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

Can (national or EU) public policy stop CAS awards? By Marco van der Harst (LL.M, PhD Candidate and researcher at the AISLC)

Introduction[1]

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) registers approximately 300 cases every year. Recently, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court – which is the sole judicial authority to review arbitral awards rendered in Switzerland – reminded in the Matuzalém Case (Case 4A_558/2011) that CAS awards may be enforced in other States that are parties to the New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards.More...

Chess and Doping: Two ships passing in the Night? By Salomeja Zaksaite, Postdoctoral researcher at Mykolas Romeris University (Lithuania), and Woman International Chess Master (WIM)

It may come as a surprise to laymen, but chess players are subjected to doping testing. Naturally, then, the questions follow as to why they are tested, and if they are really tested (at least, with a level of scrutiny comparable to that which physically-oriented athletes are regularly subjected). More...

The International Sports Law Digest – Issue I – January-June 2014 (by Frédérique Faut)

The International Sports Law Digest will be a bi-annual post gathering recent material on International and European Sports Law. This is an attempt at providing a useful overview of the new, relevant, academic contributions, cases, awards and disciplinary decisions in the field of European and International Sports Law. If you feel we have overlooked something please do let us know (we will update the post).

Antoine Duval More...


A Short Guide to the New FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries

This year’s FIFA congress in Sao Paulo should not be remembered only for the controversy surrounding the bid for the World Cup 2022 in Qatar. The controversy was surely at the centre of the media coverage, but in its shadow more long-lasting decisions were taken. For example, the new Regulations on Working with Intermediaries was approved, which is probably the most important recent change to FIFA regulations. These new Regulations will supersede the Regulations on Players’ Agents when they come into force on 1 April 2015. In this blog post we compare the old and the new Regulations followed by a short analysis and prospective view on the effects this change could have. More...

Cannibal's Advocate – In defence of Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez did it again. The serial biter that he is couldn’t refrain its impulse to taste a bit of Chiellini’s shoulder (not really the freshest meat around though). Notwithstanding his amazing theatrical skills and escaping the sight of the referee, Suarez could not in the information age get away with this unnoticed. Seconds after the incident, the almighty “social networks” were already bruising with evidence, outrage and commentaries over Suarez’s misdeed. Since then, many lawyers have weighed in (here, here and here) on the potential legal consequences faced by Suarez. Yesterday FIFA’s disciplinary committee decided to sanction him with a 4 months ban from any football activity and a 9 International games ban. In turn, Suarez announced that he would challenge the decision[1], and plans on going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if necessary[2]. Let’s be the advocates of the cannibal!More...

Blurred Nationalities: The list of the “23” and the eligibility rules at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A guest Post by Yann Hafner (Université de Neuchâtel)

In 2009, Sepp Blatter expressed his concerns that half of the players participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup would be Brazilians naturalized by other countries. The Official list of Players released a few weeks ago tends to prove him wrong[1]. However, some players have changed their eligibility in the past and will even be playing against their own country of origin[2]. This post aims at explaining the key legal aspects in changes of national affiliation and to discuss the regulations pertaining to the constitution of national sides in general[3]. More...

The FIFA Business – Part 2 - Where is the money going? By Antoine Duval and Giandonato Marino

Our first report on the FIFA business dealt with FIFA’s revenues and highlighted their impressive rise and progressive diversification. In parallel to this growth of FIFA’s income, it is quite natural that its expenses have been following a similar path (see Graph 1). However, as we will see FIFA makes it sometimes very difficult to identify precisely where the money is going. Nonetheless, this is precisely what we wish to tackle in this post, and to do so we will rely on the FIFA Financial reports over the last 10 years.


 

Graph 1: FIFA Expenses in USD million (adjusted for inflation), 2003-2013.

More...


The EU State aid and Sport Saga - A legal guide to the bailout of Valencia CF

After a decade of financial misery, it appears that Valencia CF’s problems are finally over. The foreign takeover by Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim will be concluded in the upcoming weeks, and the construction on the new stadium will resume after five years on hold due to a lack of money. On 3 June Bankia, the Spanish bank that “saved” Valencia CF in 2009 by providing a loan of €81 million, gave the green light for the takeover. However, appearances can be deceiving.More...

Gambling advertising regulations: pitfalls for sports sponsorship - By Ben van Rompuy

In April 2014, the Swedish Gambling Authority (Lotteriinspektionen) warned the organisers of the Stockholm Marathon that it would impose a fine of SEK 2 million (ca. € 221.000) for its sponsorship agreement with online betting operator Unibet. The Authority found that the sponsorship agreement violates §38 of the Swedish Lotteries Act, which prohibits the promotion of gambling services that are not authorized in Sweden.[1] The organisers, however, refused to withdraw Unibet as its sponsor and prominently displayed the Unibet logo at the event, which took place on 31 May 2014. As a result, the organisers of the Stockholm Marathon now face legal action before the Swedish administrative courts. More...

The FIFA Business – Part 1 – Where Does The Money Come From? - By Antoine Duval and Giandonato Marino

On next Thursday the 2014 World Cup will kick off in Sao Paulo. But next week will also see the FIFA members meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday at a much awaited FIFA congress. For this special occasion we decided to review FIFA’s financial reports over the last ten years. This post is the first of two, analysing the reports and highlighting the main economic trends at play at FIFA. First, we will study the revenue streams and their evolution along the 2003-2013 time span. In order to ensure an accurate comparison, we have adjusted the revenues to inflation, in order to provide a level playing field easing the comparative analysis over the years and types of revenues. Our first two graphs gather the main revenue streams into two comparative overviews. Graph 1 brings together the different types of revenues in absolute numbers, while Graph 2 lays down the share of each type of revenues for any given year (the others category covers a bundle of minor revenue streams not directly relevant to our analysis).

 

 


Graph 1: FIFA revenues in Millions of Dollars, 2003-2013 (adjusted for inflation). More...


Asser International Sports Law Blog | Interview with Wil van Megen (Legal Director of FIFPro) on FIFPro’s EU Competition Law complaint against the FIFA Transfer System

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

Interview with Wil van Megen (Legal Director of FIFPro) on FIFPro’s EU Competition Law complaint against the FIFA Transfer System

Editor’s note
Wil is working as a lawyer since 1980. He started his legal career at Rechtshulp Rotterdam. Later on he worked for the Dutch national trade union FNV and law firm Varrolaan Advocaten. Currently he is participating in the Labour Law Section of lawfirm MHZ-advocaten in Schiedam in the Netherlands. He is also a member of a joint committee advising the government in labour issues.

Since 1991 he is dealing with the labour issues of the trade union for professional football players VVCS and cyclists’ union VVBW. Since 2002, he works for FIFPro, the worldwide union for professional football players based in Hoofddorp in the Netherlands. He is involved in many international football cases and provides legal support for FIFPro members all over the world. Wil was also involved in the FIFPro Black Book campaign on match fixing and corruption in Eastern Europe.


On the 2001 agreement between FIFA, UEFA and the European Commission:

What was FIFPro’s role in the negotiations leading to the 2001 agreement with the EU Commission on which the current FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfers of Players (RSTP) are based?

First the negotiations started between the Commission and FIFA/UEFA. Later on FIFPro joined as the Commission found it necessary to involve the players. From then on FIFPro was at the table and able to have influence. It proved not to be the level of influence we hoped to have.

To what extent was FIFPro (dis)satisfied with the agreement at that time?

The outcome of the negotiations was a compromise but to a certain extent acceptable for FIFPro as it was to improve in principle the situation of players. At that time, it seemed that free movement was accessible for them. Yet, the fact that the Commission did not subsequently evaluate the system - as agreed in 2001 - was disappointing.

 

On the current complaint: 

Why is FIFPro challenging the FIFA RSTP under EU Competition law? What has changed?

After a short while since 2001 we concluded that the way the informal agreement with the Commission was formulated in the RSTP was not consistent with what had been agreed. The clearest example is the repetition of the protected period after a contract was extended.

The parties agreed on a single protected period after a player signed his first contract with a club in order to preserve the stability of club squads and to allow them to amortize the investments made on acquiring these players. After this period the relation between a club and a player was intended to be a regular labour relation.

On several occasions the Commission confirmed that after the protected period the compensation to be paid in case of premature termination would be calculated based on the residual value of the contract. As the protected period re-starts in case of contract renewal, players never reach this situation. Players who refuse to sign a new contract are regularly side-lined by their clubs in order to force them to sign a prolongation. This is limiting the freedom of movement of players significantly and has substantial anti-competitive effects.

More precisely, are you challenging specific articles of the FIFA RSTP? If so, why do you deem those provisions in particular to have an anti-competitive effect or object?

When evaluating the RSTP internally, FIFPro identified twenty-three key issues on which the transfer system was failing the players. As we decided to lodge a complaint on an EU competition law basis, we picked out the strongest arguments for the purpose of substantiating our complaint. The repetition in the protected period is an example[1].

Could these alleged anti-competitive effects not be justified along the lines of the Wouters test[2] as being inherent to the achievement of legitimate objectives such as competitive balance or contractual stability?

It is important to notice that there is no transfer system in other sports and they seem to work fine. This means that a transfer system is not a necessity as such. The abuses we witness nowadays, especially non-payment of players is a direct consequence of the way the system works. We strongly believe that the restrictive effects are not inherent in the pursuit of any objectives. They certainly are not proportionate to them. FIFPro is convinced that the restrictive aspects of the system do not pass the Wouters test.

What is the rationale for going to the EU Commission and not, for example, to the national courts (or national competition authorities for that matter)?

First of all it was the Commission that initiated the process towards the new regulations in 2001. Now that we see the system failing it seems logical to approach the Commission first. As we are looking at a pan-European problem this forum would be more effective than national proceedings. But in case the complaint does not provide an appropriate result the way to national courts and national competition authorities is still open.

Did you envisage some non-confrontational strategies to change the FIFA RSTP through negotiations? What about using the European social dialogue committee for example?

The initial Social Dialogue meetings started eleven years ago. Although we concluded an autonomous agreement in 2012 we must conclude that the most serious problems for our players have not been solved through this mechanism nor have they been successfully tackled through our participation in the working groups and committees of FIFA and UEFA.

The problem of overdue payables is more serious than ever before. FIFPro feels that more pressure is needed to move things forward. The fact that we lodged the complaint does not mean that we stop negotiating. On the contrary, if our counterparts in the social dialogue are willing to solve the issues we put on the table we would prefer this over a long-lasting legal struggle.

Finally, don’t you think that this complaint could lead to a form of European imperialism? In other words, European institutions, clubs and players dictating the transfer system applied worldwide? Should (and could) FIFA (or UEFA) aim for a different European transfer system instead?

Although we are a global organization we cannot deny the fact that the center of gravity of professional football is in Europe. Moreover, after the Bosman ruling it was obvious that the new FIFA regulations had to be in full compliance with EU-law principles. As these rules apply worldwide this means that EU-principles must be respected around the world. As EU law provides generally more protection to workers than a lot of other legal systems in the world the players benefit from this extraterritorial application. FIFPro does not consider this as imperialism. In fact, we believe that a single system is preferable because of the global character of professional football.


[1] Editor’s note: For more examples see FIFPro’s Executive Summary of the complaint.

[2] Editor’s note: The Wouters test is used for the assessment of the alleged anti-competitive nature of a measure, agreement or concerted practice under Article 101(1) TFEU. According to this test, account must be taken of the overall context of the FIFA RSTP and how it produces its effects. More particularly, account must be taken of its potential legitimate objectives. One must then evaluate whether the restrictive effects on competition are inherent in the pursuit of those objectives and proportionate.

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