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

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...

Prof. Weatherill's lecture on : Three Strategies for defending 'Sporting Autonomy'

On 10 April, the ASSER Sports Law Centre had the honour of welcoming Prof. Weatherill (Oxford University) for a thought-provoking lecture.

In his lecture, Prof. Weatherill outlined to what extent the rules of Sports Governing Bodies enjoy legal autonomy (the so-called lex sportiva) and to what extent this autonomy could be limited by other fields of law such as EU Law. The 45 minutes long lecture lays out three main strategies used in different contexts (National, European or International) by the lex sportiva to secure its autonomy. The first strategy, "The contractual solution", relies on arbitration to escape the purview of national and European law. The second strategy, is to have recourse to "The legislative solution", i.e. to use the medium of national legislations to impose lex sportiva's autonomy. The third and last strategy - "The interpretative or adjudicative solution"- relies on the use of interpretation in front of courts to secure an autonomous realm to the lex sportiva



Tapping TV Money: Players' Union Scores A Goal In Brazil. By Giandonato Marino

On March 27, 2014, a Brazilian court ruling authorized the Football Players’ Union in the State of Sao Paulo[1] to tap funds generated by TV rights agreements destined to a Brazilian Club, Comercial Futebol Clube (hereinafter “Comercial”). The Court came to this decision after Comercial did not comply with its obligation  to pay players’ salaries. It is a peculiar decision when taking into account the global problem of clubs overspending and not complying with their financial obligations.  Furthermore, it could create a precedent for future cases regarding default by professional sporting clubs.


International transfers of minors: The sword of Damocles over FC Barcelona’s head? by Giandonato Marino and Oskar van Maren

In the same week that saw Europe’s best eight teams compete in the Champions League quarter finals, one of its competitors received such a severe disciplinary sanction by FIFA that it could see its status as one of the world’s top teams jeopardized. FC Barcelona, a club that owes its success both at a national and international level for a large part to its outstanding youth academy, La Masia, got to FIFA’s attention for breaching FIFA Regulations on international transfers of minors. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Losing the UEFA Europa League on the Legal Turf: Parma FC’s bitter defeat by Giandonato Marino

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

Losing the UEFA Europa League on the Legal Turf: Parma FC’s bitter defeat by Giandonato Marino

This year the race for UEFA Europa League places in Serie A was thrilling. In the final minutes of the last game of the season, Alessio Cerci, Torino FC striker, had the opportunity to score a penalty that would have qualified his team to the 2014-2015 edition of the UEFA Europa League. However, he missed and Parma FC qualified instead.

One would think all was decided after the referee’s final whistle. However, on 19 May, the Italian Football Federation’s Second Instance Commission for UEFA Licences confirmed the decision of the First Instance and denied Parma FC its UEFA Licence for the 2014-2015 season. Indeed, Parma did not comply with the provisions included in the UEFA Licensing Manual, in particular paragraph 14.7 – F04 of the Italian Version regarding overdue payable to tax authorities for salaries. In this context, the Commission considered that Parma had not paid €300,000 of taxes related to payments made in October/November 2013 to 10 players on loan by the 31 March 2014 deadline imposed for overdue payments to players or tax authorities. 

Parma appealed this decision in front of the Italian High Court of Justice for Sport. Arguing that the payments made to the 10 Players were salary advances requiring a payment of taxes at the end of the season (i.e. 30 June 2014). However, the two Commissions and the Court considered these payments as a salary anticipation that required the payment of taxes within 30 days after the disbursement. This position was also reinforced by the qualification of the payments made by Parma’s tax advisors. 

Nonetheless, the facts of the case are quite murky. In fact, on 31 March, Parma had not received any notification from the Italian tax authorities regarding its non-compliance with tax obligations. The club received a first communication on 30 April, which was after the deadline set to obtain the UEFA Licence. Hence, Parma also claimed that it would have complied with its tax duties within the deadline, if only it had received a notification from the authorities before 31 March. This situation is even more absurd if one takes in account that had Parma raised objections to the tax authorities’ assessment it would have triggered the suspension of the legal delay and, therefore, would have gotten the UEFA Licence. 

In a decision dating from 22 May, the Italian High Court, even though it denied the Licence to Parma FC, sympathized with the club’s fate and acknowledged that in this concrete case the strict implementation of the UEFA Manual led to an unfair outcome. Nevertheless, the High Court considered that the UEFA manual was solely applicable and could not be put aside in this specific instance. Moreover, the High Court stated that as an ad hoc regulation, only UEFA itself had the power of suspending or adapting these rules. Thus Parma was sanctioned on the basis of a strict liability reasoning leaving little room to the judiciary to adapt the sanction to the circumstances of the case.  

On 3 June the CEO of Parma, Mr. Leonardi, declared that the club is considering to appeal the decision in front of CAS. It is however likely that the CAS will dismiss the appeal and declare itself incompetent since there is no arbitral clause in favour of CAS included in the Statute of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC). This is not a similar configuration as in cases CAS 2013/A/3067 Málaga CF SAD v. UEFA and CAS 2013/A/3233 PAE Giannina 1966 v. UEFA in which the UEFA License was denied by the UEFA disciplinary bodies. Moreover, an analogous situation arose in the case CAS 2013/A/3199 Rayo Vallecano de Madrid SAD. v. RFEF leading to the CAS denying any competence to re-consider the refusal by the Spanish Football Federation to confer a UEFA license to Rayo Vallecano.    

Parma could also appeal the decision in front of the Italian Administrative Courts, according to the law 17 October 2003, n.280. Article 3 of the law gives exclusive jurisdiction to the Regional Administrative Tribunal of Lazio, with seat in Rome, for appeals against decisions of the Italian Sports Justice. The jurisdiction of this Court is, however, limited to acts of the Italian Olympic Committee or Sports Federations that do not fall under the exclusive competence of Sports Justice Bodies according to article 2 of this law. Hypothetically, in this case the Administrative Court could quash the decision of the High Court and, also, issue a provisional measure suspending the effect of the decision. However, in my opinion, this is very unlikely to happen for reasons linked to the good administration of justice, rather Parma might be able to obtain a compensation. 

The Parma case highlights the sometimes “Kafkaesque” absurdity of the UEFA Licensing regulations: A club is denied the right to play in one of the most prestigious European competition on the ground of a wrongdoing it is not entirely responsible of! Supporters are deprived of their right to travel Europe to cheer for their team and the club is deprived of the opportunity to increase its revenues and financial sustainability. Again, this reminds us of the necessity to embed a legal mechanism enabling a contextual evaluation and adaptation of the sanctions in UEFA’s licensing regulations.  

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