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 Evolution of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Rules – Part 1: Background and EU Law. By Christopher Flanagan

Editor's Note: Christopher is an editor of the Asser International Sports Law Blog. His research interests cover a spectrum of sports law topics, with a focus on financial regulatory disputes, particularly in professional football, a topic on which he has regularly lectured at the University of the West of England.

 

It is five years since the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) formally introduced ‘Financial Fair Play’ (FFP) into European football through its Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, Edition 2012. With FFP having now been in place for a number of years, we are in a position to analyse its effect, its legality, and how the rules have altered over the last half decade in response to legal challenges and changing policy priorities. This article is split into three parts: The first will look at the background, context and law applicable to FFP; Part Two will look at the legal challenges FFP has faced; and Part Three will look at how FFP has iteratively changed, considering its normative impact, and the future of the rules. More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – July and August 2017. By Tomáš Grell

 Editor's note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser.

 

The Headlines

ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law 

On 26 and 27 October 2017, the T.M.C. Asser Institute in The Hague will host the first ever ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference. This year's edition will feature panels on the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the world anti-doping system, the FIFA transfer regulations, human rights and sports, the labour rights of athletes, and EU law and sport. We will also welcome the following distinguished keynote speakers:

  • Miguel Maduro, former Advocate General at the European Court of Justice and former head of the FIFA's Governance Committee;
  • Michael Beloff QC, English barrister known as one of the 'Godfathers' of sports law;
  • Stephen Weatherill, Professor at Oxford University and a scholarly authority on EU law and sport;
  • Richard McLaren, CAS Arbitrator, sports law scholar and former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency's investigation into the Russian doping scandal.

You will find all the necessary information related to the conference here. Do not forget to register as soon as possible if you want to secure a place on the international sports law pitch! [Please note that we have a limited amount of seats available, which will be attributed on a 'first come, first served' basis.] More...

FIFA's Human Rights Agenda: Is the Game Beautiful Again? – By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell holds an LL.M. in Public International Law from Leiden University. He contributes to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a research intern.

 

Concerns about adverse human rights impacts related to FIFA's activities have intensified ever since its late 2010 decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup to Russia and Qatar respectively. However, until recently, the world's governing body of football had done little to eliminate these concerns, thereby encouraging human rights advocates to exercise their critical eye on FIFA. 

In response to growing criticism, the Extraordinary FIFA Congress, held in February 2016, decided to include an explicit human rights commitment in the revised FIFA Statutes which came into force in April 2016. This commitment is encapsulated in Article 3 which reads as follows: ''FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognized human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights''. At around the same time, Professor John Ruggie, the author of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights ('UN Guiding Principles') presented in his report 25 specific recommendations for FIFA on how to further embed respect for human rights across its global operations. While praising the decision to make a human rights commitment part of the organization's constituent document, Ruggie concluded that ''FIFA does not have yet adequate systems in place enabling it to know and show that it respects human rights in practice''.[1]

With the 2018 World Cup in Russia less than a year away, the time is ripe to look at whether Ruggie's statement about FIFA's inability to respect human rights still holds true today. This blog outlines the most salient human rights risks related to FIFA's activities and offers a general overview of what the world's governing body of football did over the past twelve months to mitigate these risks. Information about FIFA's human rights activities is collected primarily from its Activity Update on Human Rights published alongside FIFA's Human Rights Policy in June 2017. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – June 2017. By Tomáš Grell

 Editor's note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.

 

The Headlines

 
ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law

On 26 and 27 October, the T.M.C. Asser Institute in The Hague will host the first ever ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference. This year’s edition will feature panels on the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the world anti-doping system, the FIFA transfer regulations, human rights and sports, the labour rights of athletes, and EU law and sport. More...



Mitigating Circumstances and Strict Liability of Clubs in Match-fixing: Are We Going in the Wrong Direction? An Analysis of the Novara and Pro Patria Cases - By Mario Vigna


Editor’s note: Mario Vigna is a Senior Associate at Coccia De Angelis Vecchio & Associati in Rome, Italy. His main practice areas are sports law, commercial law, and IP law. He also has extensive experience in the Anti-doping field, serving as Deputy-Chief Prosecutor of the Italian NADO and as counsel in domestic and international sports proceedings. He is a frequent speaker at various conferences and workshops. He was not involved in either of the cases discussed below.


I.               Introduction 

Gambling in football is a popular and potentially lucrative activity. It also raises numerous issues. When faced with the issue of gambling, the European Court of Justice (now Court of Justice of the EU) determined that gambling was economic activity per se, notwithstanding gambling’s vulnerability to ethical issues, and thus could not be prohibited outright.[1] With the legality of gambling established, it was left to the proper legislative bodies (national legislatures, national and international federations, etc.) to regulate gambling in order to guard against fraud and corruption. Gambling was not going to disappear; the dangers inherent to gambling would require attention.  More...




Overdue payables in action: Reviewing two years of FIFA jurisprudence on the 12bis procedure – Part 2. By Frans M. de Weger and Frank John Vrolijk.

Editor's Note: Frans M. de Weger is legal counsel for the Federation of Dutch Professional Football Clubs (FBO) and CAS arbitrator. De Weger is author of the book “The Jurisprudence of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber”, 2nd edition, published by T.M.C. Asser Press in 2016. Frank John Vrolijk specialises in Sports, Labour and Company Law and is a former legal trainee of FBO and DRC Database.

This second blog will focus specifically on the sanctions available for FIFA under Article 12bis. It will provide explanatory guidelines covering the sanctions imposed during the period surveyed.


Introduction

The possibility to impose sanctions under article 12bis constitutes one of the pillars of the 12bis procedure. Pursuant to Article 12bis of the RSTP, edition 2016, the DRC and the PSC may impose a sanction on a club if the club is found to have delayed a due payment for more than 30 days without a prima facie contractual basis[1] and the creditor have put the debtor club in default in writing, granting a deadline of at least 10 days.[2] The jurisprudence in relation to Article 12bis also shows that sanctions are imposed ex officio by the DRC or the PSC and not per request of the claimant.More...





Overdue payables in action: Reviewing two years of FIFA jurisprudence on the 12bis procedure – Part 1. By Frans M. de Weger and Frank John Vrolijk.

Editor's Note: Frans M. de Weger is legal counsel for the Federation of Dutch Professional Football Clubs (FBO) and CAS arbitrator. De Weger is author of the book “The Jurisprudence of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber”, 2nd edition, published by T.M.C. Asser Press in 2016. Frank John Vrolijk specialises in Sports, Labour and Company Law and is a former legal trainee of FBO and DRC Database.

In this first blog, we will try to answer some questions raised in relation to the Article 12bis procedure on overdue payables based on the jurisprudence of the DRC and the PSC during the last two years: from 1 April 2015 until 1 April 2017. [1] The awards of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (hereinafter: “the CAS”) in relation to Article 12bis that are published on CAS’s website will also be brought to the reader’s attention. In the second blog, we will focus specifically on the sanctions applied by FIFA under Article 12bis. In addition, explanatory guidelines will be offered covering the sanctions imposed during the period surveyed. A more extensive version of both blogs is pending for publication with the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ). If necessary, and for a more detailed and extensive analysis at certain points, we will make reference to this more extensive article in the ISLJ. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – May 2017. By Tomáš Grell

Editor's note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.

The Headlines

The end of governance reforms at FIFA?

The main sports governance story that surfaced in the press (see here and here) during the last month is related to significant personal changes made by the FIFA Council within the organization’s institutional structure. In particular, the FIFA Council dismissed the heads of the investigatory (Mr Cornel Borbély) and adjudicatory (Mr Hans-Joachim Eckert) chambers of the Independent Ethics Committee, as well as the Head (Mr Miguel Maduro) of the Governance and Review Committee. The decision to remove Mr Maduro was taken arguably in response to his active role in barring Mr Vitaly Mutko, a Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, from sitting on the FIFA Council due to an imminent conflict of interests. These events constitute a major setback to governance reforms initiated by the football’s world governing body in 2015. For a more detailed insight into the governance reforms at FIFA, we invite you to read the recent blog written by our senior researcher Mr Antoine Duval. More...

The Olympic Games and Human Rights – Part II: Human Rights Obligations Added to the Host City Contract: Turning Point or Empty Promise? – By Tomáš Grell


This is a follow-up contribution to my previous blog on human rights implications of the Olympic Games published last week. Together with highlighting some of the most serious Olympic Games-related human rights abuses, the first part has outlined the key elements of the Host City Contract ('HCC') as one of the main legal instruments regulating the execution of the Olympic Games. It has also indicated that, in February 2017, the International Olympic Committee ('IOC') revised the 2024 HCC to include, inter alia, explicit human rights obligations. Without questioning the potential significance of inserting human rights obligations to the 2024 HCC, this second part will refer to a number of outstanding issues requiring clarification in order to ensure that these newly-added human rights obligations are translated from paper to actual practice. More...


Asser International Sports Law Blog | The EU State aid and Sport Saga – A blockade to Florentino Perez’ latest “galactic” ambitions (part 1)

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 EU State aid and Sport Saga – A blockade to Florentino Perez’ latest “galactic” ambitions (part 1)

This is the first part of a blog series involving the Real Madrid State aid case.

Apart from being favoured by many of Spain’s most important politicians, there have always been suspicions surrounding the world’s richest football club regarding possible financial aid by the Madrid City Council. Indeed, in the late 90’s a terrain qualification change by the Madrid City Council proved to be tremendously favourable to the king’s club. The change allowed Real Madrid to sell its old training grounds for a huge sum. Though the exact price for the grounds remains unknown, Real Madrid was suddenly capable of buying players like Figo and Zidane for record fees. However, the European Commission, even though agreeing that an advantage was conferred to the club, simply stated that the new qualification of the terrain in question does not appear to involve any transfer of resources by the State and could therefore not be regarded as State aid within the meaning of article 107 TFEU.

Agreements between the club and the Council have been a regularity for the last 25 years.  A more recent example concerns an agreement signed on 29 July 2011 (Convenio29-07-2011.pdf (8MB). The agreement regularizes two earlier agreements between the Council and Real Madrid dating from 1991 and 1998 respectively. The commitments deriving from those earlier agreements were not followed by the relevant parties and therefore had to give way to a new agreement. A closer look at the 29 July 2011 Agreement exposes a bizarre chain of events. It turned out that in 1998 Real Madrid transmitted an undivided half of their old training grounds to the municipality. Apart from a large sum of money, the club was to receive a number of terrains spread out over the municipality, including a terrain located in the area called Las Tablas valued at €595.194 in 1998. However, due to its qualification for sporting usage, the Council concluded in 2011 that the parcel could not be transferred to the club due to the fact that Madrid’s urbanity laws only permit a transfer of urban or urbanizable terrains. For that reason, the Council agreed to compensate the football club not for the original value of €595.194 but for a staggering €22.693.054,44! Real Madrid was not compensated in the form of a sum, but rather it was presented with a packet of terrains including four terrains of a total area of 12.435 m/2 in the street Mercedes Arteaga in the Carabanchel district of Madrid.

The year 2011 also saw a second agreement between the Council of Madrid and the football club, this time concerning construction works on the Real Madrid stadium Santiago Bernabéu. This agreement, dating from November 2011, is known as operation Bernabeú-Opañel and includes the following plans. The Council is to transfer to the club a terrain constituting a 12.250 m/2 buildable surface which borders the west-side of the Bernabéu stadium. This acquirement permits Real Madrid to cover the stadium with a roof, to build a shopping centre and a hotel on the façade situated on the Paseo de la Castellana (one of Madrid’s most important streets). In return, the club firstly agreed to transfer to the Council the shopping centre Esquina del Bernabéu, which is situated at the South-East-side of the stadium with a buildable surface of 6.858 m/2. The Council would then demolish the shopping centre and convert it into a public park. Secondly, the club is to transfer back to the Council part of the four terrains located in the street Mercedes Arteaga that it received as part of the 29 July 2011 Agreement.  In addition to the transfers of the old shopping centre and the terrains located in the street Mercedes Arteaga, Real Madrid is also to pay €6.6 million to the Council. The Council, however, encountered an obstacle in its own urban laws. The Plan General de Ordenación Urbana de Madrid de 1997 (PGOU) did not permit private parties, like Real Madrid, to construct on public terrains owned by the Council. Therefore, on 16 November 2012, the Government of the autonomous region of Madrid announced that the PGOU is to be modified ad hoc for the operation Bernabeú-Opañel.

By means of the operation Bernabeú-Opañel, Real Madrid expressed that it hopes to “convert the Club in a sporting institution of reference in the world. The aim is for the stadium to have a maximum level of comfort and services superior to the most modern and advanced sporting stadiums in the world” (PropuestaRealMadrid.pdf (914.2KB)). According to the Council, the operation will not only improve sporting and leisure facilities in the city, it will also create up to 9.546 m/2 of “green zones”. Moreover, the investment for the construction works will be borne only by Real Madrid and it is expected that the construction works will give employment to more than 2 000 people and the exploitation to 600 people.

 

In 2012, the ecological movement Ecologistas en Acción found several legal irregularities with regard to the 29 July Agreement operation Bernabeú-Opañel and (unsurprisingly) concluded that the agreements appeared to be very beneficial for Real Madrid. It therefore started legal proceedings in front of the Spanish administrative Court claiming that the ad hoc modification of the PGOU was illegal. It would later on launch on appeal in front of the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Madrid, or Madrid High Court (TSJM-Order-31-07-2014.pdf (112.3KB)). Simultaneously, it informed the European Commission of potential unlawful State aid granted by the Council of Madrid to Real Madrid. To Spain’s outrage, on 18 December 2013, the Commission declared that it had enough reasons to believe that the incriminated transactions might involve State aid and launched a formal investigation in accordance with Article 108(2) TFEU. Concretely, the Commission expressed the following concerns:

1) The Commission doubts whether it was impossible for the Council of Madrid to transfer the Las Tablas property to Real Madrid;

2) The Commission doubts that a market value of the Las Tablas plot of land has been sought;

3) The Commission doubts the market conformity of the value of the properties which were transferred to Real Madrid by the 2011 Agreement and at the occasion of the subsequent further exchange of land around the Bernabéu Stadium, and;

4) The Commission doubts that there is an objective of common interest, which could justify selective support to a very strong actor in a highly competitive economic sector. 

The Commission’s doubts seem, in light of the facts at hand, reasonable. To decide whether or not the land transactions qualifies as unlawful State aid, however, the four cumulative criteria of Article 107(1) TFEU need to be fulfilled. (1) The aid must confer an economic advantage on Real Madrid; (2) it must be granted by a Member State or through State resources; (3) the advantage must be selective and distorts or threatens to distort competition; and (4) it must affect trade between Member States.


Advantage to Real Madrid over its competitors

As the Commission pointed out in paragraph 21 of its notice initiating the infringement procedure against Spain, “Real Madrid appears to enjoy an economic advantage from the fact that a plot of land, which at the time of its acquisition was valued at €595,194, appears 13 years later, in an operation to offset mutual debts, with a value of more than €22 million”. Furthermore, there are also doubts regarding the market conformity of the lands transferred in the operation Bernabéu-Opañel. In situations where the public authorities wish to sell public property to private investors, it should make sure that the revenue obtained from the sale is comparable to market level. This criterion is also known as the “market economy vendor principle”. In accordance with the Land sale Communication, should the public authorities wish to avoid any advantage to the recipient over its competitors during a land sale transaction, it should apply one of the two following procedures: (1) an unconditional bidding procedure or (2) a procedure where the land is valued by one or more independent asset valuers prior to the sale negotiations. The Court of Justice has ruled that other methods may also achieve the same result, but in order to comply with EU State aid rules, the national provisions establishing rules for calculating the market value of land must in all cases lead to a price as close as possible to the market value.[2] Special obligations for the buyer, such as urban planning requirements, do play a role when determining whether or not the land was sold at market value. Furthermore, land transfer deals, which often consist of more than just one land transaction, have to be scrutinized in their entirety.[3] Therefore, to determine whether an advantage was conferred to Real Madrid, both agreements between the club and the Council have to be take into account with a special focus on the valuation methods used.

In 1998, the valuation for the terrain in Las Tablas (€595,194) was done by the administration of Madrid, on the basis of legislation which offers a technique to determine the value of urban real property. The calculated value for the same terrain in Las Tablas in 2011 amounted to €22.693.054,44. According to a valuation report released by the Municipal Valuation Department, the value was calculated in accordance the same application rules. Yet it has to be borne in mind that the Municipal Valuation Department forms part of the Área de Gobierno de Urbanismo y Vivienda del Ayuntamiento de Madrid. Not only is the Área de Gobierno de Urbanismo y Vivienda the main public authority regarding urban planning in Madrid, it is together with Real Madrid the main party in the 2011 Agreement itself.

Real Madrid was not compensated in the form of a payment, but rather it was presented with another packet of terrains valued at €19,972,348.96. In the valuation report released by the Municipal Valuation Department, a list is included with average terrain values per district calculated by the independent appraiser Tasamadrid. In continuation, the Municipal Valuation Department applied a formula based on its own legislation to determine the final value of the terrains. This packet of terrains included land in the street Mercedes Arteaga, valued at €4,360,862 which were transferred back to the municipality in the operation Bernabéu-Opañel.

The operation Bernabéu-Opañel also included the club transferring the old shopping centre Esquina del Bernabéu and added a payment of €6,6 million. A second valuation report indicates that the value of the Esquina del Bernabéu is €3,861 per square meters passed on the average values of terrains found in adjacent streets. Furthermore, the Council “requalified” the terrain between the Bernabéu stadium and the street Paseo de la Castellana by ad hoc modifying the local urban laws (PGOU) before transferring it to Real Madrid. The value of this terrain is also calculated in the second report and ads up to €1,208 per square meter. Even though two of the terrains in question can be found in the same area, the value per square meter of the Esquina Bernabéu is much higher (€3,861) as compared to the value of the land between the Bernabéu stadium and the street Paseo de la Castellana (€1,208). True, the terrain with the Esquina del Bernabéu has already been built on, thereby increasing the value, but one should keep in mind that the operation Bernabéu-Opañel consists of demolishing the Esquina del Bernabéu and turning it into a green zone. On the other, the other terrain will be used for the construction of a hotel and a new shopping centre. Secondly, a quick glance at other real estate transfers in the same area of Madrid shows that the value of the terrains is in fact much higher. In 2012, the Picasso tower was purchased by a private firm for €400 million, or €5000 m/2. Today, the building Torre Titania can be bought for €11,000 m/2 and the building Castellana 200 is for sale for €150 million.

With all the above in mind, one could legitimately get the feeling that the actual aim of the Agreement of 29 July 2011 was to pave the way for the operation “Bernabéu-Opañel”, as some media suggested. Unlike in the Konsum Nord case, where the General Court held that the presence of a link between different transactions could mean that the measure in question does not constitute State aid, the link between the agreements in the Real Madrid case only increases suspicions regarding unlawful State aid. Furthermore, the Council of Madrid has also been inconstant regarding its valuation methods. The value of the terrain in Las Tablas was calculated without an independent appraiser and the value of the Esquina del Bernabéu was calculated using the average value of terrains found in adjacent streets. In short, there are good reasons to believe that the transactions were made in order to provide a financial advantage to Real Madrid.

The remaining three criteria of Article 107(1) TFEU and possible justifications will be discussed in an upcoming blog post.



[1] Notes are omitted. A comprehensive article can be accessed at Oskar van Maren, "The Real Madrid case: A State aid case (un)like any other?".

[2] Case C-239/09 Seydaland Vereinigte Agrarbetriebe [2010] ECR I-13083, §33-35

[3] Case T-244/08 Konsum Nord ekonomisk förening v Commission [2011] ECR II-0000, §58

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