Asser International Sports Law Blog

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The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2016

Editor’s note: Our first innovation for the year 2016 will be a monthly report compiling 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 world of professional sport has been making headlines for the wrong reasons in January. Football’s governing body FIFA is in such a complete governance and corruption mess that one wonders whether a new President (chosen on 26 February[1]) will solve anything. More recently, however, it is the turn of the athletics governing body, IAAF, to undergo “the walk of shame”. On 14 January the WADA Independent Commission released its second report into doping in international athletics. Where the first report (released on 9 November 2015) primarily focussed on the widespread use of doping by Russian athletes, the second report demonstrated a much wider scope of corruption and manipulation, including illegal sponsorship deals, marketing agreements and bidding processes. Guardian sport correspondents Owen Gibson and Sean Ingle have written excellent pieces here and here

Incidentally, on that same 14 January, FIFA announced that it sanctioned Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid for breaching the FIFA Regulation on the international transfer of minors. Both clubs will not be allowed to register any new players for the next two transfer windows, i.e. summer 2016 and January 2017. The sanction is identical to the one FC Barcelona received by FIFA for its failure to comply with the FIFA Regulation on the international transfer of minors. Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid have appealed the sanction to the FIFA Appeal Committee. On 30 January, the appeals were granted suspensive effect by the chairman of the FIFA Appeal Committee until the Appeal Committee has taken and notified its decision on the merits of the appeals.

One can indeed say that January was not the best month for Spanish giants Real Madrid. In addition to the FIFA sanction, the club became a new victim of football’s own version of WikiLeaks namely “footballleaks”. The publication of the transfer agreement between Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur concerning Gareth Bale brought to light the actual transfer sum of the Welsh player. Real Madrid had always claimed that it paid a “mere” €91 million. Yet the leaked agreement shows that the club actually paid €101 million, thereby making Bale the most expensive player of all time. Further claims that this transfer agreement was financed by banking institutions previously bailed out by the EU can be read in Sam Wallace’s piece (The Telegraph) here. The leaked documents by “footballleaks” led to widespread outrage. Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, stated that “(t)here should be an independent investigation because it’s outrageous. I think it is disgraceful that people can get hold of this stuff. It shows complete disregard for both clubs and the player”. FIFA, on the other hand, is backing “footballleaks”, stating that the leaks are useful and admitting that it now uses the site as an information source. Furthermore, it forms an important source of information necessary to understand the functioning of Third Party Ownership and whether FIFA’s ban of the practice can be justified. The Asser International Sports Law Blog has already covered the leaked Economic Rights of Players Agreements (ERPA’s) concerning FC Twente and Sporting Lisbon, but more analysis will follow. 

Meanwhile, on 23 January the European Parliament organised a debate on TPO and FIFA’s ban. The debate included some rather emotional calls by Doyen’s CEO Nélio Lucas and La Liga’s President Javier Tebas in defence of TPO. They empathically argued that a prohibition was in breach of EU competition Law. UEFA’s Julien Zylberstein, FIFA’s Omar Ongaro and FIFPro’s Jonas Baer-Hoffmann all defended the banning of the practice. The European Commission, who was not present at the debate, and is yet to decide whether it will launch a formal investigation

Last but not least, tennis fans around the world were shocked by reports of widespread betting related match-fixing. To the surprise of some, however, all of the players allegedly involved in match-fixing were allowed to continue playing by the Tennis Integrity Unit. On 24 January tennis officials announced that an Independent Review Panel will investigate the sport, its anticorruption programme and even the Tennis Integrity unit itself. In order to get a better understanding of the reasons behind players getting involved in match-fixing, we would recommend the piece by Jon Wertheim published in Sports Illustrated on 20 January. Tennis’ vulnerability to match fixing, as he lays out pretty well, lies in the inequalities between the earnings of the top players and the players further down the ranking. 

Case law

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) published its long awaited decision concerning the alleged doping violation of the thirty-four current and former players of Essendon Football Club. Even though the CAS had already announced its decision in May 2015 (as is extensively discussed on our Blog), it is definitely worthwhile reading the award to grasp the reasoning behind the decision.

On a different note, the High Court of Justice Queen's Bench Division Manchester District Registry Mercantile Court published a very interesting judgment in the field of international sports arbitration on 19 January.[2] The case concerned a CAS award from August 2014 by which the Italian football club Palermo was ordered based on a penalty clause included in the contract to pay €9.4 million to the English firm Pencil Hill Limited. Thus, the legal question posed to the English Court was whether enforcing this CAS award based on a penalty clause would be contrary to public policy. In a nutshell, the judge held that “the public policy of upholding international arbitral awards…outweighs the public policy of refusing to enforce penalty clauses”.


Official Documents and Press Releases of the SGBs

In the news



 Footballleaks and TPO

FIFA Presidential Elections


Case law (CAS, others)

Academic materials

Upcoming events February-March

[1] For more information see Sam Borden, “In Race for FIFA President, Two Front-Runners and Many Possibilities”, New York Times 26 January 2015.

[2] Pencil Hill Limited v US Citta Di Palermo S.p.A, 2016 WL 212897. The judgment can be accessed via

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