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 Article Published! The Olympic Charter: A Transnational Constitution Without a State?

My latest article has just been published online by the Journal of Law and Society. It is available open access here.

The article stems from a conference organised by Jiri Priban from Cardiff University on Gunther Teubner's idea of societal constitutionalism applied to transnational regimes. My role was to test whether his descriptive and normative framework was readily applicable to the lex sportiva, and in particular its overarching "constitutional" text: the Olympic Charter.

As you will see my conclusion is mixed. I find that the Olympic Charter (OC) displays many constitutional features and is even able to regularly defend successfully its autonomy vis-à-vis national states and their laws. However, while I document some inception of limitative constitutional rules, such as the ban on discrimination or the principle of fair play, I also conclude that those have limited impact in practice. While constitutional changes to the OC can be triggered by scandal, resistance and contestation, as illustrated by the emergence of environmental concerns after the Albertville Games and the governance reshuffle of the IOC after the Salt Lake City scandal, I am also sceptical that these were sufficient to tackle the underlying problems, as became obvious with the unmatched environmental damage caused by the Sotchi Games in 2014.

In conclusion, more than sporadic public outrage, I believe that the intervention of national law and, even more, European Union law will be capable and needed to rein the Olympic regime and impose external constitutional constraints on its (at least sometimes) destructive operations.

Here is the abstract of the article: This article examines various aspects of Teubner's theory of societal constitutionalism using the lex sportiva as an empirical terrain. The case study focuses on the operation of the Olympic Charter as a transnational constitution of the Olympic movement. It shows that recourse to a constitutional vocabulary is not out of place in qualifying the function and authority of the Charter inside and outside the Olympic movement. Yet, the findings of the case study also nuance some of Teubner's descriptive claims and question his normative strategy.

Good read! (And do not hesitate to share your feedback)


New Position - Internship in International Sports Law - Deadline 15 August


The T.M.C. Asser Instituut offers post-graduate students the opportunity to gain practical experience in the field of international and European sports law.  The T.M.C. Asser Instituut, located in The Hague, is an inter-university research institute specialized in international and European law. Since 2002, it is the home of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre, a pioneer in the field of European and international sports law. More...


Human Rights Protection and the FIFA World Cup: A Never-Ending Match? - By Daniela Heerdt

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


The 21st FIFA World Cup is currently underway. Billions of people around the world follow the matches with much enthusiasm and support. For the time being, it almost seems forgotten that in the final weeks leading up to the events, critical reports on human rights issues related to the event piled up. This blog explains why addressing these issues has to start well in advance of the first ball being kicked and cannot end when the final match has been played. More...



Call for papers: Annual International Sports Law Conference of the International Sports Law Journal - 25 & 26 October - Asser Institute, The Hague

 Call for papers: Annual International Sports Law Conference of the International Sports Law Journal

Asser Institute, The Hague

25 and 26 October 2018

The editorial board of the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) is inviting you to submit abstracts for its second ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law, which will take place on 25 and 26 October at the Asser Institute in The Hague. The ISLJ published by Springer in collaboration with Asser Press is the leading academic publication in the field of international sports law. Its readership includes academics and many practitioners active in the field. This call is open to researchers as well as practitioners. 

We are also delighted to announce that Prof. Franck Latty (Université Paris Nanterre), Prof. Margareta Baddeley (Université de Genève), and Silvia Schenk (member of FIFA’s Human Rights Advisory Board) have confirmed their participation as keynote speakers.

Abstracts could, for example, tackle questions linked to the following international sports law subjects:

  • The interaction between EU law and sport
  • Antitrust and sports regulation
  • International sports arbitration (CAS, BAT, etc.)
  • The functioning of the world anti-doping system (WADA, WADC, etc.)
  • The global governance of sports
  • The regulation of mega sporting events (Olympics, FIFA World Cup, etc.)
  • The transnational regulation of football (e.g. the operation of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players or the UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations)
  • The global fight against corruption in sport  
  • Comparative sports law
  • Human rights in sport 

Please send your abstract (no more than 300 words) and CV no later than 30 April 2018 to a.duval@asser.nl. Selected speakers will be informed by 15 May.

The selected participants will be expected to submit a draft paper by 1 September 2018. All papers presented at the conference are eligible for publication in a special edition of the ISLJ.  To be considered for inclusion in the conference edition of the journal, the final draft must be submitted for review by 15 December 2018.  Submissions after this date will be considered for publication in later editions of the Journal.

The Asser Institute will cover one night accommodation for the speakers and will provide a limited amount of travel grants (max. 300€). If you wish to be considered for a grant please justify your request in your submission. 

Stepping Outside the New York Convention - Practical Lessons on the Indirect Enforcement of CAS-Awards in Football Matters - By Etienne Gard

Editor’s Note: Etienne Gard graduated from the University of Zurich and from King's College London. He currently manages a project in the field of digitalization with Bratschi Ltd., a major Swiss law firm where he did his traineeship with a focus in international commercial arbitration.

1. Prelude

On the 10th of June, 1958, the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, widely known as the “New York Convention”, was signed in New York by 10 countries.[1] This rather shy figure progressively grew over the decades to now reach 157 signatory countries, turning the New York Convention into the global recognition and enforcement instrument it is today. As V.V. Veeder’s puts it, “One English law lord is said to have said, extra judicially, that the New York Convention is both the Best Thing since sliced bread and also whatever was the Best Thing before sliced bread replaced it as the Best Thing.”[2]

However, among the overall appraisal regarding the New York Convention, some criticisms have been expressed. For instance, some states use their public policy rather as a pretext not to enforce an award than an actual ground for refusal.[3]  A further issue is the recurring bias in favor of local companies.[4] Additionally, recognition and enforcement procedures in application of the New York Convention take place in front of State authorities, for the most part in front of courts of law, according to national proceeding rules. This usually leads to the retaining of a local law firm, the translation of several documents, written submissions and one, if not several hearings. Hence, the efficiency of the New York Convention as a recognition and enforcement mechanism comes to the expense of both money and time of both parties of the arbitral procedure.

In contrast with the field of commercial arbitration, where the New York Convention is often considered the only viable option in order to enforce an award, international football organizations, together with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”), offer an effective enforcement alternative. This article aims at outlining the main features of the indirect enforcement of CAS awards in football matters in light of a recent case. More...



The International Partnership against Corruption in Sport (IPACS) and the quest for good governance: Of brave men and rotting fish - By Thomas Kruessmann

Editor's note: Prof. Thomas Kruessmann is key expert in the EU Technical Assistant Project "Strengthening Teaching and Research Capacity at ADA University" in Baku (Azerbaijan). At the same time, he is co-ordinator of the Jean-Monnet Network "Developing European Studies in the Caucasus" with Skytte Institute of Political Studies at the University of Tartu (Estonia).


The notion that “fish rots from the head down” is known to many cultures and serves as a practical reminder on what is at stake in the current wave of anti-corruption / integrity and good governance initiatives. The purpose of this blog post is to provide a short update on the recent founding of the International Partnership against Corruption in Sport (IPACS), intermittently known as the International Sports Integrity Partnership (IPAS), and to propose some critical perspectives from a legal scholar’s point of view.

During the past couple of years, the sports world has seen a never-ending wave of corruption allegations, often followed by revelations, incriminations and new allegation. There are ongoing investigations, most notably in the United States where the U.S. Department of Justice has just recently intensified its probe into corruption at the major sports governing bodies (SGBs). By all accounts, we are witnessing only the tip of the iceberg. And after ten years of debate and half-hearted reforms, there is the widespread notion, as expressed by the Council of Europe’s (CoE’s) Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Resolution 2199/2018 that “the sports movement cannot be left to resolve its failures alone”. More...



International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2018 - By Tomáš Grell

Editor's note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked. 


The Headlines 

Anti-doping whereabouts requirements declared compatible with the athletes' right to privacy and family life

On 18 January 2018, the European Court of Human Rights rendered a judgment with important consequences for the world of sport in general and the anti-doping regime in particular. The Strasbourg-based court was called upon to decide whether the anti-doping whereabouts system – which requires that a limited number of top elite athletes provide their National Anti-Doping Organisation or International Federation with regular information about their location, including identifying for each day one specific 60-minute time slot where the athlete will be available for testing at a pre-determined location – is compatible with the athletes' right to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and their freedom of movement pursuant to Article 2 Protocol No. 4 of the Convention. The case was brought by the French cyclist Jeannie Longo and five French athlete unions that had filed their application on behalf of 99 professional handball, football, rugby, and basketball players.

While acknowledging that the whereabouts requirements clash with the athletes' right to private and family life, the judges took the view that such a restriction is necessary in order to protect the health of athletes and ensure a level playing field in sports competitions. They held that ''the reduction or removal of the relevant obligations would lead to an increase in the dangers of doping for the health of sports professionals and of all those who practise sports, and would be at odds with the European and international consensus on the need for unannounced testing as part of doping control''. Accordingly, the judges found no violation of Article 8 of the Convention and, in a similar vein, ruled that Article 2 Protocol No. 4 of the Convention was not applicable to the case.

 

Football stakeholders preparing to crack down on agents' excessive fees

It has been a record-breaking January transfer window with Premier League clubs having spent an eye-watering £430 million on signing new acquisitions. These spiralling transfer fees enable football agents, nowadays also called intermediaries, to charge impressive sums for their services. However, this might soon no longer be the case as the main stakeholders in European football are preparing to take action. UEFA, FIFPro, the European Club Association and the European Professional Football Leagues acknowledge in their joint resolution that the 2015 FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries failed to address serious concerns in relation to the activities of intermediaries/agents. They recognise in broad terms that a more effective regulatory framework is needed and call among other things for a reasonable and proportionate cap on fees for intermediaries/agents, enhanced transparency and accountability, or stronger provisions to protect minors.

 

The CAS award in Joseph Odartei Lamptey v. FIFA 

On 15 January 2018, FIFA published on its website an arbitral award delivered on 4 August 2017 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the dispute between the Ghanian football referee Joseph Odartei Lamptey and FIFA. The CAS sided with FIFA and dismissed the appeal filed by Mr Lamptey against an earlier decision of the FIFA Appeal Committee which (i) found him to have violated Article 69(1) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code as he unlawfully influenced the 2018 World Cup qualifying match between South Africa and Senegal that took place on 12 November 2016; (ii) as a consequence, banned him for life from taking part in any football-related activity; and (iii) ordered the match in question to be replayed. In reaching its conclusion, the CAS relied heavily on multiple reports of irregular betting activities that significantly deviated from usual market developments.  More...


Towards a Suitable Policy Framework for Cricket Betting in India - By Deeksha Malik

Editor's note: Deeksha Malik is a final-year student at National Law Institute University, India. Her main interest areas are corporate law, arbitration, and sports law. She can be reached at dkshmalik726@gmail.com.


In 2015, while interrogating cricketer Sreesanth and others accused in the IPL match-fixing case, Justice Neena Bansal, sitting as Additional Sessions Judge, made the following observations as regards betting on cricket matches.

“Cricket as a game of skill requires hand-eye-coordination for throwing, catching and hitting. It requires microscopic levels of precision and mental alertness for batsmen to find gaps or for bowlers to produce variety of styles of deliveries’ (medium pace, fast, inswing, outswing, offspin, legspin, googly). The sport requires strategic masterminds that can select the most efficient fielding positions for piling pressure on the batsmen. Based on above description, cricket cannot be described anything, but as a game of skill.”

The debate on the issue of betting in sports has since resurfaced and gained the attention of sportspersons, media, sports bodies, policymakers, and the general public. In April 2017, the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar agreed to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking an order directing the government to come up with an appropriate framework for regulating betting in sports. The arguments put forth in the PIL present various dimensions. One of these pertains to economic considerations, a submission that regulated betting would be able to generate annual revenue of Rs. 12,000 crores by bringing the earnings therefrom within the tax net. As for policy considerations, it was submitted that a proper regulation in this area would enable the government to distinguish harmless betting from activities that impair the integrity of the game such as match-fixing. Further, betting on cricket matches largely depends on the skill of the concerned players, thereby distinguishing it from pure chance-based activities.

The issue of sports betting witnesses a divided opinion till this day. This is understandable, for both sides to the issue have equally pressing arguments. Aside from its regulation being a daunting task for authorities, sports betting is susceptible to corruption and other unscrupulous activities. At the same time, it is argued that it would be better for both the game and the economy if the same is legalised. More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – December 2017. By Tomáš Grell

Editor's note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.

 

The Headlines 

The International Skating Union's eligibility rules declared incompatible with EU competition law

On 8 December 2017, the European Commission announced that it had rendered a decision in the case against the International Skating Union (ISU). The Commission upheld the complaint lodged in October 2015 by two Dutch professional speed skaters Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt, represented in this case by Ben Van Rompuy and Antoine Duval (you can read their joint statement here), and ruled that the ISU's eligibility rules preventing athletes from participating in speed skating competitions not approved by the ISU under the threat of severe penalties are in violation of EU competition law. In particular, the Commission held that these rules restrict the commercial freedom of (i) athletes who may be deprived of additional source of income as they are not allowed to participate in speed skating competitions other than those authorised by the ISU; and (ii) independent organisers who are unable to attract top athletes. And while the Commission recognised that sporting rules with restrictive effects might be compatible with EU law if they pursue a legitimate objective such as the protection of athletes' health and safety or the protection of the integrity and proper conduct of sport, it found that the ISU's eligibility rules pursue only its own commercial interests to the detriment of athletes and independent organisers of speed skating competitions. The ISU eventually escaped financial sanctions, but it must modify or abolish its eligibility rules within 90 days; otherwise it would be liable for non-compliance payments of up to 5% of its average daily turnover. For more information on this topic, we invite you to read our recent blog written by Professor Stefano Bastianon.

 

The International Olympic Committee bans Russia from the upcoming Winter Olympic Games

The world has been waiting impatiently for the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision on the participation of Russian athletes in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. This was finally communicated on 5 December 2017. Having deliberated on the findings of the Schmid Commission, the IOC Executive Board decided to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee with immediate effect, meaning that only those Russian athletes who demonstrate that they had not benefited from the state-sponsored doping programme will be able to participate in the Games. Such clean athletes will be allowed to compete under the Olympic Flag, bearing the name 'Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)' on their uniforms. Further to this, the IOC Executive Board sanctioned several officials implicated in the manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia, including Mr Vitaly Mutko, currently the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and formerly the Minister of Sport. Mounting public pressure subsequently forced Mr Mutko to step down as head of the Local Organising Committee for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Meanwhile, 21 individual Russian athletes were sanctioned (see here, here, here, and here) in December (in addition to 22 athletes in November) by the IOC Oswald Commission that is tasked with investigating the alleged doping violations by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The Oswald Commission also published two full decisions in the cases against Evgeny Belov and Aleksandr Tretiakov who were both banned from all future editions of the Games. It is now clear that the Court of Arbitration for Sport will have quite some work in the coming weeks as the banned athletes are turning to this Swiss-based arbitral tribunal to have their sanctions reviewed (see here and here).

 

Universal Declaration of Player Rights

14 December 2017 was a great day for athletes all over the globe. On this day, representatives of the world's leading player associations met in Washington D.C. to unveil the Universal Declaration of Player Rights, a landmark document developed under the aegis of the World Players Association that strives to protect athletes from ongoing and systemic human rights violations in global sport. The World Players Association's Executive Director Brendan Schwab emphasised that the current system of sports governance ''lacks legitimacy and fails to protect the very people who sit at the heart of sport'' and stated that ''athlete rights can no longer be ignored''. Among other rights, the Declaration recognises the right of athletes to equality of opportunity, fair and just working conditions, privacy and the protection of personal data, due process, or effective remedy.

 

Chris Froome failed a doping test during the last year's Vuelta a España

The world of cycling suffered yet another blow when it transpired that one of its superstars Chris Froome had failed a doping test during the last year's Vuelta a España, a race he had eventually emerged victorious from for the first time in his career. His urine sample collected on 7 September 2017 contained twice the amount of salbutamol, a medication used to treat asthma, than permissible under the World Anti-Doping Agency's 2017 Prohibited List. Kenyan-born Froome has now hired a team of medical and legal experts to put forward a convincing explanation for the abnormal levels of salbutamol in his urine and thus to avoid sanctions being imposed on him. More...

The ISU Commission's Decision and the Slippery Side of Eligibility Rules - By Stefano Bastianon (University of Bergamo)

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

1. From the very beginning, the outcome of the ISU case was highly predictable, at least for those who are familiar with the basics of antitrust law. Nevertheless, more than twenty years after the Bosman judgment, the sports sector has shown the same shortsightedness and inability to see the forest for the trees. Even this attitude was highly predictable, at least for those who know the basics of sports governance. The final result is a clear-cut decision capable of influencing the entire sports movement. More...



Asser International Sports Law Blog | FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors - Part 1: The Early Years. By Kester Mekenkamp.

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

FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors - Part 1: The Early Years. By Kester Mekenkamp.

Editor’s note: Kester Mekenkamp is an LL.M. student in European Law at Leiden University and an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre. This blog is, to a great extent, an excerpt of his forthcoming master thesis. 


On 24 November 2016, a claim was lodged before a Zurich commercial court against FIFA’s transfer regulations by a 17-year-old African football player.[1] The culprit, according to the allegation: The provision on the protection of minors, Article 19 of the Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players.[2] The claimant and his parents dispute the validity of this measure, based on the view that it discriminates between football players from the European Union and those from third countries. Besides to Swiss cartel law, the claim is substantiated on EU citizenship rights, free movement and competition law. Evidently, it is difficult to assess the claim’s chance of success based on the sparse information provided in the press.[3] Be that as it may, it does provide for an ideal (and unexpected) opportunity to delve into the fascinating subject of my master thesis on FIFA’s regulatory system aimed at enhancing the protection of young football players and its compatibility with EU law. This three-part blog shall therefore try to provide an encompassing overview of the rule’s lifespan since its inception in 2001. This first part will shed its light on the “birth” and “first years” of the provision, thereby illustrating the relevant developments from 2001 till 2009. The heart of this analysis is formed by two decisions of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”): The Acuña and FC Midtjylland case. The second part shall subsequently cover the rule’s “adolescent years”, which span from 2009 to the present. Therein, the major changes put forward in the 2009, 2015 and 2016 versions of the RSTP will be addressed, together with the important CAS decisions concerning Article 19. The third, and final, part will constitute a substantive assessment of the provision under EU Internal Market law. 


The first years, from 2001 onwards[4]

The 2001 “Commission-condoned” FIFA transfer rules included for the first time a section dedicated to the enhancement of the protection of minors.[5] An accompanying circular by FIFA stipulated that the new transfer rules imposed strict conditions “in order to provide a stable environment for the training and education of players”.[6] Moreover, stating that abuses frequent in the past had to be tackled, it seemed to inaugurate a new era of safeguarding young footballers.[7] The starting point of the new provision is a general prohibition for players under the age of 18 (“minor”) to transfer internationally.[8] The same principles apply to a so-called “first registration” of a minor who requests to be registered in a country other than that of his nationality.[9] An absolute transfer ban however was apparently deemed too radical.[10] The prohibition was therefore made subject to two exceptions. Firstly, the “parents-rule” allows for minors to transfer internationally when their family moves to a country, in which the new club is located, for “reasons not related to football”.[11] Secondly, within the territory of the EU and EEA, players younger than 18 but above the minimum working age can transfer internationally, given that their sporting and academic education is guaranteed by the new training club.[12] FIFA further stressed its intention to issue, together with UEFA, a code of conduct guiding the national associations regarding these conditional arrangements.[13] However, this self-obligation was removed from the subsequent 2005 edition of the RSTP.[14]

Only a year after the introduction of the new rules, the first adaptations were made in response to concerns raised by national associations.[15] FIFA’s Players Status Committee (“PSC”, FIFA’s competent body adjudicating any disputes on matters related to the protection of minors) decided to add a third exception, which became known as the “50 + 50-rule”.[16] Hereby it aimed at dealing with the case of players living close to national borders where “cross-border traffic is a daily matter”.[17] Those young players living within this 50 km range may attend a club of a neighbouring association if that club is similarly situated within a 50 km distance of the border, provided that these players remain living at home. The two-part FIFA Circular is rather ambiguous in its explanation, stating on the one hand that minors in this situation can solely “train” with the club situated across the border,[18] while on the other hand introducing a full exception to the transfer ban (thereby permitting a “complete” international transfer).[19] This latter view is in accordance with the regulations’ revision that entered into force on 1 July 2005.[20] Next to adding the “50 + 50-rule”, the new article 19 RSTP slightly adjusted and hence further clarified the first two exceptions. A minor can transfer internationally only if his “parents” move to another country for reasons not related to football, restricting the scope of the rule from “family” to “parents”.[21] Moreover, with respect to the “EU and EEA-rule” it set the international standard of 16 as the minimum age and spelled out several additional requirements on the arrangements made by the recruiting club for the academic education of the transferred player.[22] These oblige the club to: “provide the player with an adequate football education and/or training in line with the highest national standards”; “guarantee an academic or vocational education which will allow the player to pursue a career other than football”; “ensure that the player is looked after in the best possible way” by arranging housing with optimal living standards; and “provide its association with proof of compliance”.[23] Importantly, paragraph 4 orders national associations to safeguard compliance by clubs and paragraph 5 installs the PSC as the competent body to adjudicate in this field.[24] Hence, more explicit accountability and control was established concerning the abidance with the rules on the protection of minors.

In early 2007, FIFA issued a commentary on the RSTP in order to further clarify the separate provisions.[25] It stipulated that the international transfer of minors should be subject to stern restrictions in order to provide a stable environment for the player’s training and education.[26] Furthermore, “the term ‘parents’ has to be understood in a strict way”, a minor therefore cannot live with a close relative in the country of the new club. The document acknowledges that the “EU and EEA-rule” was adopted as to not interfere with EU free movement law.[27] National associations are once more reminded that they possess a vital role in ensuring compliance, amongst other by carrying our on-spot investigations regarding the mandatory educational arrangements if need be.[28] 


The Acuña case

These rules have not operated in a vacuum. The real effect of the provisions on the protection of minors has been shaped by the judicial practice of FIFA, through the PSC, and first and foremost the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”, the competent institution that deals with appeals contra FIFA’s internal decisions).[29]

The first (published) case before the CAS concerning a dispute on the provision’s content was Càdiz C.F. and Carlos Javier Acuña Caballero v. FIFA and Asociación Paraguaya de Fútbol.[30] In January 2005, the 16-year-old Acuña Caballero represented his Paraguayan club Olimpia in an international tournament for players under 20. His successful performance led to foreign interest, and on 14 February 2005 he, together with his family, left Paraguay for Cádiz, Spain.[31] Three days later, Cádiz C.F. (a club meandering through the Spanish second and third league) and the player signed an employment contract, and subsequently Olimpia agreed to the transfer.[32] However the Paraguayan football association refused to issue the compulsory international transfer certificate (“ITC”), referring to Acuña Caballero’s age.[33] The FIFA PSC decided upon the matter on 26 August 2005 by verifying whether the requirements of the “parents-rule” of Article 19(2)(a) RSTP were observed. By highlighting the apparent lack of intention to continue his education besides football, as well as the fact that the mother’s employment contract commenced much later than her son’s, the PSC found the case to be in total contradiction with the letter and spirit of the exemption: “the mother would have followed the player”[34], instead of the other way round. The PSC noted that the protection of minors is one of the fundamental principles of the RSTP, which requires the strict application of Article 19, and consequently refused the request of the Spanish association to register Acuña with Cádiz C.F.[35] Both the club and the player appealed this decision before the CAS, after which the tribunal organized a hearing of all parties concerned and several witnesses in order to grasp the factual context of this international transfer.[36] The CAS Panel swiftly countered the appellants’ views by stating that FIFA’s rules limiting the international transfer of minors do not violate any mandatory principle of public policy under Swiss law or any other national or international law, insofar that “they pursue a legitimate objective, namely the protection of young players from international transfers which could disrupt their lives, particularly if, as often happens the football career eventually fails or, anyways, is not as successful as expected and they are proportionate to the objective sought, as they provide for some reasonable exceptions”.[37] Subsequently it explained that, it had to be determined whether the move of the mother was related to the transfer of her son, and ergo whether the exception of article 19(2)(a) was applicable? The Panel found that “the players’ decision to move to Spain was made first”[38], by emphasizing the inconsistencies in the appellants’ statements, and as a result thereof doubting their truthfulness.[39] Furthermore, the club’s submission stated that “from all the possibilities, the offer made by CÁDIZ C.F. was the most suited to his parents’ wishes”, which lead the Panel to believe that in fact the clubs’ offer for her son made the mother look for a suitable job in Cádiz.[40] As such, the Panel established that the appellants could not benefit from the exception, since it concluded that Acuña’s family moved “for reasons linked to football”.[41]

The Acuña case exhibits a strict application of the rule. This strict application, although being in line with FIFA’s policy, lead to a disadvantageous outcome for the minor in question.[42] As argued by the player, his life in Paraguay meant living alone in a small apartment at his agent’s house and only seeing his mother two or three times a year.[43] The move to Spain allowed him to live with his mother and was therefore positive for both his career and his family. The CAS Panel addressed this matter by stating that “the task of the CAS is not to revise the content of the applicable rules but only to apply them”.[44] Moreover, it stressed that any adverse consequences in relation to the refusal to allow the player to be registered with the club were the result of the appellants own actions. The Panel finally put forward that the player would not have to face the adverse consequence for long as he would turn 18 in a couple of months.[45] 


The FC Midtjylland case

The next confrontation followed suit: the case of FC Midtjylland.[46] The Danish Superligaen club came in FIFA’s crosshairs through a FIFPro complaint concerning the signing of six young Nigerians.[47] These players were registered as amateurs and played for Midtjylland’s youth teams. Additionally, they were granted short-term residence permits as students, excluding the right to work, and enrolled in the Danish educational program.[48] The FIFA PSC emphasized that Article 19 RSTP on the protection of minors, being one of the principles included in the FIFA/UEFA and European Commission agreement and “one of the pillars of the regulations”, is applicable to both amateur and professional players.[49] Thereto, only a strict, consistent and systematically implemented interdiction subject to very limited exceptions could stop the abuse and maltreatment of many young players. The PSC hence warned the Danish Football Association (DBU) and FC Midtjylland, and subsequently refused the registration of the players.[50]

The CAS Panel addressed four main issues in relation to what had been brought to the fore in the parties’ submissions concerning Article 19 RSTP:

1. Is it applicable to both professional and amateur minor players?

2. What are the exceptions and are any of these applicable?

3. Does the application of the provision “contradict any mandatory provision of public policy or any of the provisions of EC Law”? Is there a breach of the non-discrimination principle, following the alleged inconsistent approach of FIFA?[51]

In short, the Panel answered the first question in the affirmative, based on a textual approach together with taking due notice of the intended objective as “to apply Art. 19 of the RSTP restrictively to professional players only could result in obviating protection of young amateur players from the risk of abuse and ill treatment”.[52] As to the second question, it was noted that the codified exceptions provided in Article 19(2) RSTP were not applicable to the case at hand. Nevertheless, the Panel regarded this list not to be exhaustive and allowed for two additional exceptions relating to students: first, “where the players concerned could establish without any doubt that the reason for relocation to another country was related to their studies, and not to their activity as football players”, and second, “where the association of origin and the new club of the players concerned have signed an agreement within the scope of a development program for young players under certain strict conditions (agreement on the academic and/or school education, authorization granted for a limited period of time)”.[53] Yet, neither of these additional exceptions applied here.[54] The third issue was related to appellant’s Cotonou Agreement argument.[55] The Panel agreed that the non-discrimination rights are conferred by article 13(3) of the Cotonou Agreement to “Workers of ACP countries legally employed in its territory”.[56] Nonetheless, the Nigerian players in question are to be considered as “students”, not as “workers” legally employed in Denmark, which means they fall outside the scope of this provision.[57] The Panel moreover dismissed, based on that same reasoning, the appellant’s claim founded on the Simutenkov[58] case in their attempt for the “EU and EEA-rule” of Article 19(2)(b) RSTP to be applicable.[59] The Panel furthermore stressed with regard to this third question that agreements between the EU and third countries that prohibit discrimination in working conditions are clearly limited in scope to foreigners “legally employed in the Member States” and do not concern access to the employment market.[60] It also endorsed the Acuña case in that the FIFA rules limiting the international transfer of minor players “do not violate any mandatory principle of public policy and do not constitute any restriction to the fundamental rights that would have to be considered as not admissible”.[61] Lastly on the fourth issue, in reaction to the appellant’s allegation that FIFA’s approach was inconsistent and favoured bigger clubs (by reference to Bayern München’s registering a minor player from South America), the CAS solely pointed at the general principle “that no one can claim for equal treatment by referring to someone else who has adopted an illegal conduct, without sanction (nemini dolus alienus prodesse debet)”.[62] Concluding, FC Midtjylland was found to have breached Article 19 RSTP as the CAS favoured a strict interpretation, yet simultaneously, it allowed for two additional implicit exceptions for students.

Around this point in time, the European Commission’s attention was also drawn to the protection of minors in sport. In its white paper on sport, it  pointed at “children who are not selected for competitions and abandoned in a foreign country, often falling in this way in an irregular position which fosters their further exploitation”.[63] Even though it makes reference to neither of the two abovementioned cases, this explicit consideration by the Commission, emphasizing the importance of protecting minors, could be seen as an indirect endorsement, prima facie, of the strict interpretation of Article 19 RSTP by CAS.

The next, second, part of this blog series shall aim to cover the rule’s “adolescent years”, which span from 2009 to the present. The major changes put forward in the 2009, 2015 and 2016 versions of the RSTP will be addressed. Furthermore, important CAS decisions concerning Article 19, Muhic, Vada I and II, FC Barcelona, RFEF, and the FIFA decisions relating to Real and Atlético Madrid, will be at the centre of the attention. 




[1] CNN, 24 November 2016, “FIFA: African footballer, 17, takes world governing body to court

[2] Article 19 FIFA RSTP (2016)

[3] Eurosport, 24 November, “FIFA faces lawsuit over rules banning transfer of minors

[4] The text of this blog contribution is part of my forthcoming thesis, which shall be submitted in order to complete my master’s degree in European Law at Leiden University.

[5] Art. 12 FIFA RSTP 2001.

[6] FIFA Circular no. 769, 24 August 2001.

[7] N. St. Cyr Clarke, “The beauty and the beast: Taming the ugly side of the people’s game”, 2011 CJEL, P. 627.

[8] Art. 12(1) FIFA RSTP 2001.

[9] Art. 12(2) FIFA RSTP 2001.

[10] Press release EU Commission, IP/01/29, 14 February 2001.

[11] Art. 12(1)(a) FIFA RSTP 2001.

[12] Art. 12(1)(b) FIFA RSTP 2001.

[13] FIFA Circular no. 769, 24 August 2001.

[14] F. de Weger, “The Jurisprudence of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber”, 2nd edition, Asser Press (2016), p. 14.

[15] FIFA Circular no. 801, 28 March 2002.

[16] Supra at 14, pp. 36-37.

[17] Supra at 15.

[18] Ibid.

[19] New Art. 12(1)(c) FIFA RSTP 2001 in FIFA Circular no. 801, 28 March 2002, “Amendments to the FIFA Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players”.

[20] Art. 19(2)(c) FIFA RSTP 2005.

[21] Art. 19(2)(a) FIFA RSTP 2005.

[22] Art. 19(2)(b) FIFA RSTP 2005.

[23] C. Lembo, “FIFA Transfer Regulations and UEFA Player Eligibility Rules: Major Changes In European Football And The Negative Effect On Minors”, Emory Int'l L. Rev 2005, p. 557.

[24] Art. 19(4) and 19(5) FIFA RSTP 2005.

[25] FIFA Circular no. 1075, 18 January 2007.

[26] Commentary on the Status and Transfer of Players, p. 58.

[27] Ibid, p. 59.

[28] Ibid, p. 59.

[29] For more information see A. Duval, “The FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players: Transnational Law-Making in the Shadow of Bosman” in A. Duval and B. Van Rompuy (Eds.) “The Legacy of Bosman”, Asser Press (2016), pp. 81-116; A. Duval “The Court of Arbitration for Sport and EU Law. Chronicle of an Encounter”, MJ 2015, pp. 224-256.

[30] CAS 2005/A/955 Càdiz C.F., SAD v FIFA and Asociación Paraguaya de Fútbol and CAS 2005/A/956 Carlos Javier Acuña Caballero v/FIFA and Asociación Paraguaya de Fútbol.

[31] Ibid, para. 2.5.

[32] Ibid, paras. 2.6-2.7.

[33] Ibid, para. 2.10.

[34] Ibid, para. 2.16.

[35] Ibid, para. 2.17.

[36] Ibid, paras. 3.6-3.17.

[37] Ibid, para. 7.2.

[38] Ibid, para. 7.3.1.

[39] Ibid, paras. 7.3.2-7.3.5; Especially the circumstances surrounding the mother’s search for a job, the agreement between her and her employer, and the reasons why she decided to take up work in Cádiz while, being a cook, she could have worked anywhere in Spain, did not assist to their case.

[40] Ibid, para. 7.3.6.

[41] Ibid, para. 7.3.8.

[42] FIFA Circular no. 801, 28 March 2002.

[43] Supra at 30, para. 3.3.5 and 3.11.

[44] Ibid, para. 7.3.10.

[45] Ibid, para. 7.3.10.

[46] CAS 2008/A/1485 FC Midtjylland A/S v. Féderation Internationale de Football Association.

[47] A. Wild, “Young Football Players: Protection of Minors” in “CAS and Football: Landmark Cases”, Asser Press (2012), p. 249.

[48] Ibid, p. 250.

[49] Supra at 46, p. 3.

[50] Ibid, p. 4.

[51] Ibid, para. 10.

[52] Ibid, para. 15.

[53] Ibid, paras. 19-21.

[54] Ibid, para. 22.

[55] The Cotonou agreement between the EU and certain African, Caribbean and Pacific States, including Nigeria; Ibid, paras. 30-31.

[56] Supra at 46, para. 35.

[57] Ibid, para. 36.

[58] Case C-265/03 Simutenkov v Ministerio de Educación y Cultura and RFEFl [2005] ECR I-2579, Therein the ECJ ruled that non-EU/EEA sportsmen can challenge nationality clauses if: they are legally employed in a host EU Member State and “can rely upon a directly effective equal treatment provision included in an international agreement establishing a partnership between the EU and their country of origin, regardless of whether accession to the EU is envisaged or not”, see S. Van den Bogaert, “From Bosman to Bernard” in J. Anderson (Ed.), “Leading Cases in Sports Law”, T.M.C. Asser Press (2013), p. 104.

[59] Supra at 46, para. 40.

[60] Ibid, para. 41.

[61] Ibid, para. 45; Supra at 30, para. 7.2.

[62] Supra at 46, paras. 47-49.

[63] The White Paper on Sport (COM 2007) 391 final, point 4.5; European Parliament, Report on the on the future of professional football in Europe (2006/2130(INI)), p. 25.

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Asser International Sports Law Blog | The Specificity of Sport - Comparing the Case-Law of the European Court of Justice and of the Court of Arbitration for Sport - Part 2 - By Stefano Bastianon

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 Specificity of Sport - Comparing the Case-Law of the European Court of Justice and of the Court of Arbitration for Sport - Part 2 - By Stefano Bastianon

Editor’s note: Stefano Bastianon is Associate Professor in EU Law and EU sports law at the University of Bergamo and lawyer admitted to the Busto Arsizio bar.


1. EU law and the CAS case-law

Bearing in mind these questions, it is possible to affirm that under EU law, the specificity of sport

i) refers to the inherent characteristics of sport that set it apart from other economic and social activities and which have to be taken into account in assessing the compatibility of sporting rules with EU law; and

ii) under EU law these inherent characteristics of sport must be  considered on a case by case  basis, per the Wouters test as developed by the ECJ in the Meca Medina ruling.

Both aspects can be found in the CAS case-law too, although the CAS case-law shows some remarkable differences and peculiarities. From a general point of view, the application of the principle of specificity of sport in the CAS case-law represents an aspect of the more general issue related to the application of EU law by the CAS. However, the purpose of this paper is not to fully examine if and to what extent the CAS arbitrators apply EU law rules on free movement and competition; rather, the aim is to analyse the way the CAS deals with the concept of the specificity of sport, highlighting similarities and differences compared to the ECJ.

Taking for granted that ‘a CAS panel is not only allowed, but also obliged to deal with the issues involving the application of [EU] law’,[1] as far as the compatibility of sporting rules with EU law is concerned the CAS case-law shows different degrees of engagement. For instance, in the ENIC award concerning the so-called UEFA integrity rule, the CAS panel went through a complete competition-law analysis in perfect harmony with the Wouters et al. ruling by the ECJ.[2] On the contrary, in the above-quoted Mutu case, the issue of compatibility of the FIFA’s transfer regulations with EU competition law was analysed in a rather simple way, merely stating that the FIFA rules at stake were not anti-competitive under EU competition law without giving any reason to support this conclusion. More recently, in the Galatasaray and Milan A.C. awards, concerning the UEFA’s financial fair-play regulations, the CAS  applied a detailed analysis of EU competition law. However, in both cases, according to the CAS the proportionate character of sanctions listed in the UEFA’s financial fair-play regulations cannot affect the evaluation of the legitimacy of these regulations under Art. 101 TFEU. This conclusion represents a clear breaking point with respect to the ECJ case-law, according to which the evaluation of the restrictive effects of a rule necessarily presupposes the analysis of the proportionate character of the sanction imposed in the event of a violation of that rule as well.[3]   In regard to EU free movement, the CAS case-law tends to be less analytical in terms of the principle of proportionality. For instance, in the RFC Seraing award  which concerned both EU free movement and competition law, the CAS panel mainly focused on the legitimate objectives of the contested rule (FIFA’s ban on Third-Party Ownership – TPO), merely affirming that the restrictive measures under EU free movement were justified and inherent in the pursuit of those objectives.

 

2. Art. 17 FIFA RSTP and the specificity of sport

In practice, the CAS case-law on the specificity of sport is mainly related to the application of Art. 17 (1) of the FIFA Regulations on the status and transfer of players concerning the consequences of terminating a contract without just cause.[4] According to Art. 17(1), ‘the party in breach shall pay compensation. Subject to the provisions of Art. 20 and Annexe 4 in relation to training compensation, and unless otherwise provided for in the contract, compensation for the breach shall be calculated with due consideration for the law of the country concerned, the specificity of sport, and any other objective criteria. These criteria shall include, in particular, the remuneration and other benefits due to the player under the existing contract and/or the new contract, the time remaining on the existing contract up to a maximum of five years, the fees and expenses paid or incurred by the former club (amortised over the term of the contract) and whether the contractual breach falls within a protected period’.

Although written in very general terms, from Art. 17(1) it is possible to derive that:

 i) it does not provide the legal basis for a party to freely terminate an existing contract at any time, prematurely, without just cause;

ii) the provision clarifies that  compensation is due;

iii) the amount of compensation to be awarded must necessarily take into account all of the specific circumstances of the case. It is for this reason that Art. 17.1 of the FIFA RSTP does not establish a single criterion or even a set of rigid rules, but rather provides guidelines to be applied to fix  just and fair compensation.

It is evident that Art. 17 of the FIFA RSTP involves or points to the specificity of sport. Beyond what Art. 17 implicitly states, the CAS case-law has contributed to defining the scope of the specificity of sport.

To fully understand the relevance of specificity of sport in the context of Art. 17 FIFA RSTP, it is important to investigate the rationale of this provision as well as the principle of positive interest. To expand, the rationale of the rule is to foster the maintenance of contractual stability between professionals and clubs. In the post-Bosman era, the concept of contractual stability was introduced to replace the former transfer-fee system by compensation due for the breach or undue termination of an existing agreement.[5] According to the CAS jurisprudence, Art. 17 of FIFA RSTP plays a central role: ‘the purpose of Art. 17 is basically nothing else than to reinforce contractual stability, i.e. to strengthen the principle of pacta sunt servanda in the world of international football, by acting as deterrent against unilateral contractual breaches and terminations, be it breaches committed by a club or by a player. This, because contractual stability is crucial for the well functioning of the international football. The principle pacta sunt servanda shall apply to all stakeholders, "small" and "big" clubs, unknown and top players, employees and employers, notwithstanding their importance, role or power. The deterrent effect of Art. 17 FIFA Regulations shall be achieved through the impending risk for a party to incur disciplinary sanctions, if some conditions are met (cf. Art. 17 para. 3 to 5 FIFA Regulations), and, in any event, the risk to have to pay a compensation for the damage caused by the breach or the unjustified termination. In other words, both players and club are warned: if one does breach or terminate a contract without just cause, a financial compensation is due, and such compensation is to be calculated in accordance with all those elements of Art. 17 FIFA Regulations that are applicable in the matter at stake, including all the non-exclusive criteria listed in para. 1 of said article that, based on the circumstances of the single case, the panel will consider appropriate to apply’.[6]

The concept of positive interest, is strictly linked to the way of calculating the compensation. In case of breach or unjustified termination of the contract, the judging body will have to establish the damage suffered by the injured party, taking into consideration the circumstances of the case, the arguments raised by the parties and the evidence produced. In so doing the judging authority shall be led by the principle of the so-called positive interest (or “expectation interest”), i.e. it will determine an amount geared towards placing the injured or aggrieved party in the position they would otherwise have been, had the contract been performed .[7] More specifically, according to the CAS case-law, ‘the principle of the “positive interest” shall apply not only in the event of an unjustified termination or a breach by a player, but also when the party in breach is the club. Accordingly, the judging authority should not satisfy itself in assessing the damage suffered by the player by only calculating the net difference between the remuneration due under the existing contract and a remuneration received by the player from a third party. Rather, the judging authority will have to apply the same degree of diligent and transparent review of all the objective criteria, including the specificity of sport, as foreseen in Art. 17 FIFA Regulations’.[8]

Pursuant to the above-mentioned jurisprudence, in the joint cases FC Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) v/ Mr. Matuzalem Francelino da Silva (Brazil) & Real Zaragoza SAD (Spain) & FIFA and Mr. Matuzalem Francelino da Silva (Brazil) & Real Zaragoza SAD (Spain) v/ FC Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) & FIFA, the Panel emphasised that ‘by asking the judging authorities, i.e. the competent FIFA bodies and, in the event of an appeal, the CAS, to duly consider a whole series of elements, including such a wide concept like "sport specificity", and asking the judging authority to even consider "any other objective criteria", the authors of Art. 17 FIFA Regulations achieved a balanced system according to which the judging body has on one side the duty to duly consider all the circumstances of the case and all the objective criteria available, and on the other side a considerable scope of discretion, so that any party should be well advised to respect an existing contract as the financial consequences of a breach or a termination without just cause would be, in their size and amount, rather unpredictable. At the end, however, the calculation made by the judging authority shall be not only just and fair, but also transparent and comprehensible’.[9]

Similarly, in the joint cases FC Sion v. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) & Al-Ahly Sporting Club and E. v. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) & Al-Ahly Sporting Club, according to the Panel ‘Art. 17.1 of the FIFA Transfer Regulations also asks the judging body to take into due consideration the “specificity of sport”, that is the specific nature and needs of sport, so as to attain a solution which takes into account not only the interests of the player and the club, but also, more broadly, those of the whole football community (…). Based on this criterion, the judging body should therefore assess the amount of compensation payable by a party keeping duly in mind that the dispute is taking place in the somehow special world of sport. In other words, the judging body should aim at reaching a solution that is legally correct, and that is also appropriate upon an analysis of the specific nature of the sporting interests at stake, the sporting circumstances and the sporting issues inherent to the single case (…). Taking into account the specific circumstances and the course of the events, a CAS panel might consider as guidance that, under certain national laws, a judging authority is allowed to grant a certain “special indemnity” in the event of an unjustified termination. The specific circumstances of a sports case might therefore lead a panel to either increase or decrease the amount of awarded compensation because of the specificity of sport (…). However, in the Panel’s view, the concept of specificity of sport only serves the purpose of verifying the solution reached otherwise prior to assessing the final amount of compensation. In other words, the specificity of sport is subordinated, as a possible correcting factor, to the other factors’.[10]

Pursuant to such case-law, in the well-known Webster cases the CAS referred to the specificity of sport from two different perspectives:

i) based on the fact that Art. 17.1 expressly refers to the specificity of sport and that it is in the interest of football that solutions to compensation be based on uniform criteria rather than on provisions of national law chosen by the parties led the panel to the conclusion that it was not appropriate to apply the general principles of Scottish law on damages for breach of contract;

ii) the Panel recalled that ‘in light of the history of Art. 17 (…) the specificity of sport is a reference to the goal of finding particular solutions for the football world which enable those applying the provision to strike a reasonable balance between the needs of contractual stability, on the one hand, and the needs of free movement of players, on the other hand, i.e. to find solutions that foster the good of football by reconciling in a fair manner the various and sometimes contradictory interests of clubs and players’.[11]

More specifically, in FC Pyunik Yerevan v. L., AFC Rapid Bucaresti & FIFA, the panel considered ‘that the specificity of the sport must obviously take the independent nature of the sport, the free movement of the players (…) but also the football as a market, into consideration. In the Panel's view, the specificity of the sport does not conflict with the principle of contractual stability and the right of the injured party to be compensated for all the loss and damage incurred as a consequence of the other party’s breach. This rule is valid whether the breach is by a player or a club. The criterion of specificity of sport shall be used by a panel to verify that the solution reached is just and fair not only under a strict civil (or common) law point of view, but also taking into due consideration the specific nature and needs of the football world (and of parties being stakeholders in such world) and reaching therefore a decision which can be recognised as being an appropriate evaluation of the interests at stake, and does so fit in the landscape of international football. Therefore, when weighing the specificity of the sport a panel may consider the specific nature of damages that a breach by a player of his employment contract with a club may cause. In particular, a panel may consider that in the world of football, players are the main asset of a club, both in terms of their sporting value in the service for the teams for which they play, but also from a rather economic view, like for instance in relation of their valuation in the balance sheet of a certain club, if any, their value for merchandising activities or the possible gain which can be made in the event of their transfer to another club. Taking into consideration all of the above, the asset comprised by a player is obviously an aspect which cannot be fully ignored when considering the compensation to be awarded for a breach of contract by a player’.[12]

In Al Gharafa S.C. & M. Bresciano v. Al Nasr S.C. & FIFA, the panel first identified the following basic principles:

i)  the fundamental importance to reach a solution that is legally correct and appropriate to the specific nature of the sporting interests at stake, and

ii)  the sporting circumstances and the sporting issues inherent to the single case;

The panel then underlined that ‘the “specificity of sport” is not an additional head of compensation, nor a criteria allowing to decide in ex aequo et bono, but a correcting factor which allows the Panel to take into consideration other objective elements which are not envisaged under the other criteria of Art. 17 RSTP”.[13] On that basis, the panel decided to increase the amount of compensation for  damages, taking into account the sporting importance of the player for the team and the behaviour of the player at the time of the termination. To the contrary, in FC Senica A.S. v. Vladimir Vukajlovic & FIFA, the panel referred to the specificity of sport and that neither club  or player was interested in maintaining their labour relationship, as the basis for excluding any compensation to the player.[14]

 

3. Concluding remarks

It should be rather clear that the concept of specificity of sport has different meanings and purposes in the ECJ and CAS jurisprudence. According to the ECJ case-law, ante its Meca Medina ruling, the reference to the special character of sport was a way to deal with purely sporting rules in the context of EU law; on the contrary, after the judgment in 2006, this approach seems rather questionable. Unfortunately, at present the specificity of sport looks less like a guiding principle than a concept in search of itself. Perhaps also for this reason the ECJ has always carefully avoided defining it or expressly mentioning it; at the same time, the 2011 definition by the Commission – i.e. the specificity of sport encompasses all the characteristics that make sport special – sounds rather tautological.On the contrary, in the CAS case-law the concept of specificity of sport is expressly referred to in cases of breach or unjustified termination of football contracts and amounts to a criterion, among others, to be taken into account to make the compensation just and fair not only under a strict civil law point of view but also taking into due consideration the specific nature and needs of the football world. In this context, according to the CAS jurisprudence the specificity of sport is neither an additional basis for compensation nor a criterion allowing a decision one way or the other in equity. Instead, it represents a correcting factor allowing the panel to award extra compensation in cases where the panel is not convinced that the costs so far awarded fully compensate the party entitled to compensation under Art. 17 FIFA RSTP. That said, the concept of specificity of sport remains rather unclear and vague in the CAS case-law as well.


[1] CAS 2008/A/1644 Adrian Mutu v. Chelsea Football Club Limited, award of 31 July 2009, para. 100,

[2] CAS 98/200 AEK Athens and SK Slavia Prague / Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

[3] See S. Bastianon, The proportionality test under Art. 101 (1) TFEU and the legitimacy of UEFA Financial fair-play regulations: From the Meca Medina and Majcen ruling of the European Court of Justice to the Galatasaray and AC Milan awards of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, 14 October 2018, https://www.asser.nl/SportsLaw/Blog/

[4] M. Colucci, F. Majani, The specificity of sport as a way to calculate compensation in case of breach of contract, European Sports Law and Policy Bulletin, 1/2011, p. 125.

[5]M. Colucci, R. Favella, La stabilità contrattuale nei regolamenti FIFA e nella giurisprudenza rilevante, RDES, 1/2022, p. 39; K. Futtrup Kjær, Substituting at Half-Time: Contractual Stability in the World of Football, https://law.au.dk/fileadmin/Jura/dokumenter/forskning/rettid/Afh_2017/afh1-2017.pdf

[6] CAS 2008/A/1519-1520, para 80.

[7]Given that the compensation to be granted derives from a breach or unjustified termination of a valid contract, it will be guided in calculating the compensation due by the principle of the so-called “positive interest” or “expectation interest”… [and] accordingly… determin[e] an amount which shall basically put the injured party in the position that the same party would have had if no contractual breach had occurred’ (CAS 2009/A/1880 & 1881, at para. 80).

[8] CAS 2008/A/1519-1520, para 88

[9] CAS 2008/A/1519 and CAS 2008/A/1520, para 89.

[10] CAS 2009/A/1880 and CAS 2009/A/1881, para 109.

[11] CAS 2007/A/1298; CAS 2007/A/1299; CAS 2007/A/1300, para 40.

[12] CAS 2007/A/1358, para 40.

[13] CAS 2013/A/3411, para 118.

[14] CAS 2013/A/3089, para 83.

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

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 Exclusive! Interview with Charles “Chuck” Blazer by Piotr Drabik

Editor’s note: Chuck Blazer declined our official interview request but thanks to some trusted sources (the FIFA indictment and Chuck’s testimony) we have reconstructed his likely answers. This is a fictional interview. Any resemblance with real facts is purely coincidental.



Mr Blazer, thank you for agreeing to this interview, especially considering the circumstances. How are you doing?

I am facing ten charges concerning, among others, conspiracy to corrupt and money laundering. But apart from that, I am doing great (laughs)!

 

It is good to know that you have not lost your spirit. And since you’ve been involved in football, or as you call it soccer, for years could you please first tell us what was your career at FIFA and its affiliates like?

Let me see… Starting from the 1990s I was employed by and associated with FIFA and one of its constituent confederations, namely the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). At various times, I also served as a member of several FIFA standing committees, including the marketing and television committee. As CONCACAF’s general secretary, a position I proudly held for 21 years, I was responsible, among many other things, for negotiations concerning media and sponsorship rights. From 1997 to 2013 I also served at FIFA’s executive committee where I participated in the selection process of the host countries for the World Cup tournaments. Those years at the helm of world soccer were truly amazing years of travel and hard work mainly for the good of the beautiful game. I might add that I even managed to document some of my voyages on my blog. I initially called it “Travels with Chuck Blazer” but Vladimir (Putin) convinced me to change the name to “Travels with Chuck Blazer and his Friends”. You should check it out.

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Financial Fair Play: Lessons from the 2014 and 2015 settlement practice of UEFA. By Luis Torres

UEFA announced on 8 May that it had entered into Financial Fair Play settlement agreements with 10 European football clubs. Together with the four other agreements made in February 2015, this brings the total to 14 FFP settlements for 2015 and 23 since UEFA adopted modifications in its Procedural rules and allowed settlements agreements to be made between the Clubs and the Chief Investigator of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB).[1] 

In the two years during which UEFA’s FFP regulations have been truly up and running we have witnessed the centrality taken by the settlement procedure in their enforcement. It is extremely rare for a club to be referred to the FFP adjudication chamber. In fact, only the case regarding Dynamo Moscow has been referred to the adjudication chamber. Thus, having a close look at the settlement practice of UEFA is crucial to gaining a good understanding of the functioning of FFP. Hence, this blog offers a detailed analysis of this year’s settlement agreements and compares them with last year’s settlements. More...

Book Review: Reforming FIFA, or Not

Editor’s note: This short book review will be published in a different format in the International Sports Law Journal, due to its timeliness we decided to reproduce it here. 

Reforming FIFA, or Not

 Antoine Duval

Book Review: Mark Pieth (ed.), Reforming FIFA, Dike Verlag, St. Gallen, 2014, 28.00 CHF, p.178

 


This book looks back at the work of the Independence Governance Committee (IGC). This Committee, constituted in 2011, had as primary objective to drive a reform process of FIFA initiated by its President Sepp Blatter. After ordering from the Swiss anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth, a report on the state of FIFA’s governance, FIFA decided to mandate him with the leadership of a consulting body composed of a mix of independent experts and football insiders, which would be accompanying and supervising the internal reform process of FIFA. The IGC was officially dissolved at the end of 2013, after completing its mandate. The book is composed of eight chapters, written by former members of the IGC, including former chairman Mark Pieth. In addition to the chapters, it includes the different reports (available here, here and here) submitted by the IGC to FIFA across the years. In the words of Pieth, this account is “fascinating because it gives a hands-on, realistic perspective of the concrete efforts, the achievements and the remaining challenges in the struggle for the reform of this organization [FIFA], avoiding the usual glorification or vilification.”[1] This review will first summarize the core of the account of the FIFA reform process provided by the book, before critically engaging with the outcome of the process and outlining the deficiencies that culminated on 29 May 2015 with the re-election of Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.More...



The Spanish TV Rights Distribution System after the Royal Decree: An Introduction. By Luis Torres

On the first of May 2015, the Spanish Government finally signed the Royal Decree allowing the joint selling of the media rights of the Spanish top two football leagues. The Minister for Sport stated that the Decree will allow clubs to “pay their debts with the social security and the tax authorities and will enable the Spanish teams to compete with the biggest European Leagues in terms of revenues from the sale of media rights”.[1]Although the signing of the Royal Decree was supposed to close a very long debate and discussion between the relevant stakeholders, its aftermath shows that the Telenovela is not entirely over. 

This blog post will first provide the background story to the selling of media rights in Spain. It will, thereafter, analyse the main points of the Royal Decree and outline how the system will work in practice. Finally, the blog will shortly address the current frictions between the Spanish League (LFP) and the Spanish football federation (RFEF).More...

Sport and EU Competition Law: New developments and unfinished business. By Ben Van Rompuy

Editor's note: Ben Van Rompuy, Head of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre, was recently interviewed by LexisNexis UK for their in-house adviser service. With kind permission from LexisNexis we reproduce the interview on our blog in its entirety. 

How does competition law affect the sports sector?  

The application of EU competition law to the sports sector is a fairly recent and still unfolding development. It was only in the mid-1990s, due to the growing commercialization of professional sport, that there emerged a need to address competition issues in relation to, for instance, ticketing arrangements or the sale of media rights.  More...



Is FIFA fixing the prices of intermediaries? An EU competition law analysis - By Georgi Antonov (ASSER Institute)

Introduction

On 1 April 2015, the new FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (hereinafter referred as the Regulations) came into force. These Regulations introduced a number of changes as regards the division of competences between FIFA and its members, the national associations. A particularly interesting issue from an EU competition law perspective is the amended Article 7 of the Regulations. Under paragraph 3, which regulates the rules on payments to intermediaries (also previously referred to as ‘agents’), it is recommended that the total amount of remuneration per transaction due to intermediaries either being engaged to act on a player’s or club’s behalf should not exceed 3% of the player’s basic gross income for the entire duration of the relevant employment contract. In the case of transactions due to intermediaries who have been engaged to act on a club’s behalf in order to conclude a transfer agreement, the total amount of remuneration is recommended to not exceed 3% of the eventual transfer fee paid in relation to the relevant transfer of the player.More...