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

Policing the (in)dependence of National Federations through the prism of the FIFA Statutes. By Tine Misic

…and everything under the sun is in tune,

but the sun is eclipsed by the moon…[1] 


The issue

Ruffling a few feathers, on 30 May 2015 the FIFA Executive Committee rather unsurprisingly, considering the previous warnings,[2] adopted a decision to suspend with immediate effect the Indonesian Football Federation (PSSI) until such time as PSSI is able to comply with its obligations under Articles 13 and 17 of the FIFA Statutes.[3] Stripping PSSI of its membership rights, the decision results in a prohibition of all Indonesian teams (national or club) from having any international sporting contact. In other words, the decision precludes all Indonesian teams from participating in any competition organised by either FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). In addition, the suspension of rights also precludes all PSSI members and officials from benefits of any FIFA or AFC development programme, course or training during the term of suspension. This decision coincides with a very recent award by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in this ambit, which shall be discussed further below.[4]More...


The Brussels Court judgment on Financial Fair Play: a futile attempt to pull off a Bosman. By Ben Van Rompuy

On 29 May 2015, the Brussels Court of First Instance delivered its highly anticipated judgment on the challenge brought by football players’ agent Daniel Striani (and others) against UEFA’s Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFP). In media reports,[1] the judgment was generally portrayed as a significant initial victory for the opponents of FFP. The Brussels Court not only made a reference for a preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) but also imposed an interim order blocking UEFA from implementing the second phase of the FFP that involves reducing the permitted deficit for clubs.

A careful reading of the judgment, however, challenges the widespread expectation that the CJEU will now pronounce itself on the compatibility of the FFP with EU law. More...

A Bridge Too Far? Bridge Transfers at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. By Antoine Duval and Luis Torres.

FIFA’s freshly adopted TPO ban entered into force on 1 May (see our Blog symposium). Though it is difficult to anticipate to what extent FIFA will be able to enforce the ban, it is likely that many of the third-party investors will try to have recourse to alternative solutions to pursue their commercial involvement in the football transfer market. One potential way to circumvent the FIFA ban is to use the proxy of what has been coined “bridge transfers”. A bridge transfer occurs when a club is used as an intermediary bridge in the transfer of a player from one club to another. The fictitious passage through this club is used to circumscribe, for example, the payment of training compensation or to whitewash a third-party ownership by transforming it into a classical employment relationship. This is a legal construction that has gained currency especially in South American football, but not only. On 5 May 2015, in the Racing Club v. FIFA case, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rendered its first award involving directly a bridge transfer. As this practice could become prevalent in the coming years we think that this case deserves a close look. More...

20 Years After Bosman - The New Frontiers of EU Law and Sport - Special Issue of the Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law

Editor's note: This is a short introduction written for the special Issue of the Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law celebrating the 20 years of the Bosman ruling and dedicated to the new frontiers of EU law and Sport (the articles are available here). For those willing to gain a deeper insight into the content of the Issue we organize (in collaboration with Maastricht University and the Maastricht Journal) a launching event with many of the authors in Brussels tomorrow (More info here).More...

ASSER Exclusive! Interview with Charles “Chuck” Blazer by Piotr Drabik

Editor’s note: Chuck Blazer declined our official interview request but thanks to some trusted sources (the FIFA indictment and Chuck’s testimony) we have reconstructed his likely answers. This is a fictional interview. Any resemblance with real facts is purely coincidental.



Mr Blazer, thank you for agreeing to this interview, especially considering the circumstances. How are you doing?

I am facing ten charges concerning, among others, conspiracy to corrupt and money laundering. But apart from that, I am doing great (laughs)!

 

It is good to know that you have not lost your spirit. And since you’ve been involved in football, or as you call it soccer, for years could you please first tell us what was your career at FIFA and its affiliates like?

Let me see… Starting from the 1990s I was employed by and associated with FIFA and one of its constituent confederations, namely the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). At various times, I also served as a member of several FIFA standing committees, including the marketing and television committee. As CONCACAF’s general secretary, a position I proudly held for 21 years, I was responsible, among many other things, for negotiations concerning media and sponsorship rights. From 1997 to 2013 I also served at FIFA’s executive committee where I participated in the selection process of the host countries for the World Cup tournaments. Those years at the helm of world soccer were truly amazing years of travel and hard work mainly for the good of the beautiful game. I might add that I even managed to document some of my voyages on my blog. I initially called it “Travels with Chuck Blazer” but Vladimir (Putin) convinced me to change the name to “Travels with Chuck Blazer and his Friends”. You should check it out.

 More...



Financial Fair Play: Lessons from the 2014 and 2015 settlement practice of UEFA. By Luis Torres

UEFA announced on 8 May that it had entered into Financial Fair Play settlement agreements with 10 European football clubs. Together with the four other agreements made in February 2015, this brings the total to 14 FFP settlements for 2015 and 23 since UEFA adopted modifications in its Procedural rules and allowed settlements agreements to be made between the Clubs and the Chief Investigator of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB).[1] 

In the two years during which UEFA’s FFP regulations have been truly up and running we have witnessed the centrality taken by the settlement procedure in their enforcement. It is extremely rare for a club to be referred to the FFP adjudication chamber. In fact, only the case regarding Dynamo Moscow has been referred to the adjudication chamber. Thus, having a close look at the settlement practice of UEFA is crucial to gaining a good understanding of the functioning of FFP. Hence, this blog offers a detailed analysis of this year’s settlement agreements and compares them with last year’s settlements. More...

Book Review: Reforming FIFA, or Not

Editor’s note: This short book review will be published in a different format in the International Sports Law Journal, due to its timeliness we decided to reproduce it here. 

Reforming FIFA, or Not

 Antoine Duval

Book Review: Mark Pieth (ed.), Reforming FIFA, Dike Verlag, St. Gallen, 2014, 28.00 CHF, p.178

 


This book looks back at the work of the Independence Governance Committee (IGC). This Committee, constituted in 2011, had as primary objective to drive a reform process of FIFA initiated by its President Sepp Blatter. After ordering from the Swiss anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth, a report on the state of FIFA’s governance, FIFA decided to mandate him with the leadership of a consulting body composed of a mix of independent experts and football insiders, which would be accompanying and supervising the internal reform process of FIFA. The IGC was officially dissolved at the end of 2013, after completing its mandate. The book is composed of eight chapters, written by former members of the IGC, including former chairman Mark Pieth. In addition to the chapters, it includes the different reports (available here, here and here) submitted by the IGC to FIFA across the years. In the words of Pieth, this account is “fascinating because it gives a hands-on, realistic perspective of the concrete efforts, the achievements and the remaining challenges in the struggle for the reform of this organization [FIFA], avoiding the usual glorification or vilification.”[1] This review will first summarize the core of the account of the FIFA reform process provided by the book, before critically engaging with the outcome of the process and outlining the deficiencies that culminated on 29 May 2015 with the re-election of Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.More...



The Spanish TV Rights Distribution System after the Royal Decree: An Introduction. By Luis Torres

On the first of May 2015, the Spanish Government finally signed the Royal Decree allowing the joint selling of the media rights of the Spanish top two football leagues. The Minister for Sport stated that the Decree will allow clubs to “pay their debts with the social security and the tax authorities and will enable the Spanish teams to compete with the biggest European Leagues in terms of revenues from the sale of media rights”.[1]Although the signing of the Royal Decree was supposed to close a very long debate and discussion between the relevant stakeholders, its aftermath shows that the Telenovela is not entirely over. 

This blog post will first provide the background story to the selling of media rights in Spain. It will, thereafter, analyse the main points of the Royal Decree and outline how the system will work in practice. Finally, the blog will shortly address the current frictions between the Spanish League (LFP) and the Spanish football federation (RFEF).More...

Sport and EU Competition Law: New developments and unfinished business. By Ben Van Rompuy

Editor's note: Ben Van Rompuy, Head of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre, was recently interviewed by LexisNexis UK for their in-house adviser service. With kind permission from LexisNexis we reproduce the interview on our blog in its entirety. 

How does competition law affect the sports sector?  

The application of EU competition law to the sports sector is a fairly recent and still unfolding development. It was only in the mid-1990s, due to the growing commercialization of professional sport, that there emerged a need to address competition issues in relation to, for instance, ticketing arrangements or the sale of media rights.  More...



Is FIFA fixing the prices of intermediaries? An EU competition law analysis - By Georgi Antonov (ASSER Institute)

Introduction

On 1 April 2015, the new FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (hereinafter referred as the Regulations) came into force. These Regulations introduced a number of changes as regards the division of competences between FIFA and its members, the national associations. A particularly interesting issue from an EU competition law perspective is the amended Article 7 of the Regulations. Under paragraph 3, which regulates the rules on payments to intermediaries (also previously referred to as ‘agents’), it is recommended that the total amount of remuneration per transaction due to intermediaries either being engaged to act on a player’s or club’s behalf should not exceed 3% of the player’s basic gross income for the entire duration of the relevant employment contract. In the case of transactions due to intermediaries who have been engaged to act on a club’s behalf in order to conclude a transfer agreement, the total amount of remuneration is recommended to not exceed 3% of the eventual transfer fee paid in relation to the relevant transfer of the player.More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Quantifying the Court of Arbitration for Sport - By Antoine Duval & 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

Quantifying the Court of Arbitration for Sport - By Antoine Duval & Giandonato Marino

 



Graph 1: Number of Cases submitted to CAS (CAS Satistics)


The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is a fairly recent construct. It was created in 1984 under the patronage of IOC’s former president Juan Antonio Samarranch. However, as is evident from Graph 1, it gained prominence only at the turn of the century and reached the symbolic 100 cases/year bar only in 2003. This recent boom of the CAS docket is mainly due to the adoption of the WADA code and the introduction thereafter of binding arbitration clauses in the statutes and regulations of Sports Governing Bodies. Nowadays, CAS is dealing with a caseload of more than 350 cases/year, which is still growing constantly. From 2008 onwards CAS started even to experience pending cases, as it was not able anymore to process all the cases submitted in one calendar year (Graph 2). The steep fall of “other decisions” (Graph 3), a proxy for decisions (mostly on procedural matters) not involving an award, might indicate that the litigants and their lawyers have become more proficient in CAS procedure. Finally, the number of cases withdrawn (Graph 4) has been varying a lot, without it being possible to pin down any definitive cause explaining those variations. It is, however, notable that more than 2/3 of the cases give way to an award.

 


Graph 2: Percentage of the cases resulting in an Award/Opinion vs. Percentage of pending cases (Data CAS Statistics)


 

 

Graph 3: Percentage of Procedures terminated by a CAS decision other than an award (Data CAS statistics)



Graph 4: Percentage of Cases withdrawn before a decision by the CAS (Data CAS statistics)

 

The breakdown of the way cases were submitted to CAS (Graph 5) highlights very well the paramount role played by the 1994 reform process triggered by the Gundel ruling of the Swiss Federal Tribunal in 1993. Indeed, it is this reform process which enabled the final recognition of CAS as an independent tribunal by the Swiss Federal Tribunal, a move necessary to ensure the legitimacy of its awards. But, it is also the process through which the appeal procedure of CAS got solidified and became highly valuable in the eyes of Sports Governing Bodies. In light of the Bosman case and the perceived need for a global anti-doping Court, CAS became both a recourse to protect the sporting autonomy and a mean to ensure a harmonized anti-doping playing field. Thus it is not surprising that with the entry into force of the first World Anti-Doping Code in 2004 a huge jump in the number of CAS cases under the appeal procedure can be observed (Graph 5), passing from 46 in 2003 to 252 in 2004 and growing to 301 in 2012. In the meantime, the ordinary procedure cases have been stable with 61 cases in 2003 and 62 in 2012. CAS’s success is largely the success of the appeal procedure, but this appeal procedure seems potentially threatened after the recent Pechstein decision of the Landesgericht München. Furthermore, since 1996 ad hoc CAS proceedings have been introduced. At first only for Olympic games (every two-year) and more recently for other international competitions. However, the caseload of the ad-hoc tribunals remains modest, the peak was reached at the Sydney Olympic in 2000 with 15 cases, since then Ad-hoc tribunals have been in the shadow of the prominent place taken by the Appeal Procedure.




Graph 5: Types of procedure (Ordinary Procedure, Appeal Procedure, Consultation Procedure and Ad-Hoc Procedure) under which cases were submitted to CAS since 1995. (Data CAS statistics)

 

Finally, our last Graph 6 shows that the boom of the number of CAS awards has quite logically triggered a steep rise in the number of appeals against those awards submitted to the Swiss Federal Tribunal. Indeed, starting from one or two decisions per year in the early 2000s, the Swiss Federal Tribunal is now adopting more than 15 rulings per year on appeal of CAS awards. However, very few of these decisions have overruled CAS awards, moreover once an award is overruled it is usually sent back to CAS to decide de novo on the case, thus giving it the opportunity to correct any procedural mistake leading to the annulment of the first award. This appeal procedure is therefore rather a mock procedure; an appellant has very little chances to succeed. In fact, it is only recently that in a case concerning a CAS award (the Matuzalem case), the Swiss Federal Tribunal considered, for the first time, an arbitral award as contradicting Swiss material public policy. The route to the Swiss Federal Tribunal might be the most obvious to any athlete wishing to contest a CAS award, but it is definitely a very difficult (and costly) one, leaving very few reasons to hope for a final twist.

 

 

Graph 6: Number of Decisions of the Swiss Federal Court in Appeal against CAS awards. (Data ASSER)

 

This report on the Court of Arbitration for Sport was aimed at fleshing out the intuition of sports lawyers on the importance taken by CAS in contemporary sports law practice with some “hard” data illustrating both the temporal and quantitative shifts of the CAS relevance. The rise of the CAS needed to be statistically deconstructed and analysed in order to fully grasp the role it plays in the governance of sports. Furthermore, its interaction with state courts, and in particular with the Swiss Federal Tribunal, deserves close scrutiny. In many instances the Swiss Federal Tribunal is the sole forum of review for CAS awards. This is particularly true for athletes, which have usually been forced, in one way or another, to submit to arbitration. Thus, the debates around the legitimacy and role of CAS in sports governance can only gain from an enhanced knowledge of the empirical reality underlying the Court of Arbitration for sport.

 

Indicative Bibliography on CAS:

A. Rigozzi, Arbitrage International en matière de sport

A. Rigozzi, Challenging Awards of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

G. Kaufmann-Kohler Arbitration at the Olympics – Issues of Fast-Track Dispute Resolution and Sports Law

M. Maisonneuve, Arbitrage des litiges sportifs

I.S. Blackshaw, J. Soek, R. Siekmann  (Eds.), The Court of Arbitration for Sport 1984–2004

R. H. McLaren, Twenty-Five Years of the Court of Arbitration for Sport: A Look in the Rear-View Mirror

D. Yi, Turning Medals into Metal: Evaluating the Court of Arbitration for Sport as an International Tribunal

The CAS Database of awards

The CAS Bulletin

The Swiss Federal tribunal database (French and German)




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