011 to run until mid-2014. The judgment was based on national law implementing Directive 1999/70 on fixed-term work[1] (Directive) with the latter being introduced pursuant to art. 155(2) TFEU (ex art. 139(2) TEC). On the basis of this article, European social partners’ may request a framework agreement which they conclude to be implemented on the European Union (EU, Union) level by a Council decision on a proposal from the Commission. One of the objectives of the framework agreement,[2] and therefore of the Directive, was to establish a system to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts or relationships[3] which lies at the heart of the discussed problem.[4] More...

UEFA’s FFP out in the open: The Dynamo Moscow Case

Ever since UEFA started imposing disciplinary measures to football clubs for not complying with Financial Fair Play’s break-even requirement in 2014, it remained a mystery how UEFA’s disciplinary bodies were enforcing the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play (“FFP”) regulations, what measures it was imposing, and what the justifications were for the imposition of these measures. For over a year, the general public could only take note of the 23 settlement agreements between Europe’s footballing body and the clubs. The evidential obstacle for a proper analysis was that the actual settlements remained confidential, as was stressed in several of our previous Blogs.[1] The information provided by the press releases lacked the necessary information to answer the abovementioned questions.

On 24 April 2015, the UEFA Club Financial Control Body lifted part of the veil by referring FC Dynamo Moscow to the Adjudicatory Body. Finally, the Adjudicatory Body had the opportunity to decide on a “FFP case. The anxiously-awaited Decision was reached by the Adjudicatory Chamber on 19 June and published not long after. Now that the Decision has been made public, a new stage of the debate regarding UEFA’s FFP policy can start.More...

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

…and everything under the sun is in tune,

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


The issue

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


The Brussels Court judgment on Financial Fair Play: a futile attempt to pull off a Bosman. By Ben Van Rompuy

On 29 May 2015, the Brussels Court of First Instance delivered its highly anticipated judgment on the challenge brought by football players’ agent Daniel Striani (and others) against UEFA’s Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFP). In media reports,[1] the judgment was generally portrayed as a significant initial victory for the opponents of FFP. The Brussels Court not only made a reference for a preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) but also imposed an interim order blocking UEFA from implementing the second phase of the FFP that involves reducing the permitted deficit for clubs.

A careful reading of the judgment, however, challenges the widespread expectation that the CJEU will now pronounce itself on the compatibility of the FFP with EU law. More...

A Bridge Too Far? Bridge Transfers at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. By Antoine Duval and Luis Torres.

FIFA’s freshly adopted TPO ban entered into force on 1 May (see our Blog symposium). Though it is difficult to anticipate to what extent FIFA will be able to enforce the ban, it is likely that many of the third-party investors will try to have recourse to alternative solutions to pursue their commercial involvement in the football transfer market. One potential way to circumvent the FIFA ban is to use the proxy of what has been coined “bridge transfers”. A bridge transfer occurs when a club is used as an intermediary bridge in the transfer of a player from one club to another. The fictitious passage through this club is used to circumscribe, for example, the payment of training compensation or to whitewash a third-party ownership by transforming it into a classical employment relationship. This is a legal construction that has gained currency especially in South American football, but not only. On 5 May 2015, in the Racing Club v. FIFA case, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rendered its first award involving directly a bridge transfer. As this practice could become prevalent in the coming years we think that this case deserves a close look. More...

20 Years After Bosman - The New Frontiers of EU Law and Sport - Special Issue of the Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law

Editor's note: This is a short introduction written for the special Issue of the Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law celebrating the 20 years of the Bosman ruling and dedicated to the new frontiers of EU law and Sport (the articles are available here). For those willing to gain a deeper insight into the content of the Issue we organize (in collaboration with Maastricht University and the Maastricht Journal) a launching event with many of the authors in Brussels tomorrow (More info here).More...

ASSER Exclusive! Interview with Charles “Chuck” Blazer by Piotr Drabik

Editor’s note: Chuck Blazer declined our official interview request but thanks to some trusted sources (the FIFA indictment and Chuck’s testimony) we have reconstructed his likely answers. This is a fictional interview. Any resemblance with real facts is purely coincidental.



Mr Blazer, thank you for agreeing to this interview, especially considering the circumstances. How are you doing?

I am facing ten charges concerning, among others, conspiracy to corrupt and money laundering. But apart from that, I am doing great (laughs)!

 

It is good to know that you have not lost your spirit. And since you’ve been involved in football, or as you call it soccer, for years could you please first tell us what was your career at FIFA and its affiliates like?

Let me see… Starting from the 1990s I was employed by and associated with FIFA and one of its constituent confederations, namely the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). At various times, I also served as a member of several FIFA standing committees, including the marketing and television committee. As CONCACAF’s general secretary, a position I proudly held for 21 years, I was responsible, among many other things, for negotiations concerning media and sponsorship rights. From 1997 to 2013 I also served at FIFA’s executive committee where I participated in the selection process of the host countries for the World Cup tournaments. Those years at the helm of world soccer were truly amazing years of travel and hard work mainly for the good of the beautiful game. I might add that I even managed to document some of my voyages on my blog. I initially called it “Travels with Chuck Blazer” but Vladimir (Putin) convinced me to change the name to “Travels with Chuck Blazer and his Friends”. You should check it out.

 More...



Financial Fair Play: Lessons from the 2014 and 2015 settlement practice of UEFA. By Luis Torres

UEFA announced on 8 May that it had entered into Financial Fair Play settlement agreements with 10 European football clubs. Together with the four other agreements made in February 2015, this brings the total to 14 FFP settlements for 2015 and 23 since UEFA adopted modifications in its Procedural rules and allowed settlements agreements to be made between the Clubs and the Chief Investigator of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB).[1] 

In the two years during which UEFA’s FFP regulations have been truly up and running we have witnessed the centrality taken by the settlement procedure in their enforcement. It is extremely rare for a club to be referred to the FFP adjudication chamber. In fact, only the case regarding Dynamo Moscow has been referred to the adjudication chamber. Thus, having a close look at the settlement practice of UEFA is crucial to gaining a good understanding of the functioning of FFP. Hence, this blog offers a detailed analysis of this year’s settlement agreements and compares them with last year’s settlements. More...

Book Review: Reforming FIFA, or Not

Editor’s note: This short book review will be published in a different format in the International Sports Law Journal, due to its timeliness we decided to reproduce it here. 

Reforming FIFA, or Not

 Antoine Duval

Book Review: Mark Pieth (ed.), Reforming FIFA, Dike Verlag, St. Gallen, 2014, 28.00 CHF, p.178

 


This book looks back at the work of the Independence Governance Committee (IGC). This Committee, constituted in 2011, had as primary objective to drive a reform process of FIFA initiated by its President Sepp Blatter. After ordering from the Swiss anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth, a report on the state of FIFA’s governance, FIFA decided to mandate him with the leadership of a consulting body composed of a mix of independent experts and football insiders, which would be accompanying and supervising the internal reform process of FIFA. The IGC was officially dissolved at the end of 2013, after completing its mandate. The book is composed of eight chapters, written by former members of the IGC, including former chairman Mark Pieth. In addition to the chapters, it includes the different reports (available here, here and here) submitted by the IGC to FIFA across the years. In the words of Pieth, this account is “fascinating because it gives a hands-on, realistic perspective of the concrete efforts, the achievements and the remaining challenges in the struggle for the reform of this organization [FIFA], avoiding the usual glorification or vilification.”[1] This review will first summarize the core of the account of the FIFA reform process provided by the book, before critically engaging with the outcome of the process and outlining the deficiencies that culminated on 29 May 2015 with the re-election of Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.More...



The Spanish TV Rights Distribution System after the Royal Decree: An Introduction. By Luis Torres

On the first of May 2015, the Spanish Government finally signed the Royal Decree allowing the joint selling of the media rights of the Spanish top two football leagues. The Minister for Sport stated that the Decree will allow clubs to “pay their debts with the social security and the tax authorities and will enable the Spanish teams to compete with the biggest European Leagues in terms of revenues from the sale of media rights”.[1]Although the signing of the Royal Decree was supposed to close a very long debate and discussion between the relevant stakeholders, its aftermath shows that the Telenovela is not entirely over. 

This blog post will first provide the background story to the selling of media rights in Spain. It will, thereafter, analyse the main points of the Royal Decree and outline how the system will work in practice. Finally, the blog will shortly address the current frictions between the Spanish League (LFP) and the Spanish football federation (RFEF).More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | The SFT’s Semenya Decision under European human rights standards: Conflicting considerations and why a recourse could be successful at Strasbourg - By Kevin Gerenni

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 SFT’s Semenya Decision under European human rights standards: Conflicting considerations and why a recourse could be successful at Strasbourg - By Kevin Gerenni

Editor's note: Kevin Gerenni is Assistant Professor in Public International Law (Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Buenos Aires) and LLM Candidate 2021 in Public International Law at the London School of Economics.


Even though the decision rendered by the SFT in the Semenya Case was foreseeable, the Tribunal did put forward some concerning reasoning in terms of public policy (“ordre public”) and human rights. In case Semenya decides to challenge the Swiss state before the ECtHR, one can expect the case to shake some grounds at the ECtHR, which would be faced with the question of the application to sport not of fair trial guarantees (as in Mutu & Pechstein) but of substantial human rights provisions such as the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex (Article 14 ECHR) and the right to private life (Article 8 ECHR).

Under Swiss law, the reasons that may lead to the annulment of an arbitral award are enumerated in art. 190 of the Swiss Private International Law Act (PILA). Semenya’s strongest case relied on art. 190(2)(e): the award’s incompatibility with public policy. Naturally, this point concentrated most of the SFT’s attention. In order to analyze the compatibility of the CAS award with Swiss public policy, the SFT focused on three main potential breaches of human rights: prohibition of discrimination, personality rights, and human dignity. In doing so, it put forward certain observations that differ with European human rights standards and the ECtHR’s jurisprudence. The purpose of this short article is to analyze those discrepancies and, consequently, Semenya’s prospects of success before the Strasbourg Tribunal.


I.               The scope of Swiss public policy versus ECHR guarantees

To begin with, the SFT distinguished between Swiss public policy and the scope of the ECHR provisions:

“An award is incompatible with public policy if it disregards essential and widely accepted values which, according to the views prevailing in Switzerland, should constitute the foundation of any legal system” (para. 9.1).[1]

“This is the place to specify that the violation of the provisions of the ECHR or of the Constitution does not count among the grievances restrictively enumerated by art. 190(2) PILA. It is therefore not possible to directly invoke such a violation. (…) Thus, the plea alleging a violation of public policy is not admissible insofar it simply tends to establish that the award in question is contrary to the various guarantees drawn from the ECHR and the Constitution.” (para. 9.2).

Contrary to this interpretation, the ECtHR has referred to the fundamental role of the ECHR in specifying the reach of a European public policy. In Loizidou v. Turkey (Preliminary Objections), it stated:

“(…) the Court must bear in mind the special character of the Convention as an instrument of European public order (ordre public) for the protection of individual human beings and its mission (…) "to ensure the observance of the engagements undertaken by the High Contracting Parties" ” (para. 93).      

In that same judgment, it remarked the value of the ECHR as “a constitutional instrument of European public order (ordre public)” (para. 75). Similar understandings can be found in Bosphorus v. Ireland and Avotiņš v. Latvia, among others. As a consequence of this preeminent position that the ECHR holds, certain interests of the State must be outweighed by the Convention’s role in the field of human rights (Bosphorus at para. 156).


II.             The concept of “horizontal effect” in human rights violations

The SFT continued with the analysis of the prohibition of discrimination, for which it partially rest upon an argument that evidently collides with European human rights criteria. Although the Tribunal also concluded that the “relationship between an athlete and a global sports federation shows some similarities to those between an individual and a State” (para. 9.4), it did argue that under Swiss law the prohibition of discrimination does not have a direct horizontal effect. The SFT considered that:

“Although the SFT has consistently held that the prohibition of discrimination is a matter of public policy (…) it has done so, primarily, in order to protect the individual vis-à-vis the State. In this respect, it may be noted that, from the point of view of Swiss constitutional law, the case law considers that the guarantee of the prohibition of discrimination is addressed to the State and does not, in principle, produce a direct horizontal effect on relations between private persons. (…) It is therefore far from obvious that the prohibition of discrimination by private individuals is one of the essential and widely recognized values which, according to the prevailing conceptions in Switzerland, should form the basis of any legal system.” (para. 9.4).

The ECtHR has a long tradition of deeming States responsible for not preventing or sanctioning human rights violations between private persons, which means that the ECHR also applies horizontally. Since its 1981 ruling Young, James and Webster v. the UK, the Court has repeatedly held that the responsibility of a State is engaged if a violation of one of the Convention’s rights is the result of non-observance by that State of its obligation under Article 1 to secure those rights and freedoms to everyone within its jurisdiction.[2]

In Pla and Puncernau v. Andorra, the Court held the State responsible for the rulings of its domestic courts, which did not redress an individual from the discrimination inflicted by another private person. The Court, referring to its duties, clearly affirmed that:

“In exercising the European supervision incumbent on it, it cannot remain passive where a national court’s interpretation of a legal act, be it a testamentary disposition, a private contract, a public document, a statutory provision or an administrative practice appears unreasonable, arbitrary or, as in the present case, blatantly inconsistent with the prohibition of discrimination established by Article 14 and more broadly with the principles underlying the Convention.” (para. 59).

Finally, in this same vein in Identoba and Others v. Georgia, the ECtHR sanctioned the State by explaining that the difference in treatment leading to discrimination can source from a purely private action, which in this particular case included attacks to a transgender person.


III.           The necessity and proportionality of the DSD regulations

Throughout its ruling, the SFT followed the reasoning advanced by the CAS to determine that the IAAF (today “World Athletics”) DSD regulations were not in violation of fundamental human rights. With a view to analyzing a recourse to the ECtHR, I will focus on the discrimination and human dignity sections of the ruling (for a remarkably-detailed insight of the SFT’s core findings please refer to  Marjolaine Viret’s recent blog).

In assessing the necessity of the DSD regulations –pursuant to the alleged legitimate aim of fair competition– the SFT considered that “female athletes are disadvantaged and deprived of chances of success when they have to compete against 46 XY DSD athletes. The statistics speak for themselves.” (para. 9.8.3.4). A fact that does not seem to be getting attention is the “800 Metres Women” all-time records table, which lists three women with a better time than Caster Semenya. None of these three women were reported to be DSD athletes. Also, the scientific articles that supposedly demonstrate unequivocal advantage for DSD athletes have been denounced as flawed (for example, by Pielke Jr., Tucker & Boye). Nevertheless, the SFT invoked the ECtHR’s FNASS and Others v. France to shockingly conclude that “the search for a fair sport represents an important goal which is capable of justifying serious encroachments upon sportspeople’s rights”[3] (para. 9.8.3.3).

In addition, the SFT assessed the proportionality of the regulations vis-à-vis the potential gender identity implications. The SFT primarily relied on the allegedly-mild side effects caused by the hormonal treatment: “no different in nature from the side effects experienced by thousands, if not millions, of other women of type XX” (para. 9.8.3.5).

Referring to gender identity (stemming from human dignity), the SFT argued that:

“It must be made clear that the sentence does not in any way seek to question the female sex of the 46 XY DSD athletes or to determine whether they are sufficiently “female”. It is not a question of knowing what a woman or an intersex person is. The only issue to be resolved is whether it is contrary to human dignity to create certain rules of eligibility, for the purposes of sporting equity and equal opportunity, applicable only to certain women who enjoy an insurmountable advantage arising from certain innate biological characteristics. (…) In some contexts, as specific competitive sport, it is permissible that biological characteristics may, exceptionally and for the purposes of fairness and equality of opportunity, overshadow a person’s legal sex or gender identity.” (para. 11.1).

The SFT struggles to highlight that Semenya’s “female sex” is not under question. However, the DSD regulations, implemented in competitions that are divided into the male/female binary, denote that Semenya’s innate sex is not female enough as to compete in female events. On the other hand, she is allowed to compete in male events.

The ECtHR has a growing jurisprudence relating to discrimination on the basis of sex which, especially linked to gender identity, leads to violations of the ECHR Articles 14 and 8. In the 2002 leading case Goodwin v. the UK which dealt with Article 8 ECHR violations, the Court remarked that:

“It is not apparent to the Court that the chromosomal element, amongst all the others, must inevitably take on decisive significance for the purposes of legal attribution of gender identity for transsexuals.” (para. 82).

It is true that Goodwin involved the rights of a trans person, not intersex.[4] However, as the European Commission points out in its Trans and intersex equality rights in Europe – A comparative analysis, the judgment was the inception of States obligation to legally recognize preferred gender in Europe. Similar conclusions in favor of gender identity would later appear, among others, in Y. Y. v Turkey, Van Kück v. Germany and Identoba and Others v. Georgia (this last one dealing with Article 14 ECHR). In Garçon and Nicot v. France the Court underpinned that “the right to respect for private life under Article 8 applies fully to gender identity, as a component of personal identity. This holds true for all individuals.” (para. 95). Later in that judgment, it rendered a particularly relevant observation for Semenya’s case:

“Medical treatment cannot be considered to be the subject of genuine consent when the fact of not submitting to it deprives the person concerned of the full exercise of his or her right to gender identity and personal development, which, as previously stated, is a fundamental aspect of the right to respect for private life.” (para. 130).

It must be noted that this paragraph pertains particularly to the world of sport. “Personal development” is a fundamental part of the Principles of the Olympic Movement, as this article by Durántez Corral et al. indicates.


Conclusions

The reasoning behind the above paragraphs supports Semenya’s case before the ECtHR and would give her a serious chance to prevail in Strasbourg. Even though it is true that the Court has mostly endorsed the lex sportiva system with its judgments FNASS, Platini and Mutu & Pechstein, the latter did aim at certain fair trial deficiencies and triggered concrete changes. Could Semenya’s case be stronger? Yes, for instance if Switzerland had ratified Protocol No. 12 ECHR or if the former IAAF were based in Switzerland instead of Monaco (an issue which the SFT took care to highlight).

On the other hand, the judges could additionally resort to extremely relevant reports in the field of intersex rights, namely the Council of Europe’s document on eliminating discrimination against intersex people, or refer to the categorical document against DSD regulations written by three UN experts. Needless to say, these instruments support the athlete’s claims even further.

The scenario is set for Semenya to create considerable turmoil if she decides to take the case to Strasbourg, where the ECtHR will have to engage –once again and deeper this time– with lex sportiva and Switzerland’s role in ensuring that sports governing bodies comply with human rights. Or, will it look the other way?


*All translations of the SFT’s decision done by the author from French, except where otherwise noted.


[1] Translation done by Marjolaine Viret for her blog article “Chronicle of a Defeat Foretold: Dissecting the Swiss Federal Tribunal’s Semenya Decision”, available here.

[2] See Spielmann, D.; “Chapter 14: The European Convention on Human Rights, The European Court of Human Rights” in Human Rights and the Private Sphere: A Comparative Study (p. 430); Eds. Oliver, D. &  Fedtke, J.; Routledge; 2007. 

[3] Translation done by Marjolaine Viret for her blog article “Chronicle of a Defeat Foretold: Dissecting the Swiss Federal Tribunal’s Semenya Decision”, available here.

[4] As shown in the excerpt, the judgment did address the relevance (or the lack of it) of the “chromosomal element” in defining a person’s gender.

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