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

Book Review - Camille Boillat & Raffaele Poli: Governance models across football associations and leagues (2014)

Camille Boillat & Raffaele Poli: Governance models across football associations and leagues (2014)

Vol. 4, Centre International d'Etude du Sport, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, softback, 114 pages, ISBN 2-940241-24-4, Price: €24


This book derives from a research mandate carried out by the Centre International d'Etude du Sport (CIES) on behalf of FIFA. Camille Boillat is a scientific collaborator at the CIES, while Raffaele Poli is the head of the CIES Football Observatory. The book maps the various existing models of national football associations and leagues and attempts to study the relationship between the two. It is divided into the following four chapters: (1) Structural models, legal forms and agreements between national association leagues; (2) The league in the national association structure; (3) Division of labour between national associations and leagues and; (4) League internal governance. The authors studied thirty-two FIFA member associations from each football confederation representing various levels of football development. The methodology for the research consisted of collecting information from reports, official documents and online sources.

In chapter 1, the authors make a distinction between the association model and the separate entity model. In the association model, leagues take the legal form of an association, similar to the national football association to which they belong. The separate entity model refers to leagues for which the legal form is that of a company with an independent ownership structure. The association model is further divided in countries where the leagues are managed by the national associations on the one hand, and countries where leagues enjoy a wide margin of autonomy, called “self-management” leagues, on the other. The consequent mapping of the different models using these two distinctions forms the basis for many of the conclusions drawn in the book. Leagues will usually have less voting power within their national association when they themselves enjoy a large amount of independence. Equally, in association model leagues with national association management the league president will be chosen by the national association. Leagues that are self-managed will have greater autonomy when devising its own executive committee.

Other conclusions drawn in this book do not directly flow from the clear-cut distinction in models described in chapter 1. The English Premier league is a separate entity and therefore enjoys a large amount of independence. Nonetheless, it is the English FA that governs the disciplinary proceedings in English professional football. On the other hand, Cameroon’s top tier league follows the association model and is financially dependent of the national association. However, as regards the disciplinary proceedings, it is the league of Cameroon that is in charge.

Being geographers by training, the authors do not provide a legal analysis of their findings. For example, the book does not touch on the question whether the selection of a certain model finds its origin in the national law of a certain country, nor whether the differences found in jurisdictions can be transposed to the differences in models.

Although the authors do not state whether one model is better than another, the book is a useful tool to understand what it entails for countries to have a certain model and identify specific problems related to those models. For example, Spain is currently trying to reform its broadcasting rights distribution system from an individualised selling system to a joint selling system. However, the Spanish national association (RFEF), the Spanish league (LNFP) and the Sport Governmental Council for Sport (CSD) are encountering difficulties in reaching an agreement. Each party involved is trying to get the best deal possible for themselves. With the information provided by this book in the back of your mind, one can better understand the political and legal game being played: at which level decisions are being made, who the stakeholders are and what their voting power is. In other words, the analytical model provided by this book is very useful for analysing concrete examples.

All models show overlaps with other models. Nonetheless, there are no two national models that are exactly the same. The main difference between the different national models lies in the scope of independence that a league will have from its national association. Some leagues will be more independent than others, but no league is completely independent. In conclusion, finding the right balance is a delicate and thorny issue.

Comments are closed