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

International Sports Law in 2015: Our Reader

This post offers a basic literature review on publications on international and European sports law in 2015. It does not have the pretence of being complete (our readers are encouraged to add references and links in the comments under this blog), but aims at covering a relatively vast sample of the 2015 academic publications in the field (we have used the comprehensive catalogue of the Peace Palace Library as a baseline for this compilation). When possible we have added hyperlinks to the source.[1]

Have a good read. More...

Goodbye 2015! The Highlights of our International Sports Law Year

2015 was a good year for international sports law. It started early in January with the Pechstein ruling, THE defining sports law case of the year (and probably in years to come) and ended in an apotheosis with the decisions rendered by the FIFA Ethics Committee against Blatter and Platini. This blog will walk you through the important sports law developments of the year and make sure that you did not miss any. More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: In defence of the compatibility of FIFA’s TPO ban with EU law

FIFA’s Third-Party Ownership (TPO) ban entered into force on the 1 May 2015[1]. Since then, an academic and practitioner’s debate is raging over its compatibility with EU law, and in particular the EU Free Movement rights and competition rules. 

The European Commission, national courts (and probably in the end the Court of Justice of the EU) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will soon have to propose their interpretations of the impact of EU law on FIFA’s TPO ban. Advised by the world-famous Bosman lawyer, Jean-Louis Dupont, Doyen has decided to wage through a proxy (the Belgian club FC Seraing) a legal war against the ban. The first skirmishes have already taken place in front of the Brussels Court of first instance, which denied in July Seraing’s request for provisional measures. For its part, FIFA has already sanctioned the club for closing a TPO deal with Doyen, thus opening the way to an ultimate appeal to the CAS. In parallel, the Spanish and Portuguese leagues have lodged a complaint with the European Commission arguing that the FIFA ban is contrary to EU competition law. One academic has already published an assessment of the compatibility of the ban with EU law, and many practitioners have offered their take (see here and here for example). It is undeniable that the FIFA ban is per se restrictive of the economic freedoms of investors and can easily be constructed as a restriction on free competition. Yet, the key and core question under an EU law analysis, is not whether the ban is restrictive (any regulation inherently is), but whether it is proportionate, in other words justified. More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals – Sporting Lisbon’s rebellion in the Rojo case. By Antoine Duval and Oskar van Maren

In this blog we continue unpacking Doyen’s TPO deals based on the documents obtained via footballleaks. This time we focus on the battle between Doyen and Sporting over the Rojo case, which raises different legal issues as the FC Twente deals dealt with in our first blog.

 

I.              The context: The free-fall of Sporting

Sporting Lisbon, or Sporting Club de Portugal as the club is officially known, is a Portuguese club active in 44 different sports. Although the club has the legal status of Sociedade Anónima Desportiva, a specific form of public limited company, it also has over 130.000 club members, making it one of the biggest sports clubs in the world.

The professional football branch of Sporting is by far the most important and famous part of the club, and with its 19 league titles in total, it is a proud member of the big three cartel, with FC Porto and Benfica, dominating Portuguese football. Yet, it has not won a league title since 2002. More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: FC Twente's Game of Maltese Roulette. By Antoine Duval and Oskar van Maren

The first part of our “Unpacking Doyen’s TPO deals” blog series concerns the agreements signed between Doyen Sports and the Dutch football club FC Twente. In particular we focus on the so-called Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA) of 25 February 2014. Based on the ERPA we will be able to better assess how TPO works in practice. To do so, however, it is necessary to explore FC Twente’s rationale behind recourse to third-party funding. Thus, we will first provide a short introduction to the recent history of the club and its precarious financial situation. More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO deals - Introduction

The football world has been buzzing with Doyen’s name for a few years now. Yet, in practice very little is known about the way Doyen Sports (the Doyen entity involved in the football business) operates. The content of the contracts it signs with clubs was speculative, as they are subjected to strict confidentiality policies. Nonetheless, Doyen became a political (and public) scapegoat and is widely perceived as exemplifying the ‘TPOisation’ of football. This mythical status of Doyen is also entertained by the firm itself, which has multiplied the (until now failed) legal actions against FIFA’s TPO ban (on the ban see our blog symposium here) in a bid to attract attention and to publicly defend its business model. In short, it has become the mysterious flag bearer of TPO around the world. Thanks to a new anonymous group, inspired by the WikiLeaks model, we can now better assess how Doyen Sports truly functions. Since 5 November someone has been publishing different types of documents involving more or less directly the work of Doyen in football. These documents are all freely available at http://footballleaks.livejournal.com/. By doing so, the group has given us (legal scholars not involved directly in the trade) the opportunity to finally peruse the contractual structure of a TPO deal offered by Doyen and, as we purport to show in the coming weeks, to embark upon a journey into Doyen’s TPO-world. More...

Book Review: Questioning the (in)dependence of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

Book Review: Vaitiekunas A (2014) The Court of Arbitration for Sport : Law-Making and the Question of Independence, Stämpfli Verlag, Berne, CHF 89,00

The book under review is the published version of a PhD thesis defended in 2013 by Andrew Vaitiekunas at Melbourne Law School. A PhD is often taking stock of legal developments rather than anticipating or triggering them. This was definitely not the case of this book. Its core subject of interest is the study of the independence of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – an issue that has risen to prominence with the recent Pechstein ruling of January 2015 of the Oberlandesgericht München. It is difficult to be timelier indeed. More...



The Court of Arbitration for Sport after Pechstein: Reform or Revolution?

The Pechstein ruling of the Oberlandesgericht (OLG) München rocked the sports arbitration world earlier this year (see our initial commentary of the decision here and a longer version here). The decision has been appealed to the German Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), the highest German civil court, and the final word on the matter is not expected before 2016. In any event, the case has the merit of putting a long-overdue reform of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) back on the agenda. The last notable reform of the structure and functioning of the CAS dates back to 1994, and was already triggered by a court ruling, namely the famous Gundel case of the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT). Since then, the role of the CAS has shifted and its practical significance has radically changed (the growth of CAS’s caseload has been exponential). It has become the most visible arbitration court in Switzerland in terms of the number of awards appealed to the SFT, but more importantly it deals with all the high-profile disputes that arise in global sport: think, for instance, of Pistorius, the recent Dutee Chand decision or the upcoming FIFA elections.More...

Sports governance 20 years after Bosman: Back to the future… or not? By Borja García

Editor's note:

Dr Borja García joined the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences at Loughbourough University in January 2009 as a Lecturer in Sport Management and Policy. He holds a PhD in Politics, International Relations and European Studies from Loughborough University (United Kingdom), where he completed his thesis titled ‘The European Union and the Governance of Football: A game of levels and agendas’.

 

In this leafy and relatively mild autumn, we are celebrating two important anniversaries. Recently, we just passed ‘Back to the Future day’, marking the arrival of Marty McFly to 2015. In a few weeks, we will be commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Bosman ruling. Difficult to decide which one of the two is more important. As we move well into the 21st century’s second decade, these two dates should mark a moment to consider innovation. They are perhaps occasions to take stock and reflect how much sport has evolved to reach this new future… or not. More...


The 2006 World Cup Tax Evasion Affair in Germany: A short guide. By Gesa Kuebek

Editor's note:

Gesa Kuebek holds an LLM and graduated from the University of Bologna, Gent and Hamburg as part of the Erasmus Mundus Master Programme in Law and Economics and now work as an intern for the Asser Instituut.


On Monday, 9 November, the German Football Association (DFB) announced in a Press Release the resignation of its head, Wolfgang Niersbach, over the 2006 World Cup Affair. In his statement, Niersbach argued that he had “no knowledge whatsoever” about any “payments flows” and is now being confronted with proceedings in which he was “never involved”. However, he is now forced to draw the “political consequences” from the situation. His resignation occurred against the backdrop of last week’s raid of the DFB’s Frankfurt headquarters and the private homes Niersbach, his predecessor Theo Zwanziger and long-standing DFB general secretary Horst R. Schmidt. The public prosecutor’s office investigates a particularly severe act of tax evasion linked to awarding the 2006 World Cup. The 2006 German “summer fairy-tale” came under pressure in mid-October 2015, after the German magazine “Der Spiegel” shocked Fußballdeutschland by claiming that it had seen concrete evidence proving that a €6.7 million loan, designated by the FIFA for a “cultural programme”, ended up on the account of Adidas CEO Robert-Louis Dreyfuß. The magazine further argued that the money was in fact a secret loan that was paid back to Dreyfuß. Allegedly, the loan was kept off the books intentionally in order to be used as bribes to win the 2006 World Cup bid. The public prosecutor now suspects the DFB of failing to register the payment in tax returns. German FA officials admit that the DFB made a “mistake” but deny all allegations of vote buying. However, the current investigations show that the issues at stakes remain far from clear, leaving many questions regarding the awarding of the 2006 World Cup unanswered.

The present blog post aims to shed a light on the matter by synthetizing what we do know about the 2006 World Cup Affair and by highlighting the legal grounds on which the German authorities investigate the tax evasion. More...




Asser International Sports Law Blog | FIFA's Human Rights Agenda: Is the Game Beautiful Again? – By Tomáš Grell

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 Human Rights Agenda: Is the Game Beautiful Again? – By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell holds an LL.M. in Public International Law from Leiden University. He contributes to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a research intern.

 

Concerns about adverse human rights impacts related to FIFA's activities have intensified ever since its late 2010 decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup to Russia and Qatar respectively. However, until recently, the world's governing body of football had done little to eliminate these concerns, thereby encouraging human rights advocates to exercise their critical eye on FIFA. 

In response to growing criticism, the Extraordinary FIFA Congress, held in February 2016, decided to include an explicit human rights commitment in the revised FIFA Statutes which came into force in April 2016. This commitment is encapsulated in Article 3 which reads as follows: ''FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognized human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights''. At around the same time, Professor John Ruggie, the author of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights ('UN Guiding Principles') presented in his report 25 specific recommendations for FIFA on how to further embed respect for human rights across its global operations. While praising the decision to make a human rights commitment part of the organization's constituent document, Ruggie concluded that ''FIFA does not have yet adequate systems in place enabling it to know and show that it respects human rights in practice''.[1]

With the 2018 World Cup in Russia less than a year away, the time is ripe to look at whether Ruggie's statement about FIFA's inability to respect human rights still holds true today. This blog outlines the most salient human rights risks related to FIFA's activities and offers a general overview of what the world's governing body of football did over the past twelve months to mitigate these risks. Information about FIFA's human rights activities is collected primarily from its Activity Update on Human Rights published alongside FIFA's Human Rights Policy in June 2017.

 

The most salient human rights risks

FIFA faces human rights risks through its events, commercial subsidiaries and business partners, member associations or other parties. This section identifies sources of human rights risks that are most often associated with FIFA's activities.

Bidding and selection

Allegations of corruption have cast a shadow over FIFA's decision to organize the 2018 and 2022 World Cup in Russia and Qatar respectively.[2] If these allegations were proven to be true, it would be conceivable that financial incentives provided by the successful candidates helped them not only to secure the right to stage the tournament, but also to evade certain requirements, including those related to human rights. As Ruggie puts it, ''lack of financial integrity […] is a foundational source of human rights risks''.[3]

Moreover, in the past, countries bidding to host FIFA's tournaments have not been required to present a strategy addressing human rights risks that may arise in connection with the tournament’s organization. This allowed Qatar to win the bidding contest for the 2022 World Cup without explaining how it plans to protect migrant workers from the adverse impacts of the kafala system. Another example is Papua New Guinea that was awarded the 2016 U-20 Women's World Cup despite the country's high rate of sexual violence against women.

Construction

FIFA delegates the organization of the World Cup to the Local Organizing Committee ('LOC'), a separate legal entity created by the government and the national football association of the Host Country. The LOC is responsible, inter alia, for the delivery of World Cup-related infrastructure. In order to meet their deadlines, contractors hired by the LOC may ignore safety standards or force their employees to work overtime. Other reported practices include, for instance, appalling living and working conditions, non-payment of salaries, withholding identity documents or restrictions on the freedom of association.

In March 2017, Norwegian football magazine Josimar uncovered a series of human rights abuses faced by North Korean men working at Zenit Arena in Saint Petersburg. As recently as 14 June 2017, Human Rights Watch documented the mistreatment of construction workers at five other World Cup stadium construction sites in Russia. As the situation in Qatar has not been much better,[4] the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation filed in December 2016 a lawsuit with the Commercial Court of the Canton of Zürich, asking the court to find FIFA responsible for alleged human rights violations of migrant workers. The court dismissed the lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds in January 2017 (for a detailed analysis, see our blogs here and here).

Discrimination

Article 4 of the FIFA Statutes prohibits ''discrimination of any kind against a country, private person, or group of people on account of race, skin colour, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, disability, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth, or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason''. In practice, FIFA must enforce this provision by taking further action to tackle issues such as anti-gay legislation in countries where its tournaments are staged, homophobic chants by fans or gender discrimination in the world of association football. 

Players' rights 

In January 2017, the international players' association FIFPro published a Global Employment Report on working conditions in men's professional football. Out of nearly 14,000 players interviewed, 41% reported having experienced delayed salary payments over the past two seasons. Players who lodge a formal complaint against their club put themselves at risk of being excluded from the squad or subjected to violence and harassment. FIFPro strongly condemned these practices and called upon FIFA to reform its Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players ('RSTP') to ''provide stronger protections of players against material breaches of contracts by clubs''.[5] Another issue that merits closer attention is human trafficking in football, especially as it often involves minors.[6]

Other 

In addition to the above, FIFA could better address human rights abuses that may occur (i) in the supply chains of its licensees; (ii) in the process of land acquisition for stadiums and event-related infrastructure; or (iii) in connection with event-related security measures.

 

Overview of the measures taken by FIFA

First and foremost, FIFA strengthened its internal capacity to deal with human rights risks. In 2016, FIFA established the Governance Committee which provides, via its Human Rights Working Group, strategic guidance to the FIFA Council on human rights-related matters. At the operational level, the overall responsibility for the implementation of FIFA's human rights commitment rests with the Secretary General who delegates the day-to-day management of human rights-related work to the Sustainability and Diversity Department. In September 2016, FIFA employed a Human Rights Manager to work within this department. Moreover, in March 2017, FIFA appointed an independent Human Rights Advisory Board with the view of accelerating its efforts to embed respect for human rights. Composed of experts from the United Nations, trade unions, civil society and business, the Advisory Board is scheduled to meet at least twice a year. It has already contributed to the development of FIFA's Human Rights Policy, a landmark document clarifying FIFA's approach to the implementation of its human rights commitment in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles.

The rest of this section looks at the most significant steps taken by FIFA in each of the areas outlined above.

Bidding and selection

The FIFA Council has recently agreed that, as of the 2026 World Cup, human rights requirements will feature in the bidding procedure. This is of paramount importance as it means that countries failing to present an effective human rights strategy should not be allowed to host the World Cup. In other words, the protection of human rights will constitute a material factor in the bid evaluation. Had such requirements existed at the time of the bidding procedure for the 2022 World Cup, Qatar would arguably never have been selected.

The bidding procedure for the 2026 World Cup, the first to feature 48 teams, is currently in an early stage, and therefore bidding requirements are not yet available. The Host Country of the 2026 World Cup will be announced in 2020 at the latest.

Construction

As part of the implementation of the Sustainability Strategy for the 2018 World Cup, FIFA and the Russia 2018 LOC have launched a Decent Work Monitoring System aimed at detecting non-compliance with labour standards at World Cup stadium construction sites. Under this system, two-day on-site inspections are conducted on a quarterly basis by the Klinsky Institute of Labour Protection and Working Conditions, at times accompanied by the Building and Wood Workers' International ('BWI') and the Russian Building Workers Union ('RBWU').[7] After each inspection, companies are provided with a report containing recommendations for further improvement of working conditions. This report is forwarded to FIFA and the Russia 2018 LOC, and, in cases where the health or safety of workers are seriously threatened, also to the competent Russian authorities. As of 14 June 2017, a total of 58 inspections have been carried out.[8]

In Qatar, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy ('Supreme Committee'), an entity tasked with the delivery of World Cup-related infrastructure,[9] has developed a comprehensive set of Workers' Welfare Standards ('WWS'). Inspired by international labour standards, the WWS are mandatory for all contractors working on World Cup-related construction projects. To see whether contractors are adhering to these standards, the Supreme Committee has designed a four-tier monitoring system which comprises due diligence conducted by the Supreme Committee, the British company Impactt Ltd.,[10] the Qatari Ministry of Labour and contractors themselves. As of February 2017, the implementation of the WWS is further monitored via on-site inspections carried out jointly by the Supreme Committee and the BWI.[11]

Discrimination 

Establishment of the Anti-Discrimination Monitoring System in May 2015 is regarded as the most significant step taken by FIFA to combat discrimination in the world of football. This system uses independent observers who are present at matches identified as involving heightened risks of discriminatory incidents. Based on the reports provided by these observers, FIFA may open disciplinary proceedings and eventually impose sanctions on member associations. For instance, several Latin American associations have been sanctioned for homophobic chants by spectators during the 2018 World Cup qualifying matches.

Internally, FIFA promotes gender equality by requiring each of the six confederations to reserve at least one seat in the FIFA Council for women.[12]

Players' rights

As far as the protection of players' rights is concerned, FIFA informs that it has introduced certain measures intended to preserve confidentiality of the data available in the Transfer Matching System.[13] Furthermore, on 1 March 2015, FIFA modified the RTSP so as to put in place 'fast-track' proceedings for disputes concerning overdue payable claims (for a detailed analysis, see our blogs here and here).[14]

Other

In addition to contractors working on World Cup-related construction projects, other companies having business relationships with FIFA are now required to strengthen their human rights compliance. These include the suppliers of FIFA-licensed balls, artificial turf and technology used in games. Before a license agreement is entered into between FIFA and the supplier, FIFA must satisfy itself that both the supplier and its manufacturer are in compliance with the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry ('WFSGI') Code of Conduct, whose purpose is ''to guide WFSGI members in the standards and practices expected in the workplaces that they operate or contract from''.[15] Should FIFA-licensees cease to comply with the standards laid down in the WFSGI Code of Conduct, FIFA may decide to withdraw its license.

 

Concluding Remarks

The aforementioned report on human rights violations of World Cup-related construction workers in Russia, published by Human Rights Watch in June 2017, came as a major setback to the otherwise encouraging measures taken by FIFA in respect of human rights compliance. This and similar reports demonstrate that FIFA's human rights activities have not yet produced their desired effect. To increase the efficiency of its human rights activities in the future, FIFA should probably engage in a tougher discussion with the competent authorities of the Host Country. This is important because event-related human rights abuses often flow from inadequate domestic legislation and administrative practices of the Host Country.[16] Examples from the past show that FIFA is able to exert pressure on the future Host Country to modify its domestic legislation when it is in the interest of FIFA's sponsors.[17] At the risk of stating the obvious, it is hard to understand why FIFA's sponsors should be prioritized over thousands of people facing human rights abuses in connection with the organization of the World Cup. Thus, a lot will depend on FIFA's amendment of the bidding requirements for the 2026 World Cup. Though it may sound optimistic and far-fetched, if FIFA were to award the World Cup taking into account human rights compliance of the potential Host Countries, it could become a strong force in spreading the human rights gospel across the globe.


[1]    John G. Ruggie, 'For the Game. For the World. FIFA and Human Rights' (April 2016) p. 19.

[2]    Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake, 'Plot to Buy the World Cup' (The Sunday Times, 1 June 2014). See also David Conn, 'France Investigates Votes for 2018 and 2022 World Cups and Questions Blatter' (The Guardian, 27 April 2017).

[3]    See Ruggie's report (n 1) p. 21.

[4]    Amnesty International, 'The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game: Exploitation of Migrant Workers on a Qatar 2022 World Cup Site' (30 March 2016).

[5]    FIFPro, '2016 FIFPro Global Employment Report: Working Conditions in Professional Football' (January 2017) p. 30.

[6]    See Ruggie's report (n 1) p. 25.

[7]    In August 2016, the BWI and the RBWU signed a memorandum of understanding with FIFA and the 2018 World Cup LOC.

[8]    FIFA, 'Statement on Human Rights Watch Report on Russia' (14 June 2017).

[9]    The Supreme Committee works closely with the Qatar 2022 LOC.

[10]   In April 2017, Impactt Ltd. published its first report.

[11]   The Supreme Committee and the BWI signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2016.

[12]   FIFA Statutes, Article 33(5). See also FIFA, '2016 Reform Committee Report' (2 December 2015) p. 9.

[13]   RSTP, Definitions.

[14]   RSTP, Article 12bis.

[15]   WFSGI Code of Conduct, Introduction.

[16]   It should be noted that, in December 2016, the Qatari government introduced certain reforms to its labour laws. However, Amnesty International asserted that these reforms ''barely scratch the surface of labour exploitation''.

[17]   One such example is the well-known 'Budweiser Law' – a law enacted by Brazil in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup allowing beer sales at match venues despite the fact that the sale of alcohol had been prohibited in Brazil's stadiums for almost ten years.

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