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

Not comfortably satisfied? The upcoming Court of Arbitration for Sport case of the thirty-four current and former players of the Essendon football club. By James Kitching

Editor's note: James Kitching is Legal Counsel and Secretary to the AFC judicial bodies at the Asian Football Confederation. James is an Australian and Italian citizen and one of the few Australians working in international sports law. He is admitted as barrister and solicitor in the Supreme Court of South Australia. James graduated from the International Master in the Management, Law, and Humanities of Sport offered by the Centre International d'Etude du Sport in July 2012.


Introduction

On 12 May 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had filed an appeal against the decision issued by the Australian Football League (AFL) Anti-Doping Tribunal (AADT) that thirty-four current and former players of Essendon Football Club (Essendon) had not committed any anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) identified within the AFL Anti-Doping Code (AADC). The players had each been charged with using Thymosin-Beta 4 (TB4) during the 2012 AFL season.

On 1 June 2015, WADA announced that it had filed an appeal against the decision by the AADT to clear Mr. Stephen Dank (Dank), a sports scientist employed at Essendon during the relevant period, of twenty-one charges of violating the AADC. Dank was, however, found guilty of ten charges and banned for life.

This blog will solely discuss the likelihood of the first AADT decision (the Decision) being overturned by the CAS. It will briefly summarise the facts, discuss the applicable rules and decision of the AADT, review similar cases involving ‘non-analytical positive’ ADRVs relating to the use of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method, and examine whether the Code of Sports-related Arbitration (CAS Code) is able to assist WADA in its appeal.

This blog will not examine the soap opera that was the two years leading-up to the Decision. Readers seeking a comprehensive factual background should view the excellent up-to-date timeline published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. More...


EU Law is not enough: Why FIFA's TPO ban survived its first challenge before the Brussels Court


Star Lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont is almost a monopolist as far as high profile EU law and football cases are concerned. This year, besides a mediatised challenge against UEFA’s FFP regulations, he is going after FIFA’s TPO ban on behalf of the Spanish and Portuguese leagues in front of the EU Commission, but also before the Brussels First Instance Court defending the infamous Malta-based football investment firm Doyen Sport. FIFA and UEFA’s archenemy, probably electrified by the 20 years of the Bosman ruling, is emphatically trying to reproduce his world-famous legal prowess. Despite a first spark at a success in the FFP case against UEFA with the Court of first instance of Brussels sending a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), this has proven to be a mirage as the CJEU refused, as foretold, to answer the questions of the Brussels Court, while the provisory measures ordered by the judge have been suspended due to UEFA’s appeal. But, there was still hope, the case against FIFA’s TPO ban, also involving UEFA and the Belgium federation, was pending in front of the same Brussels Court of First Instance, which had proven to be very willing to block UEFA’s FFP regulations. Yet, the final ruling is another disappointment for Dupont (and good news for FIFA). The Court refused to give way to Doyen’s demands for provisional measures and a preliminary reference. The likelihood of a timely Bosman bis repetita is fading away. Fortunately, we got hold of the judgment of the Brussels court and it is certainly of interest to all those eagerly awaiting to know whether FIFA’s TPO ban will be deemed compatible or not with EU law. More...


The New FIFA Intermediaries Regulations under EU Law Fire in Germany. By Tine Misic

I'm sure that in 1985, plutonium is available in every corner drugstore, but in 1955, it's a little hard to come by.” (Dr. Emmett L. Brown)[1]


Back to the future?

Availing oneself of EU law in the ambit of sports in 1995 must have felt a bit like digging for plutonium, but following the landmark ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Bosman case[2], 20 years later, with all the buzz surrounding several cases where EU law is being used as an efficient ammunition for shelling various sports governing or organising bodies, one may wonder if in 2015 EU law is to be “found in every drug store” and the recent cases (see inter alia Heinz Müller v 1. FSV Mainz 05, Daniel Striani ao v UEFA, Doyen Sports ao v URBSFA, FIFA, UEFA) [3] cannot but invitingly evoke the spirit of 1995.

One of the aforementioned cases that also stands out pertains to the injunction decision[4] issued on 29 April 2015 by the Regional Court (Landesgericht) in Frankfurt am Main (hereinafter: the Court) in the dispute between the intermediary company Firma Rogon Sportmanagement (hereinafter: the claimant) and the German Football Federation (Deutschen Fußball-Bund, DFB), where the claimant challenged the provisions of the newly adopted DFB Regulations on Intermediaries (hereinafter: DFB Regulations)[5] for being incompatible with Articles 101 and 102 TFEU.[6] The Court, by acknowledging the urgency of the matter stemming from the upcoming transfer window and the potential loss of clients, deemed a couple of shells directed at the DFB Regulations to be well-aimed, and granted an injunction due to breach of Article 101 TFEU. More...




Compatibility of fixed-term contracts in football with Directive 1999/70/EC. Part 2: The Heinz Müller case. By Piotr Drabik

Introduction
The first part of the present blog article provided a general introduction to the compatibility of fixed-term contracts in football with Directive 1999/70/EC[1] (Directive). However, as the Member States of the European Union enjoy a considerable discretion in the implementation of a directive, grasping the impact of the Directive on the world of football would not be possible without considering the national context. The recent ruling of the Arbeitsgericht Mainz (the lowest German labour court; hereinafter the Court) in proceedings brought by a German footballer Heinz Müller provides an important example in this regard. This second part of the blog on the legality of fixed-term contract in football is devoted to presenting and assessing the Court’s decision.


I. Facts and Procedure
Heinz Müller, the main protagonist of this case, was a goalkeeper playing for 1.FSV Mainz 05 a club partaking to the German Bundesliga. More...


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

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

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

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

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

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

…and everything under the sun is in tune,

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


The issue

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asser International Sports Law Blog | 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

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

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?

Olympic Principles

The ancient Olympics began as a religious celebration in honor of the ancient Greek god Zeus. All freeborn male citizens of Greece could participate. The modern Olympics no longer maintain religious significance and are based on modern ideas and principles.

The principles of Olympism are enshrined in the Olympic Charter under “Fundamental Principles of Olympism”. The first paragraph of the Charter reads: “Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.” Thus, it should seem obvious that Olympism is centered on a human, his/her body, will, and mind. Nations are not mentioned at all in this section. On the contrary, “sports organizations within the Olympic Movement shall apply political neutrality.”

Moreover, the Olympic Charter enshrines the practice of sport as an inherent human right: “Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”  Paragraph 6 continues with “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms outlined in this Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Based on the above, we can conclude that anyone has the right to participate in competitions covered directly or indirectly by the Olympic Charter, and no one person or entity can be deprived of this right. The only limitation on participation is an individual athlete’s qualification and eligibility.  

Entering by NOC

The Olympic Charter Rule 40 provides that “the competitor, team official or other team personnel must be entered by his NOC” to participate in the Olympic Games.

Rule 41 and its By-law deal with cases where there are issues with the nationality of an athlete, such as a change of nationality, a change in the status of the territory on which an athlete resides, etc., but clearly states that, as a general rule, an athlete shall be a national of the NOC that is selecting him/her.

In previous years, the IOC allowed so-called independent athletes to participate in the Olympic Games (such teams had different names but the same status). In 1992 they were athletes from Macedonia and Yugoslavia, in 2000 from East Timor, in 2012 athletes from the Netherlands Antilles and South Sudan, in 2014 from India, in 2016 from Kuwait and Russia, and in 2018 from Russia. These athletes competed as independent/neutral athletes for various reasons, such as the absence of the NOC, the suspension of the NOC from the IOC, doping scandals, or international sanctions.

The increased role of the State that is expressed by the appearance of the national symbols on the athletes' uniform, the playing of national anthems, and the flying of the national flag at the award ceremony has given rise to an unofficial medal count, which now - whether the IOC wants it or not - plays an extremely important role at each Olympic Games. Spectators intensely monitor which country is leading the medal count - sometimes even more than the competition itself. More and more countries are competing against each other, drawing up medal plans in an attempt to prove that their training system is the best and the most progressive, which, in turn, shows the superiority of their political and/or financial system. This all takes the spectators’ attention away from the purity of revelling in the capabilities of the human body and spirit and admiring the achievements of athletes.

Such an approach to the formation of Olympic teams (at least in individual sports) does not comply with the principle enshrined in Rule 6 of the Olympic Charter “the Olympic Games are competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries..” and it seems that it is unfair for several reasons.

First, while for most athletes the very opportunity to represent their country at the most important sporting event is a source of great pride, for other athletes, it is not. For example,  refugees who have fled their homeland, for fear of torture and/or death. For them, it is unacceptable to compete under the flag of their country. Their “national” NOC could not enter them in any event. To circumvent this problem, the IOC created a team of 10 refugee athletes who competed under the IOC flag and anthem for the first time at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. In 2018, at the 133rd session of the IOC in Buenos Aires, it was confirmed that the Tokyo Olympics will also feature a refugee team. However, refugees are not the only group of athletes who have difficult relations with the authorities and/or political regimes. There are many places in the world where people are struggling for independence or with repressive regimes. For these athletes to compete under the national symbols used by such authorities is fundamentally and morally impossible because it contradicts their political views (for example, some of the Kurds may not be happy to represent Turkey, some of the Basques may be happy to see any flag but not a Spanish one, some individuals residing in Northern Ireland may feel themselves hurt and unhappy to compete under the Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, Tibetans and Uighurs hardly want to glorify the flag of China that suppresses any attempts to show their national identity, etc.).

Second, despite the requirement of the Olympic Charter to observe political neutrality by NOCs, in reality, this is not always respected. A vivid example is a current situation in Belarus, where until February 2021 the NOC was headed by President Aleksandr Lukashenko, after whose election mass protests broke out in the country resulting in numerous human rights violations. Since February 2021, the NOC has been headed by his son, Viktor Lukashenko. Athletes who took part in the protests were persecuted and sometimes even imprisoned. It is obvious that such athletes have no chance to be selected by the NOC for the Tokyo Olympics and even if they were to be entered, they would unlikely be proud to perform under the symbols of a regime that they consider illegitimate.

The two examples demonstrate that performing under a national flag can sometimes have grave significance. Athlete can either be completely barred from competing in the Olympics should they not hold the correct political allegiance, or be forced to compete under a national flag that does not reflect their political views.

The author considers that a solution to the abovementioned problem consists in the registration of an athlete, if he/she meets sports criteria for participation in the Olympic Games, directly by the IOC in the personal capacity. Each athlete will then be able to independently decide to use the national symbols that correspond to his political views, or to refuse to use any symbols in general. This approach is consistent with the abovementioned principles.

Conclusion

The Olympic Games have evolved enormously from local games as part of a religious celebration to a worldwide sports festival watched by millions of people. The Olympics are the epitome of international competition between athletes and between nations. Political controversy and scandals surrounding the Olympics often overshadow athletes' successes. To remove the political underlying basis of the Olympics, the approach of entering athletes by the NOCs should be abandoned, and athletes (at least in individual sports) should be allowed to compete in a personal capacity stripping away political connotations that ought to be extraneous to sports competitions. 


[1] Intercalated Games were supposed to be a series of international competitions held in Athens halfway between Summer Olympic Games. The only such games were held in 1906.


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