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

FFP the Day After : Five (more or less realistic) Scenarios

Yesterday, UEFA published the very much-expected settlements implementing its Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. Today, we address tomorrow’s challenges for FFP, we offer five, more or less realistic, scenarios sketching the (legal) future of the FFP regulations. More...

Dahmane v KRC Genk: Bosman 2.0 or Storm in a Teacup?

Mohamed Dahmane is a professional football player of French-Algerian origin, who has played for a variety of European clubs, including French club US Mauberge, Belgian club RAEC Mons and Turkish club Bucaspor. However, he will mostly be remembered as the player whose legal dispute with his former club (Belgian club KRC Genk) revived the debate on football players’ labour rights.  More...

Get Up, Stand Up at the Olympics. A review of the IOC's policy towards political statements by Athletes. By Frédérique Faut

The Olympic Games are a universal moment of celebration of sporting excellence. But, attention is also quickly drawn to their dark side, such as environmental issues, human rights breaches and poor living conditions of people living near the Olympic sites. In comparison, however, little commentary space is devoted to the views of athletes, the people making the Olympics. This article tries to remediate this, by focussing on Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter which prevents athletes from freely expressing their (political) thoughts.  More...

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...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | I’m A Loser Baby, So Let’s Kill Transparency – Recent Changes to the Olympic Games Host City Selection Process - By Ryan Gauthier (Thompson Rivers University)

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

I’m A Loser Baby, So Let’s Kill Transparency – Recent Changes to the Olympic Games Host City Selection Process - By Ryan Gauthier (Thompson Rivers University)

Editor's Note: Ryan Gauthier is Assistant Professor at Thompson Rivers University in Canada. Ryan’s research addresses the governance of sports organisations, with a particular focus on international sports organisations. His PhD research examined the accountability of the International Olympic Committee for human rights violations caused by the organisation of the Olympic Games.

Big June 2019 for Olympic Hosting

On June 24, 2019, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) selected Milano-Cortina to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. Milano-Cortina’s victory came despite a declaration that the bid was “dead” just months prior when the Italian government refused to support the bid. Things looked even more dire for the Italians when 2006 Winter Games host Turin balked at a three-city host proposal. But, when the bid was presented to the members of the IOC Session, it was selected over Stockholm-Åre by 47 votes to 34. 

Just two days later, the IOC killed the host selection process as we know it. The IOC did this by amending two sections of the Olympic Charter in two key ways. First, the IOC amended Rule 33.2, eliminating the requirement that the Games be selected by an election seven years prior to the Games. While an election by the IOC Session is still required, the seven-years-out requirement is gone.

Second, the IOC amended Rule 32.2 to allow for a broader scope of hosts to be selected for the Olympic Games. Prior to the amendment, only cities could host the Games, with the odd event being held in another location. Now, while cities are the hosts “in principle”, the IOC had made it so: “where deemed appropriate, the IOC may elect several cities, or other entities, such as regions, states or countries, as host of the Olympic Games.”

The change to rule 33.2 risks undoing the public host selection process. The prior process included bids (generally publicly available), evaluation committee reports, and other mechanisms to make the bidding process transparent. Now, it is entirely possible that the IOC may pre-select a host, and present just that host to the IOC for an up-or-down vote. This vote may be seven years out from the Games, ten years out, or two years out.


Why the Changes? 

To hear IOC President Thomas Bach put it, these changes were necessary to prevent “too many losers”. Bach voiced this concern in December 2016, and again in May 2019. The essence of Bach’s concern seems to be that a city will put time and effort into a bid, only for it to not be selected by the IOC.

However, the harm caused by losing a bid is unclear. Is the fear that a losing city’s bid will be a one-and-done affair? To be fair, most are. The cities that bid multiple times before winning, such as PyeongChang (2010, 2014, 2018), and Paris (2012, 2024), are rare. But it is difficult to see how the changes will affect this.

Losing an Olympic bid certainly does not make a city a “loser”. While feelings may be hurt in the short run, cities keep on running. Toronto has lost five bids to host the Olympics, with the most recent loss in 2001 for the 2008 Games. But no one seriously thinks of Toronto as a “loser” city – particularly after the Raptors’ NBA championship victory. Legacies can still be created from losing bids. Developing a bid allows the city to re-imagine itself, and market itself to the world. It might even be in a city’s best interest to bid for the Olympics, but not win, to get the benefits without having to invest the billions of dollars to host the Games.


The IOC may be changing the process to eliminate this “winner’s curse”. Currently, bidding cities try to out-promise each other, driving up complexity and costs. Under the new system, the IOC could work more closely with a potential city or region from the outset, organizing and delivering an Olympics that truly fits. The IOC has stated that it would work less like franchisors, and more like partners with future Games hosts, and has formalised this approach in their “New Norm” modifications to Olympic Games delivery.

Finally, the IOC may be hoping that this new approach will encourage cities that might see themselves as “long-shots” to come forward and host the Games. But the last “long-shot” selected as host of the Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro, was plagued with allegations of corruption, displacement of vulnerable people from the favelas, and poor legacy outcomes.


Back to Salt Lake City? 

This new process, with the IOC possibly presenting only one possible city to the IOC Session for an up-and-down vote has the possibility to undermine transparency in the host selection process. If the IOC is unwilling to announce possible candidates until a deal is already done, the promises made by a city or region may not even be known by its own public until the IOC Session votes on it.

Robert Livingstone, who runs the website, worries that these changes will lead to “a devolution back to the 1980s and 1990s when a translucent bid process eventually led to the Salt Lake City bribery scandal.” I share that same fear. With Salt Lake City looking to host the 2030 Games, history is rhyming a little to closely.

Even if the return to lavish visits, gift-giving, influence-buying, and outright corruption don’t come to pass, this is a reversal of the general direction since the IOC published Agenda 2020 in 2014. Agenda 2020 called for more transparency, such as publishing Host City Contracts. To their credit, the IOC has followed through on many of the Agenda 2020 reforms.

A reduction in transparency will likely lead to less public participation. And that may be the IOC’s goal. The IOC is sensitive to referendums. The general public is more critical of the Games than it was in the past. In recent years, hosting the Games has been subject to more referendums than ever, with almost all of those referendums saying ‘no’ to the Games.

IOC Member Dick Pound stated that he has “no hesitation in allowing a [future host] commission to have discussions that are out of the public eye that perhaps occur with sports authorities or interested groups even before the governments had been engaged in this, and can be done on a very confidential basis.” This type of process, without even government knowledge, effectively undercuts public consultation and participation in any bid process.

This new bid process has not happened, yet. It is possible that IOC’s approach will continue to be ever-more transparent, and to allow for public input into the bid process. Naturally, until the IOC shares more of its thoughts about the process, and until we see a host selection process in action, which may be years away (under the old process, the selection process for the 2030 Games would take place between 2021–2023), any commentary about the process is admittedly speculative.


Is the IOC Afraid of Losing?

The IOC is facing a crisis of legitimacy. This crisis is no more apparent than when no city seems to want to host the Olympic Games. Of course, there are many reasons that cities are wary of the Games. High costs, poor legacies, perceptions of corruption, and other problems regularly plague the Games.

The IOC’s Agenda 2020 reforms were positive steps forward in addressing some of these issues. Instead, the IOC has seemingly decided that it would rather take the process out of the public eye under the guide of the cities being afraid of being “losers”. But it seems that the IOC is the one afraid of “losing”. Afraid of hearing that “Nobody Wants to Host the Olympics Anymore”. Afraid of the Games coming out on the losing end of referendums. Afraid of having to choose between a bad and worse option to host the Games. The only loser here might be the Olympic Games.

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