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 Odds of Match Fixing – Facts & Figures on the integrity risk of certain sports bets”. By Ben Van Rompuy

Media reports and interested stakeholders often suggest that certain types of sports bets would significantly increase the risks of match fixing occurring. These concerns also surface in policy discussions at both the national and European level. Frequently calls are made to prohibit the supply of “risky” sports bets as a means to preserve the integrity of sports competitions.

Questions about the appropriateness of imposing such limitations on the regulated sports betting, however, still linger. The lack of access to systematic empirical evidence on betting-related match fixing has so far limited the capacity of academic research to make a proper risk assessment of certain types of sports bets. 

The ASSER International Sports Law Centre has conducted the first-ever study that assesses the integrity risks of certain sports bets on the basis of quantitative empirical evidence. 

We uniquely obtained access to key statistics from Sportradar’s Fraud Detection System (FDS). A five-year dataset of football matches worldwide, which the FDS identified as likely to have been targeted by match fixers, enabled us to observe patterns and correlations with certain types of sports bets. In addition, representative samples of football bets placed with sports betting operator Betfair were collected and analysed. 

The results presented in this report, which challenge several claims about the alleged risks generated by certain types of sports bets, hope to inform policy makers about the cost-effectiveness of imposing limits on the regulated sports betting offer.More...

The Pechstein ruling of the Oberlandesgericht München - Time for a new reform of CAS?

Editor's note (13 July 2015): We (Ben Van Rompuy and I) have just published on SSRN an article on the Pechstein ruling of the OLG. It is available at Feel free to download it and to share any feedback with us!

On 15 January 2015, the earth must have been shaking under the offices of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne when the Oberlandesgericht München announced its decision in the Pechstein case. If not entirely unpredictable, the decision went very far (further than the first instance) in eroding the legal foundations on which sports arbitration rests. It is improbable (though not impossible) that the highest German civil court, the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), which will most likely be called to pronounce itself in the matter, will entirely dismiss the reasoning of the Oberlandesgericht. This blogpost is a first examination of the legal arguments used (Disclaimer: it is based only on the official press release, the full text of the ruling will be published in the coming months).More...

In blood we trust? The Kreuziger Biological Passport Case. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

Over the last twenty years, professional cycling has developed the reputation of one of the “most drug soaked sports in the world”.[1] This should not come as a surprise. The sport’s integrity has plummeted down due to an unprecedented succession of doping scandals. La crème de la crème of professional cyclists has been involved in doping incidents including Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Alejandro Valverde and Lance Armstrong. The once prestigious Tour de France has been stigmatized as a race of “pharmacological feat, not a physical one”.[2]

In view of these overwhelming shadows, in 2008, the International Cycling Union (UCI), in cooperation with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) took a leap in the fight against doping. It became the first International Sports Federation to implement a radical new anti-doping program known as the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).[3] More...

A Question of (dis)Proportion: The CAS Award in the Luis Suarez Biting Saga

The summer saga surrounding Luis Suarez’s vampire instincts is long forgotten, even though it might still play a role in his surprisingly muted football debut in FC Barcelona’s magic triangle. However, the full text of the CAS award in the Suarez case has recently be made available on CAS’s website and we want to grasp this opportunity to offer a close reading of its holdings. In this regard, one has to keep in mind that “the object of the appeal is not to request the complete annulment of the sanction imposed on the Player” (par.33). Instead, Suarez and Barcelona were seeking to reduce the sanction imposed by FIFA. In their eyes, the four-month ban handed out by FIFA extending to all football-related activities and to the access to football stadiums was excessive and disproportionate. Accordingly, the case offered a great opportunity for CAS to discuss and analyse the proportionality of disciplinary sanctions based on the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FIFA DC).  More...

The International Sports Law Digest – Issue II – July-December 2014

I. Literature

1. Antitrust/Competition Law and Sport

G Basnier, ‘Sports and competition law: the case of the salary cap in New Zealand rugby union’, (2014) 14 The International Sports Law Journal 3-4, p.155

R Craven, ‘Football and State aid: too important to fail?’ (2014) 14 The International Sports Law Journal 3-4, p.205

R Craven, ‘State Aid and Sports Stadiums: EU Sports Policy or Deference to Professional Football (2014) 35 European Competition Law Review Issue 9, 453

2. Intellectual Property Rights in Sports law / Betting rights/ Spectators’ rights/ Sponsorship Agreements


W T Champion and K DWillis, Intellectual property law in the sports and entertainment industries (Santa Barbara, California; Denver, Colorado; Oxford, England: Praeger 2014)

J-M Marmayou and F Rizzo, Les contrats de sponsoring sportif (Lextenso éditions 2014) 


Time to Cure FIFA’s Chronic Bad Governance Disease

 After Tuesday’s dismissal of Michael Garcia’s complaint against the now infamous Eckert statement synthetizing (misleadingly in his eyes) his Report on the bidding process for the World Cup 2018 and 2022, Garcia finally decided to resign from his position as FIFA Ethics Committee member. On his way out, he noted: “No independent governance committee, investigator, or arbitration panel can change the culture of an organization”. It took Garcia a while to understand this, although others faced similar disappointments before. One needs only to remember the forgotten reform proposals of the Independent Governance Committee led by Prof. Dr. Mark Pieth. More...

The CAS Ad Hoc Division in 2014: Business As Usual? - Part. 2: The Selection Drama

In a first blog last month we discussed the problem of the scope of jurisdiction of the Ad Hoc Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The key issue was whether an athlete could get his case heard in front of the CAS Ad Hoc Division or not. In this second part, we will also focus on whether an athlete can access a forum, but a different kind of forum: the Olympic Games as such. This is a dramatic moment in an athlete’s life, one that will decide the future path of an entire career and most likely a lifetime of opportunities. Thus, it is a decision that should not be taken lightly, nor in disregard of the athletes’ due process rights. In the past, several (non-)selection cases were referred to the Ad Hoc Divisions at the Olympic Games, and this was again the case in 2014, providing us with the opportunity for the present review.

Three out of four cases dealt with by the CAS Ad Hoc Division in Sochi involved an athlete contesting her eviction from the Games. Each case is specific in its factual and legal assessment and deserves an individual review. More...

Should the CAS ‘let Dutee run’? Gender policies in Sport under legal scrutiny. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

The rise of Dutee Chand, India’s 100 and 200-meter champion in the under 18-category, was astonishing. Her achievements were more than promising: after only two years, she broke the 100m and 200m national junior records, competed in the 100m final at the World Youth Athletics Championships in Donetsk and collected two gold medals in the Asian Junior Championships in Chinese Taipei. But, in July 2014, this steady rise was abruptly halted. Following a request from the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), the Sports Authority of India (SAI) conducted blood tests on the Indian sprinters. Dutee was detected with female hyperandrogenism, i.e a condition where the female body produces high levels of testosterone. As a result, a few days before the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the AFI declared Dutee ineligible to compete under the IAAF Regulations and prevented her from competing in future national and international events in the female category. Pursuant to the IAAF ‘Hyperandrogenism Policy’, the AFI would allow Dutee to return to competition only if she lowers her testosterone level beneath the male range by means of medical or surgical treatment.[1] On 25 September 2014, Dutee filed an appeal before the CAS, seeking to overturn the AFI’s decision and declare IAAF and IOC’s hyperandrogenism regulations null and void. She is defending her right to compete the way she actually is: a woman with high levels of testosterone. Interestingly enough, albeit a respondent, AFI supports her case.

IAAF and IOC rules set limits to female hyperandrogenism, which is deemed an unfair advantage that erodes female sports integrity. While these rules have been contested with regard to their scientific and ethical aspects, this is the first time that they will be debated in court. This appeal could have far-reaching ramifications for the sports world. It does not only seek to pave the way for a better ‘deal’ for female athletes with hyperandrogenism, who are coerced into hormonal treatment and even surgeries to ‘normalise’ themselves as women[2], but it rather brings the CAS, for the first time, before the thorny question:

How to strike a right balance between the core principle of ‘fair play’ and norms of non-discrimination, in cases where a determination of who qualifies as a ‘woman’ for the purposes of sport has to be made? More...

The O’Bannon Case: The end of the US college sport’s amateurism model? By Zygimantas Juska

On 8 August, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favour of former UCLA basketball player O'Bannon and 19 others, declaring that NCAA's longstanding refusal to compensate athletes for the use of their name, image and likenesses (NILs) violates US antitrust laws. In particular, the long-held amateurism justification promoted by the NCAA was deemed unconvincing.

On 14 November, the NCAA has appealed the judgment, claiming that federal judge erred in law by not applying a 1984 Supreme Court ruling. One week later, the NCAA received support from leading antitrust professors who are challenging the Judge Wilken’s reasoning in an amicus curiae. They are concerned that the judgment may jeopardize the proper regulation of college athletics. The professors argued that if Wilken’s judgment is upheld, it

would substantially expand the power of the federal courts to alter organizational rules that serve important social and academic interests…This approach expands the ‘less restrictive alternative prong’ of the antitrust rule of reason well beyond any appropriate boundaries and would install the judiciary as a regulatory agency for collegiate athletics”.   


Image Rights in Professional Basketball (Part II): Lessons from the American College Athletes cases. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

In the wake of the French Labour Union of Basketball (Syndicat National du Basket, SNB) image rights dispute with Euroleague and EA Games, we threw the “jump ball” to start a series on players’ image rights in international professional basketball. In our first blogpost, we discussed why image rights contracts in professional basketball became a fertile ground for disputes when it comes to the enforcement of these contracts by the Basketball Arbitral Tribunal (BAT). Indeed, we pointed out that clubs might take advantage of the BAT’s inconsistent jurisprudence to escape obligations deriving from image rights contracts.

In this second limb, we will open a second field of legal battles “around the rim”: the unauthorized use of players’ image rights by third parties. We will use as a point of reference the US College Athletes image rights cases before US Courts and we will thereby examine the legal nature of image rights and the precise circumstances in which such rights may be infringed. Then, coming back to where we started, we will discuss the French case through the lens of US case law on players’ image rights. 

Source: More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | WISLaw Blog Symposium - Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter: the wind of changes or a new commercial race - By Rusa Agafonova

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

WISLaw Blog Symposium - Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter: the wind of changes or a new commercial race - By Rusa Agafonova

Editor's note: Rusa Agafonova is a PhD Candidate at the University of Zurich, Switzerland   

The Olympic Games are the cornerstone event of the Olympic Movement as a socio-cultural phenomenon as well as the engine of its economic model. Having worldwide exposure,[1] the Olympic Games guarantee the International Olympic Committee (IOC) exclusive nine-digit sponsorship deals. The revenue generated by the Games is later redistributed by the IOC down the sports pyramid to the International Federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and other participants of the Olympic Movement through a so-called "solidarity mechanism". In other words, the Games constitute a vital source of financing for the Olympic Movement.

Because of the money involved, the IOC is protective when it comes to staging the Olympics. This is notably so with respect to ambush marketing which can have detrimental economic impact for sports governing bodies (SGBs) running mega-events. The IOC's definition of ambush marketing covers any intentional and non-intentional use of intellectual property associated with the Olympic Games as well as the misappropriation of images associated with them without authorisation from the IOC and the organising committee.[2] This definition is broad as are the IOC's anti-ambush rules.

Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter

The famous Rule 40[3] of the Olympic Charter was introduced in 1991 prohibiting competitors[4] from any use of name, image or sports performances for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games and since then has been critised for its disproportionality.

The blanket ban covered all types of advertising during the "blackout" ("frozen") period of almost a month, starting nine days before the Opening Ceremony and ending three days after the Closing of the Games. Any Olympic-related terms varying from quite specific "Olympia" and "games" to more generic "medal", "gold", "pedestal" and to very questionable "summer", "challenge" and "victory" were banned from use in an advertising context. These restrictions are even more drastic knowing that violation of the Olympic Charter can entail temporary or permanent ineligibility or exclusion from the Olympic Games.[5]

Legal challenges

While companies still managed to find loopholes in the regulations,[6] a legal challenge was expected on both sides of the Atlantic. In the US, the antitrust lawsuit against the USA Track and Field and the US Olympic Committee (USOC) brought to the U.S. District Court by a runner Nick Symmonds[7] was dismissed on the basis of the 1978 Amateur Sports Act, which granted an implied antitrust immunity to the USOC.

In Europe, however, the complaint filed with the German Competition Authority (Bundeskartellamt) by the German Athlete Commission and the Federal Association of the German Sports Goods Industry was successful and resulted in a series of commitments undertaken by the German NOC (DOSB) and the IOC, but only German athletes could benefit from it.

Bundeskartellamt refers to the ISU and Kristoffersen cases admitting the protection of the solidarity mechanism as a potential justification for a measure restricting competition, but only "if the financial support granted by the system is sufficiently transparent for the participants who contributed their performance", i.e. when they are "in a position to understand and assess the volume of income generated" and "whether this income, or at least most of it, has in fact been spent to the benefit of those athletes who are disadvantaged in terms of opportunities to participate in the Olympic Games". The Olympic solidarity plan does not attain this high standard of "sufficient transparency".[8] Hence, Rule 40 and its German analogue were preliminarily assessed as violating Art. 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (abuse of dominant position) and Sections 18 and 19 GWB (German Competition Act).

The German decision gave the green light to advertising campaigns by non-Olympic sponsors during the frozen period and replaced the authorisation procedure by the requirement to notify the NOC of the intended campaigns. The list of protected terms was narrowed down, and only sanctions of economic nature, i.e. contractual damages and/or penalties, became admissible.

Reconsidering Rule 40

In summer 2019, the IOC amended Rule 40 for the first time in many years. Its new wording was akin to a 180-degree turn and allowed competitors, team officials and other team personnel to use their person, name, picture, and sports performances for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games as far as the principles determined by the IOC Executive Board were respected.  

NOCs should concretise the rule for their Olympic team in accordance with the Key Principles on the application of by-law 3 to Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter (Tokyo 2020 Key Principles) which give the NOCs some guidance but also leave them a considerable leeway.

In terms of substance, non-Olympic sponsors can now undertake "generic advertising", i.e., campaigns launched at least 90 days before the Event, which create association with the Olympic Games only through an athlete's image, and which should avoid any unusual activity during the Games. What is considered unusual is to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Regarding the procedure, non-Olympic partners must now only notify in advance the IOC or the respective NOCs of their advertising plans. The NOCs are free to decide on the form and modalities of this notification. It can be a simple notice, such as in Switzerland, a two-step notification (i.e. a pre-registration and a further notification) as in South Africa, or a more complex legal structure consisting of a notification accompanied by a personal sponsor commitment agreement (PSC) concluded by and between an athlete's sponsor and the NOC, as is the case in the USA or in Ireland. In the latter case, the NOC obtains additional contractual guarantees in case of a violation of the Rule 40.[9]

All these discrepancies put athletes on an unequal footing. The commercial rights of those sportspeople who already struggle to find sponsors due to the limited exposure of their sports disciplines might be curtailed even further by the non-attractiveness of their NOCs' regimes in respect to Olympic sponsorship.

Finally, the IOC recommends that NOCs adopt monetary rather than sporting measures to sanction violations.[10] But recommendations are non-binding, while it seems that such a crucial issue as sanctions should be covered by a uniform rule more than anything else.


Athletes have, at times in history, been precluded from fully monetising their economic potential during the most important - and the most marketable - moments  of their careers, which themselves are relatively short. The amended Rule 40 has been welcomed as a big achievement and fits well with the overall trend for athletes' growing engagement in policy-making processes and the increasing role of competition law in shaping sports governance. However, it seems that Rule 40 is not yet at its final destination. To get there, it should find the balance between the individual athlete’s right to generate income in relation to their sporting career and the collective interest in protecting the solidarity model. It is indeed important to remember that there are many athletes, including those at the grassroots level, who are supported by the solidarity mechanism rather than by sponsors' financial backing.

Conversely, while the concept of the Olympics has not been distorted by allowing professionals to compete in the Games, why would it be inadvisable to reconsider the idea of commercialisation of sport? The outbreak of COVID-19 and the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games drew attention to the insecurity of athletes in many senses, and the relationship between an athlete and a sponsor acquired a deeper significance: despite the uncertainties of the sports calendars, epidemiologic regimes, and impossibility of long-term planning, the parties - or rather the partners - maintained mutual support and shared common values. 

All regulatory instruments should be adjusted accordingly. Rule 40 as it existed before 2019 appeared archaic. When it entered into force, neither the internet nor social media existed. As of today, Twitter and especially Instagram have shaped a new paradigm of hashtags, likes, reposts, and followers.[11] 

Rule 40, as it exists in 2021, leaves a risk of unequal implementation due to the fact that NOCs and athletes' associations have different degrees of bargaining power across the globe and, in the absence of a uniform clause imposed by the international regulator, give divergent interpretations to the scope of the rule. The country-to-country approach can sometimes allow for necessary flexibility in order to ensure optimal implementation of the regulations, in particular, regarding compliance with the national legislation of each state. However, some issues, such as the sanctioning regimes, should be handled in a centralised and harmonised way.

The German example has set the trend, but many NOCs may be reluctant to follow it. In this respect, the European Commission may play an important role in reconciling athletes' economic interests and the SGBs' interests with due consideration to the specificity of sport. It remains to be seen how the situation will be resolved outside the European Union. Meanwhile, during the period from 13 July to 10 August 2021, we will most likely witness a dramatic change in advertising as the new Rule 40 will be applied. It is possible that the focus on sports competitions will be slightly diluted by additional commercial ads, but even this scenario seems appealing after the silence of quarantine. 

[1] The geographic market for the organisation and exploitation of the Olympic Games has been defined as worldwide. See Bundeskartellamt, Decision pursuant to Section 32b GWB Public version, B-226/17 (25 February 2019), para. 56. The version in English is available at Accessed on 30 May 2021.

[2] Brand Protection Guidelines, Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Version 5.0. February 2020, Pt. 6. Ambush Marketing.

[3] Here and hereafter: Rule 40 refers to Bye-law 3 to Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter.

[4] In 2003, the rule was expanded to coaches and officials.

[5] Olympic Charter, Rule 59 (2.1).

[6] For example, in the pre-London-2012 campaign “Find Your Greatness”, Nike shows athletes from the towns named London situated in the US, Canada, Jamaica, and Nigeria and never mentions London in the UK. 

[7] Gold Medal LLC v. USA Track & Field, 187 F. Supp. 3d 1219, 1222 (D. Or. 2016).

[8] Bundeskartellamt, Decision pursuant to Section 32b GWB Public version, B-226/17, 25 February 2019, para. 103.

[9] McKelvey Steve, Grady John, Moorman Anita M., Ambush Marketing and Rule 40 for Tokyo 2020: A Shifting Landscape for Olympic Athletes and Their Sponsors, Journal of Legal Aspects of Sport, 2021, 31, pp. 94 – 122.

[10] Commercial Opportunities for Athletes. Rescheduled Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (in 2021), p. 14. Frequently Asked Questions for Athletes.

[11] It is, for example, the key tool for fans' engagement. See Ennis Sean (2020) Understanding Fans and Their Consumption of Sport. In: Sports Marketing. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, pp 75-100.

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