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

Final Report on the FIFA Governance Reform Project: The Past and Future of FIFA’s Good Governance Gap

Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup left many people thunderstruck: How can a country with a population of 2 million people and with absolutely no football tradition host the biggest football event in the world? Furthermore, how on earth can players and fans alike survive when the temperature is expected to exceed 50 °C during the month (June) the tournament is supposed to take place?

Other people were less surprised when FIFA’s President, Sepp Blatter, pulled the piece of paper with the word “Qatar” out of the envelope on 2 December 2010. This was just the latest move by a sporting body that was reinforcing a reputation of being over-conservative, corrupt, prone to conflict-of-interest and convinced of being above any Law, be it national or international.More...

Doping Paradize – How Jamaica became the Wild West of Doping

Since the landing on the sporting earth of the Übermensch, aka Usain Bolt, Jamaica has been at the centre of doping-related suspicions. Recently, it has been fueling those suspicions with its home-made scandal around the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). The former executive of JADCO, Renee Anne Shirley, heavily criticized its functioning in August 2013, and Jamaica has been since then in the eye of the doping cyclone. More...

Cocaine, Doping and the Court of Arbitration for sport - “I don’t like the drugs, but the drugs like me”. By Antoine Duval

Beginning of April 2014, the Colombian Olympic Swimmer Omar Pinzón was cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) of an adverse finding of Cocaine detected in a urine sample in 2013. He got lucky. Indeed, in his case the incredible mismanagement and dilettante habits of Bogotá’s anti-doping laboratory saved him from a dire fate: the two-year ban many other athletes have had the bad luck to experience. More...

The French “betting right”: a legislative Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. By Ben Van Rompuy

The European Commission has published the “Study on Sports Organisers’ Rights in the EU”, which was carried out by the ASSER International Sports Law Centre (T.M.C. Asser Institute) and the Institute for Information Law (University of Amsterdam). 

The study critically examines the legal protection of rights to sports events (sports organisers’ rights) and various issues regarding their commercial exploitation in the field of media and sports betting, both from a national and EU law perspective.  

In a number of posts, we will highlight some of the key findings of the study. 

“It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty.” 

In recent years, numerous national and European sports organisers have called for the adoption of a specific right to consent to the organisation of bets (“right to consent to bets”), by virtue of which no betting operator could offer bets on a sports event without first entering into a contractual agreement with the organiser. More...

Five Years UEFA Club Licensing Benchmarking Report – A Report on the Reports. By Frédérique Faut, Giandonato Marino and Oskar van Maren

Last week, UEFA, presented its annual Club Licensing Benchmark Report, which analyses socio-economic trends in European club football. The report is relevant in regard to the FFP rules, as it has been hailed by UEFA as a vindication of the early (positive) impact of FFP. This blog post is a report on the report. We go back in time, analysing the last 5 UEFA Benchmarking Reports, to provide a dynamic account of the reports findings. Indeed, the 2012 Benchmarking Report, can be better grasped in this context and longer-lasting trends be identified.More...

The EU State aid and Sport Saga – Setting the scene

The last years has seen the European Commission being put under increasing pressure to enforce EU State aid law in sport. For example, numerous Parliamentary questions have been asked by Members of the European Parliament[1] regarding alleged State aid to sporting clubs.  In reply to this pressure, on 21 March 2012, the European Commission, together with UEFA, issued a statement. More...

FFP for Dummies. All you need to know about UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations.

Football-wise, 2014 will not only be remembered for the World Cup in Brazil. This year will also determine the credibility of UEFA’s highly controversial Financial Fair Play (FFP) Regulations. The FFP debate will soon be reaching a climax, since up to 76 European football clubs are facing sanctions by the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB). More...

Prof. Weatherill's lecture on : Three Strategies for defending 'Sporting Autonomy'

On 10 April, the ASSER Sports Law Centre had the honour of welcoming Prof. Weatherill (Oxford University) for a thought-provoking lecture.

In his lecture, Prof. Weatherill outlined to what extent the rules of Sports Governing Bodies enjoy legal autonomy (the so-called lex sportiva) and to what extent this autonomy could be limited by other fields of law such as EU Law. The 45 minutes long lecture lays out three main strategies used in different contexts (National, European or International) by the lex sportiva to secure its autonomy. The first strategy, "The contractual solution", relies on arbitration to escape the purview of national and European law. The second strategy, is to have recourse to "The legislative solution", i.e. to use the medium of national legislations to impose lex sportiva's autonomy. The third and last strategy - "The interpretative or adjudicative solution"- relies on the use of interpretation in front of courts to secure an autonomous realm to the lex sportiva



Tapping TV Money: Players' Union Scores A Goal In Brazil. By Giandonato Marino

On March 27, 2014, a Brazilian court ruling authorized the Football Players’ Union in the State of Sao Paulo[1] to tap funds generated by TV rights agreements destined to a Brazilian Club, Comercial Futebol Clube (hereinafter “Comercial”). The Court came to this decision after Comercial did not comply with its obligation  to pay players’ salaries. It is a peculiar decision when taking into account the global problem of clubs overspending and not complying with their financial obligations.  Furthermore, it could create a precedent for future cases regarding default by professional sporting clubs.


International transfers of minors: The sword of Damocles over FC Barcelona’s head? by Giandonato Marino and Oskar van Maren

In the same week that saw Europe’s best eight teams compete in the Champions League quarter finals, one of its competitors received such a severe disciplinary sanction by FIFA that it could see its status as one of the world’s top teams jeopardized. FC Barcelona, a club that owes its success both at a national and international level for a large part to its outstanding youth academy, La Masia, got to FIFA’s attention for breaching FIFA Regulations on international transfers of minors. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Human Rights as Selection Criteria in Bidding Regulations for Mega-Sporting Events – Part I: IOC and UEFA – 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

Human Rights as Selection Criteria in Bidding Regulations for Mega-Sporting Events – Part I: IOC and UEFA – 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.

It has been more than seven years since the FIFA Executive Committee awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. And yet only in November 2017 did the Qatari government finally agree to dismantle the controversial kafala system, described by many as modern-day slavery. Meanwhile, hundreds of World Cup-related migrant workers have reportedly been exposed to a wide range of abusive practices such as false promises about the pay, passport confiscation, or appalling working and living conditions.[1] On top of that, some workers have paid the highest price – their life. To a certain extent, all this could have been avoided if human rights had been taken into account when evaluating the Qatari bid to host the tournament. In such a case, Qatar would not have won the bidding contest without providing a convincing explanation of how it intends to ensure that the country's poor human rights record will not affect individuals, including migrant workers, contributing to the delivery of the World Cup. An explicit commitment to abolish the kafala system could have formed an integral part of the bid.

Urged by Professor John Ruggie and his authoritative recommendations,[2] in October 2017 FIFA decided to include human rights within the criteria for evaluating bids to host the 2026 World Cup, following similar steps taken earlier this year by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UEFA in the context of the Olympic Winter Games 2026 and the Euro 2024 respectively. This two-part blog critically examines the role human rights play in the new bidding regulations adopted by the IOC, UEFA, and FIFA. The first part sheds light on the IOC and UEFA. The second part then takes a closer look at FIFA and aims to use a comparative analysis to determine whether the new bidding regulations are robust enough to ensure that selected candidates abide by international human rights standards.


IOC: Olympic Winter Games 2026

About the host selection process

Compared to the past, cities bidding to host the 2026 Games could expect lower costs, simplified procedures, and more assistance provided by the IOC.[3] All interested cities[4] might enter a Dialogue Stage[5] and engage with the IOC to learn more about the benefits and responsibilities associated with the hosting and staging of the Games. Although the Dialogue Stage is non-committal, cities that join are supposed to present their consolidated Games concepts,[6] outlining their vision, long-term plan alignment, or initial financial strategy, as well as providing information with regard to a potential referendum.[7] These consolidated concepts, together with the IOC's own research, will serve as a basis for a preliminary report exploring the capacity of interested cities to deliver successful Games.[8] The IOC Executive Board will review this report and recommend to the IOC Session which cities should be invited to the Candidature Stage.[9] The IOC Session will designate Candidate Cities in October 2018 during its meeting in Buenos Aires.[10]

Candidate Cities will then have until 11 January 2019 to prepare and submit their Candidature Files together with an initial set of core guarantees.[11] In their Candidature Files, Candidate Cities shall provide answers to a variety of questions as set out in the Candidature Questionnaire, covering areas such as sustainability and legacy, transport, accommodation, safety and security, finance, or marketing. Thereafter, Candidate Cities will be visited by the IOC Evaluation Commission that is tasked with conducting an in-depth assessment of each bid and producing a report to help the IOC Session elect the most suitable candidate. The Host City of the 2026 Games will be elected in September 2019.[12]

Human rights as selection criteria

Little attention is paid to human rights in the Candidature Questionnaire. Candidate Cities are only required to provide a guarantee whereby the national government and relevant local authorities undertake to respect and protect human rights and ensure that any violation of human rights is remedied ''in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognised human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country''.[13] This language is somewhat ambiguous because when defining human rights that should be respected and protected in connection with the hosting and staging of the Games, the guarantee first refers to human rights applicable in the Host Country and only then to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles).[14] The latter make clear that the responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights extends to specific international treaties and other instruments.[15] However, some of these treaties could be inapplicable in the Host Country if not ratified. This would make the guarantee to some extent self-contradictory. Apart from the guarantee, the IOC does not ask for any other human rights-related information from Candidate Cities. In the absence of such information, it is difficult to see how the Evaluation Commission[16] will assess the Candidate Cities' capacity to respect and protect human rights.


UEFA: Euro 2024

About the host selection process

While the Euro 2020 will be a bit of an experiment with games scheduled to take place in 12 different cities across the continent, the Euro 2024 returns to its classic format as only one member association will host the tournament. In March 2017, UEFA confirmed that it would be either Germany or Turkey. The next step for both member associations is to submit their Bid Dossiers to UEFA by no later than 27 April 2018.[17] In principle, the bidders must demonstrate in their Bid Dossiers that they meet all Tournament Requirements. Importantly, UEFA reserves the right to appoint independent consultants when evaluating bids.[18] A written evaluation report on each bid will be circulated in September 2018 before the UEFA Executive Committee finally decides which member association will host the Euro 2024.[19]

Human rights as selection criteria

UEFA requires that the bidders and then the Host Association respect, protect, and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of workers and children, in line with international treaties and other instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, or the Convention on the Rights of the Child.[20] In order to meet this obligation, the bidders should in particular seek to culturally embed human rights, proactively address human rights risks, engage with relevant stakeholders, and implement means of reporting and accountability.[21] The bidders' capacity to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights will be evaluated based on their human rights strategy that must be included in their Bid Dossiers.[22] As part of this strategy, the member associations bidding to host the Euro 2024 should explain how they are going to integrate the UN Guiding Principles in their activities related to the organisation of the tournament.[23] While no further details are given about the required content of this strategy, UEFA suggests that a successful bid should not fail to: (i) outline proposed measures aimed at preventing human rights abuses, in particular child labour in supply chains and violations of workers' rights; (ii) provide evidence of meaningful consultation with vulnerable groups; or (iii) describe grievance mechanisms that will be available for victims of human rights abuses.[24]



Unlike UEFA, the IOC has attracted widespread criticism for being involved with negative human rights impacts.[25] Nevertheless, it is the former who gives more weight to human rights in its new bidding regulations. This is even more surprising given that the IOC introduced its bidding regulations later than UEFA. It seems that the IOC deliberately avoids including human rights within the criteria for evaluating bids to host the Olympic Games, hoping that this would encourage more cities to participate in the host selection process. Further reflections on human rights as selection criteria in bidding regulations for mega-sporting events will be presented in the second part of this blog that will focus on FIFA and provide some comparative perspectives.

[1]    Amnesty International, The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game: Exploitation of Migrant Workers on a Qatar 2022 World Cup Site, 30 March 2016. See also Human Rights Watch, Qatar: Take Urgent Action to Protect Construction Workers, 27 September 2017.

[2]    John G. Ruggie, For the Game. For the World. FIFA and Human Rights, p. 32.

[3]    IOC, IOC Approves New Candidature Process for Olympic Winter Games 2026, 11 July 2017.

[4]    To the best of my knowledge, Calgary (Canada), Salt Lake City (United States), Sapporo (Japan), Sion (Switzerland), and Telemark (Norway) consider bidding.

[5]    The Dialogue Stage runs from September 2017 to October 2018. Interested cities can join until 31 March 2018. See IOC, Candidature Process for the Olympic Winter Games 2026, pp. 11-17.

[6]    Ibid.

[7]    On 15 October 2017, a referendum was held in the Austrian province of Tirol. A negative outcome prevented the city of Innsbruck from launching a bid to host the 2026 Games.

[8]    This report is to be drawn up by the Olympic Winter Games 2026 Working Group overseen by an IOC member and consisting of individuals representing the International Paralympic Committee, the IOC's Athletes Commission, International Winter Sports Federations, and National Olympic Committees. See Candidature Process for the Olympic Winter Games 2026, p. 16.

[9]    Ibid.

[10]   The capital of Argentina will host the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

[11]   IOC, Candidature Process for the Olympic Winter Games 2026, p. 18.

[12]   Ibid. p. 22.

[13]   IOC, Candidature Questionnaire for the Olympic Winter Games 2026, pp. 86, 88.

[14]   Ibid.

[15]   These include, at a minimum, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the principles concerning fundamental rights in the eight ILO core conventions as set out in the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. See UN Guiding Principles, Principle 12.

[16]   The Evaluation Commission may be assisted by experts. See IOC, Olympic Charter, Bye-Law to Rule 33.

[17]   UEFA, Bid Regulations for the UEFA Euro 2024, Article 5.05.

[18]   Ibid. Article 14.

[19]   Ibid. Articles 6.02 and 6.04.

[20]   UEFA, Tournament Requirements for the UEFA Euro 2024, Sector 03 – Political, Social and Environmental Aspects, p. 5.

[21]   Ibid. pp. 5-6.

[22]   UEFA, Bid Dossier Template for the UEFA Euro 2024, Sector 03 – Political, Social and Environmental Aspects, p. 5.

[23]   Ibid.

[24]   UEFA, Tournament Requirements for the UEFA Euro 2024, Sector 03 – Political, Social and Environmental Aspects, p. 6.

[25]   Jonathan Watts, Rio Olympics linked to widespread human rights violations, report reveals, 8 December 2015. See also Human Rights Watch, Race to the Bottom: Exploitation of Migrant Workers Ahead of Russia's 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, 6 February 2013. See also Human Rights Watch, 'One Year of My Blood': Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in Beijing, 11 March 2008. 

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