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

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2019 - 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.

 

The Headlines

#Save(d)Hakeem

The plight of Hakeem al-Araibi – the 25-year-old refugee footballer who was arrested last November in Bangkok upon his arrival from Australia on the basis of a red notice issued by Interpol in contravention of its own policies which afford protection to refugees and asylum-seekers – continued throughout the month of January. Bahrain – the country Hakeem al-Araibi fled in 2014 due to a (well-founded) fear of persecution stemming from his previous experience when he was imprisoned and tortured as part of the crackdown on pro-democracy athletes who had protested against the royal family during the Arab spring – maintained a firm stance, demanding that Hakeem be extradited to serve a prison sentence over a conviction for vandalism charges, which was allegedly based on coerced confessions and ignored evidence.

While international sports governing bodies were critised from the very beginning for not using enough leverage with the governments of Bahrain and Thailand to ensure that Hakeem’s human rights are protected, they have gradually added their voice to the intense campaign for Hakeem’s release led by civil society groups. FIFA, for example, has sent a letter directly to the Prime Minister of Thailand, urging the Thai authorities ‘to take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia at the earliest possible moment, in accordance with the relevant international standards’. Yet many activists have found this action insufficient and called for sporting sanctions to be imposed on the national football associations of Bahrain and Thailand.      

When it looked like Hakeem will continue to be detained in Thailand at least until April this year, the news broke that the Thai authorities agreed to release Hakeem due to the fact that for now the Bahraini government had given up on the idea of bringing Hakeem ‘home’ – a moment that was praised as historic for the sport and human rights movement.

Russia avoids further sanctions from WADA despite missing the deadline for handing over doping data from the Moscow laboratory 

WADA has been back in turmoil ever since the new year began as the Russian authorities failed to provide it with access to crucial doping data from the former Moscow laboratory within the required deadline which expired on 31 December 2018, insisting that the equipment WADA intended to use for the data extraction was not certified under Russian law. The Russian Anti-Doping Agency thus failed to meet one of the two conditions under which its three-year suspension was controversially lifted in September 2018. The missed deadline sparked outrage among many athletes and national anti-doping organisations, who blamed WADA for not applying enough muscle against the Russian authorities.

Following the expiry of the respective deadline, it appeared that further sanctions could be imposed on the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, but such an option was on the table only until WADA finally managed to access the Moscow laboratory and retrieve the doping data on 17 January 2019. Shortly thereafter, WADA President Sir Craig Reedie hailed the progress as a major breakthrough for clean sport and members of the WADA Executive Committee agreed that no further sanctions were needed despite the missed deadline. However, doubts remain as to whether the data have not been manipulated. Before WADA delivers on its promise and builds strong cases against the athletes who doped – to be handled by international sports federations – it first needs to do its homework and verify whether the retrieved data are indeed genuine.  

British track cyclist Jessica Varnish not an employee according to UK employment tribunal

On 16 January 2019, an employment tribunal in Manchester rendered a judgment with wider implications for athletes and sports governing bodies in the United Kingdom, ruling that the female track cyclist Jessica Varnish was neither an employee nor a worker of the national governing body British Cycling and the funding agency UK Sport. The 28-year-old multiple medal winner from the world and European championships takes part in professional sport as an independent contractor but sought to establish before the tribunal that she was in fact an employee of the two organisations. This would enable her to sue either organisation for unfair dismissal as she was dropped from the British cycling squad for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and her funding agreement was not renewed, allegedly in response to her critical remarks about some of the previous coaching decisions.

The tribunal eventually dismissed her challenge, concluding that ‘she was not personally performing work provided by the respondent – rather she was personally performing a commitment to train in accordance with the individual rider agreement in the hope of achieving success at international competitions’. Despite the outcome of the dispute, Jessica Varnish has insisted that her legal challenge contributed to a positive change in the structure, policies and personnel of British Cycling and UK Sport, while both organisations have communicated they had already taken action to strengthen the duty of care and welfare provided to athletes.  

 

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Upcoming Events

Call for papers - Third Annual International Sports Law Conference of the International Sports Law Journal - 24 and 25 October 2019 - Asser Institute

The Editors of the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) invite you to submit abstracts for the third ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law, which will take place on 24 and 25 October 2019 at the Asser Institute in The Hague. The ISLJ, published by Springer and Asser Press, is the leading academic publication in the field of international sports law. The conference is a unique occasion to discuss the main legal issues affecting international sports with renowned academic experts and practitioners.


We are delighted to announce the following confirmed keynote speakers:


  • Beckie Scott (Chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Athlete Committee, Olympic Champion, former member of the WADA Executive Committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC)),
  • Ulrich Haas (Professor of Law at Univerzität Zürich, CAS arbitrator), and
  • Kimberly Morris (Head of FIFA Transfer Matching System (TMS) Integrity and Compliance).


We welcome abstracts from academics and practitioners on any question related to international sports law. We also welcome panel proposals (including a minimum of three presenters) on a specific issue. For this year’s edition, we specifically invite submissions on the following themes:


  • The role of athletes in the governance of international sports
  • The evolution of sports arbitration, including the Court of Arbitration for Sport
  •  The role and functioning of the FIFA transfer system, including the FIFA TMS
  •  The intersection between criminal law and international sports (in particular issues of corruption, match-fixing, human trafficking, tax evasion)
  • Hooliganism
  • Protection of minor athletes
  • Civil and criminal liability relating to injuries in sports


Please send your abstract of 300 words and CV no later than 30 April 2019 to a.duval@asser.nl. Selected speakers will be informed by 15 May.


The selected participants will be expected to submit a draft paper by 1 September 2019. All papers presented at the conference are eligible (subjected to peer-review) for publication in a special issue of the ISLJ.  To be considered for inclusion in the conference issue of the journal, the final draft must be submitted for review by 15 December 2019.  Submissions after this date will be considered for publication in later editions of the Journal.


The Asser Institute will cover one night accommodation for the speakers and will provide a limited amount of travel grants (max. 250€). If you wish to be considered for a grant please indicate it in your submission. 

A Reflection on the Second Report of FIFA’s Human Rights Advisory Board - By Daniela Heerdt (Tilburg University)

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

 

On November 26th, the Human Rights Advisory Board[1] of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) published its second report. This blog provides a summary and brief evaluation of the report, by drawing a comparison to the previous report issued by the Human Rights Advisory Board (hereinafter: the Board) based on the content of the recommendations and FIFA’s efforts to implement the Board’s recommendations. The third part of this blog briefly reflects on the broader implications of some of the new recommendations issued for FIFA’s internal policies. The conclusion provides five more general points of observation on the report. More...

The Kristoffersen ruling: the EFTA Court targets athlete endorsement deals - By Sven Demeulemeester and Niels Verborgh

Editor’s note: Sven Demeulemeester and Niels Verborgh are sports lawyers at the Belgium law firm, Altius.

 

Introduction

In its 16 November 2018 judgment, the Court of Justice of the European Free Trade Association States (the EFTA Court) delivered its eagerly awaited ruling in the case involving Henrik Kristoffersen and the Norwegian Ski Federation (NSF). 

On 17 October 2016, Kristoffersen had taken the NSF to the Oslo District Court over the latter’s refusal to let the renowned alpine skier enter into a sponsorship with Red Bull. At stake were the commercial markings on his helmet and headgear in races organised under the NSF’s umbrella. The NSF refused this sponsorship because it had already granted the advertising on helmet and headgear to its own main sponsor, Telenor. Kristoffersen claimed before the Oslo District Court, that the NSF should be ordered to permit him to enter into an individual marketing contract with Red Bull. In the alternative, Kristoffersen claimed damages up to a maximum of NOK 15 million. By a letter of 25 September 2017, the Oslo District Court referred several legal questions to the EFTA Court in view of shedding light on the compatibility of the rules that the NSF had invoked with EEA law.

If rules do not relate to the conduct of the sport itself, but concern sponsorship rights and hence an economic activity, these rules are subject to EEA law. The EFTA Court ruling is important in that it sets out the framework for dealing with - ever more frequent - cases in which an individual athlete’s endorsement deals conflict with the interest of the national or international sports governing bodies (SGBs) that he or she represents in international competitions.More...


Season 2 of football leaks: A review of the first episodes

Season 2 of #FootballLeaks is now underway since more than a week and already a significant number of episodes (all the articles published can be found on the European Investigative Collaborations’ website) covering various aspect of the (lack of) transnational regulation of football have been released (a short German documentary sums up pretty much the state of play). For me, as a legal scholar, this new series of revelations is an exciting opportunity to discuss in much more detail than usual various questions related to the operation of the transnational private regulations of football imposed by FIFA and UEFA (as we already did during the initial football leaks with our series of blogs on TPO in 2015/2016). Much of what has been unveiled was known or suspected by many, but the scope and precision of the documents published makes a difference. At last, the general public, as well as academics, can have certainty about the nature of various shady practices in the world of football. One key characteristic that explains the lack of information usually available is that football, like many international sports, is actually governed by private administrations (formally Swiss associations), which are not subject to the similar obligations in terms of transparency than public ones (e.g. access to document rules, systematic publication of decisions, etc.). In other words, it’s a total black box! The football leaks are offering a rare sneak peak into that box.

Based on what I have read so far (this blog was written on Friday 9 November), there are three main aspects I find worthy of discussion:

  • The (lack of) enforcement of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) Regulations
  • The European Super League project and EU competition law
  • The (lack of) separation of powers inside FIFA and UEFA More...

Supporters of the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018: Altius

Editor's note: In the coming days we will introduce the supporters of our upcoming ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018 (also known as #ISLJConf18). To do so, we have sent them a tailored questionnaire aimed at reflecting both their activities and their expectations for the conference. It is a good opportunity for us to thank them for their enthusiastic support and commitment to international sports law research. We are very happy to finish this series of interviews with Sven Demeulemeester from Altius, a Belgian law firm based in Brussels with a very fine (and academically-minded!) sports law team. 


1. Can you explain to our readers the work of Altius in international sports law? 

Across different sports’ sectors, Altius’ sports law practice advises and assists some of the world’s most high-profile sports governing bodies, clubs and athletes, at both the national and the international level. The team has 6 fully-dedicated sports lawyers and adopts a multi-disciplinary approach, which guarantees a broad range of legal expertise for handling specific cases or wider issues related to the sports industry. We are proud to be independent but, in cross-border matters, are able to tap into a worldwide network.

2. How is it to be an international sports lawyer? What are the advantages and challenges of the job? 

Sports law goes beyond one specific field of law. The multiplicity of legal angles keeps the work interesting, even after years of practising, and ensures that a sports lawyer rarely has a dull moment. The main downside is that the sports industry is fairly conservative and sometimes ‘political’. While the law is one thing, what happens in practice is often another. Bringing about change is not always easy. 

3. What are the burning issues in international sports law that you would like to see discussed at the conference? 

 The much-anticipated overhaul of the football transfer system is eagerly anticipated and is worth a thorough debate, also in terms of possible, viable alternatives. The impact of EU law - both internal market rules, competition law and fundamental rights – can hardly be underestimated. Also, dispute resolution mechanisms within the realm of sports - and an accessible, transparent, independent and impartial sports arbitration in particular - will remain a ‘hot’ topic in the sector for years to come. Furthermore, ethics and integrity issues should remain top of the agenda, as is being demonstrated by the current money-laundering and match-fixing allegations in Belgium. Finally, in a sector in which the use of data is rife, the newly-adopted GDPR’s impact remains somewhat ‘under the radar’.

4. Why did you decide to support the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference? 

The ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference is refreshing, both in terms of its topics and participants. The academic and content-driven approach is a welcome addition to other sports law conferences in which the networking aspect often predominates.

Supporters of the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018: LawInSport

Editor's note: In the coming days we will introduce the supporters of our upcoming ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018 (also known as #ISLJConf18). To do so, we have sent them a tailored questionnaire aimed at reflecting both their activities and their expectations for the conference. It is a good opportunity for us to thank them for their enthusiastic support and commitment to international sports law research. We are very happy to continue this series of interviews with LawInSport, a knowledge hub and educational platform for the community of people working in or with an interest in sport and the law  (many thanks to LawInSport's CEO Sean Cottrell for kindly responding to our questions).


1. Can you explain to our readers what LawInSport is about?

LawInSport is a knowledge hub, educational platform and global community of people working in or with an interest in sport and the law.

Our objective is to help people ‘understand the rules of the game™’. What does this mean? It means people in sport having access to information that enables them to have a better understanding the rules and regulations that govern the relationships, behaviours and processes within sports. This in turn creates a foundation based on the principles of the rule of law, protecting the rights of everyone working and participating in sport.  

2. What are the challenges and perks of being an international sports law 'reporter’ ?

I do not consider myself a reporter, but as the head of an organisation that has a responsibility to provide the highest quality information on legal issues in sport,  focusing on what is important and not just what is popular, whilst trying to stay free from conflicts of interests. These two issues, popularism and conflict of interest, are the two of the biggest challenges.

Popularism and the drive to win attention is, in my opinion, causing a lack of discipline when it comes to factual and legal accuracy in coverage of sports law issues, which on their own may seem harmless, but can cause harm to organisations and individuals (athletes, employees, etc).

Conflict of interest will obviously arise in such a small sector, however, there is not a commonly agreed standard in internationally, let alone in sports law. Therefore, one needs to be diligent when consuming information to understand why someone may or may not hold a point of view, if they have paid to get it published or has someone paid them to write it. For this reason it can be hard to get a full picture of what is happening in the sector.

In terms of perks, I get to do something that is both challenging and rewarding on a daily basis, and as  a business owner I have the additional benefit of work with colleagues I enjoy working with. I have the privilege of meeting world leaders in their respective fields (law, sport, business, science, education, etc) and gain insights from them about their work and life experiences which is incredibly enriching.  Getting access to speak to the people who are on the front line, either athletes, coaches, lawyers, scientists, rather than from a third party is great as it gives you an unfiltered insight into what is going on.

On the other side of things, we get the opportunity to help people through either having a better understand of the legal and regulatory issues in sports or to understand how to progress themselves towards their goals academically and professionally is probably the most rewarding part of my work. 

3. What are the burning issues in international sports law that you would like to see discussed at the conference?

  • The long-term implications of human rights law in sport;
  • The importance of meaningful of stakeholder consultation in the creation and drafting of regulations in sport;
  • Effective international safeguarding in sport.

4. Why did you decide to support the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference?

We support ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference as it is a non-profit conference that’s purpose is to create a space to explore a wide range of legal issues in sport. The conference is an academic conference that does a great job in bringing a diverse range of speakers and delegates. The discussions and debates that take place will benefit the wider sports law community.  Therefore, as LawInSport’s objective is focused on education it was a straight forward decision to support the conferences as it is aligned with our objectives. 

Supporters of the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018: Women in Sports Law

Editor's note: In the coming days we will introduce the supporters of our upcoming ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018 (also known as #ISLJConf18). To do so, we have sent them a tailored questionnaire aimed at reflecting both their activities and their expectations for the conference. It is a good opportunity for us to thank them for their enthusiastic support and commitment to international sports law research. We are very proud to start this series of interviews with Women in Sports Law, an association launched in 2016 and which has already done so much to promote and advance the role of women in international sports law (many thanks to Despina Mavromati for kindly responding to our questions on behalf of WISLaw).


1. Can you explain to our readers what WISLaw is about?

Women In Sports Law (WISLaw, www.wislaw.co) is an international association based in Lausanne that unites more than 300 women from 50 countries specializing in sports law. It is a professional network that aims at increasing the visibility of women working in the sector, through a detailed members’ directory and various small-scale talks and events held in different countries around the world. These small-scale events give the opportunity to include everyone in the discussion and enhance the members’ network. Men from the sector and numerous arbitral institutions, conference organizers and universities have come to actively support our initiative.


2. What are the challenges and opportunities for women getting involved in international sports law?

Women used to be invisible in this sector. All-male panels were typical at conferences and nobody seemed to notice this flagrant lack of diversity. WISLaw created this much-needed platform to increase visibility through the members’ directory and through a series of small-scale events where all members, independent of their status or seniority, can attend and be speakers.

Another difficulty is that European football (soccer) is traditionally considered to be a “male-dominated” sport, despite the fact that there are so many great female football teams around the world. The same misperception applies to sports lawyers!

Last, there is a huge number of women lawyers working as in-house counsel and as sports administrators. There is a glass ceiling for many of those women, and the WISLaw annual evaluation of the participation of women in those positions attempts to target their issues and shed more light into this specific problem.


3. What are the burning issues in international sports law that you would like to see discussed at the conference?

The ISLJ Annual Conference has already set up a great lineup of topics combining academic and more practical discussions in the most recent issues in international sports law. 


4. Why did you decide to support the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference?

The Asser International Sports Law Centre has promoted and supported WISLaw since the very beginning. The ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference was the first big conference to officially include a WISLaw lunch talk in its program, allowing thus the conference attendees to be part of a wider informal discussion on a specific topical issue and raise their questions with respect to WISLaw. Another important reason why WISLaw supports this conference is because the conference organizers are making sincere efforts to have increased diversity in the panels : this year’s ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference is probably the first sports law conference to come close to a full gender balance in its panels, with 40% of the speakers being women !

The proportionality test under Art. 101 (1) TFEU and the legitimacy of UEFA Financial fair-play regulations: From the Meca Medina and Majcen ruling of the European Court of Justice to the Galatasaray and AC Milan awards of the Court of Arbitration for Sport – By Stefano Bastianon

Editor’s note: Stefano Bastianon is Associate Professor in EU Law and EU sports law at the University of Bergamo and lawyer admitted to the Busto Arsizio bar. He is also member of the IVth Division of the High Court of Sport Justice (Collegio di Garanzia dello sport) at the National Olympic Committee.

 

1. On the 20th July 2018, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (hereinafter referred to as “CAS”) issued its decision in the arbitration procedure between AC Milan and UEFA. The subject matter of this arbitration procedure was the appeal filed by AC Milan against the decision of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the UEFA Financial Control Body dated 19th June 2018 (hereinafter referred to as “the contested decision”). As many likely know, the CAS has acknowledged that, although AC Milan was in breach of the break-even requirement, the related exclusion of the club from the UEFA Europe League was not proportionate. To date, it is the first time the CAS clearly ruled that the sanction of exclusion from UEFA club competitions for a breach of the break-even requirement was not proportionate. For this reason the CAS award represents a good opportunity to reflect on the proportionality test under Art. 101 TFEU and the relationship between the landmark ruling of the European Court of Justice (hereinafter referred to as “ECJ”) in the Meca Medina and Majcen affair and the very recent case-law of the CAS. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: FC Twente's Game of Maltese Roulette. By Antoine Duval and Oskar van Maren

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

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: FC Twente's Game of Maltese Roulette. By Antoine Duval and Oskar van Maren

The first part of our “Unpacking Doyen’s TPO deals” blog series concerns the agreements signed between Doyen Sports and the Dutch football club FC Twente. In particular we focus on the so-called Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA) of 25 February 2014. Based on the ERPA we will be able to better assess how TPO works in practice. To do so, however, it is necessary to explore FC Twente’s rationale behind recourse to third-party funding. Thus, we will first provide a short introduction to the recent history of the club and its precarious financial situation. 

I. FC Twente 2004-2015

When local millionaire Joop Munsterman took over FC Twente in December 2003, the club was on the verge of bankruptcy. Munsterman certainly did not lack ambition and wanted to turn FC Twente into the best club of the Netherlands. With help of external investors, he quickly managed to reinforce the team with quality players such as the Swiss international Blaise N’kufo, the man who would later become FC Twente’s all-time top scorer. A few years later, in 2010, FC Twente won the Dutch League (Eredivisie), thereby defying the decade long dominance of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord. By now the club was considered an example for a modern, innovative and successful football governance, and an inspiration for other smaller clubs. Through “excellent scouting” it managed to attract players from all over the world capable of winning the league and securing a spot in Europe’s most important and lucrative club competition, the UEFA Champions League. Moreover, Twente’s success on the field also led to financial success off the field. For example, Costa Rican international Bryan Ruiz was signed from KAA Gent in 2009 for €5 million and sold to Fulham in 2011 for €12.5 million, which makes for a healthy profit of €7.5 million.

The taste of the 2010 success and the additional earnings for participating in the Champions League created hunger for more. The club started spending large amounts of money on the transfer market, including the signings of Leroy Fer in 2011 for €5.5 million and Dusan Tadic in 2012 for €7.7 million. Furthermore, with the ambition of playing the Champions League consistently, the club decided to renovate and expand its stadium. Although FC Twente is the owner of the stadium, it did not have the means to finance the renovation. Therefore, it had recourse to external investors, including the municipality of Enschede, who provided a loan of €20 million.

Fast-forwarding to 2015, little is left of that over-ambitious FC Twente. The club currently finds itself in the lower ranks of the league table and is fearing relegation to the second league. Much-needed revenue from Champions League participation did not materialize since the club was not able to qualify after 2011 and many of the recent signings did not lead to transfer profits. In May 2014 the Dutch FA, KNVB, placed FC Twente into the so-called “Category 1”, a category dedicated to clubs in financial difficulties, which could face disciplinary sanctions if the financial situation is not improved swiftly.[1] In early 2014, FC Twente had probably taken on way too much financial risk and was in dire need of fresh money. In this context, the ERPA with Doyen was dearly needed to repay outstanding short-term debts. 

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II. The ERPA dissected

The ERPA between FC Twente and Doyen Sports is dated from 25 February 2014. The ERPA consists of two separate agreements: a first general agreement signed on 27 December 2013; and a second agreement added on 25 February 2014. By means of the ERPA, Doyen purchased part of the economic rights of seven players who at the time were all registered and playing for FC Twente, namely Castaignos, Promes, Ould Chikh, Mokhtar, Eghan, Ebecilio and Tadic. In return, Doyen provided FC Twente a fee for each of the players for a total amount of €5 million.

As stated, Doyen did not obtain all of the economic rights of the players, but only a share. The share acquired by Doyen varied from player to player and fluctuated between 10% (for Tadic) and 50% (for Castaignos). At first glance, the mechanism seems relatively straightforward: once a player is sold to another football club Doyen receives an amount equal to its share of the economic rights attached to the player. However, the story is a bit more complex. The ERPA provides for a minimum fee per player that is superior to the amount Doyen invested in that player. In other words, regardless of the transfer fee paid, Doyen will always make a profit. The bank always wins! Doyen’s minimum fee for each player has been set at a basic amount equivalent to the fee granted to FC Twente plus a fixed 10% to be increased at an annual rate of 10% elapsed as from 15 November 2013.  


The ERPA further sets out different scenarios which are described below.

 

A. Scenario 1&2: The Transfer offer

The first eventuality, and most likely the mutually desired one, is the transfer of the player. Under the first agreement (this part was central to its amendment), in case of a transfer offer for one of the players concerned by the agreement, FC Twente could choose to accept or reject the offer. If it accepted the offer, Doyen was entitled to the agreed share of the proceeds of the transfer. If this amount was inferior to Doyen’s minimum fee, then Twente had to pay the fee. In case Twente would refuse the offer, no further contractual consequences were foreseen. (Scenario 1). It appears from the latest release of footballleaks (available here) that the first agreement actually entailed a different scenario, which was later deleted from the ERPA and inserted in an additional agreement. This second agreement, added later to the ERPA and not communicated to the KNVB, radically changed the transfer scenario (Scenario 2). 

Under the second agreement, in case of a transfer offer equal or superior to the minimum market value of the player is received and rejected by the club, FC Twente is obliged to compensate Doyen by an amount equivalent to Doyen’s share of the proposed transfer fee. By way of illustration, say a given football club offers FC Twente €10 million for Castaignos, while his minimum market value is €8 million (see table 1). Should FC Twente reject this transfer offer it will be obliged to compensate Doyen for an amount of €5 million (50% of the proposed transfer fee of €10 million). Similarly, if the proposed transfer fee is equal or above 50% of the minimum market value and FC Twente rejects it, it could also be obliged to compensate Doyen. Using Castaignos again as an example, say the proposed transfer fee was not €10 million but €4 million. This amount is exactly 50% of Castaignos’ minimum market value. Should FC Twente decide to reject this offer and Doyen decides to make a written request to be compensated, Doyen could claim €2 million from FC Twente. 


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B. Scenario 3: Exchange of players

If Twente decides to exchange a player covered by the ERPA against another player, to which an additional fee might be added, the agreement foresees that Doyen will have three different options. First, Doyen can, in case of a partial exchange involving a complementary fee, decide to keep the same share of the economic rights attached to the new player and get the agreed share of the fee received by the club. If a one-to-one exchange takes place, Doyen can only keep the same share of the economic rights attached to the new player. Finally, in both types of exchanges, Doyen has the option to demand that FC Twente pays the minimum fee for the player.



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C. Scenario 4: A loan

In the third scenario, the player is loaned out to another club. If the loan fee received is higher than the wage bill of the player at FC Twente, the club makes a profit on the loan. Consequently, Doyen is entitled to receive a percentage of the loan fee. Doyen’s share of the loan fee is calculated on the basis of its share in the economic rights of the player concerned. If Castaignos were to be loaned out to another club and FC Twente receives a loan fee higher than its salary, Doyen would receive 50% of the profit on the loan fee.


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D. Scenario 5: Renewal of the player contract by Twente

The fourth scenario is also modified by the additional agreement signed on 25 February 2014. Under the original agreement, if the player renews his contract with FC Twente, Doyen simply keeps the same share of the economic rights for the total length of the new contract. However, Doyen does have the right to choose a new put option date or, importantly, simply stick to the old put option date (on the put option date see below scenario 6). Under the additional agreement, Doyen also has the possibility to request that the minimum fee be paid by FC Twente. 


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E. Scenario 6: The Put Option

In the ERPA, Doyen and FC Twente have agreed a put option, this alternative is covered in Scenario 5. A put option is a right given to Doyen to sell back its share of the economic rights linked to a player at FC Twente, at a given date and for a given price. The put option date was set at 31 August 2015 for all seven players of Twente(see table 1). To use a concrete example, Ebecilio was not sold before 31 August 2015. In fact, he currently still plays for FC Twente. In accordance with the particular conditions of the ERPA, Doyen had the right to sell to FC Twente its share of the economic rights of Ebecilio, and FC Twente would have the obligation to buy back those rights, for a fixed put option fee. According to Table 1, the put option fee for Ebecilio is €780.000. Whether Doyen actually exercised this option in the Ebecilio case is not clear, but it would have guaranteed the investment company a profit of €180.000. 


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F. Scenario 7: The player is unable to remain a professional football player

Point 8 of the ERPA foresees that FC Twente shall enter into a policy with an insurance company insuring the risk of the player’s death and the risk of the player suffering an incapacitating injury or any injury which may patently reduce the player’s ability as a professional football player. In the case of such events, Doyen will receive an amount equal to the put option fee, irrespective of whether the insurance policy claims are lower or higher than the put option fee.

 

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G. Scenario 8: The player becomes a free agent

Point 9.1 of the ERPA stipulates that FC Twente “shall use its best endeavors to prevent the Player from becoming a free agent and acknowledges that such endeavors are considered normal and ordinary business practice for professional football clubs”. The notion of “best endeavors” remains undefined and mysterious. Nonetheless, in the case a player’s contract expires and he becomes a free agent, FC Twente will be obliged to pay Doyen the minimum fee agreed in the particular conditions (see table 1). 

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H. Scenario 9: The economic rights are assigned to a third-party

After the signature of the ERPA, it is still possible to trade the economic rights attached to the same players with third parties. However, if Doyen wishes to sell the economic rights of one of the seven players, it would firstly have to offer those rights back to FC Twente on the same conditions as those that would be offered to third parties. Moreover, Doyen may not assign any share of the players’ economic rights to any Dutch club or to any other third party which is not suitable to hold them. In turn, should FC Twente wish to sell (part of) the remaining economic rights of a player, it would firstly have to offer these rights to Doyen before offering them to another assignee. 

 

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I. Scenario 10: Termination of the contract by the player without just cause

Final scenario, if the player terminates his contract without just cause (see Article 17 FIFA RSTP), the ERPA foresees that FC Twente shall pursue a claim for unlawful termination of the employment contract against the player before any competent judicial institution.[2] If the relevant judicial body grants compensation to FC Twente, Doyen will get a share of the compensation equivalent to its share of the economic rights of the player. In the event the share of the compensation awarded to Doyen is less than the minimum fee, FC Twente will have to match the minimum fee. 

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III. The aftermath of the ERPA

On 26 November 2015, FC Twente told the Dutch press that it had bought off the TPO contract with Doyen. On that same day, footballleaks published a Settlement Agreement between Doyen and FC Twente. According to this settlement, the parties agreed to terminate the ERPA on the condition that Twente would pay to Doyen a compensation of €3.344.519. Whether the settlement agreement was signed by the two parties remains unknown since it does not include a date nor any signatures.

What is known is what happened to the seven players whose economic rights were partly sold to Doyen. Based on the information provided by the German website http://www.transfermarkt.de/, we made the following table summarizing the situation:



Since the signing of the ERPA (27 December 2013), five players have been transferred to other football clubs and two (Eghan and Ebecilio) are still under contract at FC Twente. Two players, Tadic and Promes, were sold for a relatively high fee (€13 million and €11.4 million respectively). For Tadic’s transfer, it is known that Doyen received a 10% of the transfer, since the fee was higher than the minimum fee. In fact, footballleaks provides a document called “Liquidation of Economic Rights Participation - Tadic”, holding that Doyen received €1.091.250 from Tadic’s €13 million transfer to English side Southampton. Doyen’s interest in Tadic was 10%. In principle this would mean that Doyen would receive 10% of €13 million, i.e. €1.3 million. However, based on article 7.2. of the ERPA, agent fees, solidarity contributions and the claim of another club (Groningen) were deducted to arrive at the final figure. The same process will have applied to the transfer of Promes.

Castaignos, Chikh and Mokhtar were sold for relatively low transfer fees (€2.5 million, €1.5 million and €1 million respectively). It is now possible to predict what truly happened to Doyen’s share of Castaignos’ economic rights. As Doyen’s share of the economic rights attached to Castaignos was 50% (see table 1), it should get €1.25 million (50% of €2.5 million). However, the particular conditions also stipulate that in such a case Doyen would be awarded the minimum fee, on 1 July 2015 it amounted to €1.8 million. Because Doyen’s share of Castaignos’ transfer fee (€1.25 million) is lower than the minimum fee (€1.8 million), it probably received the latter.

As to Ebecilio and Eghan, both remained at FC Twente after the put option date passed (31 August 2015), whether Doyen exercised its put option or not remains unknown. If Doyen has exercised this option, it would have received €780.000 for Ebecilio and €650.000 for Eghan.

Typically, these fees are not paid immediately at the date of the transfer. Instead the payment is divided in separate instalments. It is possible (even likely in light of its price tag), but we lack definite information on this point, that the settlement agreement between Doyen and FC Twente covers all outstanding instalments regarding previous transfers.  


IV. Is the ERPA in breach of KNVB and FIFA Regulations?

The Dutch media is full of rumours about the terrible things that are about to happen to FC Twente. Is the club going to go bankrupt? Or, will it be “only” losing more points in an already difficult battle to save its place in the Eredivisie? Until now, with few exceptions, very little substantial legal analysis has been provided. The KNVB and FIFA are the two main private regulators susceptible of going after FC Twente, though UEFA has also been mentioned in the press, but we are unable to identify under which legal basis it could get involved in the matter. One thing is certain, entering an ERPA with Doyen is a losing bet for a club. It takes huge financial risks and is the only actor facing disciplinary sanctions as Doyen escapes the jurisdiction of the football associations.

  

A. Has FC Twente breached the rules of the KNVB?

Pursuant to Article 57(1) of the KNVB Regulations, it is prohibited for clubs to reach any agreement that allows a third party to influence the club’s independence regarding the transfers of players. This provision is a mandatory transposition by the Dutch FA, as provided by article 1.3 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP), of article 18bis RSTP (See below). The KNVB has stated that it was aware of the existence of the ERPA between FC Twente and Doyen and that it even intervened to prevent unauthorized influence by Doyen. However, the Dutch FA was apparently not informed of the existence of the additional agreement signed between Doyen and FC Twente and a KNVB insider was quoted saying that those provisions “appear to show that Doyen does exert influence on FC Twente”. Yet, at the time of writing, it remains unclear whether FC Twente is subjected to a formal investigation by the KNVB.

In fact, the difference between the original agreement and the additional agreement is flagrant and crucial. In the former case FC Twente was entirely free to refuse a transfer offer whatever its amount, while, in the latter, if an offer reached a minimum amount, the club was forced to sell the player or to pay out Doyen’s share on the offer. At this point in time, all parties must have been perfectly conscious that FC Twente was unable to disburse any cent to buy back the economic rights owned by Doyen. Hence, its transfer policy was entirely at the goodwill of the investment fund and the potential buyers. The fact that FC Twente did not disclose the additional agreement to the KNVB obviously vindicates this assessment. Moreover, the latest release by footballleaks shows that the original ERPA signed in December 2013 included some of the most controversial provisions regarding transfers. These were later redacted out of the agreement and inserted in the additional agreement, probably to circumvent the control of the KNVB. It will be extremely difficult for the KNVB to deny that Doyen exercised a substantial influence on FC Twente’s transfer decisions regarding the players subjected to the ERPA. The potential sanctions are listed in Article 11 of the License Regulations (page 78-90 of the KNVB Regulations) and include a fine, a points deduction or withdrawal of the license. Having in mind the severe financial situation FC Twente finds itself in, this could lead to the full-blown bankruptcy of the club. 


B. Has FC Twente breached the FIFA Regulations?

FC Twente might be facing a FIFA sanction as well. As everybody knows by now, the FIFA ban on TPO entered into force on 1 May 2015.[3] However, the ERPA between FC Twente and Doyen is not falling under the ban, as it is not applicable retroactively. Hence, its conformity to FIFA regulations can only be assessed in relation to the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) in force at the signature of the ERPA. Back then article 18bis of the RSTP on third-party influence on clubs provided that: 


1.      No club shall enter into a contract which enables any other party to that contract or any third party to acquire the ability to influence in employment and transfer-related matters its independence, its policies or the performance of its teams.

2.     The FIFA Disciplinary Committee may impose disciplinary measures on clubs that do not observe the obligations set out in this article.


The whole legal debate will hinge, as for KNVB proceedings, on whether Doyen had the ability to influence the policy of FC Twente in employment and transfer-related matters. As we have argued above, the agreement points a loaded financial gun at FC Twente’s head each time a transfer offer of a certain amount is made, or when the club wishes to renew the contract of a player subjected to the ERPA. There is very little doubt that the transfer policy of a club in financial difficulties will be directly influenced by an investor, which can financially pull the plug on the club at virtually any time if it refuses to sell a player for a certain fee. The problem now for FIFA (and KNVB) will be to find an appropriate sanction for the club. It is the only party facing disciplinary proceedings (Doyen is out of FIFA or KNVB’s disciplinary reach). In the end, the supporters and players are the victims of a gross mismanagement of the club’s affairs due to the hubris of an irresponsible president. FIFA will also have to decide whether the many other ERPAs signed by Doyen (you can find a probably incomplete list of Doyen’s investment in players here), which include similar provisions (see Doyen’s model ERPA here) are also in breach of article 18bis. If yes, and we think there is no reason to decide otherwise, then a number of clubs (think Atletico, Sporting or Porto) might face  FIFA (or national FA) sanctions in the near future. This case is not ending with FC Twente, it is about all the clubs that have signed an ERPA with Doyen Sport in the past.

Additionally, it is also possible that FC Twente be found in breach of Annexe 3 of the FIFA RSTP, which regulates the use of the FIFA ‘Transfer Matching System’ (TMS) in the case of a transfer. The TMS is an online system that intends to make international transfers of players between clubs quicker, smoother and more transparent. Under article 4.4 of Annexe 3, in case FC Twente transfers a player (five of the players concerned by the ERPA have been transferred), it must introduce in the FIFA TMS a ‘Declaration on third-party payments and influence’. It is thinkable that FC Twente did not include the full ERPA in the TMS system and might also, therefore, face the FIFA sanctions provided in article 9.4 of the Annexe.

In a nutshell, FC Twente is now in deep(er) trouble because it decided to play Maltese roulette with a ruthless investor.



[1] In fact, the KNVB has already deducted six points from FC Twente in the 2014/15 season for financial mismanagement.

[2] Point 9.4 of the ERPA.

[3] More information on the TPO ban can be found in our previous Bogs, such as “Blog Symposium: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law – Introduction”.

Comments (5) -

  • Tukker

    12/8/2015 9:34:27 AM |

    How come every article, blog or comment on this issue manages to leave out an important aspect of the (alleged) second agreement between Doyen en FC Twente.

    In case FC Twente would have decided not to accept an offer for any of the seven players involved, the club would have had to pay a fee to Doyen IN TURN for FULL ownership of the player. It is - from a financial perspective -  equivalent to the put option in the first agreement, albeit against market value in stead of a minimal transfer value. As far as I know, the first agreement - including these put options - have passed the dutch FA's scrutiny .

    So in case of an offer, the club would have been left with an assessment. Does the club expect the current offer to be the best offer attainable now and in the near future? Then FC Twente should sell. Any club would do this, contract or not. In case FC Twente deems the offer not the best achievable now or in the near future, the club should not sell and pay the fee to Doyen in turn for full ownerhsip. This actually leaves the club in a better situation than under the contract in financial terms.

    This does not  mean, however, that the contract itself should have ever been signed, or that the second agreement - if it turns out to be valid - should have been hidden from the dutch FA's eyes. But that is a different story

    • Antoine Duval

      12/9/2015 11:05:21 AM |

      I see your point. The fact that FC Twente gets back the rights is implicit in our blog.

      The problem is that it if forced to buy back. Thus, if it can't and everybody involved must have known FC Twente was financially at the verge of bankrupcy then it means the club lost its control over transfers and the influence of Doyen is hardly deniable.

      • Tukker

        12/9/2015 10:05:31 PM |

        That, I think, is an assumption. Let's say Twente would have refused an offer for Tadic of 12 million in 4 yearly installments (and would only do so if the club expect to be able to sell at a higher price in the near future) would the 300.000 per installment really have been insurmountable? Do we know that for a fact? Maybe with the knowledge of today. In any case, the dutch FA had already approved the put option in the december agreement. That is, in fact, also forcing the club to buy back the right.  If your reasoning applies, and the club really could not afford to do so, it would also be forced to sell. I cannot see the principal difference there. Why would something apparantly legal in december, be illegal two months later

        • Antoine Duval

          12/9/2015 10:37:28 PM |

          It seems to me a relatively safe assumption (especially for any insider involved in signing such a deal). Would FC Twente not have been in a very difficult financial position, it would have gone to a bank to get a way less risky and costly loan.  

          Regarding the put option. I guess I'd agree with you that it is also susceptible to influence FC Twente's transfer policy (and even more so the free agency fee). It is just less obvious (and I guess that is why only the additional agreement was apparently not submitted to the KNVB) as it is not directly linked to a transfer offer.  

  • Tukker

    12/11/2015 9:54:18 PM |

    I would argue that 300.000 in August as an installment is quite different from 5 million mid-season. In any case, it seems to me it is the club's financial position that forces it to sell players (as we have have witnessed this year), not the agreement -as bad as it is - by itself

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