Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

The EU State aid and Sport Saga: Hungary revisited? (Part 2)

On 18 May 2016, the day the first part of this blog was published, the Commission said in response to the Hungarian MEP Péter Niedermüller’s question, that it had “not specifically monitored the tax relief (…) but would consider doing so. The Commission cannot prejudge the steps that it might take following such monitoring. However, the Commission thanks (Niedermüller) for drawing its attention to the report of Transparency International.”

With the actual implementation in Hungary appearing to deviate from the original objectives and conditions of the aid scheme, as discussed in part 1 of this blog, a possible monitoring exercise by the Commission of the Hungarian tax benefit scheme seems appropriate. The question remains, however, whether the Commission follows up on the intent of monitoring, or whether the intent should be regarded as empty words. This second part of the blog will outline the rules on reviewing and monitoring (existing) aid, both substantively and procedurally. It will determine, inter alia, whether the State aid rules impose an obligation upon the Commission to act and, if so, in what way. More...

The Rise and Fall of FC Twente

Yesterday, 18 May 2016, the licensing committee of the Dutch football federation (KNVB) announced its decision to sanction FC Twente with relegation to the Netherland’s second (and lowest) professional league. The press release also included a link to a document outlining the reasons underlying the decision. For those following the saga surrounding Dutch football club FC Twente, an unconditional sanction by the licensing committee appeared to be only a matter of time. Yet, it is the sanction itself, as well as its reasoning, that will be the primary focus of this short blog.More...

The EU State aid and Sport Saga: Hungary’s tax benefit scheme revisited? (Part 1)

The tax benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector decision of 9 November 2011 marked a turning point as regards the Commission’s decisional practice in the field of State aid and sport. Between this date and early 2014, the Commission reached a total of ten decisions on State aid to sport infrastructure and opened four formal investigations into alleged State aid to professional football clubs like Real Madrid and Valencia CF.[1] As a result of the experience gained from the decision making, it was decided to include a Section on State aid to sport infrastructure in the 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation. Moreover, many people, including myself, held that Commission scrutiny in this sector would serve to achieve better accountability and transparency in sport governance.[2]

Yet, a recent report by Transparency International (TI), published in October 2015, raises questions about the efficiency of State aid enforcement in the sport sector. The report analyzes the results and effects of the Hungarian tax benefit scheme and concludes that:

“(T)he sports financing system suffers from transparency issues and corruption risks. (…) The lack of transparency poses a serious risk of collusion between politics and business which leads to opaque lobbying. This might be a reason for the disproportionateness found in the distribution of the subsidies, which is most apparent in the case of (football) and (the football club) Felcsút.”[3]

In other words, according to TI, selective economic advantages from public resources are being granted to professional football clubs, irrespective of the tax benefit scheme greenlighted by the Commission or, in fact, because of the tax benefit scheme. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – April 2016. By Marine Montejo

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

This month saw the conflict between FIBA Europe and the Euroleague (more precisely its private club-supported organizing body, Euroleague Commercial Assets or ‘ECA’) becoming further entrenched. This dispute commenced with FIBA creating a rival Basketball Champions League, starting from the 2016-2017 season with the hope to reinstate their hold over the organization of European championships. The ECA, a private body that oversees the Euroleague and Eurocup, not only decided to maintain its competitions but also announced it would reduce them to a closed, franchise-based league following a joint-venture with IMG. In retaliation, FIBA Europe suspended fourteen federations of its competition (with the support of FIBA) due to their support for the Euroleague project.More...


The boundaries of the “premium sports rights” category and its competition law implications. By Marine Montejo

Editor’s note: Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an Intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

In its decisions regarding the joint selling of football media rights (UEFA, Bundesliga, FA Premier league), the European Commission insisted that premium media rights must be sold through a non-discriminatory and transparent tender procedure, in several packages and for a limited period of time in order to reduce foreclosure effects in the downstream market. These remedies ensure that broadcasters are able to compete for rights that carry high audiences and, for pay TV, a stable number of subscriptions. In line with these precedents, national competition authorities have tried to ensure compliance with remedy packages. The tipping point here appears to be the premium qualification of sport rights on the upstream market of commercialization of sport TV rights.

This begs the question: which sport TV rights must be considered premium? More...

Guest Blog - Mixed Martial Arts (MMA): Legal Issues by Laura Donnellan

Editor's note: Laura Donnellan is a lecturer at University of Limerick. You can find her latest publications here.

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Seraing vs. FIFA: Why the rumours of CAS’s death have been greatly exaggerated

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

Seraing vs. FIFA: Why the rumours of CAS’s death have been greatly exaggerated

Rumours are swirling around the decision (available in French here) of the Court of Appeal of Brussels in the case opposing RFC Seraing United to FIFA (as well as UEFA and the Belgian Football Federation, URSBFA) over the latter’s ban on third-party ownership. The headlines in various media are quite dramatic (see here and here), references are made to a new Bosman, or to a shaken sport’s legal system. Yet, after swiftly reading the decision for the first time on 29th August, I did not have, unlike with the Pechstein ruling of the Oberlandesgericht München, the immediate impression that this would be a major game-changer for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the role of arbitration in sports in general. After careful re-reading, I understand how certain parts of the ruling can be misunderstood or over-interpreted. I believe that much of the press coverage failed to accurately reflect the reasoning of the court and to capture the real impact of the decision. In order to explain why, I decided to write a short Q&A (including the (not water-proof) English translations of some of the key paragraphs of the decision).

 

1.     What is the case about?

RFC Seraing United (hereinafter Seraing) has, since the adoption of FIFA’s ban on third-party ownership, been at the forefront of a legal crusade against the ban (as I have explained on this blog I personally believe the ban is legitimate and compatible with EU law). The club has fought the ban tooth and nail at the CAS (the award is here) and later at the Swiss Federal Tribunal (the translation of the ruling is available here), in both instances unsuccessfully. It is now challenging before the Belgian courts the sanctions that were imposed by FIFA, confirmed by the CAS award, and enforced by the URSBFA. For this protracted and expensive legal campaign, RFC Seraing enjoys the backing of Doyen, the infamous investment firm at the centre of the football leaks scandal. The 29th August decision is the last episode in this saga and the first that has been widely portrayed as a big win for RFC Seraing.

 

2.     What are the findings of the decision?

So, why is it widely reported as a win for Seraing? This is because the Court of Appeal considered itself competent to hear the case and disregarded the objections (in particular the claim that a valid CAS arbitration clause existed) raised by FIFA, UEFA and the URSBFA regarding its jurisdiction. However, the Court also refused to send a request for a preliminary ruling to the  Court of Justice of the European Union, a long-standing demand of Seraing’s lawyers.

 

3.     Why did the Belgium court find that the CAS arbitration clause invoked by FIFA & Co is invalid?

The core of the reasoning (found at §13 to §15 of the decision) on the validity of the CAS arbitration clause included in FIFA’s statutes turns on whether it aims at a « defined legal relationship », a prerequisite for the validity of arbitration clauses under Belgium law and the New York Convention. In laymen terms: if the clause is too general and does not provide a clear definition of the scope of disputes it covers, then it is invalid. Unlike reported in many outlets, the focus is not directly on the free consent to CAS arbitration, and the Court of Appeal does not declare the clause contrary to EU law or the ECHR on this basis, but on the vague nature of the CAS arbitration clause enshrined in the FIFA Statutes and its incompatibility with Belgian law.

In the case of Seraing, the clause invoked by FIFA was by reference, meaning that the reference of Seraing’s statutes to its compliance with the statutes of FIFA (at the time of initiating the proceedings the 2015 FIFA Statutes), which include an arbitration clause, was supposed to constitute a valid agreement to arbitrate the present dispute. Yet, as the Court of Appeal points out, the FIFA statutes are rather vague with regard to the nature of the disputes that are to be arbitrated. In fact, article 66.1 FIFA Statutes (2015 edition) provides simply that « FIFA recognises the independent Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) with headquarters in Lausanne (Switzerland) to resolve disputes between FIFA, Members, Confederations, Leagues, Clubs, Players, Officials, intermediaries and licensed match agents ». Moreover, the Court of Appeal also refers to article 59.1 and 2 FIFA Statutes (presumably this time 2018 edition) that does not allow recourse to national courts unless provided by FIFA rules. It concludes that based on these provisions, « the submission to arbitration is provided in general for all disputes between certain parties, including FIFA, UEFA, URBSFA and football clubs (including RFC Seraing), but without any precisions or indications with regard to the legal relationship affected ». Hence, « the intention of the drafters of this clause is clearly to capture all types of disputes between the designated parties, turning it into a general clause, which cannot be found applicable as it does not constitute an arbitration clause recognised under Belgian law ».

FIFA submitted that the type of disputes governed by the arbitration clause were necessarily limited to the social objective of FIFA and that the CAS’s competence was limited to « sporting » disputes. But the Court of Appeal countered that the former limit remains too vague to find that the clause targets a « defined legal relationship ». It further deemed that the restriction to « sporting » disputes was not included in the clause and that the CAS could independently decide to amend the scope of the disputes that fall under its competences. It also rejected the view of the URBFSA that the clause was limited to disputes concerning « the statutes, regulations, directives and decisions of the URBFSA, FIFA and UEFA ». And, it refused to consider that the article 38.2. of Seraing’s statutes, providing that « [E]very arbitral dispute with a foreign dimension, susceptible of being subjected to the international bodies of FIFA and concerning the statutes, regulations, directives of FIFA, will be submitted to its internal arbitral bodies », constitutes a valid CAS arbitration clause as it refers to FIFA’s internal arbitral bodies (even though no such arbitral bodies exist in practice).

A flurry of other less convincing arguments raised by the defendants were also dismissed by the Court, which came to the conclusion that the clause invoked did not aim at a defined legal relationship and could therefore not be considered an arbitration clause in the sense of articles 1681 and 1682, §1 of the Judicial Code. There is, however, no indication that the Court of Appeal fundamentally objects to FIFA, UEFA or the URSBFA imposing that certain disputes be dealt with by the CAS. Crucially, the emphasis is on certain: what the Belgian court criticized is the general all-inclusive wording of the current FIFA Statutes.

 

4.     What are the immediate consequences of this invalidity for FIFA and the CAS?

For Seraing, the consequences are vital, any other finding would have put an abrupt end to its case before the Belgian court. Now, it will have the right to argue its case in front of the Court of Appeal in October, and this is a victory in itself. Yet, beyond Seraing, the systemic effects are in my view far less far-reaching than highlighted in the media. FIFA was never immune from challenges by clubs (and other football stakeholders). It was, for example, repeatedly attacked in front of the European Commission on competition law grounds. Moreover, clubs, such as the SV Wilhelmshaven, were already challenging the implementation of CAS awards confirming FIFA sanctions in national courts. In this regard, there is nothing new under the sun. Finally, the Court of Appeal has not excluded that it would accept a reformulated CAS arbitration clause with a better-defined scope (such as one that would narrow it down only to disputes arising out of the regulations and decisions of FIFA).

In practice, not much should change with the Seraing ruling. FIFA will continue to hand out its decisions sanctioning clubs circumventing its rules. The Swiss courts, which are under the Lugano Convention primarily competent to hear challenges to the decisions of a Swiss association, will continue to enforce the CAS arbitration clauses by reference as they have always done, and clubs will, therefore, continue to have to go through CAS arbitration (or they will have to wait to be sanctioned by their national associations to initiate proceedings in front of national courts). Furthermore, from a strategic point of view, few clubs (unless they are desperate like SV Wilhelmshaven and/or backed by an external funder such as Seraing) will be interested in starting a multi-year litigation odyssey in national courts to challenge FIFA (or any other sports governing body, SGB). The same is true for athletes (let’s remind that Claudia Pechstein is bankrupt and still far from having won her case). Doing otherwise would mean being ostracized from professional football for many years, something very few clubs (and athletes) can afford. Thus, while the Seraing judgment confirms that going to national courts is an option that is available to clubs challenging FIFA, it does not affect the general governance context of global football (and sports in general) that remains extremely unfavorable to litigation in national courts. Challenging FIFA in national courts was never out of question, it was (and remains) just very costly and very unlikely to succeed, and Seraing has changed this state of affairs only at the margin.

 

5.     Why do I think Pechstein is more important than Seraing?

As pointed out, the Seraing case might encourage a re-writing of FIFA’s statutes and reminded us that CAS arbitration clauses cannot cover any and every dispute that can arise between SGBs and clubs (or athletes), but it stops there and does not challenge the institutional structure of the CAS, nor its centrality in the global governance of sport. The Pechstein ruling of the OLG München was more interesting in this regard, as it was addressing the core institutional problems of the CAS. These are not related to the voluntary nature of CAS arbitration (I personally think there are good reasons to bind athletes and clubs to CAS arbitration even against their will). Instead, the critical focus should be on CAS’s structure as a judicial institution that is not legitimated like any other arbitral tribunal by autonomous free consent, but by public interests (e.g. the neutral governance of global sports, the worldwide fight against doping or the regulation of the transnational labour market in football). Thus, CAS’s function and legitimacy must lie primarily in its role as an independent counter-power to the transnational private authority exercised by SGBs. It is, therefore, crucial that its independence from the SGBs be submitted to more stringent control than it currently is (see our paper with Ben Van Rompuy on this question). The OLG München recognized it in its Pechstein ruling, but the BGH failed to appreciate this profoundly constitutional question and the importance of at the same time saving forced CAS arbitration and challenging the current set-up of the CAS. The Pechstein case is now pending at the German Constitutional Court and should be decided relatively soon (but the German press recently reported that there is still no date for a hearing). The fact that the Constitutional Court has accepted to take the case on its docket is already a sign of its skepticism towards the BGH’s decision. If we want to see a ground-breaking, earth-shattering, revolutionizing new Bosman we better turn our heads towards Karlsruhe, the winds of change in sport justice might come from there...


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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

12th round of Caster Semenya’s legal fight: too close to call? - By Jeremy Abel

Editor's note: Jeremy Abel is a recent graduate of the LL.M in International Business Law and Sports of the University of Lausanne.

 

1.     Introduction

The famous South African athlete Caster Semenya is in the last lap of her long legal battle for her right to run without changing the natural testosterone in her body. After losing her cases before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the Swiss Federal Tribunal, she filed an application before the European Court of Human Rights (Court). In the meantime, the Court has released a summary of her complaint and a series of questions addressed to the parties of the case.

As is well known, she is challenging the World Athletics’ Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Regulations) defining the conditions under which female and intersex athletes with certain types of differences of sex development (DSDs) can compete in international athletics events. Despite the Regulations emanating from World Athletics, the last round of her legal battle is against a new opponent: Switzerland.

The purpose of this article is to revisit the Semenya case from a European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) perspective while considering certain excellent points made by previous contributors (see here, here and here) to this blog. Therefore, the blog will follow the basic structure of an ECHR case. The following issues raised by Semenya shall be analysed: the applicability of the ECHR, Semenya’s right to private life (Article 8 ECHR) and to non discrimination (Article 14 ECHR), as well as the proportionality of the Regulations. More...


[Conference] Towards a European Social Charter for Sport Events - 1 December - 13:00-17:00 - Asser Institute

Sport events, especially when they are of a global scale, have been facing more and more questions about their impact on local communities, the environment, and human rights. 

It has become clear that their social legitimacy is not a given, but must be earned by showing that sport events can positively contribute to society. During this half-day conference, we will debate the proposal of a European Social Charter for Sport Events in order to achieve this goal. 

In January 2021, a consortium of eight partners launched a three-year project, supported by the European Commission under the Erasmus+ scheme, aimed at devising a European Social Charter for Sport Events (ESCSE). The project ambitions to develop a Charter which will contribute to ensuring that sport events taking place in the European Union are socially beneficial to the local communities concerned and, more generally, to those affected by them. The project is directly inspired by the decision of the Paris 2024 bid to commit to a social charter enforced throughout the preparation and the course of the 2024 Olympics.

This first public event in the framework of the ESCSE project, will be introducing the project to a wider public. During the event we will review the current state of the implementation of the Paris 2024 Social Charter, discuss the expectations of stakeholders and academics for a European Social Charter and present for feedback the first draft of the ESCSE (and its implementing guidelines) developed by the project members. It will be a participatory event; we welcome input from the participants.

The Asser International Sports Law Centre, powered by the Asser Institute, is contributing to the project through the drafting of a background study, which we will introduce during the conference.

Please note that we can provide some financial support (up to 100 euros)  towards travel and/or accommodation costs for a limited number of participants coming from other EU Member States or the UK. To apply for this financial support please reach out to ConferenceManager@asser.nl.  `

Register HERE

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New Event! Diversity at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: Time for a Changing of the Guard? - Zoom In Webinar - 14 October - 4pm

On Thursday 14 October 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret (University of Lausanne), will be launching the second season of the Zoom-In webinar series, with a first episode on Diversity at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: Time for a Changing of the Guard?

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is a well-known mainstay of global sport. It has the exclusive competence over challenges against decisions taken by most international sports governing bodies and its jurisprudence covers a wide range of issues (doping, corruption, match-fixing, financial fair play, transfer or selection disputes) including disciplinary sanctions and governance disputes. In recent years, the CAS has rendered numerous awards which triggered world-wide public interest, such as in the Semenya v World Athletics case or the case between WADA and RUSADA resulting from the Russian doping scandal (we discussed both cases in previous Zoom-In discussion available here and here). In short, the CAS has tremendous influence on the shape of global sport and its governance.

However, as we will discuss during this webinar, recent work has shown that the arbitrators active at the CAS are hardly reflective of the diversity of people its decisions ultimately affect. This in our view warrants raising the question of the (urgent) need to change the (arbitral) guard at the CAS. To address these issues with us, we have invited two speakers who have played an instrumental role in putting numbers on impressions widely shared by those in contact with the CAS: Prof. Johan Lindholm (Umea University) and attorney-at-law Lisa Lazarus (Morgan Sports Law). Johan recently published a ground-breaking monograph on The Court of Arbitration for Sport and Its Jurisprudence in which he applies empirical and quantitative methods to analyse the work of the CAS. This included studying the sociological characteristics of CAS arbitrators. Lisa and her colleagues at Morgan Sports Law very recently released a blog post on Arbitrator Diversity at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which reveals a stunning lack of diversity (based on their calculations, 4,5% of appointed CAS arbitrators are female and 0,2% are black) at the institution ruling over global sport.


Guest speakers:


Moderators:


Register for free HERE.


Zoom In webinar series

In December 2020, The Asser International Sports Law Centre in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret launched a new series of zoom webinars on transnational sports law: Zoom In. You can watch the video recordings of our past Zoom In webinars on the Asser Institute’s Youtube Channel.

Investment in Football as a Means to a Particular End – Part 2: The Multiple Layers of Multi-Club Ownership Regulation in Football - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor's note: Rhys was an intern at the T.M.C. Asser Institute. He now advises on investments and Notre acquisitions in sport (mainly football) via Lovelle Street Advisory. 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 has a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and a Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) from the University of Dame, Sydney, Australia. He is currently completing an LL.M at the University of Zurich in International Business Law / International Sports Law.


Having looked at the different types of investors in football in part one of this two-part blog series, “A non-exhaustive Typology”, it is fitting to now consider the regulations that apply to investors who seek to build a portfolio of football clubs.

One way to measure the momentum of a particular practice and how serious it ought to be taken, might be when that practice earns its own initialism. Multi-club ownership or MCO as it is increasingly known today, is the name given to those entities that have an ownership stake in multiple clubs. Within the little research and writing that has been undertaken on the topic, some authors submit that investors with minority stakes in multiple clubs ought not to be captured by the MCO definition.  This position appears problematic given some of the regulations draw the line at influence rather than stake.

There are now approximately 50 MCO’s across the football world that own approximately 150 clubs.[1] Given the way MCO is trending, one might consider it important that the regulations keep up with the developing MCO practice, so as to ensure the integrity of football competitions, and to regulate any other potentially questionable benefit an MCO might derive that would be contrary to football’s best interests.

In this blog, I focus on the variety of ways (and levels at which) this practice is being regulated.  I will move through the football pyramid from member associations (MA’s) to FIFA, laying the foundations to support a proposition that FIFA and only FIFA is positioned to regulate MCO. More...


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 - 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...