FIFA’s Third-Party Ownership (TPO)
ban entered into force on the 1 May 2015.
Since then, an academic and practitioner’s debate is raging over its compatibility with EU law,
and in particular the EU Free Movement rights and competition rules.
The European Commission, national
courts (and probably in the end the Court of Justice of the EU) and the Court
of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will soon have to propose their interpretations
of the impact of EU law on FIFA’s TPO ban. Advised by the world-famous Bosman lawyer, Jean-Louis Dupont, Doyen
has decided to wage through a proxy (the Belgian club FC Seraing) a legal war
against the ban. The first skirmishes have already taken place in front of the
Brussels Court of first instance, which denied in July Seraing’s request for provisional
measures. For its part, FIFA has already sanctioned the club for closing a TPO deal
with Doyen, thus opening the way to an ultimate appeal to the CAS. In parallel,
the Spanish and Portuguese leagues have lodged a complaint with the European
Commission arguing that the FIFA ban is contrary to EU competition law. One
academic has already published an assessment of the compatibility of the ban
with EU law, and many practitioners have offered their take (see here and here for example). It is undeniable that the FIFA
ban is per se restrictive of the
economic freedoms of investors and can easily be constructed as a restriction
on free competition. Yet, the key and core question under an EU law analysis,
is not whether the ban is restrictive (any regulation inherently is), but
whether it is proportionate, in other words justified. More...