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

Book Review: Reforming FIFA, or Not

Editor’s note: This short book review will be published in a different format in the International Sports Law Journal, due to its timeliness we decided to reproduce it here. 

Reforming FIFA, or Not

 Antoine Duval

Book Review: Mark Pieth (ed.), Reforming FIFA, Dike Verlag, St. Gallen, 2014, 28.00 CHF, p.178

 


This book looks back at the work of the Independence Governance Committee (IGC). This Committee, constituted in 2011, had as primary objective to drive a reform process of FIFA initiated by its President Sepp Blatter. After ordering from the Swiss anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth, a report on the state of FIFA’s governance, FIFA decided to mandate him with the leadership of a consulting body composed of a mix of independent experts and football insiders, which would be accompanying and supervising the internal reform process of FIFA. The IGC was officially dissolved at the end of 2013, after completing its mandate. The book is composed of eight chapters, written by former members of the IGC, including former chairman Mark Pieth. In addition to the chapters, it includes the different reports (available here, here and here) submitted by the IGC to FIFA across the years. In the words of Pieth, this account is “fascinating because it gives a hands-on, realistic perspective of the concrete efforts, the achievements and the remaining challenges in the struggle for the reform of this organization [FIFA], avoiding the usual glorification or vilification.”[1] This review will first summarize the core of the account of the FIFA reform process provided by the book, before critically engaging with the outcome of the process and outlining the deficiencies that culminated on 29 May 2015 with the re-election of Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.More...



The Spanish TV Rights Distribution System after the Royal Decree: An Introduction. By Luis Torres

On the first of May 2015, the Spanish Government finally signed the Royal Decree allowing the joint selling of the media rights of the Spanish top two football leagues. The Minister for Sport stated that the Decree will allow clubs to “pay their debts with the social security and the tax authorities and will enable the Spanish teams to compete with the biggest European Leagues in terms of revenues from the sale of media rights”.[1]Although the signing of the Royal Decree was supposed to close a very long debate and discussion between the relevant stakeholders, its aftermath shows that the Telenovela is not entirely over. 

This blog post will first provide the background story to the selling of media rights in Spain. It will, thereafter, analyse the main points of the Royal Decree and outline how the system will work in practice. Finally, the blog will shortly address the current frictions between the Spanish League (LFP) and the Spanish football federation (RFEF).More...

Sport and EU Competition Law: New developments and unfinished business. By Ben Van Rompuy

Editor's note: Ben Van Rompuy, Head of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre, was recently interviewed by LexisNexis UK for their in-house adviser service. With kind permission from LexisNexis we reproduce the interview on our blog in its entirety. 

How does competition law affect the sports sector?  

The application of EU competition law to the sports sector is a fairly recent and still unfolding development. It was only in the mid-1990s, due to the growing commercialization of professional sport, that there emerged a need to address competition issues in relation to, for instance, ticketing arrangements or the sale of media rights.  More...



Is FIFA fixing the prices of intermediaries? An EU competition law analysis - By Georgi Antonov (ASSER Institute)

Introduction

On 1 April 2015, the new FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (hereinafter referred as the Regulations) came into force. These Regulations introduced a number of changes as regards the division of competences between FIFA and its members, the national associations. A particularly interesting issue from an EU competition law perspective is the amended Article 7 of the Regulations. Under paragraph 3, which regulates the rules on payments to intermediaries (also previously referred to as ‘agents’), it is recommended that the total amount of remuneration per transaction due to intermediaries either being engaged to act on a player’s or club’s behalf should not exceed 3% of the player’s basic gross income for the entire duration of the relevant employment contract. In the case of transactions due to intermediaries who have been engaged to act on a club’s behalf in order to conclude a transfer agreement, the total amount of remuneration is recommended to not exceed 3% of the eventual transfer fee paid in relation to the relevant transfer of the player.More...

The Impact of the new FIFA Regulations for Intermediaries: A comparative analysis of Brazil, Spain and England. By Luis Torres

INTRODUCTION

Almost a year after their announcement, the new FIFA Regulations on working with Intermediaries (“FIFA Regulations”) came into force on 1 April 2015. Their purpose is to create a more simple and transparent system of regulation of football agents. It should be noted, however, that the new FIFA rules enable every national football association to regulate their own system on players’ intermediaries, provided they respect the compulsory minimum requirements adopted. In an industry that is already cutthroat, it thus remains to be seen whether FIFA’s “deregulation” indeed creates transparency, or whether it is a Pandora’s Box to future regulatory confusion.

This blog post will provide an overview of the new FIFA Regulations on working with intermediaries and especially its minimum requirements. Provided that national associations are encouraged to “draw up regulations that shall incorporate the principles established in these provisions”[1], three different national regulations have been taken as case-studies: the English FA Regulations, the Spanish RFEF Regulations and the Brazilian CBF Regulations. After mapping their main points of convergence and principal differences, the issues that could arise from these regulatory differences shall be analyzed.  More...

Blog Symposium: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified. By Prof. Dr. Christian Duve

Introduction: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law.
Day 1: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it.
Day 2: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions
Day 3: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football.
Day 4: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective. 

Editor’s note: Finally, the last blog of our TPO ban Symposium has arrived! Due to unforeseen circumstances, FIFA had to reconsider presenting its own views on the matter. However, FIFA advised us to contact Prof. Dr. Christian Duve to author the eagerly awaited blog on their behalf. Prof. Dr. Christian Duve is a lawyer and partner with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and an honorary professor at the University of Heidelberg. He has been a CAS arbitrator until 2014. Thus, as planned, we will conclude this symposium with a post defending the compatibility of the TPO ban with EU law. Many thanks to Prof. Dr. Duve for having accepted this last-minute challenge! More...






Blog Symposium: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective. By Daniel Geey

Introduction: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law.
Day 1: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it.
Day 2: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions
Day 3: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football.
Day 5: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified.

Editor's note: In this fourth part of our blog symposium on FIFA's TPO ban Daniel Geey shares his 'UK perspective' on the ban. The English Premier League being one of the first leagues to have outlawed TPO in 2010, Daniel will outline the regulatory steps taken to do so and critically assess them. Daniel is an associate in Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP's Competition and EU Regulatory Law Group. As well as being a famous 'football law' twitterer, he has also published numerous articles and blogs on the subject.

 

What is Third Party Investment?
In brief Third Party Investment (TPI) in the football industry, is where a football club does not own, or is not entitled to, 100% of the future transfer value of a player that is registered to play for that team. There are numerous models for third party player agreements but the basic premise is that companies, businesses and/or individuals provide football clubs or players with money in return for owning a percentage of a player’s future transfer value. This transfer value is also commonly referred to as a player’s economic rights. There are instances where entities will act as speculators by purchasing a percentage share in a player directly from a club in return for a lump sum that the club can then use as it wishes. More...





Blog Symposium: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football. By Ariel N. Reck

Introduction: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law.
Day 1: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it.
Day 2: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions
Day 4: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective.
Day 5: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified.

Editor’s note: Ariel N. Reck is an Argentine lawyer specialized in the football industry. He is a guest professor at ISDE’s Global Executive Master in International Sports Law, at the FIFA CIES Sports law & Management course (Universidad Católica Argentina) and the Universidad Austral Sports Law diploma (Argentina) among other prestigious courses. He is a regular conference speaker and author in the field of sports law.

Being an Argentine lawyer, Ariel will focus on the impact FIFA’s TPO ban will have (and is already having) on South American football.More...





Blog Symposium: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions - By Dr. Raffaele Poli (Head of CIES Football Observatory)

Introduction: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law.
Day 1: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it.
Day 3: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football.
Day 4: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective.
Day 5: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified.

Editor’s note: Raffaele Poli is a human geographer. Since 2002, he has studied the labour and transfer markets of football players. Within the context of his PhD thesis on the transfer networks of African footballers, he set up the CIES Football Observatory based at the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) located in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Since 2005, this research group develops original research in the area of football from a multidisciplinary perspective combining quantitative and qualitative methods. Raffaele was also involved in a recent study on TPO providing FIFA with more background information on its functioning and regulation (the executive summary is available here).

This is the third blog of our Symposium on FIFA’s TPO ban, it is meant to provide an interdisciplinary view on the question. Therefore, it will venture beyond the purely legal aspects of the ban to introduce its social, political and economical context and the related challenges it faces. More...






Blog Symposium: FIFA must regulate TPO, not ban it. The point of view of La Liga.

Introduction: FIFA’s TPO ban and its compatibility with EU competition law.
Day 2: Third-party entitlement to shares of transfer fees: problems and solutions
Day 3: The Impact of the TPO Ban on South American Football.
Day 4: Third Party Investment from a UK Perspective.
Day 5: Why FIFA's TPO ban is justified.

Editor's note: This is the first blog of our symposium on FIFA's TPO ban, it features the position of La Liga regarding the ban and especially highlights some alternative regulatory measures it would favour. La Liga has launched a complaint in front of the European Commission challenging the compatibility of the ban with EU law, its ability to show that realistic less restrictive alternatives were available is key to winning this challenge. We wish to thank La Liga for sharing its legal (and political) analysis of FIFA's TPO ban with us.

INTRODUCTION

The Spanish Football League (La Liga) has argued for months that the funding of clubs through the conveyance of part of players' economic rights (TPO) is a useful practice for clubs. However, it also recognized that the practice must be strictly regulated. In July 2014, it approved a provisional regulation that was sent to many of the relevant stakeholders, including FIFA’s Legal Affairs Department. More...






Asser International Sports Law Blog | The International Partnership against Corruption in Sport (IPACS) and the quest for good governance: Of brave men and rotting fish - By Thomas Kruessmann

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 International Partnership against Corruption in Sport (IPACS) and the quest for good governance: Of brave men and rotting fish - By Thomas Kruessmann

Editor's note: Prof. Thomas Kruessmann is key expert in the EU Technical Assistant Project "Strengthening Teaching and Research Capacity at ADA University" in Baku (Azerbaijan). At the same time, he is co-ordinator of the Jean-Monnet Network "Developing European Studies in the Caucasus" with Skytte Institute of Political Studies at the University of Tartu (Estonia).


The notion that “fish rots from the head down” is known to many cultures and serves as a practical reminder on what is at stake in the current wave of anti-corruption / integrity and good governance initiatives. The purpose of this blog post is to provide a short update on the recent founding of the International Partnership against Corruption in Sport (IPACS), intermittently known as the International Sports Integrity Partnership (IPAS), and to propose some critical perspectives from a legal scholar’s point of view.

During the past couple of years, the sports world has seen a never-ending wave of corruption allegations, often followed by revelations, incriminations and new allegation. There are ongoing investigations, most notably in the United States where the U.S. Department of Justice has just recently intensified its probe into corruption at the major sports governing bodies (SGBs). By all accounts, we are witnessing only the tip of the iceberg. And after ten years of debate and half-hearted reforms, there is the widespread notion, as expressed by the Council of Europe’s (CoE’s) Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Resolution 2199/2018 that “the sports movement cannot be left to resolve its failures alone”.


What is IPACS and why has it been created? 

IPACS was founded under the authority of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as “a cross-sectorial, multi-stakeholder platform to enable a pragmatic partnership allowing the development and implementation of programmes and initiatives by the various partners, to strengthen efforts promoting transparency, integrity and good governance in sports organisations, in particular through education and awareness-raising initiatives.” These words, taken from the Declaration of the Second International Forum for Sports Integrity (IFSI), held in Lausanne on 15 February 2017, provide a summary of the tasks IPACS was agreed to address. Interestingly, later on the official mission statement was significantly watered down: “To bring together international sports organisations, governments, inter-governmental organisations and other relevant stakeholders to strengthen and support efforts to eliminate corruption and promote a culture of good governance in and around sport.” This change mission statement betrays some of the controversies that lie behind the difficult quest for good governance and integrity.

One obvious question is why was it only in 2017 that IPACS was created? The short answer is that IFSI took up an idea that had been put forward at the UK Anti-Corruption Summit one year earlier. However, the real question is, why did this initiative emerge only in 2016/17 after corruption scandals had been hitting SGBs over the entire past decade and had become particularly acute with FIFA around 2010? The reason is that there is a major undercurrent in fighting corruption in SGBs: the doctrine of the autonomy of sports. For historical reasons, most major SGBs have been created as private entities, often associations or non-commercial entities, and are adamant at defending the notion of independence and autonomy of sports. While international anti-corruption conventions by the nature of international law address only states, SGBs are in the fortunate position to have to comply only with the criminal laws of their host state. And despite the fact that the commercialisation of sports has turned SGBs into multi-billion dollar ventures, since their inception their internal structures have resembled “gentlemen’s clubs”. It therefore comes as no surprise that even in the IFSI Declaration of February 2017, participants are eager to refer to the 69th United Nations General Assembly proclaiming the autonomy of sports and shifting the responsibility in fighting corruption primarily to governments.

This undercurrent explains why the original IPACS mission statement calls for a “pragmatic partnership” and emphasizes education and awareness-raising initiatives. The truth is that even by 2017, many stakeholders (“participants to the IFSI Declaration”) were fighting to protect the independence of SGBs teeth and claw. And that only now a consensus is emerging, as expressed in the CoE PACE Resolution 2199/2018, that “enough is enough” and that SGBs have actually failed in cleaning up their business. Earlier resolutions, e.g. by the 14th CoE Conference of Ministers responsible for Sport from 22 February 2017, have been more diplomatic in language. But it is clear that IPACS, despite all defensive battles from SGBs, is now representing a change in the tide of governments and anti-corruption related international organisations (such as CoE, OECD and UNODC) finally eager “to talk tough” with SGBs.


Is “talking tough” with SGBs credible? 

Now, even if we assume that the most recent investigations into corruption scandals were the straw that broke the camel’s back, will international anti-corruption organisations and governments be credible in fighting corruption by breaking up the doctrine of sports autonomy? Switzerland has been in the vanguard of national governments extending the offense of corruption in the private sector to NGOs and other non-commercial entities. This new offense (Arts 322octies – 322decies Swiss Criminal Code) is innovative because it does no longer require a distortion of the market. GRECO is reported to be preparing a “Typology Study on Private Sector Corruption” which will also cover the sports sector.

International anti-corruption organisations, by contrast, have a more careful line to tread. Arguably, there is a host of integrity-related problems in the world of sports that has been viewed for a long time in a reductionist way. Doping, match-rigging and other kinds of manipulation of sports events have ever too often been seen independently of the governance regimes of SGBs. Looking at them as individual wrongdoing at best supported the argument that SGBs may not have been vigilant enough. But this never came close to insisting that such kinds of wrongdoing are the logical consequence of structural governance defects in these bodies. As IPACS is now marking a shift in the consensus towards a more holistic and interventionist approach, what will this mean for international anti-corruption organisations? The problem is that during the past decade, many of them were only too happy to focus on singular problems while being co-opted by SGBs into “partnerships” to “address” governance issues. Analytically, this can be described as a horizontal legitimacy-building strategy by SGBs. By concluding memoranda of understanding, e.g. between the IOC and the UN or between FIFA and the CoE, SGBs, depending on their level of regional or universal activities, co-opted their potential critics and tried to acquire legitimacy by involving them into so-called reform processes.

Arguably, by being drawn into piecemeal reforms of SGBs over the last decade, international anti-corruption organisations have become part of the problem. The question is, how can they become part of the solution again? This is where IPACS presents an answer: it can be understood as a tacit dissolution of the prevailing partnerships and, depending on style and substance, offering a fresh start for a holistic and thus governance-related approach to establishing integrity. 


How is IPACS going about its work?

As mentioned before, IPACS was created in the wings of the Second IFSI, held on 15 February 2017 in Lausanne, and it will operate within the broader IFSI structure. By 2019 when the Third IFSI is scheduled, IFSI participants will therefore review a progress report on the activities realized which invariably includes any progress made by IPACS.

The work of IPACS itself is structured on three levels. There is a core group in which the most important anti-corruption international organisations are represented, a Working Group which is basically a tripartite structure representing the interests of SGBs, governments and inter-governmental organisations, and topical task forces. Core group members (CoE, IOC, OECD, UNODC and the UK Government) are in charge of preparing and co-ordinating the Working Group meetings. The first Working Group meeting took place at the CoE’s venue on 21 June 2017, the second Working Group meeting was held at the OECD on 14-15 December 2017. The third Working Group meeting is scheduled for June 2018 at the IOC’s headquarters in Lausanne.

So far, three task forces with experts from outside the Working Group have been established:

  • Task force 1 (TF1) on reducing the risk of corruption in public procurement;
  • Task force 2 (TF2) on ensuring transparency and integrity in the selection of major sport events, with an initial focus on managing conflicts of interest; and
  • Task force 3 (TF3) on optimising the processes of compliance with good governance principles to mitigate the risk of corruption.

The expected outputs from these task forces are as follows:

(1) TF1 to develop by the end of 2018 a general mapping of procurement standards to the specific context of sport, possibly complemented by illustrative case studies on how these standards could be applied in practice.

(2) TF2 to define conflict of interest in the specific sports context and undertake a stock-taking exercise of procedures and practices for managing conflict of interest in the specific context of the selection of major sporting events.

(3) TF3 “to aim to”

  • map relevant governance standards and their applicability to the sports context;
  • consider developing indicators to evaluate compliance with these standards;
  • consider means for building capacity to implement good governance standards.

From the wording it appears that from TF1 to TF3, the tasks get ever larger and the commitment ever more unspecific. While TF1 is given a precise task with a definitive deadline, TF3 is asked to “aim to” reach certain goals. But this specific wording is perhaps a correct reflection of the difference in the scope of the problem. Procurement standards can easily be adopted from the corporate world. There is no specific challenge in running procurement for SGBs. Conflicts of interest, in particular when selecting major sports events, are of a different magnitude. Very often, the traditional ways of addressing such conflicts in the corporate setting or in public administration are clear-cut and addressed in a number of regulations. In SGBs which have been traditionally considered as “gentlemen’s clubs”, conflicts of interest run through the entire fabric of the institution. Therefore, the magnitude is much larger. But the real issue is how shall the mandate of TF2 be distinguished from that of TF3? Conflicts of interest and bad governance are twin concepts, and both flourish in the same environment. So, let us now turn to the central question: what can be expected from the most crucial TF3 in the IPACS setting?


Do governance standards finally get applied? 

In its first set of assignments, TF3 is asked to look into “relevant” governance standards, map them and analyse their applicability to the sports context. What sounds like a logical sequence of steps is actually quite muddled. Judging what is relevant and what is not is certainly the task at hand, but if we assume that “relevant standards” have been found, why is it necessary in a second step to “analyse their applicability in the sports context”? Is not applicability in the sports context the key criterion for judging what is relevant and what is not? Or will there first be other criteria for judging relevance outside from applicability in the sports context?

The point here is not to ridicule the language of the task force assignment, but to point to a deeper problem. Over the entire past decade, there have been numerous projects seeking to identify relevant governance standards. Without going into this issue very deeply, let me name just the most important ones:

In addition, when it comes the second set of assignments to TF3, in particular “developing indicators to evaluate compliance with these standards”, the following benchmarking tools already exist:

So all things considered, a large amount of work has already been done to identify relevant standards for SGBs. Would it not simply be enough to take these project results seriously and start implementing them and evaluate their effects? Indeed, from an outside observer’s point of view, it looks as if this entire process is flawed. There is simply no need to go into another round of identifying standards, assessing their relevance and benchmarking them with indicators when all the work has already been done.

One argument to support the TF3 engagement is that there are simply too many different standards, and that, when it comes to governments intervening with SGBs and forcing them to adopt good governance standards, there should be one agreed-upon set of standards for all cases. Likewise, CoE PACE Resolution 2199 (2018) “strongly calls for the development and implementation of a solid set of harmonised good governance criteria” (italics not in the original). And in para 4 of the appendix to this Resolution, PACE even speaks of the necessity of identifying “core criteria” of good governance in sport. While such quest for harmonising and reducing to core elements may be intellectually stimulating, there is doubt whether the sports world can accept another round of soul-searching. The fish has already been rotting for a while, and the same “brave men” (aka experts) who had been dealing with the issue for a decade are now employed again in yet another attempt of the international community to clear up the mess of SGBs. We will eagerly await some results when the IPACS Working Group will convene for its next meeting in June 2018.

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