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! Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and the Right to Free Speech of Athletes - Zoom In Webinar - 14 July - 16:00 (CET)

On Wednesday 14 July 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret, is organizing a Zoom In webinar on Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and the right to free speech of athletes.

As the Tokyo Olympics are drawing closer, the International Olympic Committee just released new Guidelines on the implementation of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter. The latter Rule provides that ‘no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas’. The latest IOC Guidelines did open up some space for athletes to express their political views, but at the same time continue to ban any manifestation from the Olympic Village or the Podium. In effect, Rule 50 imposes private restrictions on the freedom of expression of athletes in the name of the political neutrality of international sport. This limitation on the rights of athletes is far from uncontroversial and raises intricate questions regarding its legitimacy, proportionality and ultimately compatibility with human rights standards (such as with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

This webinar aims at critically engaging with Rule 50 and its compatibility with the fundamental rights of athletes. We will discuss the content of the latest IOC Guidelines regarding Rule 50, the potential justifications for such a Rule, and the alternatives to its restrictions. To do so, we will be joined by three speakers, Professor Mark James from Manchester Metropolitan University, who has widely published on the Olympic Games and transnational law; Chui Ling Goh, a Doctoral Researcher at Melbourne Law School, who has recently released an (open access) draft of an article on Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter; and David Grevemberg, Chief Innovation and Partnerships Officer at the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, and former Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF). 

Guest speakers:

  • Prof. Mark James (Metropolitan Manchester University)
  • Chui Ling Goh (PhD candidate, University of Melbourne)
  • David Grevemberg (Centre for Sport and Human Rights)

Moderators:


Free Registration HERE

Investment in Football as a Means to a Particular End – Part 1: A non-exhaustive Typology - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor's note: Rhys is currently making research and writing contributions under Dr Antoine Duval at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law. Additionally, Rhys is the ‘Head of Advisory’ of Athlon CIF, a global fund and capital advisory firm specialising in the investment in global sports organisations and sports assets.

Rhys has a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) from the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. Rhys is an LL.M candidate at the University of Zurich, in International Sports Law. Following a career as a professional athlete, Rhys has spent much of his professional life as an international sports agent, predominantly operating in football.

Rhys is also the host of the podcast “Sportonomic”.


Introduction

In the following two-part blog series, I will start by outlining a short typology of investors in football in recent years, in order to show the emergence of different varieties of investors who seek to use football as a means to a particular end. I will then in a second blog, explore the regulatory landscape across different countries, with a particular focus on the regulatory approach to multi-club ownership. Before moving forward, I must offer a disclaimer of sorts.  In addition to my research and writing contributions with the Asser Institute, I am the ‘Head of Advisory’ for Athlon CIF, a global fund and capital advisory firm specialising in the investment in global sports organisations and sports assets. I appreciate and hence must flag that I will possess a bias when it comes to investment in football.

It might also be noteworthy to point out that this new wave of investment in sport, is not exclusive to football. I have recently written elsewhere about CVC Capital Partners’ US$300 million investment in Volleyball, and perhaps the message that lingers behind such a deal.  CVC has also shown an interest in rugby and recently acquired a 14.3 per cent stake in the ‘Six Nations Championship’, to the tune of £365 million.  New Zealand’s 26 provincial rugby unions recently voted unanimously in favour of a proposal to sell 12.5 per cent of NZ Rugby’s commercial rights to Silver Lake Partners for NZ$387.5 million.  Consider also the apparent partnership between star footballer’s investment group, Gerard Pique’s Kosmos, and the International Tennis Federation.  Kosmos is further backed by Hiroshi Mikitani’s ecommerce institution, Rakuten, and all involved claim to desire an overhaul of the Davis Cup that will apparently transform it into the ‘World Cup of Tennis’. Grassroots projects, prizemoney for tennis players and extra funding for member nations are other areas the partnership claims to be concerned with. As is the case with all investment plays of this flavour, one can be certain that a return on the capital injection is also of interest.

So, what are we to conclude from the trends of investment in sport and more specifically for this blog series, in football? A typology elucidates that a multiplicity of investors have in recent years identified football as a means to achieve different ends. This blog considers three particular objectives pursued; direct financial return, branding in the case of company investment, or the branding and soft power strategies of nations.More...



WISLaw Blog Symposium - Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter: the wind of changes or a new commercial race - By Rusa Agafonova

Editor's note: Rusa Agafonova is a PhD Candidate at the University of Zurich, Switzerland   

The Olympic Games are the cornerstone event of the Olympic Movement as a socio-cultural phenomenon as well as the engine of its economic model. Having worldwide exposure,[1] the Olympic Games guarantee the International Olympic Committee (IOC) exclusive nine-digit sponsorship deals. The revenue generated by the Games is later redistributed by the IOC down the sports pyramid to the International Federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and other participants of the Olympic Movement through a so-called "solidarity mechanism". In other words, the Games constitute a vital source of financing for the Olympic Movement.

Because of the money involved, the IOC is protective when it comes to staging the Olympics. This is notably so with respect to ambush marketing which can have detrimental economic impact for sports governing bodies (SGBs) running mega-events. The IOC's definition of ambush marketing covers any intentional and non-intentional use of intellectual property associated with the Olympic Games as well as the misappropriation of images associated with them without authorisation from the IOC and the organising committee.[2] This definition is broad as are the IOC's anti-ambush rules.More...

WISLaw Blog Symposium - Why the existing athletes' Olympic entering system does not comply with the fundamental principles of Olympism enshrined in the Olympic Charter - By Anna Antseliovich

Editor's note: Anna Antseliovich heads the sports practice at the Moscow-based legal group Clever Consult. She also works as a senior researcher at the Federal Science Center for Physical Culture and Sport (Russia).


The Olympic Games have always been a source of genuine interest for spectators as Olympians have repeatedly demonstrated astounding capacity of the human body and mind in winning Olympic gold, or by achieving success despite all odds.

At the ancient and even the first modern Olympic Games, there was no concept of a national team; each Olympian represented only himself/herself. However, at the 1906 Intercalated Games[1] for the first time, athletes were nominated by the National Olympic Committees (‘NOCs’) and competed as members of national teams representing their respective countries. At the opening ceremony, the athletes walked under the flags of their countries. This was a major shift, which meant that not only the athletes themselves competed against each other, but so too did the nations in unofficial medal standings.  

The nomination and selection of athletes by their NOCs to compete under their national flag and represent their country is a matter of pride for the vast majority of athletes. However, to what extent does such a scheme correspond to the ideals which the Olympic Games were based on in ancient times? Is it possible to separate sport and politics in the modern world? More...


WISLaw Blog Symposium - Legal and other issues in Japan arising from the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games due to COVID-19 - By Yuri Yagi

Editor's note: Yuri Yagi is a sports lawyer involved in Sports Federations and Japanese Sports Organizations including the Japan Equestrian Federation (JEF), the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), the Japan Sports Council (JSC) and the All-Japan High School Equestrian Federation.


1. Introduction

Japan has held three Olympic Games since the inception of the modern Olympics;Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in 1964, Sapporo Winter Olympic Games in 1972, and Nagano Winter Olympic Games in 1998. Therefore, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Tokyo 2020) are supposed to be the fourth to be held in Japan, the second for Tokyo. Tokyo 2020 were originally scheduled for 24 July 2020 to 9 August 2020. Interestingly, the word ‘postpone’ or ‘postponement’ does not appear in the Host City Contract (HCC).

However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), and the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) decided on 24 March 2020 that Tokyo 2020 would be postponed because of the pandemic of COVID-19. Later on, the exact dates were fixed ‘from 23 July 2021 (date of the Opening Ceremony) to 8 August 2021 (date of the Closing Ceremony).

The process of the decision is stipulated in the ‘ADDENDUM N° 4’ signed by IOC, TMG, JOC and TOCOG.

This paper provides an overview of the current situation, along with legal and other issues in Japan that have arisen due to the postponement of Tokyo 2020 due to COVID-19. The overview is offered from the perspective of a citizen of the host city and includes a consideration of national polls, the torch relay, vaccination, training camps, ever increasing costs, and the related provisions in the Candidature File and the Host City Contract. More...



WISLaw Blog Symposium - Freedom of Expression in Article 10 of the ECHR and Rule 50 of the IOC Charter: Are these polar opposites? - By Nuray Ekşi

Editor's note: Prof. Dr. Ekşi is a full-time lecturer and chair of Department of Private International Law at Özyeğin University Faculty of Law. Prof. Ekşi is the founder and also editor in chief of the Istanbul Journal of Sports Law which has been in publication since 2019.


While Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) secures the right to freedom of expression, Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter of 17 July 2020 (‘Olympic Charter’) restricts this freedom. Following the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’) relating to sports, national and international sports federations have incorporated human rights-related provisions into their statutes and regulations. They also emphasized respect for human rights. For example, Article 3 of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (‘FIFA’) Statutes, September 2020 edition, provides that “FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights”. Likewise, the Fundamental Principles of Olympism which are listed after the Preamble of the of the Olympic Charter 2020 also contains human rights related provisions. Paragraph 4 of Fundamental Principles of Olympism provides that the practice of sport is a human right. Paragraph 6 forbids discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. In addition, the International Olympic Committee (‘IOC’) inserted human rights obligations in the 2024 and 2028 Host City Contract.[1] The IOC Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration even goes further and aspires to promote the ability and opportunity of athletes to practise sport and compete without being subject to discrimination. Fair and equal gender representation, privacy including protection of personal information, freedom of expression, due process including the right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial panel, the right to request a public hearing and the right to an effective remedy are the other human rights and principles stated in the IOC Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration. Despite sports federations’ clear commitment to the protection of human rights, it is arguable that their statutes and regulations contain restrictions on athletes and sports governing bodies exercising their human rights during competitions or in the field. In this regard, particular attention should be given to the right to freedom of expression on which certain restrictions are imposed by the federations even if it done with good intentions and with the aim of raising awareness. More...


WISLaw Blog Symposium - Stick to Sports: The Impact of Rule 50 on American Athletes at the Olympic Games - By Lindsay Brandon

Editor's note: Lindsay Brandon is Associate Attorney at Law Offices of Howard L. Jacobs


“Tell the white people of America and all over the world that if they don’t seem to care for the things black people do, they should not go to see black people perform.” – American sprinter and Olympic Medalist John Carlos

On 21 April 2021, the Athletes’ Commission (AC) of the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) received the “full support of the IOC Executive Board for a set of recommendations in regard to the Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and Athlete Expression at the Olympic Games.” This came over a year after the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and almost a year after the IOC and AC embarked on an “extensive qualitative and quantitative” consultation process to reform Rule 50 involving over 3,500 athletes from around the globe.

Since its introduction of the new guidelines in January 2020, Rule 50 has been touted by the IOC as a means to protect the neutrality of sport and the Olympic Games, stating that “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or radical propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas.”  In other words, the Olympics are a time to celebrate sport, and any political act or demonstration might ruin their “moment of glory”.

In fact, the Rule 50 Guidelines say that a fundamental principle of sport is that it is neutral, and “must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference.” But this separation is not necessarily rooted in totality in modern sports culture[1], particularly in the United States (“U.S.”).  This is evidenced by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (“USOPC”) committing to not sanctioning Team USA athletes for protesting at the Olympics. The USOPC Athletes stated “Prohibiting athletes to freely express their views during the Games, particularly those from historically underrepresented and minoritized groups, contributes to the dehumanization of athletes that is at odds with key Olympic and Paralympic values.” More...



WISLaw Blog Symposium - 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games - Introduction

Women In Sports Law (WISLaw) is an international, non-profit association based in Switzerland and aimed at promoting women in the sports law sector, through scientific and networking events, annual meetings and annual reports. WISLaw’s objectives are to raise awareness of the presence, role and contribution of women in the sports law sector, enhance their cooperation, and empower its global membership through various initiatives.

This year, WISLaw has partnered with the Asser International Sports Law Blog to organise a special blog symposium featuring WISLaw members. The  symposium will entail both the publication of a series of blog posts authored by WISLaw members, and a virtual webinar (accessible at https://lnkd.in/dgWsy6q with the Passcode 211433) to promote discussion on the selected topics. Article contributions were invited on the topic of legal issues surrounding the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. In the midst of a pandemic and the rise of social justice movements around the world, the Games and their organisation gave rise to a number of interesting legal issues and challenges, which will be explored through a variety of lenses. 

We hope that you enjoy and participate in the discussion.

New Event! The Court of Arbitration for Sport at the European Court of Human Rights - Prof. Helen Keller - 26 May - 16:00

On Wednesday 26 May 2021 from 16.00-17.00 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret (University of Lausanne), is organising its fifth Zoom In webinar on the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) from the perspective of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

We have the pleasure to be joined by Prof. Helen Keller, former Judge at the ECtHR and a prominent dissenter to the majority’s ruling in the Mutu and Pechstein case.

The ECtHR decision in the Mutu and Pechstein case rendered on 2 October 2018 is widely seen as one of the most important European sports law rulings. It was also the first decision of the Strasbourg court dealing with a case in which the CAS had issued an award. The applicants, Adrian Mutu and Claudia Pechstein, were both challenging the compatibility of CAS proceedings with the procedural rights enshrined in Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The court famously declined to conclude that the CAS lacked independence or impartiality, but did find that, insofar as Claudia Pechstein was concerned, she was forced to undergo CAS arbitration and, therefore, that CAS proceedings had to fully comply with the procedural rights guaranteed in the ECHR. In particular, the court held that the refusal by CAS to hold a public hearing, in spite of Claudia Pechstein’s express request, was contrary to Article 6(1) ECHR. Beyond this case, as highlighted by the recent decision of Caster Semenya to submit an application to the ECtHR, the decision opens the way for a more systematic intervention of the Strasbourg court in assessing the human rights compatibility of CAS awards and more broadly of the transnational sports regulations imposed by international sports governing bodies.

Prof. Helen Keller will discuss with us the implications of the ECtHR’s Mutu and Pechstein decision and the potential for future interventions by the court in the realm of the lex sportiva.

The webinar will take the form of an interview followed by a short Q&A open to the digital public. 

Please note the discussion will NOT be recorded and posted on our Youtube channel. 

Register HERE!


Asser International Sports Law Blog | What Pogba's transfer tells us about the (de)regulation of intermediaries in football. By Serhat Yilmaz & Antoine Duval

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

What Pogba's transfer tells us about the (de)regulation of intermediaries in football. By Serhat Yilmaz & Antoine Duval

Editor’s note: Serhat Yilmaz (@serhat_yilmaz) is a lecturer in sports law in Loughborough University. His research focuses on the regulatory framework applicable to intermediaries. Antoine Duval (@Ant1Duval) is the head of the Asser International Sports Law Centre.


Last week, while FIFA was firing the heads of its Ethics and Governance committees, the press was overwhelmed with ‘breaking news’ on the most expensive transfer in history, the come back of Paul Pogba from Juventus F.C. to Manchester United. Indeed, Politiken (a Danish newspaper) and Mediapart (a French website specialized in investigative journalism) had jointly discovered in the seemingly endless footballleaks files that Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, was involved (and financially interested) with all three sides (Juventus, Manchester United and Pogba) of the transfer. In fine, Raiola earned a grand total of € 49,000,000 out of the deal, a shocking headline number almost as high as Pogba’s total salary at Manchester, without ever putting a foot on a pitch. This raised eyebrows, especially that an on-going investigation by FIFA into the transfer was mentioned, but in the media the sketching of the legal situation was very often extremely confusing and weak. Is this type of three-way representation legal under current rules? Could Mino Raiola, Manchester United, Juventus or Paul Pogba face any sanctions because of it? What does this say about the effectiveness of FIFA’s Regulations on Working with Intermediaries? All these questions deserve thorough answers in light of the publicity of this case, which we ambition to provide in this blog.


Paul Pogba: From Manchester to Juventus…and back 

On 3 August 2012, 19 years old Paul Pogba moved from Manchester United to Juventus on a free transfer. Four years later, his comeback to Manchester United was the most expensive transaction that the history of football ever recorded. Interestingly (and controversially), the latter transfer involved only one agent, Carmine “Mino” Raiola, acting on behalf of the three parties involved in the transaction. Indeed, on 20 July 2016, Raiola signed an agreement with Juventus stipulating that one of his companies, Topscore Sports Ltd, was contracted to find a suitable acquirer for the player before 31 August 2016 in return of a hefty commission payable by Juventus if Pogba was transferred for a minimum fee of €90,000,000 below which the club was not prepared to sell the player and the company was not entitled to any remuneration. A year before, one of Raiola’s many companies, Topscore Sports Ltd, had already been appointed by Juventus as of 1 March 2015 to facilitate the transfer of Pogba. The 2016 contract acknowledged that Topscore Sports Ltd succeeded in “creating hype around the future transfer” and triggered “a bidding war” to recruit the player. Hence, pursuant to the 2016 agreement, if Topscore managed to secure a transfer above the minimum fee, Juventus would pay to Raiola’s company €18,000,000. Furthermore, Raiola would earn €3,000,000 more for each €5,000,000 increase above the minimum fee of the final amount.

Simultaneously, on 27 July 2016, Mino Raiola signed a representation contract with the player through the Monaco based company Uuniqq Srl. The contract provided for a commission “amounting to 5% of the Player’s Basic Gross Income as result of any employment contract negotiated or renegotiated by the Intermediary”. While, on 8 August 2016, Raiola concluded, again through Uuniqq Srl, an agreement with Manchester United. On 9 August 2016, Juventus and Manchester United agreed to the transfer of Pogba for a compensation of €105,000,000. Pogba obtained a salary of €10,200,000 in 2016/2017, reaching €13,800,000 in 2017/2018. On top of that, he also secured a €2,200,000 bonus every time Manchester United qualifies for the Champions League and a €1,160,000 one in case he wins the ballon d’or. According to the agreement with Manchester United, the agent would be paid for his intermediary services five installments of €3,883,658 each, payable every 30 September from 2017 to 2020. In addition to that, Manchester United was undertaking the duty to pay the player’s fee to the agent. Consequently, Uuniqq Srl was also due to receive five installments of €516,342 each, payable on the same dates.

To sum up, as a consequence of Pogba’s transfer from Juventus to Manchester United, Topscore Sports Ltd collected a total commission of €27,000,000 from Juventus, consisting of the agreed minimum of €18,000,000 plus an additional €9,000,000 for overshooting his targeted transfer fee. Uuniqq Srl got a total commission of €22,000,000, resulting from the €19,420,000 (5 instalments of €3,883,658 each) paid by Manchester United as “club services” and €2,580,000 (5 instalments of €516,342 each) paid by the club as “player’s services” on behalf of Pogba. This is the contractual set-up leading to the headline number of € 49,000,000, but is it actually legal?  

 

Three key questions on the legality of Mino Raiola’s role in Pogba’s transfer

There is a tremendous amount of confusion in the press regarding the legality of the above-explained contractual arrangements. For example, FIFA might be investigating the transfer, but in practice it is not in a position of enforcing any direct sanctions, besides a fine for any misleading declarations of Manchester United or Juventus to the FIFA TMS, against the clubs, the player or the intermediary. Indeed, since the entry into force of the new FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (RWI) in 2015, the responsibility to police intermediaries has been delegated to national federations, in the present case the English FA and the Italian FIGC. It means in practice that the key question is whether Raiola, the clubs or the player complied with the obligations enshrined in the federations’ regulations. The Italian FIGC has not fulfilled its basic transparency obligations under the new FIFA rules, and should be sanctioned by FIFA for not doing so, thus it is impossible to assess whether Raiola and Juventus have complied with the FIGC’s rules. However, the FA has done his regulatory homework well and we believe that the case will raise numerous questions with regard to the compatibility of the behaviour of the parties with the FA’s Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (FA RWI).

  • Is Mino Raiola's total fee/commission in breach of the FA RWI?

The fees payable to Mino Raiola by all parties involved in the transfer (Manchester United as “the registering club”, Juventus as “the former club” and Pogba as “the player”) seems to be the most controversial, and peculiar, aspect of the transfer. Mino Raiola is to receive almost 38% of the total value of Pogba’s contract from Manchester United and only 5% from Pogba directly. Despite the fact that the amount of these fees seems excessive in comparison to market standards under which the level of intermediary commission varies between 5% to 10% and in some of the most extreme cases 20% (see here and here), they do not as such breach the FA RWI. The English FA regulates remuneration payable to intermediaries under section C of its regulations and the indicative level of commission is at 3% (regulation C11). However, this is only a “recommendation” and is aimed at providing guidance to the market and not at constituting an absolute requirement. The non-binding nature of this restriction on the level of commission means that the parties to the transfer are free to negotiate a higher level of commission and this seems to be the case for the representation contracts between Manchester United, Pogba, and Mino Raiola. Additionally, the level of commission, if payable by the player, is to be calculated in accordance with the player’s gross annual income for the entire duration of the relevant employment contract (Article C11.a) whereas the Club’s fee is either based on the player’s gross annual income for the entire duration of the relevant employment contract (Article C11.b) or on the transfer compensation (transfer fee) paid in connection with the transfer (Article C11.c). Both the club and the player are entitled to make the payments to the intermediary in a lump sum or periodic instalments (Article C3 and C7). The club can also make the payments to the intermediary on behalf of the player, if a written request made by the player to do so, and periodic deductions from player’s salary can be made by the club to sanction those payments (Article C2.b). In the light of these provisions of the FA RWI,  the representation contracts published by the Danish news outlet, Politiken (see here) clearly prescribe the remunerations and payment schedules to Mino Raiola by both Manchester United and Pogba  and these contractual arrangements seem to be in compliance with the regulations.

  • Can Mino Raiola represent all parties to the transfer?

The other controversial aspect of the transfer is the representation arrangements by Mino Raiola in respect of Manchester United, Pogba and Juventus. According to the documents published by Politiken and Mediapart, Mino Raiola represented both Manchester United and Pogba under the same transaction. At this point, distinction needs to be made between the dual representation (the intermediary represents the player and either the registering or the former club) and the multiple representation (the intermediary representing the player, the registering club and the former club) as the FA RWI uses both terminologies interchangeably. However, the distinction between the dual and the multiple representation becomes clear under the Intermediary Declaration Form IM1 (see here), the document that must be completed by all parties to the transfer and lodged with the English FA. The document clearly outlines declaration requirements in respect of representation of the player, the registering club and the former club. The representation arrangements between Manchester United, Pogba and Mino Raiola is a dual representation, which is clearly acknowledged by the English FA in its annual disclosure of individual transactions registered, where Mino Raiola and his company, Uuniqq Srl, are listed as the representative of both the Club and the Player (see here). Additionally, as mentioned above, Mino Raiola had also a representation contract with Juventus for the sale of the player. Under the circumstances, it seems the representation contract with Juventus adds another layer to the representation arrangements and constitutes the element of multiple representation with regards to the FA RWI. These arrangements clearly raise the possibility of a conflict of interest, therefore, the English FA allow dual/multiple representation only if the intermediary and the other relevant parties to the transfer strictly comply with the consent requirements of its regulations (Article E1). Otherwise the intermediary may only act for one party to the transfer (Article E1) and cannot receive any remuneration from other parties (Article E3).

Firstly, if the intermediary has a pre-existing representation contract with one party (“the first party”) to the transfer, then that contract should be lodged with the English FA (Article E2.a). In this case, the extracts of representation contract refer to “the player representation contract” between Pogba and Mino Raiola which seems to indicate the existence of a representation contract prior to the multiple representation arrangements. Therefore, it is safe to assume that Pogba could be “the first party” to the transaction and the existing representation contract can constitute a pre-existing representation contract under the FA RWI which should have been lodged with the English FA prior to the other representation arrangements. Secondly, the intermediary should obtain all parties’ (emphasis added) prior written consent to provide services to any other party to the transaction (“the other party(ies)”) (Article E2.b) meaning that Mino Raiola should have obtained the consent of Manchester United, Pogba and Juventus to enter into the multiple representation arrangements. Then, once the intermediary and the other party(ies) agree on the terms of representation, prior to entering into actual representation contracts, the intermediary must inform all parties of the full details regarding the proposed fee to be paid by all parties to the intermediary (Article E2.c). Mino Raiola, should not only have sought the consent of all parties to the multiple representation but also disclosed them the level of fees payable to him by each party. Finally, all parties to the transfer should be given opportunity to seek independent legal advice on the proposed arrangements and provide their written consent for the intermediary to enter into dual/ multiple representation arrangements with other parties (Article E2.d, E2.e).

 As a result, the key focus of the investigation initiated by FIFA but which will inevitably move to the English FA seems to be whether Mino Raiola complied with the regulatory requirements imposing written consent prior to entering into the multiple representation arrangements. Due to the involvement of different companies located in multiple jurisdictions, it is particularly important that the representation contract with Juventus was disclosed to other parties of the transfer, i.e., Manchester United and Pogba and included under the IM1 form. A potential non-compliance with these requirements would constitute a regulatory breach. The omission of information under the relevant paperwork by the parties might be considered as the concealment or misrepresentation of reality and/or substance of any matters in relation to the transaction which is also regulatory breach (Article A3). Any regulatory breach shall be misconduct and sanctioned accordingly (Article F1). All parties involved have potentially, if a multiple representation agreement was not disclosed to the FA, breached the FA rules. However, only Juventus and Raiola knew with certainty about this multiple heads. It is doubtful that the FA could sanction Juventus, which is out of its jurisdictional reach (one could potentially envisage a transfer ban to the FA). Yet, Raiola’s multiple companies must be registered with the FA to conclude transfers with Premier League clubs, thus if he fails to demonstrate that he obtained prior written consent from all the parties to the multiple representation, one could envisage that the FA would suspend their registrations.

  • Who has authority to investigate and sanction Mino Raiola for regulatory breaches (if there is any)?

The final central question is: which governing body, in this case either the English FA, the Italian FIGC or FIFA, has the authority to investigate and sanction potential regulatory breaches in the transfer? The jurisdictional nexus derives from the international dimension of a transfer involving two different associations, (English FA and Italian FIGC) and the application of FIFA Regulations on Status and Transfer of Players (FIFA RSTP). It gets even more complicated if Raiola’s original intermediary registration with the Dutch FA is taken into consideration. Against this background, the FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (FIFA RWI)’s fundamental aim was to bring some transparency in an opaque market and Article 9.1 FIFA RWI authorises associations to hand out sanctions on any party under their jurisdiction that commits regulatory breach of FIFA regulations as well as their statutes or regulations. The article implies therefore that either the English FA or the Italian FIGC (or the Dutch KNVB) may have the authority to sanction Raiola if he falls under their jurisdiction. In the case of intermediaries, the jurisdiction is generally inferred by the registration and the English FA obliges any applicants to submit to its jurisdiction through the declaration under its intermediary registration process. A close scrutiny of the English FA’s intermediary disclosures reveals Mino Raiola’s intermediary registration as natural person (see here). He has also registered his five companies as legal persons including Uuniqq Srl (see here) which is the one used for the transfer of Pogba with the English FA. These registrations could provide the English FA with jurisdiction over Mino Raiola to investigate the transaction and, if any regulatory breach is proven, to impose any sanctions. The investigative power of the English FA over Minor Raiola also derives directly from his registration under which he consented to communicate to the English FA , for the purposes of investigation, all contracts, agreements and records in connection with his activities as an intermediary. Moreover, if for any reason Mino Raiola gets eventually sanctioned by the English FA, FIFA would have the authority to extend the sanction worldwide (Article 9.2 of FIFA RWI). 


Conclusion: Regulating intermediaries without FIFA 

What are the broader lessons we can learn from this case?

  • First, the transfer market remains, despite the recent TPO ban and FIFA RWI, an opaque market on which conflicts of interest are routine. In this regard, FIFA’s decision to retreat from any direct involvement in the regulation of intermediaries, despite the obvious shortcomings of the old licensing system, has proven to be a relatively poor and to some extent incoherent choice. The legitimate objectives invoked to ban TPO are in turn betrayed by the decision to let go of any supervision of intermediaries. In general, the cognitive dissonance of FIFA vis-à-vis the transfer system is striking, it attacks on the one hand (rightly in the view of one of us) the financiarization of football through TPO, but supports it on the other by maintaining in place a system that transforms players into speculative assets.
  • Second, the scope of regulation of intermediaries is now exclusively dependent on the decisions of national federations. If the English FA decides to crack down on conflicts of interest in the transfer market, it will have a tremendous impact on the way intermediaries operate. The English market represents a huge share of the whole transfer market and is hardly avoidable for major intermediaries. Further, if the federations of the so-called big five (England, France, Italy, Germany, Spain) leagues would accept to coordinate their intermediaries’ regulations, they would have such a dominant market position that in practice they would very much define how the transfer market operates. In this regard, the Pogba case will be decisive (and symbolic) to determine whether the English FA is ready to lead the way down a stricter regulatory road.
  • Third, fans (and their clubs) are the ultimate losers of this state of play, they should rebel! The intermediaries’ fees are a consequence of the structural lack of competition and transparency in the transfer market. In the end, those who are going to the stadium every week or have an expensive subscription to watch the Premier League are paying the intermediaries. We the consumers of football are the ones on the losing end of this masquerade of a market. If clubs are unwilling to assert their contractual rights against ruthless intermediaries, it is unlikely for example that Manchester United will ask compensation from Mino Raiola if he omitted to inform them of the obvious conflicts of interest in the Pogba transfer, their supporters (and shareholders) should try to force them to do so.

 

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