Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

Final Report on the FIFA Governance Reform Project: The Past and Future of FIFA’s Good Governance Gap

Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup left many people thunderstruck: How can a country with a population of 2 million people and with absolutely no football tradition host the biggest football event in the world? Furthermore, how on earth can players and fans alike survive when the temperature is expected to exceed 50 °C during the month (June) the tournament is supposed to take place?

Other people were less surprised when FIFA’s President, Sepp Blatter, pulled the piece of paper with the word “Qatar” out of the envelope on 2 December 2010. This was just the latest move by a sporting body that was reinforcing a reputation of being over-conservative, corrupt, prone to conflict-of-interest and convinced of being above any Law, be it national or international.More...

Doping Paradize – How Jamaica became the Wild West of Doping

Since the landing on the sporting earth of the Übermensch, aka Usain Bolt, Jamaica has been at the centre of doping-related suspicions. Recently, it has been fueling those suspicions with its home-made scandal around the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). The former executive of JADCO, Renee Anne Shirley, heavily criticized its functioning in August 2013, and Jamaica has been since then in the eye of the doping cyclone. More...

Cocaine, Doping and the Court of Arbitration for sport - “I don’t like the drugs, but the drugs like me”. By Antoine Duval

Beginning of April 2014, the Colombian Olympic Swimmer Omar Pinzón was cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) of an adverse finding of Cocaine detected in a urine sample in 2013. He got lucky. Indeed, in his case the incredible mismanagement and dilettante habits of Bogotá’s anti-doping laboratory saved him from a dire fate: the two-year ban many other athletes have had the bad luck to experience. More...

The French “betting right”: a legislative Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. By Ben Van Rompuy

The European Commission has published the “Study on Sports Organisers’ Rights in the EU”, which was carried out by the ASSER International Sports Law Centre (T.M.C. Asser Institute) and the Institute for Information Law (University of Amsterdam). 

The study critically examines the legal protection of rights to sports events (sports organisers’ rights) and various issues regarding their commercial exploitation in the field of media and sports betting, both from a national and EU law perspective.  

In a number of posts, we will highlight some of the key findings of the study. 

“It was Hyde, after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty.” 

In recent years, numerous national and European sports organisers have called for the adoption of a specific right to consent to the organisation of bets (“right to consent to bets”), by virtue of which no betting operator could offer bets on a sports event without first entering into a contractual agreement with the organiser. More...

Five Years UEFA Club Licensing Benchmarking Report – A Report on the Reports. By Frédérique Faut, Giandonato Marino and Oskar van Maren

Last week, UEFA, presented its annual Club Licensing Benchmark Report, which analyses socio-economic trends in European club football. The report is relevant in regard to the FFP rules, as it has been hailed by UEFA as a vindication of the early (positive) impact of FFP. This blog post is a report on the report. We go back in time, analysing the last 5 UEFA Benchmarking Reports, to provide a dynamic account of the reports findings. Indeed, the 2012 Benchmarking Report, can be better grasped in this context and longer-lasting trends be identified.More...

The EU State aid and Sport Saga – Setting the scene

The last years has seen the European Commission being put under increasing pressure to enforce EU State aid law in sport. For example, numerous Parliamentary questions have been asked by Members of the European Parliament[1] regarding alleged State aid to sporting clubs.  In reply to this pressure, on 21 March 2012, the European Commission, together with UEFA, issued a statement. More...

FFP for Dummies. All you need to know about UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations.

Football-wise, 2014 will not only be remembered for the World Cup in Brazil. This year will also determine the credibility of UEFA’s highly controversial Financial Fair Play (FFP) Regulations. The FFP debate will soon be reaching a climax, since up to 76 European football clubs are facing sanctions by the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB). More...

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

Asser International Sports Law Blog | The CAS Ad Hoc Division in 2014: Business as usual? – Part.1: The Jurisdiction quandary

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 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).

Part. 1: The Jurisdiction quandary: Too early to be judged!

The scope of jurisdiction of the Ad Hoc Division of CAS is provided for in article 1 of the ‘Arbitration Rules for the Olympic Games’ (the same is true for the Asian Games)[2]. However, legal uncertainties over this scope of jurisdiction remain a defining feature. Many earlier disputes in front of the Ad Hoc division have tackled this question, and this has been true again this year.[3]

It is not so much the scope rationae personae that might be problematic, although one case arose at the Asian games in which two former squash players were denied access to the Ad Hoc division on the basis of not being “participating athletes”.[4] Nor is it the rationae materiae that has been a real problem, as claimants tend to submit disputes, which are related to the Games. No, the problem child is usually the jurisdiction rationae temporis. Indeed, article 1 of the rules states that “any disputes covered by Rule 61 of the Olympic Charter, insofar as they arise during the Olympic Games or during a period of ten days preceding the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games” can be subjected to the jurisdiction of the Ad Hoc Division. So the key question is: When does a dispute “arise”? 

In the Birkner case[5], the Ad Hoc Division in Sochi had to grapple extensively with the question of when the dispute arose as, during the hearing, the respondent, Comitato Olympico Argentino, “denied the existence of a basis of jurisdiction of the panel”. The case concerned a selection drama for the Sochi Games (see part 2); jurisdiction rationae personae and rationae materiae were unproblematic. The CAS did examine whether the local remedies were exhausted, and considered that “that there were no internal remedies to exhaust”.[6] The only barrier left for jurisdiction to be asserted was the ratione temporis. In short, “did the dispute arise in the required time frame?”[7]

This “vexing issue” [8] was touched upon repeatedly in past Ad Hoc division awards.[9] In the Birkner case, it had to be demonstrated that the dispute arose not earlier than the 28 January 2014, 10 days before the opening ceremony scheduled for the 7 February 2014. The panel first reaffirmed the fact that “the date when the dispute arose cannot, per se, be the date when the Request for Arbitration is filed” .[10]  So, back to the key question, when did the dispute arise?

The award refers extensively to the Schuler case[11]. In its main holding on jurisdiction, the 2006 panel considered that “it would not be possible to say that a dispute had arisen until Ms Schuler had decided to appeal and had filed notice of her appeal”.[12] Nevertheless, the 2014 panel refused to consider the Schuler precedent to be applicable to the Birkner case for two reasons: the factual situation is different and the reasoning used in Schuler is fundamentally flawed.

On the factual side, contrary to the Schuler case, the panel finds that “[i]n the present case […] the explanation was not given on a date inside the required period, as it was either on 20 January 2014, which is the date of the letter of explanation, or on 22 January 2014, which is the date on which the Applicant says that she received that letter”.[13] Both of these dates being well before the 10 days period, the panel is of the opinion that it lacks jurisdiction. On the legal side, the panel is clearly not “convinced by the legal reasoning adopted in the Schuler case” .[14] In fact, it considers that “[s]uch conclusion could extend the jurisdiction of the ad hoc Division outside the precise and limited framework set by the Rules, which this Panel is required to respect and apply” [15]. The panel is of the opinion that “the date when a dispute arises is in general […] the date of the decision with which the Applicant disagrees” .[16] However, “[s]uch a date can arise later […] if […] the decision is not self-explanatory and requires some explanation in order for the parties to know with certainty that they are in disagreement”.[17]

This is a noteworthy consideration, which indicates a substantial reduction of the scope of jurisdiction of the CAS Ad Hoc Division. If the parties do not agree to the jurisdiction of CAS (in practice they often do not contest the jurisdiction[18]) it will render more difficult the referral of a dispute to the Ad Hoc Division. This understanding of the start of a dispute is contradicting the overall aim of the Ad Hoc Division, which is to deal swiftly with all disputes intimately linked to the Games. In this light, a more flexible interpretation of the jurisdiction rationae temporis, as suggested in the Schuler case, is preferable. Athletes are no legal experts; they (and sometimes their lawyers) need time to find their way through the jungle of sporting regulations and dispute resolution mechanisms potentially applicable. The crucial importance of the Olympic Games for an athlete’s career call for an interpretation of the start of the dispute that focuses on the intention to challenge the decision as highlighted in the Schuler award[19]. Moreover, any doubts concerning the starting date of the dispute should play in favour of the athlete, unless the time between the date of notification of the contentious decision and the decision to lodge a complaint in front of CAS is disproportionately (and abusively) long. The attack by the Birkner panel on the reasoning adopted in Schuler is no anodyne move; in the future it may threaten the access to justice of athletes and their ability to obtain a swift and fair decision, in a context where they most urgently need it.


[1] On the early days of the CAS Ad Hoc Division at the Olympics, the book by Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler is a must read : G. Kaufmann-Kohler, Arbitration at the Olympics, Kluwer Law, 2001.

[2] Article 1 of the Arbitration Rules for the OG stipulates that:

“The purpose of the present Rules is to provide, in the interests of the athletes and of sport, for the resolution by arbitration of any disputes covered by Rule 61 of the Olympic Charter, insofar as they arise during the Olympic Games or during a period of ten days preceding the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games.”

“In the case of a request for arbitration against a decision pronounced by the IOC, an NOC, an International Federation or an Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, the claimant must, before filing such request, have exhausted all the internal remedies available to him/her pursuant to the statutes or regulations of the sports body concerned, unless the time needed to exhaust the internal remedies would make the appeal to the CAS Ad Hoc Division ineffective.”

[3] CAS OG 14/03; CAS AG 14/01; CAS AG 14/02.

[4] See CAS AG 14/01, §2.5. See also CAS OG 12/03, §2.3.

[5] CAS OG 14/03

[6] CAS OG 14/03, §5.14

[7] CAS OG 14/03, §5.17-5-30

[8] CAS OG 14/03, §5.20

[9] Most notably in the Schuler case, CAS OG 06/002. For a general commentary see: I.S.LR. 2006 pp.50-51 and A. Rigozzi, ‘The decisions rendered by the CAS Ad Hoc Division at the Turin Winter Olympic Games 2006’, Journal of International Arbitration 23 (5): 453-466, 2006

[10] CAS OG 14/03, §5.21

[11] CAS OG 14/03, §5.24

[12] CAS OG 06/002, §14

[13] CAS OG 14/03, §5.25

[14] CAS OG 14/03, §5.25

[15] CAS OG 14/03, §5.27

[16] CAS OG 14/03, §5.28

[17] CAS OG 14/03, §5.28

[18] See for example CAS OG 14/01 §6.2 and CAS OG 14/02 §6.5

[19] In cases, in which the dispute overtly arose earlier than 10 days before the games such a restrictive interpretation could be tolerated. See for example: CAS OG 12/03, §2.3.23; CAS OG 12/02, §4.10; CAS OG 12/04, §5.2.

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