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

New Event! The Court of Arbitration for Sport at the European Court of Human Rights - Prof. Helen Keller - 26 May - 16:00

On Wednesday 26 May 2021 from 16.00-17.00 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret (University of Lausanne), is organising its fifth Zoom In webinar on the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) from the perspective of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

We have the pleasure to be joined by Prof. Helen Keller, former Judge at the ECtHR and a prominent dissenter to the majority’s ruling in the Mutu and Pechstein case.

The ECtHR decision in the Mutu and Pechstein case rendered on 2 October 2018 is widely seen as one of the most important European sports law rulings. It was also the first decision of the Strasbourg court dealing with a case in which the CAS had issued an award. The applicants, Adrian Mutu and Claudia Pechstein, were both challenging the compatibility of CAS proceedings with the procedural rights enshrined in Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The court famously declined to conclude that the CAS lacked independence or impartiality, but did find that, insofar as Claudia Pechstein was concerned, she was forced to undergo CAS arbitration and, therefore, that CAS proceedings had to fully comply with the procedural rights guaranteed in the ECHR. In particular, the court held that the refusal by CAS to hold a public hearing, in spite of Claudia Pechstein’s express request, was contrary to Article 6(1) ECHR. Beyond this case, as highlighted by the recent decision of Caster Semenya to submit an application to the ECtHR, the decision opens the way for a more systematic intervention of the Strasbourg court in assessing the human rights compatibility of CAS awards and more broadly of the transnational sports regulations imposed by international sports governing bodies.

Prof. Helen Keller will discuss with us the implications of the ECtHR’s Mutu and Pechstein decision and the potential for future interventions by the court in the realm of the lex sportiva.

The webinar will take the form of an interview followed by a short Q&A open to the digital public. 

Please note the discussion will NOT be recorded and posted on our Youtube channel. 

Register HERE!

Never let a good fiasco go to waste: why and how the governance of European football should be reformed after the demise of the ‘SuperLeague’ - By Stephen Weatherill

Editor’s note: Stephen Weatherill is the Jacques Delors Professor of European Law at Oxford University. He also serves as Deputy Director for European Law in the Institute of European and Comparative Law, and is a Fellow of Somerville College. This blog appeared first on and is reproduced here with the agreement of the author. 


The crumbling of the ‘SuperLeague’ is a source of joy to many football fans, but the very fact that such an idea could be advanced reveals something troublingly weak about the internal governance of football in Europe – UEFA’s most of all – and about the inadequacies of legal regulation practised by the EU and/ or by states. This note explains why a SuperLeague is difficult to stop under the current pattern of legal regulation and why accordingly reform is required in order to defend the European model of sport with more muscularity. More...

New Digital Masterclass - Mastering the FIFA Transfer System - 29-30 April

The mercato, or transfer window, is for some the most exciting time in the life of a football fan. During this narrow period each summer and winter (for the Europeans), fantastic football teams are made or taken apart. What is less often known, or grasped is that behind the breaking news of the latest move to or from your favourite club lies a complex web of transnational rules, institutions and practices.

Our new intensive two-day Masterclass aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) to a small group of dedicated legal professionals who have the ambition to advise football clubs, represent players or join football governing bodies. The course combines theoretical insights on FIFA’s regulation of the transfer market with practical know-how of the actual operation of the RSTP distilled by hands-on practitioners.

Download the full Programme and register HERE.

The Team:

  • Dr Antoine Duval is a senior researcher at the Asser Institute and the head of the Asser International Sports Law Centre. He has widely published and lectured on transnational sports law, sports arbitration and the interaction between EU law and sport. He is an avid football fan and football player and looks forward to walking you through the intricacies of the FIFA transfer system.

  • Carol Couse is a Partner in the sports team at Mills & Reeve LLP , with extensive in-house and in private practice experience of dealing with sports regulatory matters, whether contentious or non-contentious.  She has advised on many multi million pound international football transfer agreements, playing contracts and image rights agreements on behalf clubs, players and agents.
  • Jacques Blondin is an Italian lawyer, who joined FIFA inundefined 2015, working for the Disciplinary Department. In 2019, he was appointed Head of FIFA TMS (now called FIFA Regulatory Enforcement) where he is responsible, among other things, for ensuring compliance in international transfers within the FIFA Transfer Matching System.
  • Oskar van Maren joined FIFA as a Legal Counsel in December 2017, forming part of the Knowledge Management Hub, a department created in September 2020. Previously, he worked for FIFA’s Players' Status Department. Between April 2014 and March 2017, he worked as a Junior Researcher at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut. He holds an LL.M in European law from Leiden University (The Netherlands).
  • Rhys Lenarduzzi is currently a research intern at the Asser International Sports Law Centre, where he focuses in particular on the transnational regulation of football. Prior to this, he acquired over 5 years of experience as a sports agent and consultant, at times representing over 50 professional athletes around the world from various sports, though predominantly football.

(A)Political Games? Ubiquitous Nationalism and the IOC’s Hypocrisy

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a L.LM. candidate in the European Law programme at Utrecht University and a former intern of the Asser International Sports Law Centre


1.     Sport Nationalism is Politics

Despite all efforts, the Olympic Games has been and will be immersed in politics. Attempts to shield the Games from social and political realities are almost sure to miss their mark and potentially risk being disproportionate. Moreover, history has laid bare the shortcomings of the attempts to create a sanitized and impenetrable bubble around the Games. The first blog of this series examined the idea of the Games as a sanitized space and dived into the history of political neutrality within the Olympic Movement to unravel the irony that while the IOC aims to keep the Olympic Games ‘clean’ of any politics within its ‘sacred enclosure’, the IOC and the Games itself are largely enveloped in politics. Politics seep into the cracks of this ‘sanitized’ space through: (1) public protests (and their suppression by authoritarian regimes hosting the Games), (2) athletes who use their public image to take a political stand, (3) the IOC who takes decisions on recognizing national Olympic Committees (NOCs) and awarding the Games to countries,[1] and (4) states that use the Games for geo-political posturing.[2] With this background in mind, the aim now is to illustrate the disparity between the IOC’s stance on political neutrality when it concerns athlete protest versus sport nationalism, which also is a form of politics.

As was mentioned in part one of this series, the very first explicit mention of politics in the Olympic Charter was in its 1946 version and aimed to combat ‘the nationalization of sports for political aims’ by preventing ‘a national exultation of success achieved rather than the realization of the common and harmonious objective which is the essential Olympic law’ (emphasis added). This sentiment was further echoed some years later by Avery Brundage (IOC President (1952-1972)) when he declared: ‘The Games are not, and must not become, a contest between nations, which would be entirely contrary to the spirit of the Olympic Movement and would surely lead to disaster’.[3] Regardless of this vision to prevent sport nationalism engulfing the Games and its codification in the Olympic Charter, the current reality paints quite a different picture. One simply has to look at the mass obsession with medal tables during the Olympic Games and its amplification not only by the media but even by members of the Olympic Movement.[4] This is further exacerbated when the achievements of athletes are used for domestic political gain[5] or when they are used to glorify a nation’s prowess on the global stage or to stir nationalism within a populace[6]. Sport nationalism is politics. Arguably, even the worship of national imagery during the Games from the opening ceremony to the medal ceremonies cannot be depoliticized.[7] In many ways, the IOC has turned a blind eye to the politics rooted in these expressions of sport nationalism and instead has focused its energy to sterilize its Olympic spaces and stifle political expression from athletes. One of the ways the IOC has ignored sport nationalism is through its tacit acceptance of medal tables although they are expressly banned by the Olympic Charter.

At this point, the rules restricting athletes’ political protest and those concerning sport nationalism, particularly in terms of medal tables, will be scrutinized in order to highlight the enforcement gap between the two. More...

“Sport Sex” before the European Court of Human Rights - Caster Semenya v. Switzerland - By Michele Krech

Editor's note: Michele Krech is a JSD Candidate and SSHRC Doctoral Fellow at NYU School of Law. She was retained as a consultant by counsel for Caster Semenya in the proceedings before the Court of Arbitration for Sport discussed above. She also contributed to two reports mentioned in this blog post: the Report of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,  Intersection of race and gender discrimination in sport (June 2020); and the Human Rights Watch Report, “They’re Chasing Us Away from Sport”: Human Rights Violations in Sex Testing of Elite Women Athletes (December 2020).

This blog was first published by the Völkerrechtsblog and is republished here with authorization. Michele Krech will be joining our next Zoom In webinar on 31 March to discuss the next steps in the Caster Semenya case.

Sport is the field par excellence in which discrimination
against intersex people has been made most visible.

Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe
Issue Paper: Human rights and intersex people (2015)

Olympic and world champion athlete Caster Semenya is asking the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to make sure all women athletes are “allowed to run free, for once and for all”. Semenya brings her application against Switzerland, which has allowed a private sport association and a private sport court to decide – with only the most minimal appellate review by a national judicial authority – what it takes for women, legally and socially identified as such all their lives, to count as women in the context of athletics. I consider how Semenya’s application might bring human rights, sex, and sport into conversation in ways not yet seen in a judicial forum. More...

New Event - Zoom In - Caster Semenya v. International Association of Athletics Federations - 31 March - 16.00-17.30 CET

On Wednesday 31 March 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret (University of Lausanne), is organising its fourth Zoom In webinar on the recent developments arising from the decision of the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) in the case Caster Semenya v. International Association of Athletics Federations (now World Athletics), delivered on 25 August 2020.

The participation of athletes with biological sex differences to international competitions is one of the most controversial issues in transnational sports law. In particular, since 2019, Caster Semenya, an Olympic champion from South-Africa has been challenging the World Athletics eligibility rules for Athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD Regulation), which would currently bar her from accessing international competitions (such as the Tokyo Olympics) unless she accepts to undergo medical treatment aimed at reducing her testosterone levels. In April 2019, the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected her challenge against the DSD Regulation in a lengthy award. In response, Caster Semenya and the South African Athletics Federation filed an application to set aside the award before the Swiss Federal Tribunal. In August 2020, the SFT released its decision rejecting Semenya’s challenge of the award (for an extensive commentary of the ruling see Marjolaine Viret’s article on the Asser International Sports Law Blog).

Recently, on 25 February 2021, Caster Semenya announced her decision to lodge an application at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against Switzerland on the basis of this judgment. In this context, we thought it important to organise a Zoom In webinar around the decision of the SFT and the pending case before the ECtHR. Indeed, should the ECtHR accept the case, it will be in a position to provide a definitive assessment of the human rights compatibility of the DSD Regulation. Moreover, this decision could have important consequences on the role played by human rights in the review of the private regulations and decisions of international sports governing bodies.


Participation is free, register HERE.

New Video! Zoom In on World Anti-Doping Agency v. Russian Anti-Doping Agency - 25 February

Dear readers,

If you missed it (or wish to re-watch it), the video of our third Zoom In webinar from 25 February on the CAS award in the World Anti-Doping Agency v. Russian Anti-Doping Agency case is available on the YouTube channel of the Asser Institute:

Stay tuned and watch this space, the announcement for the next Zoom In webinar, which will take place on 31 March, is coming soon!

A Reflection on Recent Human Rights Efforts of National Football Associations - By Daniela Heerdt (Tilburg University)

Editor's Note: Daniela Heerdt is a PhD researcher at Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. Her PhD research deals with the establishment of responsibility and accountability for adverse human rights impacts of mega-sporting events, with a focus on FIFA World Cups and Olympic Games. She published a number of articles on mega-sporting events and human rights, in the International Sports Law Journal, Tilburg Law Review, and the Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights.


In the past couple of years, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) made remarkable steps towards embedding human rights into their practices and policies. These developments have been discussed at length and in detail in this blog and elsewhere, but a short overview at this point is necessary to set the scene. Arguably, most changes were sparked by John Ruggie’s report from 2016, in which he articulated a set of concrete recommendations for FIFA “on what it means for FIFA to embed respect for human rights across its global operations”, using the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) as authoritative standard.[i] As a result, in May 2017, FIFA published a human rights policy, in which it commits to respecting human rights in accordance with the UNGPs, identifies its salient human rights risks, and acknowledges the potential adverse impacts it can have on human rights in general and human rights of people belonging to specific groups. In October 2017, it adopted new bidding regulations requiring bidders to develop a human rights strategy and conduct an independent human rights risk assessment as part of their bid. In March 2017, FIFA also created a Human Rights Advisory Board, which regularly evaluated FIFA’s human rights progress and made recommendations on how FIFA should address human rights issues linked to its activities. The mandate of the Advisory Board expired at the end of last year and the future of this body is unknown at this point.

While some of these steps can be directly connected to the recommendations in the Ruggie report, other recommendations have largely been ignored. One example of the latter and focus of this blog post is the issue of embedding human rights at the level of national football associations. It outlines recent steps taken by the German football association “Deutscher Fussball-Bund” (DFB) and the Dutch football association “Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbalbond” (KNVB) in relation to human rights, and explores to what extent these steps can be regarded as proactive moves by those associations or rather spillover effects from FIFA’s human rights efforts. More...

New Event! Zoom In on World Anti-Doping Agency v. Russian Anti-Doping Agency - 25 February - 16:00-17:30 CET

On Thursday 25 February 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret (University of Lausanne), organizes a Zoom In webinar on the recent award of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the case World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) v. Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), delivered on 17 December 2020.

In its 186 pages decision the CAS concluded that RUSADA was non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) in connection with its failure to procure the delivery of the authentic LIMS data (Laboratory Information Management System) and underlying analytical data of the former Moscow Laboratory to WADA. However, the CAS panel did not endorse the entire range of measures sought by WADA to sanction this non-compliance. It also reduced the time frame of their application from four to two years. The award has been subjected to a lot of public attention and criticisms, and some have expressed the view that Russia benefited from a lenient treatment.   

This edition of our Zoom in webinars will focus on assessing the impact of the award on the world anti-doping system. More specifically, we will touch upon the decision’s effect on the capacity of WADA to police institutionalized doping systems put in place by certain states, the ruling’s regard for the rights of athletes (Russian or not), and its effect on the credibility of the world anti-doping system in the eyes of the general public.

To discuss the case with us, we are very happy to welcome the following speakers:

Participation is free, register HERE.

Asser International Sports Law Blog | The 2006 World Cup Tax Evasion Affair in Germany: A short guide. By Gesa Kuebek

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 2006 World Cup Tax Evasion Affair in Germany: A short guide. By Gesa Kuebek

Editor's note:

Gesa Kuebek holds an LLM and graduated from the University of Bologna, Gent and Hamburg as part of the Erasmus Mundus Master Programme in Law and Economics and now work as an intern for the Asser Instituut.

On Monday, 9 November, the German Football Association (DFB) announced in a Press Release the resignation of its head, Wolfgang Niersbach, over the 2006 World Cup Affair. In his statement, Niersbach argued that he had “no knowledge whatsoever” about any “payments flows” and is now being confronted with proceedings in which he was “never involved”. However, he is now forced to draw the “political consequences” from the situation. His resignation occurred against the backdrop of last week’s raid of the DFB’s Frankfurt headquarters and the private homes Niersbach, his predecessor Theo Zwanziger and long-standing DFB general secretary Horst R. Schmidt. The public prosecutor’s office investigates a particularly severe act of tax evasion linked to awarding the 2006 World Cup. The 2006 German “summer fairy-tale” came under pressure in mid-October 2015, after the German magazine “Der Spiegel” shocked Fußballdeutschland by claiming that it had seen concrete evidence proving that a €6.7 million loan, designated by the FIFA for a “cultural programme”, ended up on the account of Adidas CEO Robert-Louis Dreyfuß. The magazine further argued that the money was in fact a secret loan that was paid back to Dreyfuß. Allegedly, the loan was kept off the books intentionally in order to be used as bribes to win the 2006 World Cup bid. The public prosecutor now suspects the DFB of failing to register the payment in tax returns. German FA officials admit that the DFB made a “mistake” but deny all allegations of vote buying. However, the current investigations show that the issues at stakes remain far from clear, leaving many questions regarding the awarding of the 2006 World Cup unanswered.

The present blog post aims to shed a light on the matter by synthetizing what we do know about the 2006 World Cup Affair and by highlighting the legal grounds on which the German authorities investigate the tax evasion.

What’s the 2006 World Cup Affair all about?

The scandal centres on the payment of €6.7 million, which was, according to Der Spiegel, secretly loaned to the DFB by the private investor Louis Dreyfuß, at the time CEO of Adidas, prior to the Word Cup decision on 6 July 2000. Accordingly, the money was never recorded in either the balance sheets of the Bid Committee or, later, in the balance sheets of the German Organisation Committee of the World Cup. Der Spiegel argued that the money was used to buy the four votes of the Asian representatives of the 24-membered FIFA Executive Committee. The four Asians voted together with the European representatives at the elections in July 2000 in favour of Germany becoming the host of the 2006 World Cup. Due to the fact the New Zealand’s representative Charles Dempsey surprisingly refrained from voting in the last ballot, Germany won with 12:11 votes in favour. In a later article, Der Spiegel stated that Zwanziger and Schmidt discussed in a recorded telephone conversation to whom the Dreyfuß millions were transferred and mentioned the name of Mohamed Bin Hammam in this context. It is worth remembering that the Qatari Bin Hammam, a former member of the FIFA Executive Committee from 1996 to 2011, was charged with offering bribes for votes and banned for life from all football activities by FIFA on two occasions in 2011 and 2012. The DFB, however, denies all allegations of vote-rigging.

The current investigations of the public prosecutor focus on the supposed repayment of the €6.7 million loan in April 2005. The Organisation Committee officially declared the money as the German contribution to a “cultural programme” during the 2006 World Cup. As such, the German money went to a FIFA account in Geneva, Switzerland. However, the FIFA cultural programme never happened. Instead, FIFA allegedly transferred the money immediately to an account of Louis Dreyfuß in Zurich. Up to now, there are neither bills nor a receipt of payments at FIFA for the ominous €6.7 million. Furthermore, it remains unclear through which channels the DFB’s money was transferred back to Louis Dreyfuß.

How does the DFB react?

Initially, the DFB acknowledged in a Press Release of 16 October that evidence came to light “that a payment of the Organisation Committee in April 2005 amounting to €6.7 million attributed to FIFA may not have been used according to the indicated purpose”. On that same day, Der Spiegel published its article. The DFB promptly reacted in another Press Release, denying the existence of slush funds. It refuted the allegations of Der Spiegel as “completely untenable” and denied any accusations of vote-rigging. Niersbach added that the DFB “will refute Der Spiegel’s claims and take legal action against them”. In a similar manner, German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, who acted as the head of the Head of the 2006 World Cup Organisation Committee, repudiated the article’s claims publicly.

By contrast, on 23 October, Zwanziger described Niersbach, his well-known enemy and successor as DFB president, as a liar in a Spiegel interview, acknowledging for the first time the existence of slush-funds “during the German World Cup application”. He argued that it is, “similarly clear that the current DFB president has not just been aware of the matter for a few weeks, as he states, but at least since 2005”.

Shortly thereafter, Franz Beckenbauer admitted for the first time that “mistakes” had been made, but still denied vote buying. According to the DFB, the €6.7 million were indeed disguised under the false pretences of the “cultural programme” and used to repay the loan to Louis Dreyfuß. However, the DFB claims that the original payment to the German Organisation Committee led by Franz Beckenbauer was made in 2002, thus after Germany had already won the 2006 World Cup bid. According to the DFB, the money was used to fulfil a particular demand of FIFA: FIFA president Blatter requested an advanced payment of €6.7 million to guarantee a €170 million loan.[1] Beckenbauer acknowledged that the Organisation Committee should not have agreed to the proposal of the FIFA Finance Committee. Blatter, however, denies this version.[2]

By this time, the DFB had contracted the law firm ‘Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’ to investigate the matter. On 27 October, the law firm stated that the proceedings will probably take a long time.

Why is the German public prosecutor’s office investigating tax evasion?

On 19 October, the German Prosecutor’s office stated that they were in the process of verifying an initial suspicion before launching a preliminary investigation. Possible criminal wrongdoings involved deception, fraud and corruption. However, in a later Press Release, the public prosecutor’s office in Frankfurt stated that there would be no further investigation into the alleged crimes due to the expiration of the limitation period of proceedings. Instead, a preliminary investigation involving a particularly severe case of tax fraud was initiated.

By indicating the €6.7 million transfer as a contribution to the “FIFA cultural programme” on the DFB’s tax return, the transaction was classified as an “operating expense” under German tax law and was as such tax deductible. The public prosecutor’s office, however, thinks that the payment had in fact a different purpose. As a result of this requalification, the payment cannot be declared as a deducible operating expense anymore. Therefore, the suspects are accused of declaring wrongful tax returns within the limit of their prior responsibilities in the Organisations Committee, thereby evading corporate and commercial taxes as well as solidarity surcharges[3] for the year 2006 to a substantially high extent.

According to an article of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, the falsified tax return were signed by Niersbach himself. Niersbach denies “any involvement whatsoever” in the affair.

What are the legal grounds under German Law?

The legal basis for prosecution of tax evasion is the eighth chapter (§§ 369-412) of the Abgabenordnung (Fiscal Code; abbr. AO). Here, tax offences are distinguished into tax crimes (Steuerstraftaten) and misdemeanours (Steuerordnungswidrigkeiten). Whilst the former is characterised as a deliberate act, the latter offence is triggered in case of gross negligence. Only tax crimes are punishable by penalties and imprisonment.[4] The core offence within the category of tax crimes is tax evasion (Steuerhinterziehung) which is regulated under § 370 AO. A natural or legal person commits tax evasion by (i) misrepresenting or concealing relevant information regarding taxation to tax authorities; (ii) neglecting tax disclosure duties; or (iii) refraining from the compulsory use of tax stamps (§ 370 AO Abs. 1). As stated above, the act of tax evasion must be committed deliberately. In accordance with § 78 Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Law Code; abbr. StGB), the statutory limitation period for prosecution of tax crimes is five years. However, the limitation period for tax repayment duties amounts to ten years; moreover, for tax repayment duties 6% interest per year is added. The potential sentence for tax evasion under German Law ranges from a financial penalty to a prison sentence of up to five years. In particularly serious cases of tax evasion in conjunction with abuse of an evader’s official authority or with fraudulent counterfeit the possible sentence ranges from minimally six month to maximally ten years of imprisonment (§ 370 AO Abs. 3 S. 1-5). If tax evasion is committed on a professional basis or as part of an organized crime (Gewerbs-/ Bandenmaessige Steuerhinterziehung) as stipulated in § 370a AO, the possible sentence ranges from one up to ten years of imprisonment.[5]

The search (Durchsuchungen) of private homes and business premises are primarily regulated in §§ 102 ff. Strafprozessordnung (Code of Criminal Procedure; abbr. StPO). Confiscation, or Beschlagnahmung, is regulated in §§ 98 ff. StPO. A search is conducted during preliminary investigations, and has to be based on “sufficient factual implications” (§ 152 Abs. 2 StPO). The preliminary investigation procedure can have three possible outcomes: First, one can decide to close the proceedings (§§386, 389 AO); second one can indorse a penalty order (Strafbefehl §§400; 407 StPO); and third, if enough evidence has been collected, the prosecutor can go to court and charge the defendant for tax evasion (§170 StPO).[6]

Against whom does the German prosecutor investigates?

The prosecutor’s investigation does not target the DFB as such. As stated in the introduction, suspects are the recently resigned DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach, who was the vice-president of the German Organisation Committee of the 2006 World Cup, his predecessor Theo Zwanziger, who acted as the treasurer of the Organisations Committee and Horst R. Schmidt, who was the managing Vice-President of the Organisations Committee and until 2007 General Secretary of the DFB. If Niersbach actually signed the falsified tax return papers, his role in the affair will most likely be difficult to deny.

The exact role of the other two officials in the putative tax evasion scheme remains unclear. Especially the role of Zwanziger raises questions. Not only did he publicly reveal Niersbach’s knowledge of the affair, he also gave evidence in front of ‘Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’ on 28 October. Although contracted by the DFB, the members of the law firm are supposed to act as external investigators. Zwanziger stated that he had “submitted all his documents [and] presented his annotations and assessments”. Six days later, the public prosecutor’s office initiated the preliminary investigation on tax evasion and searched the aforementioned premises. At this point in time, a linkage between Zwanziger’s testimony and the start of the preliminary investigations remains purely speculative.

It is further unclear why the investigators refrain from targeting Franz Beckenbauer, who acted as the president of the Organisations Committee. The prosecutor argued that Beckenbauer had “nothing to do” with the tax evasion. By contrast, the German journal “Handelsblatt” suggested that “the most likely explanation” is that Beckenbauer lives in Austria and is thus outside the jurisdictional reach of the investigators.

What potential charges are the accused facing?

As the topic of the missing €6.7 million arose prior to any of the statements of the FIFA officials and – as to my knowledge - no retroactive payments have been made, the accused will not be exempted from charges under § 371 AO. If enough evidence can be found and if the accused are proven guilty in front of a Court, the accused six months to ten years imprisonment in case of a severe tax evasion scheme (§ 370 AO Abs. 3).

Why does the combination of “tax evasion” “Germany” and “Louis Dreyfuß” rings a bell?

It is not the first time that Louis Dreyfuß has been involved in a “German football scandal”. In 2000, Dreyfuß provided a loan to Bayern Munich’s Uli Hoeneß of 5 million Deutschmark (around €2.56 million) as “play money” to speculate primarily on shares and current exchange rates, which was deposited in a Zurich financial institution. Subsequently, the bank reportedly granted Hoeneß a loan amounting to 15 million marks, for which Louis Dreyfus also acted as guarantor. Hoeneß refrained from declaring the proceeds of his gambling to the tax authorities. For this and other tax evasion offences, Hoeneß was sentenced to a total of three years and six month of imprisonment in 2014.

What’s next in the investigation on the 2006 World Cup Affair?

With regard to the tax evasion charges, it is likely that the case will either be closed (§§ 386, 389 AO) or – if enough evidence is collected against one or all three of the officials – the offenders will be charged for tax evasion in front of a court (§170 StPO). The outcome will depend on the evidence that comes to light during the preliminary investigation. As the FIFA “cultural programme” never took place, it is very obvious that the money was indeed used for a different purpose than indicated on the tax return and as such, the transaction should not have been deducible as an operating expense. Hence, proving tax evasion will most likely not be the public prosecutor’s office primary problem. Instead, the investigators have to find evidence tying Niersbach, Zwanziger and/or Schmidt to the crime. If the Sueddeutsche Zeitung is correct in stating that Niersbach signed the illegal tax return, it will be difficult for him to avoid prosecution.

In any case, it is to be expected that the 2006 World Cup Affair will occupy Fußballdeutschland for a while. The results of the investigation which the DFB confided to the law firm ‘Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer are not expected tomorrow. Moreover, the independence of the investigation is questioned after a personal connection between a Niersbach employee and a lawyer from the aforementioned firm became public. FIFA, too, has several external lawyers investigating the claims. In addition, the Sportausschuss (sport committee) of the German Bundestag started to look into the matter. However, the impartiality of the sport committee may also be questioned as one of the Bundestag’s members also acts as the treasurer of the DFB and is tipped to become the successor of Niersbach. As a result, the final word regarding the use, whereabouts and purpose of the €6.7 million is not to be expected soon.

[1] Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:” Das Schweigen des Wolfgang Niersbach“, 04.11.2015,

[2] Idem 1

[3] To finance the reunification of Germany a surcharge is levied from all taxpayers on their PAYE, income, withholding and corporation tax. The solidarity surcharge is currently 5.5 % of the relevant assessment basis.

[4] However, misdemeanours can be fined with up to €50 000

[5] See also L.P. Feld, A.J.Schmidt & F, Schneider: “Tax Evasion, Black Activities and Deterrence in Germany: An Institutional and Empirical Perspective”, Annual Congress of the International Institute of Public Finance, Warwick, 2007.

[6] See also Christoph Bräuning: „Durchsuchung und Beschlagnahme durch die Steuerfahndung“, ROSE & PARTNER LLP, 2012,

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