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

Image Rights in Professional Basketball (Part I): The ‘in-n-out rimshot’ of the Basketball Arbitral Tribunal to enforce players’ image rights contracts. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

A warning addressed to fans of French teams featuring in the recently launched video game NBA 2K15: Hurry up! The last jump ball for Strasbourg and Nanterre in NBA 2K 15 may occur earlier than expected. The French Labour Union of Basketball (Syndicat National du Basket, SNB) is dissatisfied that Euroleague and 2K Games did not ask (nor paid) for its permission before including the two teams of Pro A in the NBA 2K15 edition. What is at issue? French basketball players’ image rights have been transferred to SNB, which intends to start proceedings before the US Courts against 2K Games requesting 120.000 euros for unauthorized use of the players’ image rights. SNB is clear: it is not about the money, but rather to defend the players’ rights.[1] Strasbourg and Nanterre risk to “warm up” the virtual bench if this litigation goes ahead. 

Source: http://forums.nba-live.com/viewtopic.php?f=149&t=88661&start=250 More...

Sport and EU Competition Law: uncharted territories - (II) Mandatory player release systems with no compensation for clubs. 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 and national courts 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.

In this second installment of this blog series, we discuss a recent judgment of the regional court (Landgericht) of Dortmund finding that the International Handball Federation (IHF)’s mandatory release system of players for matches of national teams without compensation infringes EU and German competition law.[1] More...

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...


Asser International Sports Law Blog | Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 5: Rethinking Redistribution in Football - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

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

Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 5: Rethinking Redistribution in Football - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi recently completed a Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.

 

As one may have gathered from the series thus far, the question that comes out of this endeavour for me, is whether redistribution in football would be better divorced from the transfer system?

In my introductory blog I point towards historical, cultural, and of course the legal explanations as to why redistribution was established, and why it might be held onto despite obvious flaws. In my second blog, I point out how the training compensation and solidarity mechanisms work in practice through an African case study, as well as the hindrance caused and the Eurocentricity of the regulations. The key take-away from my third blog on the non-application of training compensation in women’s football might be that training compensation should apply to both men’s and women’s football, or neither. The sweeping generalisation that men’s and women’s football are different as justification for the non-application to the women’s game is not palatable, given inter alia the difference between the richest and poorest clubs in men’s football. Nor is it palatable that the training compensation mechanism is justified in men’s football to incentivise training, yet not in women’s football.

In the fourth blog of this series, I raise concerns that the establishment of the Clearing House prolongs the arrival of a preferable alternative system. The feature of this final blog is to consider alternatives to the current systems. This endeavour is manifestly two-fold; firstly, are there alternatives? Secondly, are they better? 

 

1. Is training compensation necessary to incentivise training?

It might be the case that this question does not receive adequate attention. Though we are told there exists a need to incentivise training and the system as it stands is justified by this notion, is that truly what the redistributive mechanisms in the current form achieve? Furthermore, for all the flaws in reasoning and hindrance created by the mechanisms, is it really worth it?

During my time as an agent, I have personally never heard from a director or executive of a football club, the words or sentiment that, time - effort - money placed towards their youth football programs is done so solely, predominantly, or at all in anticipation of training compensation or solidarity payments.  Nor have I ever come across the sentiment from within any club, that a club would not care for or abandon its youth programs without the ‘dangling carrot’ of potential compensation. FIFA now refer to the redistributive mechanisms as ‘training rewards’, though one may reasonably struggle to connect these training rewards with a true definition of incentive. It appears more likely to be the case that any desire or expectation to be rewarded or compensated is an after the fact conclusion, when a player progresses professionally and a training club concludes that they are part of the reason for that players’ success. In a macro sense, given how infrequent it is for a training club to develop a professional, this seems to add weight to an argument that compensation does not create the purported incentive, or at least that clubs do not rely on the prospect.  It is because of this that I tend to lean towards the view that the incentivisation to train youth as a justification for redistributive measures may not have aged well. In any event, it would be interesting to test that intuition derived from experience, through a proper social scientific survey of clubs. Systems with such far-reaching implications should be grounded in a proper study of the socio-economic drivers of the training of football players.

On the other hand, the possibility of attracting large and exciting transfer fees is often spoken about within club walls.  For these ‘selling clubs’ with a clear intention to invest in youth and capitalise later in the form of transfer fees, such fees may be seen as compensation of sorts, but more likely as a remuneration for a deliberate though hardly risk-free investment. Moreover, these clubs do not simply abandon their first team and focus on youth and potential transfers exclusively. First team squads are also the beneficiary of strong youth systems and commonly the main reason a club invests in youth. Additionally, clubs can have a strong connection to their communities and see a combined duty and benefit of having strong youth programs. Clubs not only play a role in sustaining the social fabric of the communities to which they are situated, but benefit commercially through the many ways in which fans add value.

If it is true that compensation does not amount to incentivisation, then it is difficult to conclude that it is necessary. However, even if training compensation and the solidarity mechanism are not deemed necessary, a strong case can still be made for redistribution so long as the gap between wealthy and poor clubs remains or grows, and entire continents continue to be nurseries and the source of the muscle drain.

 

2. Imagining Alternative Redistributive Mechanisms

Proposing an alternative to the existing FIFA systems of redistribution is a difficult task. I have raised the concern of the Eurocentricity of the current regulations, and in proposing something else, one must be mindful that these are global regulations. If one suggests a form of taxation or tariff to redistribute, awareness of the myriad cultural differences on taxation and the multiplicity of enforcement contexts might be important. Also, whilst I have raised the question on whether compensation ought to be divorced from the transfer system, reasons for redistributing at all should be axiomatically better than not having a system of redistribution.

Intent and what is to be achieved needs to be clear. Is the ideal system of redistribution in place to reward ‘something’ or should redistribution be directed more deliberately and where it is needed, acting as welfare of a kind? I have already suggested that compensation does not incentivise clubs, though conversely, might clubs be disincentivised to grow if they only remain the beneficiaries of redistribution insofar as they stay sufficiently small and poor, whatever that threshold might be? Or could a system still incentivise growth, with clubs the beneficiaries of an amount that would not be enough to sustain themselves in full, yet enough to help them to continue to grow and commercialise? Whether greater commercialisation is a desirable change is another worthwhile question.

Despite the difficulties in suggesting an alternative, one can hope that a system of redistribution can be non-discriminative, does not create the hindrance effect to the current extent or encourage risky circumvention of the regulations (see blog 2 for detail), and is able to attain its legitimate aims. I would submit that the current systems do not tick these boxes. In this section, I provide some food for thought regarding potential alternatives, though I must caveat that I am not an economist and have not yet settled on an alternative myself.

 

a)     Coubertobin Tax

I will begin this section by introducing Andreff’s Coubertobin tax, in the interest of highlighting that others have thought about alternative systems of redistribution and have perhaps proposed alternatives that are arguably better than the current systems. Whilst I hope to present the Coubertobin tax adequately, one will need to read Andreff for the full picture.  Though valuable food for thought, I do not endorse the Coubertobin tax per se, as it has its flaws and remains connected to the transfer system, albeit to a lesser extent.

Inspired by a mix of the economic thought of James Tobin and Pierre de Coubertin, the idea of a Coubertobin tax “is to levy a tax at a 1 % rate on all transfer fees and initial wages agreed on in each labour contract signed by athletes and players from developing countries with foreign partners.”[1]

The objectives are as follows:

  1. slightly covering the education and training cost, for his/her home developing country, of any athlete or player transferred abroad;
  2. providing a stronger disincentive to transfer an athlete or a player from a developing country, the younger he/she is when the transfer takes place;
  3. thus, slowing down the muscle drain from developing countries and toward professional player markets in developed countries; and
  4. accruing revenues to a fund for sports development in the home developing country from the tax levied on every athlete or player transfer abroad.[2]

There is little wonder why Andreff desires to redistribute to developing countries. He has done extensive work on the correlation between economic prosperity and sporting success. This list is by no means exhaustive, but for instance, he writes extensively on the muscle drain, where athletes from developing nations move for financial and developmental reasons, which creates a myriad of follow-on issues to the home-country. He identifies the toll poverty takes on a developing country’s domestic leagues and competitions due to the muscle drain and the inability to train professionals to a world class standard. He notes that some athletes defect to other nations early and qualify for the adopted country’s national team. Per Andreff and in summary “the overall context of sport underdevelopment does not provide a strong incentive for talented players to stay in their home country even if a professional championship does exist there.”[3]

Andreff’s proposal is not set in stone and an admirable element to his work on the matter is the consistent offering of caveats that suggest, with more study and/or work, a certain piece of the Coubertobin system may benefit from amendment. Andreff describes his system as “a solution (not a panacea) which is likely to alleviate, along with some of the financial problems of developing countries, the aforementioned problem of the muscle drain.”[4] Most relevant is perhaps the idea that, the younger the player is in question regarding a transfer, the higher the tax (see suggested formulae).[5] This he submits, may put a brake on the muscle drain at such early ages, or result in greater amounts of money moved to developing nations if a club wishes to recruit a player at a significantly young age.

Andreff acknowledges hindrances, though takes a macro view that encompasses protecting minors, as well as strengthening local leagues in developing countries given the talent will remain for longer periods. One can envisage an additional positive result, in having young athletes finish non-football education having stayed at home until a later date.

Though this is my interpretation, I suspect Andreff finds it an easy task to identify the beneficiaries or winners of these transactions and therefore those parties should be the ones who pay the Coubertobin tax, on “the bill for the transfer fee and the first year wage”.[6]

Andreff raises the concern of “bargaining and corruption surrounding the tax collection in developing countries”,[7] though offers a plausible solution. “[T]he collection of the Coubertobin tax should be monitored and supervised by an international organization, either an existing one (UNDP or the World Bank) or an ad hoc one to be created.”[8] This is plausible as it is not so different to the way FIFA intends to outsource the operation of the Clearing House to a suitable and reputable organisation that would be subject to audit (see blog 4).

Andreff admits the tax “would meet with both hindrance and resistance”,[9] it would “not be easy to implement and enforce insofar as it has to be accepted on a worldwide basis”,[10] the system would contain administrative costs that would need sorting and ironing out, and there would need to be a method for disputes and perhaps fines for non-compliance.  Even so, the Coubertobin tax provides much food for thought as it is proposed for all professional sport and not just football. It attempts to address the muscle drain and the taxes proposed may prove less a hindrance than the current FIFA systems.

 

b)    Abolishment and Free Market Economics

If this was day one of football, there might be a strong argument for a free market approach, with emphasis on club management to make sure intelligent decisions are made to sustain clubs, with wealth the responsibility of the clubs themselves. However, we are not at the beginning of football.  Certain clubs in certain regions are the victims of much more than mismanagement, adding weight to an argument for a need to redistribute equitably.

As it stands, an equitable system or one where redistribution is directed to where it is most needed, is not in place and has not been proposed. Could it be the case, at least in the interim, that the free market is the best and fairest? The current systems appear at least somewhat a case of over-regulation with side effects that were not, or could not have been anticipated, like the hindrance effect and the pressures on vulnerable clubs to waive compensation to name just a couple.  It then seems defensible to abolish systems that do not work in the interim, than to hang on to those flawed systems until a better proposal is put forth. Instead, all efforts could be placed into study and research to remedy the obvious flaws.

Conversely, the free market in modern football would not appear to improve the situation for the kind of club I have identified frequently throughout this series, and although it may eliminate the hindrance effect, destination clubs would have their pick of players and poor clubs would undoubtedly lose all talent. Furthermore, if a system of redistribution was to be created that clearly improved football and the free-market approach had been adopted in the interim, a valid consideration might be the difficulty the relevant bodies would have in re-introducing a system of redistribution, having gone back to the free market for a period.  It is for these reasons that I can not endorse such an approach, however sympathetic I am to abolishment and the idea of alleviating hindrance and promoting free movement.

 

c)     FIFA Funded Solidarity: A New Model

As he addressed the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) 42nd ordinary general assembly, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said, “I believe in Africa. I count on Africa, and you can count on me to help you to bring Africa to the top.” However admirable and applaudable are the purported goals of FIFA for Africa, and the sentiment warm, one cannot help but wonder if this African project, relevant to this blog series, could not be expedited by a substantial FIFA based investment. Infantino went on to say, “I want to see at least 50 national teams and 50 clubs from all over the world that can compete for the title of world champions with realistic chances of winning. And why shouldn’t Africa be at the top, with the incredible talent that we see shining every week, mainly in Europe’s top clubs? I am convinced it’s only a matter of commitment, work and engagement by all of us together.”

To answer the President’s question, one cannot see African clubs on top in a global sense, so long as all the best African players play, as the President said, in Europe. Further, we will continue to be less likely to see an African national team win a World Cup, whilst some of the best African players play for other nations to which they moved when they were younger, and whilst African federations are unable to organise like European federations, given they do not have the same resources.  I could of course go on, but one likely gathers my point. 

So, could FIFA make an investment sufficient to prop up Africa as it supposedly desires? Perhaps. How about an amount equal to the frequently referred gap between what is owed and paid when it comes to the redistributive mechanisms of FIFA? Could FIFA at least cover that gap? If one considers the annual financial reports, certainly, and probably further and in a more specific and deliberate fashion. Surely direct, targeted investment is preferable to leaving redistribution to the whim of a club’s good fortune to have registered a player that would go on to be a professional. That is, of course, if that player’s club did not have to waive training compensation to render a transfer possible.

The FIFA Forward Development Programme is described by FIFA as “global football development and the way we share the success of the FIFA World Cup”. It is an encouraging and frankly exciting initiative, and again one must applaud the efforts. Under the Infantino administration, FIFA has pledged more funding in this way than ever before. “On 13 June 2018, the FIFA Congress decided to increase investment in the FIFA Forward Development Programme still further for the next cycle of 2019-2022 with a 20% increase in the annual entitlement for each of the 211 member associations and six confederations.”

Anyone can go to the webpage for the FIFA Forward Programme, roll their cursor over the interactive map and see that FIFA are investing money in places of need. Disappointingly, not overly specific information is provided regarding the exact use of funding, though there are encouraging articles that unpack some of the investments and initiatives and these efforts should be commended (the FIFA Foundation Community Programme is another example of some of the encouraging work being done).  One element that is interesting and appealing within these funding programs, is the toying with an application process to be granted some form of investment. This perhaps shows an increased awareness that money ought to be distributed specifically and deliberately, to address a genuine need. Though not a trial per se, this kind of process could be used as one and may turn out to be preferable to clubs in need, who would for instance prefer to bypass the national association if that relationship is not so sturdy.   

At first glance, the almost even allocation of investment per member association found in Circular no. 1659 - FIFA Forward Development Programme – regulations (FIFA Forward 2.0) may seem equitable, though taking into account that some of the wealthier associations may be the beneficiaries of the systemic exploitation and drain that has featured in this blog series, might render the near even distribution questionable. Whilst “an additional amount of up to USD 1,000,000 is available for member associations with an annual revenue of USD 4 million or less”, one might reasonably wonder if that amount of extra funding to smaller and/or poorer associations is sufficient to affect real change.

Whilst I hope I have made clear that FIFA’s efforts ought to be commended, the overarching theme of this section is to consider if more could be done and if so, might those extra efforts to distribute funds be preferable and able to replace the current systems of redistribution connected to the transfer system. I do not find impressive the self-congratulatory theme of the statement from Alejandro Domínguez, Chairman of the FIFA Finance Committee, of being hundreds of millions of dollars under budget in the 2019 annual report, as well as possessing “sufficient liquidity”. FIFA, a not-for-profit organisation, was delighted to report that “at the 2019 year-end, total assets had increased to USD 4,504 million (four billion, five hundred and four million), chiefly made up of cash and financial assets (82%). Reserves also remained at a very satisfactory level at USD 2,586 million (two billion, five hundred and eighty-six million), clearly above the amount budgeted.”[11]

Proposing FIFA fund more redistribution is not a risk free, nor a concern free proposition, but it does appear the idea could be taken more seriously by the relevant stakeholders. FIFA’s predominate money maker is the FIFA World Cup, which is in a sense, a way of using the produce of the richest clubs in the world, which have in turn benefitted from some of the poorest clubs nursing the players until they are of age. FIFA, filling the frequently mentioned gap from the profits of the World Cup makes as much sense as any proposal. Is this not simply a case of, if more can be done then more should be done? Going off FIFA’s reports, it has the resources.

Within this potential alternative, where FIFA are responsible for raising and redistributing funding that would otherwise supposedly come from the current redistribution systems, is a change to the modality of redistribution. From what is currently intimately connected to training and transfers, this alternative provides for the much-needed decoupling, not only based on the philosophical flaws, but additionally due to the preferable practical implications that divorcing redistribution, training and the transfer market could achieve. In terms of a body or mechanism to implement an alternative like this, how might a Clearing House kind of project unfold, that adopts a specific and deliberate ethos to distributing FIFA funds? To expand, following a substantial process of planning and allocation of adequate resources, the creation of a specific arm dedicated to researching and identifying those areas of football most in need, as well as receiving and vetting applications for funding. Might that or a similar solution be achievable? It could be in-house or outsourced the same way the Clearing House is intended to be, geared to make suggestions, provide expert economic advice and proposals, reporting its findings back to FIFA for an extra layer of approval. Food for thought in any case.

 

3. Concluding Remarks

There is a core of wealth in football that has benefitted from, been propped up by, and drained the periphery. It is important to ensure the strength and survival of football outside this core of wealth and to actively make sure value is added to the periphery. Football needs to promote this notion and in doing so ask the question, where will the big clubs turn for talent and youth if those reservoirs which they drain are emptied and unable to continue to produce talent? 

If one is convinced that it is not necessary to incentivise training, that the current regulations have significant negative effects, that any system of redistribution should be non-discriminative, provide minimal hindrance to free movement and pursue deliberate legitimate aims, then one is in favour of overhaul. Further then, surely there is an obligation to address what can be in the immediate sense. Namely, to either default to the free market, until a convincing system of redistribution is created, or perhaps preferably, for FIFA to take the reins and fund redistribution to the periphery of football to a greater extent.


[1] Wladimir Andreff (2001). The correlation between economic underdevelopment and sport. European Sport Management Quarterly, 1, p.274.

[2] Wladimir Andreff, “A Coubertobin Tax Against Muscle Drain”, 4th Play the Game Conference: Governance in Sport: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, Copenhagen, 6-10 November (2005) p.10.

[3] Ibid, p.5.

[4] Ibid, p.9.

[5] Ibid, p.11.

[6] Ibid, p.12.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] FIFA Annual Report 2019 p.124.

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