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 CAS Ad Hoc Division in 2014: Business as usual? – Part.1: The Jurisdiction quandary

The year is coming to an end and it has been a relatively busy one for the CAS Ad Hoc divisions. Indeed, the Ad Hoc division was, as usual now since the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996[1], settling  “Olympic” disputes during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, it was also, and this is a novelty, present at the Asian Games 2014 in Incheon.  Both divisions have had to deal with seven (published) cases in total (four in Sochi and three in Incheon). The early commentaries available on the web (here, here and there), have been relatively unmoved by this year’s case law. Was it then simply ‘business as usual’, or is there more to learn from the 2014 Ad Hoc awards? Two different dimensions of the 2014 decisions by the Ad Hoc Division seem relevant to elaborate on : the jurisdiction quandary (part. 1) and the selection drama (part. 2). More...

Sports Politics before the CAS II: Where does the freedom of speech of a Karate Official ends? By Thalia Diathesopoulou

On 6 October 2014, the CAS upheld the appeal filed by the former General Secretary of the World Karate Federation (WKF), George Yerolimpos, against the 6 February 2014 decision of the WKF Appeal Tribunal. With the award, the CAS confirmed a six-months membership suspension imposed upon the Appellant by the WKF Disciplinary Tribunal.[1] At a first glance, the case at issue seems to be an ordinary challenge of a disciplinary sanction imposed by a sports governing body. Nevertheless, this appeal lies at the heart of a highly acrimonious political fight for the leadership of the WKF, featuring two former ‘comrades’:  Mr Yerolimpos and Mr Espinos (current president of WKF). As the CAS puts it very lucidly, "this is a story about a power struggle within an international sporting body"[2], a story reminding the Saturn devouring his son myth.

This case, therefore, brings the dirty laundry of sports politics to the fore. Interestingly enough, this time the CAS does not hesitate to grapple with the political dimension of the case. More...

The new “Arrangement” between the European Commission and UEFA: A political capitulation of the EU

Yesterday, the European Commission stunned the European Sports Law world when it announced unexpectedly that it had signed a “partnership agreement with UEFA named (creatively): ‘The Arrangement for Cooperation between the European Commission and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)’. The press release indicates that this agreement is to “commit the two institutions to working together regularly in a tangible and constructive way on matters of shared interest”. The agreement was negotiated (as far as we know) secretly with UEFA. Despite recent meetings between EU Commissioner for sport Vassiliou and UEFA President Platini, the eventuality of such an outcome was never evoked. It is very unlikely that third-interested-parties (FIFPro, ECA, Supporters Direct etc.) were consulted in the process of drafting this Arrangement. This surprising move by an outgoing Commission will be analysed in a three-ponged approach. First, we will discuss the substance of the Arrangement (I). Thereafter, we will consider its potential legal value under EU law (II). Finally, and maybe more importantly, we will confront the political relevance of the agreement (III).  More...

Sports Politics before the CAS: Early signs of a ‘constitutional’ role for CAS? By Thalia Diathesopoulou

It took almost six months, a record of 26 witnesses and a 68 pages final award for the CAS to put an end to a long-delayed, continuously acrimonious and highly controversial presidential election for the Football Association of Thailand (FAT). Worawi Makudi can sit easy and safe on the throne of the FAT for his fourth consecutive term, since the CAS has dismissed the appeal filed by the other contender, Virach Chanpanich.[1]

Interestingly enough, it is one of the rare times that the CAS Appeal Division has been called to adjudicate on the fairness and regularity of the electoral process of a sports governing body. Having been established as the supreme judge of sports disputes, by reviewing the electoral process of international and national sports federations the CAS adds to its functions a role akin to the one played by a constitutional court in national legal systems. It seems that members of international and national federations increasingly see the CAS as an ultimate guardian of fairness and validity of internal electoral proceedings. Are these features - without prejudice to the CAS role as an arbitral body- the early sign of the emergence of a Constitutional Court for Sport? More...

Olympic Agenda 2020: To bid, or not to bid, that is the question!

This post is an extended version of an article published in August on hostcity.net.

The recent debacle among the candidate cities for the 2022 Winter Games has unveiled the depth of the bidding crisis faced by the Olympic Games. The reform process initiated in the guise of the Olympic Agenda 2020 must take this disenchantment seriously. The Olympic Agenda 2020 took off with a wide public consultation ending in April and is now at the end of the working groups phase. One of the working groups was specifically dedicated to the bidding process and was headed by IOC vice-president John Coates.  More...

The CAS jurisprudence on match-fixing in football: What can we learn from the Turkish cases? - Part 2: The procedural aspects. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

With this blog post, we continue the blog series on Turkish match-fixing cases and our attempt to map the still unchartered waters of the CAS’s match-fixing jurisprudence.

The first blog post addressed two issues related to the substance of match-fixing disputes, namely the legal characterization of the match-fixing related measure of ineligibility under Article 2.08 of the UEL Regulations as administrative or disciplinary measure and the scope of application of Article 2.08. In addition, The Turkish cases have raised procedural and evidentiary issues that need to be dealt with in the framework of match-fixing disputes.

The CAS panels have drawn a clear line between substantial and procedural matters. In this light, the Eskişehirspor panel declared the nature of Article 2.08 UEL Regulations to be administrative and rejected the application of UEFA Disciplinary Regulations to the substance. Nonetheless, it upheld that disciplinary rules and standards still apply to the procedure. This conclusion, however, can be considered puzzling in that disciplinary rules apply to the procedural matters arising by a pure administrative measure. To this extent, and despite the bifurcation of different applicable rules into substantial and procedural matters, the credibility of the qualification of Article 2.08 as administrative seems to be undermined. And here a question arises: How can the application of rules of different nature to substantial and procedural matters in an identical match-fixing dispute be explained?More...

The EU State aid and Sport Saga – A blockade to Florentino Perez’ latest “galactic” ambitions (part 2)

This is the second part of a blog series on the Real Madrid State aid case. In the previous blog on this case, an outline of all the relevant facts was provided and I analysed the first criterion of Article 107(1) TFEU, namely the criterion that an advantage must be conferred upon the recipient for the measure to be considered State aid. Having determined that Real Madrid has indeed benefited from the land transactions, the alleged aid measure has to be scrutinized under the other criteria of Article 107(1): the measure must be granted by a Member State or through State resources; the aid granted must be selective; and it must distorts or threatens to distort competition. In continuation, this blog will also analyze whether the alleged aid measure could be justified and declared compatible with EU law under Article 107(3) TFEU.More...

The CAS jurisprudence on match-fixing in football: What can we learn from the Turkish cases? - Part 1 - By Thalia Diathesopoulou

The editor’s note:

Two weeks ago we received the unpublished CAS award rendered in the Eskişehirspor case and decided to comment on it. In this post Thalia Diathesopoulou (Intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre) analyses the legal steps followed and interpretations adopted by CAS panels in this case and in a series of other Turkish match-fixing cases. The first part of the post will deal with the question of the legal nature of the ineligibility decision opposed by UEFA to clubs involved in one way or another into match-fixing and with the personal and material scope of UEFA’s rule on which this ineligibility is based. The second part is dedicated to the procedural rules applied in match-fixing cases.


Introduction

The unpredictability of the outcome is a sine qua non feature of sports. It is this inherent uncertainty that draws the line between sports and entertainment and triggers the interest of spectators, broadcasters and sponsors. Thus, match-fixing by jeopardising the integrity and unpredictability of sporting outcomes has been described, along with doping, as one of the major threats to modern sport.[1] More...


Sport and EU Competition Law: uncharted territories - (I) The Swedish Bodybuilding case. By Ben Van Rompuy

The European Commission’s competition decisions in the area of sport, which set out broad principles regarding the interface between sports-related activities and EU competition law, are widely publicized. As a result of the decentralization of EU competition law enforcement, however, enforcement activity has largely shifted to the national level. Since 2004, national competition authorities (NCAs) and national courts are empowered to fully apply the EU competition rules on anti-competitive agreements (Article 101 TFEU) and abuse of a dominant position (Article 102 TFEU).

Even though NCAs have addressed a series of interesting competition cases (notably dealing with the regulatory aspects of sport) during the last ten years, the academic literature has largely overlooked these developments. This is unfortunate since all stakeholders (sports organisations, clubs, practitioners, etc.) increasingly need to learn from pressing issues arising in national cases and enforcement decisions. In a series of blog posts we will explore these unknown territories of the application of EU competition law to sport.More...

The Legia Warszawa case: The ‘Draconian’ effect of the forfeiture sanction in the light of the proportionality principle. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

The CAS denial of the urgent request for provisional measures filed by the Legia Warszawa SA in the course of its appeal against the UEFA Appeals Body Decision of 13 August 2014 put a premature end to Legia’s participation in the play-offs of the UEFA Champion’s League (CL) 2014/2015. Legia’s fans- and fans of Polish football - will now have to wait at least one more year to watch a Polish team playing in the CL group stage for the first time since 1996. 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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