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 | Blog Symposium: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it. The point of view of La Liga.

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: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it. The point of view of La Liga.

Introduction: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law.
Day 2: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions
Day 3: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football.
Day 4: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective.
Day 5: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified.

Editor's note: This is the first blog of our symposium on FIFA's TPO ban, it features the position of La Liga regarding the ban and especially highlights some alternative regulatory measures it would favour. La Liga has launched a complaint in front of the European Commission challenging the compatibility of the ban with EU law, its ability to show that realistic less restrictive alternatives were available is key to winning this challenge. We wish to thank La Liga for sharing its legal (and political) analysis of FIFA's TPO ban with us.

INTRODUCTION

The Spanish Football League (La Liga) has argued for months that the funding of clubs through the conveyance of part of players' economic rights (TPO) is a useful practice for clubs. However, it also recognized that the practice must be strictly regulated. In July 2014, it approved a provisional regulation that was sent to many of the relevant stakeholders, including FIFA’s Legal Affairs Department.

Although initially we felt that FIFA would focus on strict regulation, FIFA finally tilted the balance towards the idea of an absolute ban. FIFA even put an end to the working parties it had put in place to regulate this issue. After verbal and written notices, La Liga has filed a complaint with the Competition Authorities of the European Union, since the prohibition of TPO violates the EU competition rules. In our view, apart from breaching the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, it also violates the rules on competition in place in other countries, such as Argentina and Brazil.

La Liga has raised the following arguments to show the disproportion of the absolute prohibition of TPO:

  • FIFA now prohibits undue third-party influence on a team and on players' agents' economic rights.

  • The UEFA now regulates the financial aspects of TPO in its Financial Fair Play Regulations.

  • Only three professional leagues worldwide have banned TPO.

  • The two independent studies commissioned by FIFA do not support the prohibition of TPO.

  • The General Assembly of FIFA concluded that TPO is a complex issue that must continue to be studied in detail.

  • The FIFA Working Party on TPO held only one meeting before it was banned and adapted no specific recommendations.

  • The FIFA Executive Committee agreed to ban TPO with no supporting report or internal proposal.

  • FIFA has not consulted governments, authorities or, in particular, the European Commission before adopting the ban.

  • The arguments used to ban TPO reveal the lack of proportionality of the measure.

  • Independent experts have denounced the lack of proportionality of a TPO ban.


The lack of proportionality of the measure

FIFA’s main argument is that TPO threatens the integrity of sporting competitions. In La Liga’s view, both the integrity of the competition and, where appropriate, footballers' independence could be protected by measures that do not require the full prohibition of TPO. For example, it could limit third-party economic rights to a minority percentage (>50%) together with other measures, such as limiting the number of players from the same club in which a third-party has minority economic rights.[1] Indeed, in its ENIC/UEFA decision, the European Commission took into account that the UEFA rule only prohibits the control of multiple clubs, but not the acquisition of minority stakes in them ("(T)he UEFA rule does not limit the freedom of action of investors that have shares in clubs below the level that gives them control over the club, because clubs with such ownership structure remain free to play in the same UEFA competition”).

Consideration must also be given to the fact that the risk to the integrity of competitions is much greater when two teams controlled by the same investor play against each other compared to when a certain number of players over whom a third party holds economic rights play each other. In the former case, the owner or investor of the clubs may want a team to lose if they can avoid relegation, win the championship or qualify for an international competition. In the latter case, a third-party investor's interest is for players to play as well as possible to increase their economic value, regardless of the result of the match. In fact, there is an increased risk of conflict of interest if a player has been loaned by one club to another and has to play against the club that holds the economic rights. It should be highlighted that neither FIFA nor UEFA have taken steps to regulate loans of players between clubs, despite the fact that loans account for a significant part of player transfer[2] and that independent experts recommend more restrictive regulations for loans.[3] Similarly, we fail to understand why FIFA, prohibits TPO when it is considering deregulating the profession of player agent and accepts that only a few agents represent and share economic interests with star football players.[4]

FIFA further argues that banning TPO will avoid speculation and inflation of transfer costs, preserve economic flows within football clubs, protect players' human dignity, combat economic crime, etc. La Liga is of the opinion that these arguments violate even further the principle of proportionality and are of questionable legitimacy. Therefore, they should be rejected from the outset. 


POLITICAL ASPECTS

As the Association of Spanish Football Clubs, we first and foremost defend a regulation of TPO. Banning it would be denying a fundamental tool for our clubs' funding and competitiveness

Based on the current socio-economic context of the football sector and its practical reality, it seems particularly inappropriate to reject a source of external funding used in every sector of the economy and which, when appropriately regulated, could create greater legal certainty for all concerned.

More specifically, from a political point of view, it is essential to design the regulation of TPO so that La Liga and its clubs maintain or even increase their current competitiveness.

Indeed, there is no doubt about the benefits provided by TPO/TPI since many clubs are in the position to sign players who they otherwise could not afford. Moreover, clubs also profit from the ability to anticipate revenue by selling the rights of the squad players in their team. Thus, in terms of the competitive balance, the use of TPO enables small/medium-sized clubs to maintain their competitiveness against their "bigger" rivals. For example, winning the Spanish league and reaching the Champions League final in the 2013/14 season is an achievement Atlético Madrid would probably not have reached without having recourse to TPO. Furthermore, it makes it possible to increase investment in sports facilities for better training and the development of young players.

The above shows that the private investor also "shares" a risk with the club: when investing in a specific player, the investor also assumes the negative results of the potential investment, which is then shared between the club and the investor, greatly reducing the negative impact on the accounts of the club in question.

And finally, taking into account the economic and financial difficulties currently affecting football clubs, it is necessary to support appropriate financing mechanisms in football to foster investment in the sector, since, at present, most clubs would not be able to survive on their current sources of income.

Should the absolute prohibition of TPO/TPI be maintained, as intended by FIFA and UEFA, it will be very difficult to keep the constellation of star players in our affiliated Clubs. They will most certainly leave their respective clubs for other competitions and clubs that have greater financial resources. It is clear that a large number of Spanish teams will see their competitiveness reduced and, at the same time, the competitiveness of and interest in our competition will plummet

In addition, proper regulation of this issue would avoid the risk of compromising the integrity of competitions, since it would provide greater legal certainty for all the involved parties. Instead, the absolute ban imposed by FIFA will lead to the creation of a "black market” that would be out of regulatory control and would therefore endanger the very integrity of the competitions. Thus, it is absolutely necessary to regulate the matter appropriately. 


LEGAL ASPECTS:

In line with the aforementioned political aspects, from a strictly legal perspective, regulating TPO is particularly advisable since:

a. It is a common practice in the football sector and it is a source of funding that promotes the competitiveness of clubs. Moreover, it stimulates competition and allows clubs to attract and retain top-level players.

In recent years, the number of investments in football players has increased. These investments were sought by Spanish clubs in order to finance the registration of the players’ federative rights. Furthermore, the investor’s remuneration is (wholly or partially) calculated depending on the positive economic results that may be obtained through future transfers of the player’s federative rights by the club that received the investment money.

La Liga believes that investments of this nature can constitute a useful alternative source of financing for clubs and investment for funds, especially now that the Spanish financial sector and the Spanish professional football sector are undergoing a profound financial crisis. Accordingly, these investments may foster the competitiveness of Spanish professional football clubs in Spain and outside. Indeed, the signing and retention of players’ federative rights cannot be secured without third-party investments.  


b. TPO requires an adequate regulatory framework to ensure legal certainty and promote the integrity of professional football competitions.

Based on the widespread use of TPO in practice, La Liga considers it appropriate to introduce certain rules and provide legal certainty to both the clubs as well as the investors. This would require imposing reasonable limitations and duties, and providing for the transparency of the TPO transactions, to protect good sportsmanship and the integrity of competitions.

La Liga’s proposal for a regulatory framework is based on the following basic principle:

Compliance with FIFA’s rules on the influence of third parties in clubs, according to which no club may enter into a contract whereby any party to said contract or third party may assume a position that could influence labour issues and transfers in relation to the independence, policies or actions taken by the teams of any club.

Based on this principle, the following regulatory measures are suggested:

  • prohibition of certain transactions based on the player's age;

  • maximum percentage of participation in the "economic rights";

  • quantitative  limitations  on  the  maximum  number  of  players  per club;

  • maximum remuneration for the investor;

  • prohibition of certain clauses that may limit the independence and autonomy of the clubs; and

  • prohibition of transactions depending on the investor's particular status or business (or participation in the same) such as shareholders, directors and managers of the clubs.

This regulatory framework would provide transparency through duties of information and registration of the investors (including full identification of the real owners) and the financial transactions themselves


CONCLUSION

There is no doubt that the use of TPO/TPI needs to be regulated in Spanish professional football. However, it is also necessary to acknowledge that the full prohibition of TPO by FIFA will only trigger a search for "creative" alternatives to fulfil the same purpose, using fraud and/or other contractual fictions. Furthermore, the prohibition of TPO will be very difficult to enforce and it will generate a great deal of conflicts, which is obviously not a desirable outcome. This is also without prejudice to the considerable loss of competitiveness and footballing talent for our clubs and our competitions.

Thus, it is necessary to devise an alternative approach to the issue by means of a specific regulation. Indeed, we consider that third-party investment in football is a legitimate financing vehicle for clubs, based on risk-sharing and productive investments through private funds. However, there are also obvious threats that need to be tackled. Therefore, in the view of La Liga, it is necessary to establish a sustainable, secure and transparent regulatory system that encourages sound investment in the sector and provides for a better control of the investors.

The benefits to be gained from regulating TPO/TPI are more than evident and would be shared by all the stakeholders that make up the ‘football family’. We believe that an adequate regulation in this area would pave the way for a secure, reliable and transparent system, allowing the ‘football family’ to safely enjoy the benefits TPO can provide.


[1] See, for example, alternatives to the total ban proposed by Luís Villas-Boas Pires, "Third Party Ownership- To ban or not to ban?, LawInSport,10.12.2013: http://www.lawinsport.com/articles/regulation-a-governance/item/third-party-ownership-to-ban-or-not-to-ban.

[2] The Economic and Legal Aspects of Transfers of Players”, KEA-CDES, December 2013, p. 193: “These operations involve a large number of transfers in Europe – 21% i.e. 1333 in 2011, according to TMS”.

[3] The Economic and Legal Aspects of Transfers of Players”, KEA-CDES, December 2013, study performed for the European Commission, pp. 253-254: "Proposal 4:Regulate the loan transfer

Abusive loan transfer practices contribute to competitive imbalance and unfairness of the competitions. We suggest regulation to limit or prevent such abusive practices. This could encompass:

Limiting the number of loans by the lending clubs

Limiting to xx the number of loans to the beneficiary clubs

Regulating loan contracts between clubs which pose a risk to the integrity of competition (for instance: a contractual clause that prevents a player from participating in a certain competition or a given match). Main stakeholders: International federations, national federations and leagues.”

[4] The Economic and Legal Aspects of Transfers of Players”, KEA-CDES, December 2013, pp. 128-129:

The second feature of the upper primary segment is the concentration of superstars in the hands of a few agents (individual or agencies). It is a question of knowing what the actual market power of these agents is and what can be done to regulate their actions. For example, let us note that Gestifute, the Portuguese agency led by Jorge Mendes, has in its portfolio José Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Anderson, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho, Raul Meireles and Miguel Veloso.  This agency has generated €369.85m in transfer rights (Poli, 2012). The role of the major sporting agents should be better known, in order to assess whether they are responsible for an increase in the dualisation of the labour market and, therefore, for a deterioration in competitive balance. Small championships can no longer hang on to their stars and the major championships are competing to attract them, thus contributing to the inflation of speculative bubbles regarding the salaries and transfer fees of these stars.

In the lower primary market, as in the higher primary market, the role of agents is decisive in transactions and we once more find the same recommendations:

An analysis of the concentration of wage

bills.

An analysis of the concentration of transactions at the agent level.”



Comments (1) -

  • Andy Brown

    4/16/2015 12:25:31 PM |

    Couldn't agree more. I also think that this is part of a larger movement by Europe's bigger clubs to ensure their financial hegemony in the market. With FFPR, TPO bans and the way in which the world's biggest clubs are abusing immigration regulations to amass players and then loan them out overseas, there is no room for the smaller clubs to break into the big time any more. But then again, AFC Bournemouth may prove me wrong. More on how the TPO ban could actually present a risk to integrity here: icss-journal.newsdeskmedia.com/Third-party-ownership-a-risk-to-integrity

Comments are closed