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

The “Victory” of the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the European Court of Human Rights: The End of the Beginning for the CAS

My favourite speed skater (Full disclosure: I have a thing for speed skaters bothering the ISU), Claudia Pechstein, is back in the news! And not from the place I expected. While all my attention was absorbed by the Bundesverfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe (BVerfG or German Constitutional Court), I should have looked to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECtHR). The Pechstein and Mutu joint cases were pending for a long time (since 2010) and I did not anticipate that the ECtHR would render its decision before the BVerfG. The decision released last week (only available in French at this stage) looked at first like a renewed vindication of the CAS (similar to the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH) ruling in the Pechstein case), and is being presented like that by the CAS, but after careful reading of the judgment I believe this is rather a pyrrhic victory for the status quo at the CAS. As I will show, this ruling puts to rest an important debate surrounding CAS arbitration since 20 years: CAS arbitration is (at least in its much-used appeal format in disciplinary cases) forced arbitration. Furthermore, stemming from this important acknowledgment is the recognition that CAS proceedings must comply with Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), in particular hearings must in principle be held in public and decisions freely available to all. Finally, I will criticise the Court’s finding that CAS complies with the requirements of independence and impartiality imposed by Article 6 § 1 ECHR. I will not rehash the  well-known facts of both cases, in order to focus on the core findings of the decision. More...

ISLJ International Sports Law Conference 2018 - Asser Institute - 25-26 October - Register Now!

Dear all,

Last year we decided to launch the 'ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference' in order to give a public platform to the academic discussions on international sports law featured in the ISLJ. The first edition of the conference was a great success (don't take my word for it, just check out #ISLJConf17 on twitter), featuring outstanding speakers and lively discussions with the room. We were very happy to see people from some many different parts of the world congregating at the Institute to discuss the burning issues of their field of practice and research.

This year, on 25 and 26 October, we are hosting the second edition and we are again welcoming well-known academics and practitioners in the field. The discussions will turn around the notion of lex sportiva, the role of Swiss law in international sports law, the latest ISU decision of the European Commission, the Mutu/Pechstein ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, or the reform proposal of the FIFA Regulations on the Transfer and Status of Players. It should be, it will be, an exciting two days!

You will find below the final programme of the conference, please feel free to circulate it within your networks. We have still some seats left, so don't hesitate to register (here) and to join us.

Looking forward to seeing you and meeting you there!


Football Intermediaries: Would a European centralized licensing system be a sustainable solution? - By Panagiotis Roumeliotis

Editor's note: Panagiotis Roumeliotis holds an LL.B. degree from National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece and an LL.M. degree in European and International Tax Law from University of Luxembourg. He is qualified lawyer in Greece and is presently working as tax advisor with KPMG Luxembourg while pursuing, concomitantly, an LL.M. in International Sports Law at Sheffield Hallam University, England. His interest lies in the realm of tax and sports law. He may be contacted by e-mail at ‘’.


The landmark Bosman Ruling triggered the Europeanization of the labour market for football players by banning nationality quotas. In turn, in conjunction with the boom in TV revenues, this led to a flourishing transfer market in which players’ agents or intermediaries play a pivotal role, despite having a controversial reputation.

As a preliminary remark, it is important to touch upon the fiduciary duty of sports agents towards their clients. The principal-agent relationship implies that the former employs the agent so as to secure the best employment and/or commercial opportunities. Conversely, the latter is expected to act in the interest of the player as their relationship should be predicated on trust and confidence, as much was made clear in the English Court of Appeal case of Imageview Management Ltd v. Kelvin Jack. Notably, agents are bound to exercise the utmost degree of good faith, honesty and loyalty towards the players.[1]

At the core of this blog lies a comparative case study of the implementation of the FIFA Regulations on working with intermediaries (hereinafter “FIFA RWI”) in eight European FAs covering most of the transfers during the mercato. I will then critically analyze the issues raised by the implementation of the RWI and, as a conclusion, offer some recommendations. More...

Seraing vs. FIFA: Why the rumours of CAS’s death have been greatly exaggerated

Rumours are swirling around the decision (available in French here) of the Court of Appeal of Brussels in the case opposing RFC Seraing United to FIFA (as well as UEFA and the Belgian Football Federation, URSBFA) over the latter’s ban on third-party ownership. The headlines in various media are quite dramatic (see here and here), references are made to a new Bosman, or to a shaken sport’s legal system. Yet, after swiftly reading the decision for the first time on 29th August, I did not have, unlike with the Pechstein ruling of the Oberlandesgericht München, the immediate impression that this would be a major game-changer for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the role of arbitration in sports in general. After careful re-reading, I understand how certain parts of the ruling can be misunderstood or over-interpreted. I believe that much of the press coverage failed to accurately reflect the reasoning of the court and to capture the real impact of the decision. In order to explain why, I decided to write a short Q&A (including the (not water-proof) English translations of some of the key paragraphs of the decision).


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 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...

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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