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

Blog Symposium: The “Athlete Patient” and the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code: Competing Under Medical Treatment. By Marjolaine Viret and Emily Wisnosky

Introduction: The new WADA Code 2015
Day 1: The impact of the revised World Anti-Doping Code on the work of National Anti-Doping Agencies
Day 3: Proof of intent (or lack thereof) under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code
Day 4: Ensuring proportionate sanctions under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code

Editor's Note
Marjolaine Viret: An attorney-at-law at the Geneva bar, specialising in sports and health law. Her doctoral work in anti-doping was awarded a summa cum laude by the University of Fribourg in early 2015. She gained significant experience in sports arbitration as a senior associate in one of Switzerland’s leading law firms, advising clients, including major sports federations, on all aspects of anti-doping. She also holds positions within committees in sports organisations and has been involved in a variety of roles in the implementation of the 2015 WADC. Her book “Evidence in Anti-Doping at the Intersection of Science & Law” is scheduled for publication in 2015.

Emily Wisnosky: An attorney-at-law admitted to the California bar, she currently participates in the WADC 2015 Commentary research project as a doctoral researcher. She also holds an LLM from the University of Geneva in International Dispute Settlement, with a focus on sports arbitration. Before studying law, she worked as a civil engineer. More...





Blog Symposium: The impact of the revised World Anti-Doping Code on the work of National Anti-Doping Agencies. By Herman Ram

Introduction: The new WADA Code 2015
Day 2: The “Athlete Patient” and the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code: Competing Under Medical Treatment
Day 3: Proof of intent (or lack thereof) under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code
Day 4: Ensuring proportionate sanctions under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code

Editor's note
Herman Ram is the Chief Executive Officer of the Anti-Doping Authority the Netherlands, which is the National Anti-Doping Organization of the country. He has held this position since 2006. After working twelve years as a librarian, Herman Ram started his career in sport management in 1992, when he became Secretary general of the Royal Netherlands Chess Federation. In 1994, he moved on to the same position at the Netherlands Badminton Federation. He was founder and first secretary of the Foundation for the Promotion of Elite Badminton that was instrumental in the advancement of Dutch badminton. In 2000 he was appointed Secretary general of the Netherlands Ski Federation, where he focused, among other things, on the organization of large snowsports events in the Netherlands. Since his appointment as CEO of the Anti-Doping Authority, he has developed a special interest in legal, ethical and managerial aspects of anti-doping policies, on which he has delivered numerous presentations and lectures. On top of that, he acts as Spokesperson for the Doping Authority. Herman Ram holds two Master’s degrees, in Law and in Sport Management. More...




Blog Symposium: The new WADA Code 2015 - Introduction

Day 1: The impact of the revised World Anti-Doping Code on the work of National Anti-Doping Agencies
Day 2: The “Athlete Patient” and the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code: Competing Under Medical Treatment
Day 3: Proof of intent (or lack thereof) under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code
Day 4: Ensuring proportionate sanctions under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code

On 1 January, a new version of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC or Code) entered into force. This blog symposium aims at taking stock of this development and at offering a preliminary analysis of the key legal changes introduced. The present blog will put the WADC into a more general historical and political context. It aims to briefly retrace the emergence of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and its Code. It will also reconstruct the legislative process that led to the adoption of the WADC 2015 and introduce the various contributions to the blog symposium.More...






To pay or not to pay? That is the question. The case of O’Bannon v. NCAA and the struggle of student athletes in the US. By Zlatka Koleva

Editor's note
Zlatka Koleva is a graduate from the Erasmus University Rotterdam and is currently an Intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

The decision on appeal in the case of O’Bannon v. NCAA seems, at first sight, to deliver answers right on time regarding the unpaid use of names, images and likenesses (NILs) of amateur college athletes, which has been an ongoing debate in the US after last year’s district court decision that amateur players in the college games deserve to receive compensation for their NILs.[1] The ongoing struggle for compensation in exchange for NILs used in TV broadcasts and video games in the US has reached a turning point and many have waited impatiently for the final say of the Court of Appeal for the 9th circuit. The court’s ruling on appeal for the 9th circuit, however, raises more legitimate concerns for amateur sports in general than it offers consolation to unprofessional college sportsmen. While the appellate court agreed with the district court that NCAA should provide scholarships amounting to the full cost of college attendance to student athletes, the former rejected deferred payment to students of up to 5,000 dollars for NILs rights. The conclusions reached in the case relate to the central antitrust concerns raised by NCAA, namely the preservation of consumer demand for amateur sports and how these interests can be best protected under antitrust law. More...



The European Commission’s ISU antitrust investigation explained. By Ben Van Rompuy

In June 2014, two prominent Dutch speed skaters, Mark Tuitert (Olympic Champion 1500m) and Niels Kerstholt (World Champion short track), filed a competition law complaint against the International Skating Union (ISU) with the European Commission.


ChanceToCompeteTwitter.png (50.4KB)


Today, the European Commission announced that it has opened a formal antitrust investigation into International Skating Union (ISU) rules that permanently ban skaters from competitions such as the Winter Olympics and the ISU World and European Championships if they take part in events not organised or promoted by the ISU. The Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, stated that the Commission "will investigate if such rules are being abused to enforce a monopoly over the organisation of sporting events or otherwise restrict competition. Athletes can only compete at the highest level for a limited number of years, so there must be good reasons for preventing them to take part in events."

Since the case originates from legal advice provided by the ASSER International Sports Law Centre, we thought it would be helpful to provide some clarifications on the background of the case and the main legal issues at stake. More...





Interview with Wil van Megen (Legal Director of FIFPro) on FIFPro’s EU Competition Law complaint against the FIFA Transfer System

Editor’s note
Wil is working as a lawyer since 1980. He started his legal career at Rechtshulp Rotterdam. Later on he worked for the Dutch national trade union FNV and law firm Varrolaan Advocaten. Currently he is participating in the Labour Law Section of lawfirm MHZ-advocaten in Schiedam in the Netherlands. He is also a member of a joint committee advising the government in labour issues.

Since 1991 he is dealing with the labour issues of the trade union for professional football players VVCS and cyclists’ union VVBW. Since 2002, he works for FIFPro, the worldwide union for professional football players based in Hoofddorp in the Netherlands. He is involved in many international football cases and provides legal support for FIFPro members all over the world. Wil was also involved in the FIFPro Black Book campaign on match fixing and corruption in Eastern Europe. More...


The Scala reform proposals for FIFA: Old wine in new bottles?

Rien ne va plus at FIFA. The news that FIFA’s Secretary General Jérôme Valcke was put on leave and released from his duties has been quickly overtaken by the opening of a criminal investigation targeting both Blatter and Platini.

With FIFA hopping from one scandal to the next, one tends to disregard the fact that it has been attempting (or rather pretending) to improve the governance of the organisation for some years now. In previous blogs (here and here), we discussed the so-called ‘FIFA Governance Reform Project’, a project carried out by the Independent Governance Committee (IGC) under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Mark Pieth of the Basel Institute on Governance. Their third and final report, published on 22 April 2014, listed a set of achievements made by FIFA in the area of good governance since 2011, such as establishing an Audit and Compliance Committee (A&C). However, the report also indicated the reform proposals that FIFA had not met. These proposals included the introduction of term limits for specific FIFA officials (e.g. the President) as well as introducing an integrity review procedure for all the members of the Executive Committee (ExCo) and the Standing Committees. More...

Why the CAS #LetDuteeRun: the Proportionality of the Regulation of Hyperandrogenism in Athletics by Piotr Drabik

Editor's note
Piotr is an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

Introduction

On 24 July the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) issued its decision in the proceedings brought by the Indian athlete Ms. Dutee Chand against the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in which she challenged the validity of the IAAF Regulations Governing Eligibility of Female with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition (Regulations). The Regulations were established in 2011 as a response to the controversies surrounding South African athlete Caster Semenya (see e.g. here, here, and here), and for the purpose of safeguarding fairness in sport by prohibiting women with hyperandrogenism, i.e. those with excessive levels of endogenous (naturally occurring) testosterone, from competing in women athletics competitions. Owing to the subject-matter that the Regulations cover, the case before the CAS generated complex legal, scientific and ethical questions. The following case note thus aims at explaining how the Panel addressed the issues raised by the Indian athlete. It follows a previous blog we published in December 2014 that analysed the arguments raised in favour of Ms. Chand. More...




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

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


Introduction

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

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

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

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


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


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


Asser International Sports Law Blog | A Bridge Too Far? Bridge Transfers at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. By Antoine Duval and Luis Torres.

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

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.


I. Facts and procedure

Fernando Ortiz is an Argentine professional football player who entered into an employment contract with Vélez Sarsfield, valid until 30 June 2012. After the expiration of the contract, Ortiz signed an employment contract with the Uruguayan team, Institución Atlética Sud América on 11 July 2012, valid until 30 June 2017. Institución was playing in the Second Division in Uruguay at that time. A week later, on 20 July 2012, Ortiz was transferred from Institución back to Argentina. Institución and Racing Club, Ortiz’ new club, agreed a transfer fee (which was not disclosed). The first instalment should be made before 24 July 2012. Ortiz’ new employment contract was valid until 30 June 2014. Both transfers were duly registered in the FIFA Transfer Matching System (TMS). First, on 23 July 2012, the Argentine Federation (AFA) provided the Uruguayan Federation (AUF) the International Transfer Certificate (ITC). After the transfer from Institución to Racing, the AUF sent the same paperwork to the AFA on 3 August 2012. At that time, no payments were made.

Meanwhile, in view of the number of similar transfers, AFA and the Argentine Tax Authorities agreed that the players concerned would not be allowed to play in the Argentine league. This resulted in the parties (Institución, Ortiz and Racing) concluding a Rescission Agreement of the transfer contract, stating that they had “nothing to claim from each other”.[1] This agreement was not uploaded at that time in the TMS. On 23 November 2012, the FIFA TMS body sent a letter[2] to Racing asserting that they were not aware of any proof of payment of the transfer fee, and that this transfer could constitute an infringement of the TMS rules. Racing replied[3] by enclosing the rescission agreement and confirming that no payments were to be made. On June 2013, FIFA TMS opened disciplinary proceedings against Racing, claiming a violation of articles 3 and 9.1 of Annexe 3 RSTP[AD1] . In response Racing blamed Ortiz for trying to benefit himself from such operation and argued that the club had a true sporting interest in signing Ortiz and did not receive any economic benefit out of the transfer. On 14 August 2013, the FIFA TMS body submitted the disciplinary proceeding to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee (FIFA DC) for a proper investigation of the facts.

In its decision of 5 March 2014, the FIFA DC analysed the two transfers and concluded that they lacked a sporting objective. Even if, from a formal point of view, the first of the two transfers did not involve Racing directly, the FIFA DC considered, taking into account the chronological unfolding of the transfers, that the transfer of Ortiz to Institución would not make sense (according to the playing level of Institución and Ortiz), if his subsequent transfer to another club, in this case Racing Club, was not already planned. Accordingly, the FIFA DC found that the two “parts of the operation” cannot be considered separate. Hence, the whole bridge transfer scheme was deemed known to all parties involved. Thus, the FIFA DC concluded that Racing was involved in the operations carried out and therefore liable to face sanctions.[4]

Moreover, the FIFA DC drew attention to the effects the rescission agreement should have had in a rational context. Indeed, in a normal constellation, one would have expected Ortiz to return to Institución, instead the fact that he stayed on to play at Racing corroborated the non-sporting interest of the transfer. The FIFA DC considered that the aim of the TMS rules is to create transparency (Article 1 Annexe 3 RSTP) in players’ international transfers. In the view of the FIFA DC, Racing, however, used the TMS fraudulently to give a sporting appearance to such a transfer. Therefore, Racing is found to have infringed Articles 3(1)[5] and 9.1(2)[6] Annexe 3 FIFA RSTP, since the transfer was conducted through the TMS for illegitimate purposes and it did not act in good faith. As a consequence of this infringement, the Argentine club was fined CHF 15,000 and warned in accordance with the FIFA Disciplinary Code.[7] In the same proceedings, the Uruguayan club was sanctioned with a transfer ban for two complete and consecutive transfer periods and a fine of CHF 40,000.

Racing Club decided to appeal the decision to the CAS. The Argentine club based its appeal[8] on the grounds that there is no legal basis in the FIFA Regulations to sanction the club for correctly registering a transfer without a sporting reason in the FIFA TMS system.  


II. Commentary

First, we need to explicate in greater details the functioning and purposes of bridge transfers. Before, tackling the substance of the award rendered by the CAS.


A.    What is a bridge transfer?

As explained by Ariel Reck[9] (who was Racing’s lawyer in the present case), a bridge transfer has three main characteristics:

  • A bridge transfer is made for no apparent sporting reason, there is a non-sporting purpose underlying the move.

  • Secondly, there are three clubs involved in this triangular structure: on the one hand the club where the player was firstly registered (club of origin); secondly, the so-called ‘bridge club’, which will usually be a club of a lower level than the player involved and the final club of destination, i.e. the club where the player was intended to play for from the beginning. The lack of balance between the player and the bridge club is usually evident.

  • The last feature is the short period of time that the player is engaged with the bridge club. Frequently, such a player does not play any game at all with this club.

There are three important reasons why football clubs enter into a triangular agreement that constitutes a bridge transfer:

  1. The bridge transfer helps to reduce the cost of training compensation or payments to be made under FIFA’s solidarity contribution mechanism.

  2. The bridge transfer allows the use of a club to circumvent the FIFA rule that prohibits TPO.[10]

  3. The bridge transfer is used to evade taxes.


1.   Reducing training compensation

As far as the reduction of the value of the training compensation is concerned, it should be noted that there is already an award dealing with this matter, though without making an explicit reference to the notion of “bridge transfer”. In 2009, CAS rendered an award in a dispute between MTK Budapest and FC Internazionale. In this case, Inter was interested in signing a Hungarian player from MTK Budapest. After negotiations between the two clubs broke down, the player entered into a professional contract with a Maltese club. Yet, after nine days at the Maltese club, the player was transferred to Inter. According to the FIFA’s training compensation rules[11], if the player would have been transferred directly from MTK Budapest to the Italian club, the payable amount to the Hungarian team, for the three seasons that the player was trained by MTK Budapest, would have been €160,000.[12] The Panel, found this transfer to be irrational and considered that the training efforts of MTK Budapest should in any case be rewarded. Therefore, it decided that Inter should pay a training compensation to the Hungarian team.

On the other hand, by means of a comparable manoeuvre, the solidarity mechanism can also be manipulated. The RSTP provisions on the solidarity mechanism are only applicable to international transfers (Article 1(1) RSTP). The transfers between two clubs of the same association are “governed by specific regulations issued by the association concerned” (Article 1(2) RSTP). Thus, one can reduce the amount of the solidarity contribution via a bridge construction. The first (international) transfer is concluded for a low amount, which would be subject to the solidarity contribution. Later, a second (national) transfer is concluded for the real amount.[13]


2.   Circumventing the FIFA TPO ban

Another purpose for the use of bridge transfers is to circumvent the FIFA rules prohibiting agents (or intermediaries) or other third parties to acquire economic rights from players. This is “a way to anchor a players economic rights to a club”[14] instead of a mere third party (agent or a company). By controlling a club, the former third-party owners are able to continue investing in players while making sure that this investment is at least formally in conformity with the RSTP. With this mechanism, a third party, who controls a club (a bridge club), also enjoys the legal protection awarded by the FIFA RSTP to clubs, for example, in case of breach of the contract without just cause (17 RSTP).


 3.   Reducing Taxes

Bridge transfers are also designed to reduce taxes or hide the financial beneficiary of the amounts.[15] Bridge clubs, in these cases, are based in “tax heavens”. Consequently, two transfers need to be concluded: One from the team of origin to the bridge club, and the other one from the bridge club to the club of destination. If the bridge transfer is made with the sole purpose of reducing taxes, the fee for the first transfer would be low because this transfer fee is highly taxed. The second transfer would be concluded for a higher amount and the fee will be taxed at a low rate.

Secondly, a bridge transfer could also be used to disguise a compensation for a player (this mechanism is generally used by free agents) or payments to third parties. Usually, players who move to a new club as free agents tend to receive higher salaries than players who have been transferred to another club while still on a contract with their old club. In order to prevent the payment of high income taxes, a player and a bridge club agree to share the transfer payment made by the club of destination. Thus, the bridge club is rewarded for taking part in the bridge transfer; this reward is usually limited to a small share of the total transfer sum.[16]

The third alternative is the configuration at play in the Racing case. In Uruguay, clubs are considered cultural institutions and according to the Article 69 ‘Constitución Nacional’ (National Constitution), they are exempted from paying taxes, even on transfers of players. The clubs take the legal form of either ‘Sports Association’ or ‘Sociedad Anónima Deportiva (Public limited sports company), the latter being considered a cultural institution as well. A recent Uruguayan judgment[17] extended the tax exemption to the ‘Socidades Anónimas Deportivas’. However, since bridge transfers have no sporting interest and are aimed at an economic profit derived from reducing the tax burden, the Uruguayan court also held that bridge transfers are not to be tax exempted.  


B.    The Racing case: FIFA’s interpretative bridge too far

1.     The argument of the parties

Racing Club argued in front of CAS that neither Article 3(1), nor Article 9.1(2) of Annexe 3 FIFA RSTP could constitute a sufficient legal basis to impose sanctions in case of a bridge transfer. Basically, “neither the Regulations nor the TMS generates a new substantive law”.[18] No provision states that transfers with a purely economic purpose violate any FIFA provision, which “precludes any sanction based on such concept”.[19] Racing Club also pleaded the ‘principle of estoppel’. As neither FIFA nor the FIFA TMS have sanctioned bridge transfers in the past, Racing Club is of the opinion that the FIFA DC is estopped from sanctioning them in the case at hand.

FIFA recognises that “although (the FIFA regulations) are not applicable to the present matter, (they) present an unambiguous view of what falls within the scope of the Regulations in general terms”.[20] The body argues that this loophole might be covered by the association’s usual practice or, if not, by the rules that they would lay down if they were acting as legislators. Also, FIFA argues that the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC) has to be read in accordance with the language used, the grammar and syntax of the provisions, the historical background and the regulatory context. In other words, FIFA pleads that the Panel must sanction the club interpreting the FIFA rules by analogy, if the wording of articles 76 FDC[21] and 62 FIFA Statutes[22] in connection with the TMS rules invoked is not sufficient to ground the decision of the FIFA DC.


2.     The decision of the Panel

In the view of the Panel, the FIFA DC was competent to render a decision in this matter. However, this decision must be grounded on a legal basis found in the FIFA regulations. The key question in the present case is whether Articles 3(1) and 9.1(2) Annexe 3 FIFA RSTP can constitute such a legal basis.

Therefore, taking into account that Racing was sanctioned for having violated the provisions of Annexe 3 by having entered untrue or false data and/or having misused the TMS for illegitimate purposes in bad faith by concluding a “bridge transfer”, the Panel must decide whether the transfer breached these provisions, and if it did so, whether the sanction is proportionate according the TMS rules.

The Panel considers that it is “undisputed that the present case involves a transfer structure which, […], is to be considered as a “bridge transfer”.[23] The Panel considers that Racing Club could not ignore that it was involved in a bridge transfer and was not acting in good faith when arguing that the transfer via Institución was conducted exclusively on the basis of a sporting interest. However, this does not imply per se that Racing acted in bad faith as far as the TMS registration of the Player’s transfer from Institución to Racing is concerned.[24] Indeed, FIFA had to satisfy its burden of proof and demonstrate to the comfortable satisfaction of the Panel that Racing Club had entered untrue or false data and/or misused the TMS for illegitimate purposes. In this regard, the Panel finds that “insufficient evidence is available to prove that the Appellant must be assumed not to have acted in good faith in connection with Player’s transfer registration in the TMS”, as “it has not been proven that the Appellant has registered misleading or false information in the TMS”.[25]

If FIFA is to outlaw the recourse to bridge transfers it must do so in an express fashion. In other words, “the parties involved, in conformity with the principle of legality, shall be provided with specific guidelines in order to know how to act when international transfers of players take place”.[26] Critically, “the lack of such clear and specific set of rules does not justify, in the eyes of the Panel, the “secondary use” of the TMS rules for these purposes”[27]. The principle of legality implies that a sanction must be based on a previously existing legal rule. The CAS had emphasized this principle at various instances in its earlier jurisprudence.[28] Consequently, the Panel found that the “bridge interpretation” used by the FIFA DC to sanction Racing for taking part in a transfer construct qualified as a bridge transfer was going too far and could not be followed. In short, “the current TMS rules represent neither an appropriate nor an effective tool for combating and/or sanctioning bridge transfers”.[29] Hence, the arbitrators decided to reduce the sanction imposed to a mere reprimand.

This is not to say that the Panel endorses the recourse to bridge transfers. Instead, it clearly states that it “concurs entirely with the Respondent (FIFA) that measures should be applied against bridge transfers when such transfers are conducted for the purpose of engaging in unlawful practices, such as tax evasion, or to circumvent the rules concerning, for instance, the payment of training compensation or solidarity contributions, or to assure third party's anonymity in relation to the relevant authorities”.[30]

Yet, the basic rule of law principle requiring that FIFA must first devised clearly positivized rules on the basis of which it can then adopt the required sanctions must be respected. This is a bold move by the Panel in light of the bad reputation of bridge transfers. FIFA, as any public or private authority, cannot free itself from the duty of acting in the framework of the regulations it has adopted. The decision is an important reminder of the limits faced by the discretionary power of International Sports Governing Bodies when CAS Panels review their disciplinary decisions. These Bodies do not have an absolute discretion to exercise the disciplinary power that they derive from their statutes. This power is checked by reference to the same legal principles restricting State power in a national context. Thus, it is the duty of FIFA to make sure that it disposes of an appropriate legal basis to act. Consequently, in the (near) future, instead of jumping an interpretative bridge too far, it is advisable that FIFA adopts specific rules to tackle the potential ethical and legal challenges posed by the surging use of bridge transfers.


[1] CAS 2014/A/3536 Racing Club Asociación Civil v. FIFA, paragraph 2.9

[2] Ibid, paragraph 2.10

[3] Ibid, paragraph 2.13

[4] Ibid, paragraph 2.19

[5]All users shall act in good faith.”

[6] “Sanctions may also be imposed on any association or club found to have entered untrue or false data into the system or for having misused TMS for illegitimate purposes.”

[7] Articles 10.c) and 15 for the fine and Articles 10.a) and 13 for the warning.

[8] CAS 2014/A/3536 Racing Club Asociación Civil v. FIFA, paragraph 7.2.2

[9] World Sports Law Report – April 2014, by Ariel Reck.

[10] CAS 2014/A/3536 Racing Club Asociación Civil v. FIFA, paragraph 7.3.2(o)

[11] Article 20 and Annexe 4 FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players.

[12] CAS 2009/A/1757 MTK Budapest v. Internazionale Milano, paragraph 24.

[13] Ariel Reck, “What is a ‘bridge transfer’ in football”.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16]El otro triángulo de las Bermudas: los pases fantasmas a Uruguay y Chile”, 18 August 2012, Perfil.com

[17] Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo (Uruguay), fallo no. 301, 16 abril 2015.

[18] CAS 2014/A/3536 Racing Club Asociación Civil v. FIFA, paragraph 7.2.2.d)

[19] Ibid.

[20] CAS 2014/A/3536 Racing Club Asociación Civil v. FIFA, paragraph 7.3.2.k)

[21] “The FIFA Disciplinary Committee is authorised to sanction any breach of FIFA regulations which does not come under the jurisdiction of another body.”

[22] “1.The function of the Disciplinary Committee shall be governed by the FIFA Disciplinary Code. The committee shall pass decisions only when at least three members are present. In certain cases, the chairman may rule alone. 2. The Disciplinary Committee may pronounce the sanctions described in these Statutes and the FIFA Disciplinary Code on Members, Clubs, Officials, Players, intermediaries and licensed match agents. 3. These provisions are subject to the disciplinary powers of the Congress and Executive Committee with regard to the suspension and expulsion of Members. 4. The Executive Committee shall issue the FIFA Disciplinary Code.”

[23] Ibid, para.9.11

[24] Ibid, par. 9.14

[25] Ibid, para.9.15

[26] Ibid, par. 9.18

[27] Ibid.

[28] "In the Panel’s opinion, this provision of the Olympic Charter is to be properly read in accordance with the “principle of legality” (“principe de légalité” in French), requiring that the offences and the sanctions be clearly and previously defined by the law and precluding the “adjustment” of existing rules to apply them to situations or behaviours that the legislator did not clearly intend to penalize. CAS arbitrators have drawn inspiration from this general principle of law in reference to sports disciplinary issues, and have formulated and applied what has been termed as “predictability test”. Indeed, CAS awards have consistently held that sports organizations cannot impose sanctions without a proper legal or regulatory basis and that such sanctions must be predictable. In other words, offences and sanctions must be provided by clear rules enacted beforehand." CAS 2008/A/1545 Andrea Anderson, LaTasha Colander Clark, Jearl Miles-

Clark, Torri Edwards, Chryste Gaines, Monique Hennagan, Passion Richardson v. International Olympic Committee (IOC), award of 16 July 2010, para.30. See also CAS 2011/A/2670 Masar Omeragik v. Macedonian Football Federation (FFM),  award of 25 January 2013, para.8.13.

[29] Ibid. Para.9.19

[30] Ibid, para.913


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