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 “Victory” of the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the European Court of Human Rights: The End of the Beginning for the CAS

My favourite speed skater (Full disclosure: I have a thing for speed skaters bothering the ISU), Claudia Pechstein, is back in the news! And not from the place I expected. While all my attention was absorbed by the Bundesverfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe (BVerfG or German Constitutional Court), I should have looked to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECtHR). The Pechstein and Mutu joint cases were pending for a long time (since 2010) and I did not anticipate that the ECtHR would render its decision before the BVerfG. The decision released last week (only available in French at this stage) looked at first like a renewed vindication of the CAS (similar to the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH) ruling in the Pechstein case), and is being presented like that by the CAS, but after careful reading of the judgment I believe this is rather a pyrrhic victory for the status quo at the CAS. As I will show, this ruling puts to rest an important debate surrounding CAS arbitration since 20 years: CAS arbitration is (at least in its much-used appeal format in disciplinary cases) forced arbitration. Furthermore, stemming from this important acknowledgment is the recognition that CAS proceedings must comply with Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), in particular hearings must in principle be held in public and decisions freely available to all. Finally, I will criticise the Court’s finding that CAS complies with the requirements of independence and impartiality imposed by Article 6 § 1 ECHR. I will not rehash the  well-known facts of both cases, in order to focus on the core findings of the decision. More...

ISLJ International Sports Law Conference 2018 - Asser Institute - 25-26 October - Register Now!

Dear all,

Last year we decided to launch the 'ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference' in order to give a public platform to the academic discussions on international sports law featured in the ISLJ. The first edition of the conference was a great success (don't take my word for it, just check out #ISLJConf17 on twitter), featuring outstanding speakers and lively discussions with the room. We were very happy to see people from some many different parts of the world congregating at the Institute to discuss the burning issues of their field of practice and research.

This year, on 25 and 26 October, we are hosting the second edition and we are again welcoming well-known academics and practitioners in the field. The discussions will turn around the notion of lex sportiva, the role of Swiss law in international sports law, the latest ISU decision of the European Commission, the Mutu/Pechstein ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, or the reform proposal of the FIFA Regulations on the Transfer and Status of Players. It should be, it will be, an exciting two days!

You will find below the final programme of the conference, please feel free to circulate it within your networks. We have still some seats left, so don't hesitate to register (here) and to join us.

Looking forward to seeing you and meeting you there!

Antoine

Football Intermediaries: Would a European centralized licensing system be a sustainable solution? - By Panagiotis Roumeliotis

Editor's note: Panagiotis Roumeliotis holds an LL.B. degree from National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece and an LL.M. degree in European and International Tax Law from University of Luxembourg. He is qualified lawyer in Greece and is presently working as tax advisor with KPMG Luxembourg while pursuing, concomitantly, an LL.M. in International Sports Law at Sheffield Hallam University, England. His interest lies in the realm of tax and sports law. He may be contacted by e-mail at ‘p.roumeliotis@hotmail.com’.


Introduction

The landmark Bosman Ruling triggered the Europeanization of the labour market for football players by banning nationality quotas. In turn, in conjunction with the boom in TV revenues, this led to a flourishing transfer market in which players’ agents or intermediaries play a pivotal role, despite having a controversial reputation.

As a preliminary remark, it is important to touch upon the fiduciary duty of sports agents towards their clients. The principal-agent relationship implies that the former employs the agent so as to secure the best employment and/or commercial opportunities. Conversely, the latter is expected to act in the interest of the player as their relationship should be predicated on trust and confidence, as much was made clear in the English Court of Appeal case of Imageview Management Ltd v. Kelvin Jack. Notably, agents are bound to exercise the utmost degree of good faith, honesty and loyalty towards the players.[1]

At the core of this blog lies a comparative case study of the implementation of the FIFA Regulations on working with intermediaries (hereinafter “FIFA RWI”) in eight European FAs covering most of the transfers during the mercato. I will then critically analyze the issues raised by the implementation of the RWI and, as a conclusion, offer some recommendations. More...



Seraing vs. FIFA: Why the rumours of CAS’s death have been greatly exaggerated

Rumours are swirling around the decision (available in French here) of the Court of Appeal of Brussels in the case opposing RFC Seraing United to FIFA (as well as UEFA and the Belgian Football Federation, URSBFA) over the latter’s ban on third-party ownership. The headlines in various media are quite dramatic (see here and here), references are made to a new Bosman, or to a shaken sport’s legal system. Yet, after swiftly reading the decision for the first time on 29th August, I did not have, unlike with the Pechstein ruling of the Oberlandesgericht München, the immediate impression that this would be a major game-changer for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the role of arbitration in sports in general. After careful re-reading, I understand how certain parts of the ruling can be misunderstood or over-interpreted. I believe that much of the press coverage failed to accurately reflect the reasoning of the court and to capture the real impact of the decision. In order to explain why, I decided to write a short Q&A (including the (not water-proof) English translations of some of the key paragraphs of the decision).

 More...

New Article Published! The Olympic Charter: A Transnational Constitution Without a State?

My latest article has just been published online by the Journal of Law and Society. It is available open access here.

The article stems from a conference organised by Jiri Priban from Cardiff University on Gunther Teubner's idea of societal constitutionalism applied to transnational regimes. My role was to test whether his descriptive and normative framework was readily applicable to the lex sportiva, and in particular its overarching "constitutional" text: the Olympic Charter.

As you will see my conclusion is mixed. I find that the Olympic Charter (OC) displays many constitutional features and is even able to regularly defend successfully its autonomy vis-à-vis national states and their laws. However, while I document some inception of limitative constitutional rules, such as the ban on discrimination or the principle of fair play, I also conclude that those have limited impact in practice. While constitutional changes to the OC can be triggered by scandal, resistance and contestation, as illustrated by the emergence of environmental concerns after the Albertville Games and the governance reshuffle of the IOC after the Salt Lake City scandal, I am also sceptical that these were sufficient to tackle the underlying problems, as became obvious with the unmatched environmental damage caused by the Sotchi Games in 2014.

In conclusion, more than sporadic public outrage, I believe that the intervention of national law and, even more, European Union law will be capable and needed to rein the Olympic regime and impose external constitutional constraints on its (at least sometimes) destructive operations.

Here is the abstract of the article: This article examines various aspects of Teubner's theory of societal constitutionalism using the lex sportiva as an empirical terrain. The case study focuses on the operation of the Olympic Charter as a transnational constitution of the Olympic movement. It shows that recourse to a constitutional vocabulary is not out of place in qualifying the function and authority of the Charter inside and outside the Olympic movement. Yet, the findings of the case study also nuance some of Teubner's descriptive claims and question his normative strategy.

Good read! (And do not hesitate to share your feedback)


New Position - Internship in International Sports Law - Deadline 15 August


The T.M.C. Asser Instituut offers post-graduate students the opportunity to gain practical experience in the field of international and European sports law.  The T.M.C. Asser Instituut, located in The Hague, is an inter-university research institute specialized in international and European law. Since 2002, it is the home of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre, a pioneer in the field of European and international sports law. More...


Human Rights Protection and the FIFA World Cup: A Never-Ending Match? - By Daniela Heerdt

Editor’s note: Daniela Heerdt is a PhD candidate 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 recently published an article in the International Sports Law Journal that discusses to what extent the revised bidding and hosting regulations by FIFA, the IOC and UEFA strengthen access to remedy for mega-sporting events-related human rights violations.


The 21st FIFA World Cup is currently underway. Billions of people around the world follow the matches with much enthusiasm and support. For the time being, it almost seems forgotten that in the final weeks leading up to the events, critical reports on human rights issues related to the event piled up. This blog explains why addressing these issues has to start well in advance of the first ball being kicked and cannot end when the final match has been played. More...



Call for papers: Annual International Sports Law Conference of the International Sports Law Journal - 25 & 26 October - Asser Institute, The Hague

 Call for papers: Annual International Sports Law Conference of the International Sports Law Journal

Asser Institute, The Hague

25 and 26 October 2018

The editorial board of the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) is inviting you to submit abstracts for its second ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law, which will take place on 25 and 26 October at the Asser Institute in The Hague. The ISLJ published by Springer in collaboration with Asser Press is the leading academic publication in the field of international sports law. Its readership includes academics and many practitioners active in the field. This call is open to researchers as well as practitioners. 

We are also delighted to announce that Prof. Franck Latty (Université Paris Nanterre), Prof. Margareta Baddeley (Université de Genève), and Silvia Schenk (member of FIFA’s Human Rights Advisory Board) have confirmed their participation as keynote speakers.

Abstracts could, for example, tackle questions linked to the following international sports law subjects:

  • The interaction between EU law and sport
  • Antitrust and sports regulation
  • International sports arbitration (CAS, BAT, etc.)
  • The functioning of the world anti-doping system (WADA, WADC, etc.)
  • The global governance of sports
  • The regulation of mega sporting events (Olympics, FIFA World Cup, etc.)
  • The transnational regulation of football (e.g. the operation of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players or the UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations)
  • The global fight against corruption in sport  
  • Comparative sports law
  • Human rights in sport 

Please send your abstract (no more than 300 words) and CV no later than 30 April 2018 to a.duval@asser.nl. Selected speakers will be informed by 15 May.

The selected participants will be expected to submit a draft paper by 1 September 2018. All papers presented at the conference are eligible for publication in a special edition of the ISLJ.  To be considered for inclusion in the conference edition of the journal, the final draft must be submitted for review by 15 December 2018.  Submissions after this date will be considered for publication in later editions of the Journal.

The Asser Institute will cover one night accommodation for the speakers and will provide a limited amount of travel grants (max. 300€). If you wish to be considered for a grant please justify your request in your submission. 

Stepping Outside the New York Convention - Practical Lessons on the Indirect Enforcement of CAS-Awards in Football Matters - By Etienne Gard

Editor’s Note: Etienne Gard graduated from the University of Zurich and from King's College London. He currently manages a project in the field of digitalization with Bratschi Ltd., a major Swiss law firm where he did his traineeship with a focus in international commercial arbitration.

1. Prelude

On the 10th of June, 1958, the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, widely known as the “New York Convention”, was signed in New York by 10 countries.[1] This rather shy figure progressively grew over the decades to now reach 157 signatory countries, turning the New York Convention into the global recognition and enforcement instrument it is today. As V.V. Veeder’s puts it, “One English law lord is said to have said, extra judicially, that the New York Convention is both the Best Thing since sliced bread and also whatever was the Best Thing before sliced bread replaced it as the Best Thing.”[2]

However, among the overall appraisal regarding the New York Convention, some criticisms have been expressed. For instance, some states use their public policy rather as a pretext not to enforce an award than an actual ground for refusal.[3]  A further issue is the recurring bias in favor of local companies.[4] Additionally, recognition and enforcement procedures in application of the New York Convention take place in front of State authorities, for the most part in front of courts of law, according to national proceeding rules. This usually leads to the retaining of a local law firm, the translation of several documents, written submissions and one, if not several hearings. Hence, the efficiency of the New York Convention as a recognition and enforcement mechanism comes to the expense of both money and time of both parties of the arbitral procedure.

In contrast with the field of commercial arbitration, where the New York Convention is often considered the only viable option in order to enforce an award, international football organizations, together with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”), offer an effective enforcement alternative. This article aims at outlining the main features of the indirect enforcement of CAS awards in football matters in light of a recent case. More...



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”. More...



Asser International Sports Law Blog | The New FIFA Intermediaries Regulations under EU Law Fire in Germany. By Tine Misic

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 New FIFA Intermediaries Regulations under EU Law Fire in Germany. By Tine Misic

I'm sure that in 1985, plutonium is available in every corner drugstore, but in 1955, it's a little hard to come by.” (Dr. Emmett L. Brown)[1]


Back to the future?

Availing oneself of EU law in the ambit of sports in 1995 must have felt a bit like digging for plutonium, but following the landmark ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Bosman case[2], 20 years later, with all the buzz surrounding several cases where EU law is being used as an efficient ammunition for shelling various sports governing or organising bodies, one may wonder if in 2015 EU law is to be “found in every drug store” and the recent cases (see inter alia Heinz Müller v 1. FSV Mainz 05, Daniel Striani ao v UEFA, Doyen Sports ao v URBSFA, FIFA, UEFA) [3] cannot but invitingly evoke the spirit of 1995.

One of the aforementioned cases that also stands out pertains to the injunction decision[4] issued on 29 April 2015 by the Regional Court (Landesgericht) in Frankfurt am Main (hereinafter: the Court) in the dispute between the intermediary company Firma Rogon Sportmanagement (hereinafter: the claimant) and the German Football Federation (Deutschen Fußball-Bund, DFB), where the claimant challenged the provisions of the newly adopted DFB Regulations on Intermediaries (hereinafter: DFB Regulations)[5] for being incompatible with Articles 101 and 102 TFEU.[6] The Court, by acknowledging the urgency of the matter stemming from the upcoming transfer window and the potential loss of clients, deemed a couple of shells directed at the DFB Regulations to be well-aimed, and granted an injunction due to breach of Article 101 TFEU.


(Un)harnessing the brokerage in football

The recently adopted FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (hereinafter: FIFA Regulations)[7] arguably represent the biggest turning point in the regulation of player and club representation in the history of professional football.[8] While some will argue that by implementing these Regulations, FIFA has thrown in the towel on regulating the ambit of representation in football altogether, it could be said that by steering away from controlling the access to the activity and switching the onus on regulating it, FIFA has not deregulated the activity, but rather shifted the scope of the regulation itself.[9] It has been anticipated that the implementation process would expose several contentious issues (e.g. recommended commission cap, duty of disclosure, representation of minors, suitability of intermediaries, etc.),[10] and the DFB’s adoption of the new Regulation has been no exception in that regard.[11]

The DFB, pursuant to Article 1(2) of FIFA Regulations,[12] and following a rather lengthy exchange of information with the German Football League (Deutsche Fußballliga GmbH, DFL) and the German Association of Players’ Agents (Deutschen Fußballspieler-Vertmittlervereinigung, DFVV),[13] adopted the new DFB Regulations on 13 March 2015. By availing itself of the discretion embedded in Article 1(3) of FIFA Regulations,[14] the DFB tailor-made its regulations, which entered into force on 1 April 2015, to a certain extent, which shall be elaborated upon further below. 

Since the new DFB Regulations by virtue of paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 3[15] indirectly bound the intermediary agencies through binding players and clubs when entering employment or transfer contracts,[16] which had not been the case with the pre-existent norms, the claimant first unsuccessfully sought the annulment of the Regulations directly from DFB. Subsequently, the claimant sought relief in the form of a temporary injunction from the Court, based upon the pending imminent danger stemming from the abuse of the DFB’s dominant position. Such behaviour, according to the claimant, limited the free choice of profession. Furthermore, according to the claimant, the obligatory disclosure of the remuneration amounts and the prohibition of representation remuneration when the player concerned is a minor went way beyond the borders of necessity and were thus unjustified.[17] The DFB, on the other hand, by rejecting the existence of a pending danger since the claimant had allegedly known of the FIFA Regulations for almost a year, deemed the claim inadmissible due to wrongful recourse to the urgent procedure (Eilverfahren), and additionally claimed the Articles 101 and 102 TFEU to be inapplicable, since the addressed provisions did not restrict competition, but au contraire prevented its distortion (i.e. by prohibiting the abuse of  the intermediary activity, providing for the independence of clubs and players, and guaranteeing transparency and contractual stability, hence bringing their scope within the borders of proportionality).[18]


Intermediaries v DFB: 1-0

The DFB’s guerrilla tactics of throwing the sink back at the claimant screaming for inadmissibility proved rather futile. The Court deemed the claim to be admissible and also found a large portion of the claimant’s arguments in the form of EU law-shaped shells to be well-founded. Subsequently, it granted an injunction as sought from the claimant. It addressed the issue through the prism of the Article 101 TFEU, and specific steps in the reasoning shall be dealt with separately below.

Admissibility as a non-issue

The DFB argued that such a claim could not be made in the urgent procedure, since the issue would pertain to the main cause. However, the Court pointed out that such a claim would be possible under Article 33 of the Act against Restraints of Competition (Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen, GWB).[19] Refusal of such a claim would deprive the claimant of its rights and legal remedies, particularly in the light of the pending danger of losing potential customers (clubs and players), bound directly by the DFB Regulations.[20] The Court also rejected the claim that the issue pertained to an internal decision-making process of the DFB, and said that the adoption of the Regulations had an externally oriented scope and effect.[21]


DFB Regulations are an inter-state trade restricting decision of an association of undertakings

The DFB asserted that it could not be seen as an association of undertakings in the sense of Article 101(1) TFEU considering that it also includes members with an amateur status. By referring to Piau,[22] the Court removed any ambiguity pertaining to the status of the DFB saying that: “...the mere fact that a sports association or federation unilaterally classifies sportsmen or clubs as 'amateur' does not in itself mean that they do not engage in economic activities within the meaning of Article 2 EC.”[23] Furthermore, strengthening its reasoning by first quoting Frubo,[24] stating that: ”Article 101 TFEU applies to associations in so far as their own activities of those of the undertakings belonging to them are calculated to produce the results to which it refers”,[25] and then BNIC,[26] it seemingly left no doubt as to the passive standing of DFB.

Having established the DFB’s status as per Article 101(1) TFEU, the Court moved to the DFB Regulations, and by drawing from Bosman,[27] Lehtonen,[28] and most importantly Piau,[29] qualified them as a decision of an association of undertakings, since they entail the regulation of the economic activity of intermediaries, whereby it is clear “...that the purpose of the occupation of players' agent, under the very wording of the amended regulations, is 'for a fee, on a regular basis [to introduce] a player to a club with a view to employment or [to introduce] two clubs to one another with a view to concluding a transfer contract'...”,[30] and therefore this economic activity cannot be qualified as one of a purely sporting nature.[31]

Albeit steering clear of an explicit reference to CJEU’s vast jurisprudence, the Court deemed the relevant market to be the one of intermediary services where the clubs and the players represented the customers and the intermediaries the providers,[32] hence following to a large extent the pre-established path in Piau.[33] It also pointed out that pursuant the provisions of Article 101(1) TFEU the core of the restriction of competition lied within an agreement (or a decision) which hampered the independence of economic decision making of the companies involved in a particular activity. The present case would prove as no exception since the intermediaries’ ability to provide services would take toll by the eventual non-submission of the signed declaration when entering an agreement with a player or a club upon whom loomed the eventual DFB sanctions. In other words, refusal to declare, which at the same time brought the intermediaries within the scope of DFB norms, limited the intermediaries’ economic freedom to be engaged by players or clubs.[34]

Moreover, the Court had little doubts about the Regulations affecting the inter-State trade. With Bundesliga alone representing the third largest national club football competition in Europe, the size of the market itself leads to the conclusion that the decision in question could have a negative impact on an actual or potential, direct or indirect inter-State provision of intermediary services, all the more so, since it lead to partitioning of markets on a territorial basis. In fact, by invoking Wouters,[35] the Court stressed that: “...it is sufficient to observe that an agreement, decision or concerted practice extending over the whole of the territory of a Member State has, by its very nature, the effect of reinforcing the partitioning of markets on a national basis, thereby holding up the economic interpretation which the Treaty is designed to bring about...[36]


Possible justifications

Having brought the Regulations within the scope of Article 101(1) TFEU, the Court promptly looked at the available justifications, either within the ambit of Article 101(1) TFEU pursuant to the relevant ECJ jurisprudence, or as one of the explicit Treaty exceptions embedded within Article 101(3) TFEU. In light of the former provision it is worth pointing out that the notion of inherence to legitimate (sporting) purposes is crucial in this ambit, since certain potentially restrictive behaviours (e.g. adoption of transfer rules), may be, although caught by Articles 101 and 102 TFEU respectively, exempted from their scope due to their necessity in pursuance of such objectives. Such an inherent necessity must, however, be assessed on a case-to-case basis. Following such reasoning, and by referring to the landmark Meca-Medina case,[37] the Court invoked an almost blasphemous notion in the ambit of EU competition law by stating that such assessment of legitimate goals under Article 101(1) TFEU was to be addressed through the “rule of reason” doctrine.[38]

As an alternative route stemming explicitly from the Treaty, by referring back to Piau, the Court identified the provisions of Article 101(3) TFEU, which envisage that the Regulations “might enjoy an exemption on the basis of this provision if it were established that they contribute to promoting economic progress, allow consumers a fair share of the resulting benefit, do not impose restrictions which are not indispensable to the attainment of these objectives, and do not eliminate competition.” [39]

Summing up, the Court rather curiously, and perhaps simplistically, pointed out that the common denominator of both approaches entailed three key components; namely the Regulations would have to pursue a legitimate goal, and they would have to be necessary and proportionate. As one such legitimate goal, the Court recognised the issue of necessity to level the playing field in football competitions through a transfer system and thereof stemming regulation of the activity of intermediaries in order to prevent eventual abuses in the form of coerced transfers, and, even more importantly, to protect the minors involved in the process.[40] Both parties recognised the existence of past abusive practices that needed to be eradicated. Regardless of the legitimacy of the majority of the aims pursued, the Court established that certain provisions lacked the needed necessity and were disproportionate, as shall be addressed below.[41]


Individual (un)successful claims

Firstly, the Court deemed the registration obligation for clubs and players, which would bring the intermediaries within the scope of DFB and FIFA rules, to be disproportionate. While the registration and declaration obligations as such could be justified, the same could not be said for the pertaining subsumption of the intermediary service under the overarching umbrella of the DFB rules. The disproportionate full submission to DFB rules, which would strip the intermediaries of their possibility of recourse to ordinary justice, could be just as effectively replaced by a proper enforcement by the DFB of the registration rules themselves. Moreover, the Court found it unclear why the DFB would not be able to safeguard the goals pursued by the DFB Regulations before ordinary courts. [42]

Unlike the registration obligation, the duty to submit a criminal record along with the duty to pay a registration fee were seen as justified and thus proportionate in the eyes of the Court. Due to a potentially large impact of the intermediary activity on competition stemming from the potential influence on players and clubs, no less restrictive measure other than a registration duty could be put in place in order to safeguard the transparency of the football leagues. Moreover, considering the utmost necessity to protect the minors, the duty to submit a criminal record is clearly justified. Since the intermediaries financially benefit from their activity, the pertaining registration fee could also be deemed as a proportionate measure.[43]

The third addressed measure, i.e. the remuneration disclosure requirement, was also seen as justified by the Court. The legitimate aims set out in the previous paragraph were also to be pursued through the disclosure of agreements entered into and remuneration paid to the intermediaries. Such measures represented suitable means for controlling the intermediaries’ behaviour and were thus necessary and proportionate.[44]

The same can be said of the prohibition of acceptance of intermediary transfer fees for future transfers. In this context, the premature termination of contracts between clubs and players represented a major incentive for the intermediaries and at the same time a major source of revenue for clubs. The possibility of claiming a share of the transfer fees would therefore draw the intermediaries into seeking actively an early contract termination, as the new Regulations’ provisions were aimed at preventing such external influence, they are considered justified and proportionate.[45]

Fifthly, the imposition of flat-rate transfer fees was deemed unjustified by the Court, since it prohibited the agreed fee to be expressed in percentage pertaining to the cumulative transfer sum. This reinforced doubts that had previously been expressed about the proportionality of the parent FIFA Regulations provision, namely Article 7. Contrary to DFB’s arguments that such a scheme only required an a priori determination of the fee, the Court was not of the opinion that such a restrictive interpretation was appropriate, and that it could also lead to interpreting the provision in the way to detach the flat-rate fee entirely from the transfer sum. In other words, clubs would only be allowed to pay a prefixed amount that could not be expressed in percentage of the entire transfer sum. The Court also had doubts as to how such a restriction would serve the previously mentioned purposes.[46]

Last but not least, the Court also found the prohibition of remuneration of intermediaries of minors having the status of licensed players to be unjustified and disproportionate. By refusing the DFB’s argument to draw parallels with legal representation, the Court rather focused on the potential vulnerability of minors and their susceptibility to influence from the intermediaries, making this the crucial argument for (non)justification of the prohibition.[47] Stressing the legitimacy of a special protection of minors, who would due to their age and consequent inexperience rely heavily on the advice of the intermediaries, it also drew the line between the players plying their trade in the first and second league (licensed players) and others who participated in lower leagues. In the latter case a particular attention ought to have been given to minors brought to Germany from abroad.[48] It was only obvious, according to the Court, that minors playing in the lower leagues should benefit from a higher level of protection due to their stronger economic dependency to the intermediaries and hence susceptibility to their instructions. Minor licensed players, however, due to their market position alone warrant no such protection. Moreover, the significant disproportion of the amount of money spent on transfer fees for licensed minors makes such a prohibition in this ambit even more restrictive.[49]

Summed up, the Court deemed three out of six of the claimant’s legal missiles to have hit their target. First, the intermediaries may still be registered with the DFB without subjecting to its authority. Second, the prohibition of flat-rate transfer fees was unjustified, and third, the prohibition of remuneration of intermediaries of licensed minor players also exceeded the borders of necessity.[50] Since an injunction decision required an imminent and pending danger to be substantiated, as anticipated above, the Court circumvented the DFB’s argument that the claimant had almost a year, hence enough time, to get acquainted with the Regulations, by saying that Article 1(2) of the FIFA Regulations merely provided a minimum compulsory basis to be implemented, and that the DFB adopted substantially different Regulations pursuant Article 1(3) of the FIFA Regulations, leaving significantly less time for the claimant to comply.[51] The reference to previous FIFA Regulations met the same end, since the former pertained only to natural and not to legal persons.[52] 


Side-stepping Article 102 TFEU?

While the Court went to significant depths when analysing the case through the prism of Article 101 TFEU, it quite surprisingly almost completely refused to be drawn into the assessment of the matter through Article 102 TFEU, despite admitting, hence quite possibly just elegantly restating Piau,[53] to a possible existence of a collective dominant position by the DFB and its related associations on the market of intermediary service provision.[54] It merely concluded that there was no abuse in the sense of Article 102 TFEU.[55] One may find this curious at the very least, since the Court itself stated that DFB imposed its rules on non-members, intermediaries in this case, through economic pressure stemming from its monopolistic position on the market in question, which could to a certain extent at least be deemed as abusive.[56]


The epilogue or merely the end of Round One?

With the battle dust temporarily subsided, the DFB has seemingly complied with the Court’s injunction decision by issuing a note in which it restated the judgment’s tenor and informed the interested parties (intermediaries) of an ongoing possibility of a non-binding registration with DFB. The truce may only be a temporary one though, since the DFB has through its president already announced to pursue the matter in the main proceedings and a battle won does not necessarily mean that the war has been won.[57] Regardless of the outcome in Germany though, the issue carries a larger relevance. Since some of the DFB Regulations provisions, addressed in the hitherto analyzed injunction decision, resemble to a large extent if not entirely those embedded in the FIFA Regulations (e.g. the suspended Article 7(7) of DFB Regulations and Article 7(8) of FIFA Regulations),[58] one may wonder if, considering the already pending complaint of the of the Association of Football Agents (AFA) to the Commission,[59] legal challenges of the intermediaries regulations in other countries may only be a matter of time. Especially, since apparently these days EU law conveniently happens to be “available in every drug store”.




[1] R. Zemeckis, B. Gale, Back to the Future (Universal Pictures, 1985).

[2] Case C-415/93, Union royale belge des sociétés de football association ASBL v Jean-Marc Bosman ao, [1995] ECR I-04921.

[3] See inter alia Case AZ: 3 Ca 1197/14, Heinz Müller v 1. FSV Mainz 05, Arbeitsgericht Mainz, 19 March 2015 ; Case 2013/11524/A, Daniel Striani ao v UEFA, Tribunal de première instance francophone de Bruxelles, Section Civile, 29 May 2015.

[4] Case Az. 2-06 O 142/15*, Firma Rogon Sportmanagement v Deutschen Fußball-Bund (DFB), Landgericht Frankfurt am Main, 29 April 2015.

[5] DFB-Reglement für Spielvermittlung, adopted on 13 March 2015.

[6] Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), Consolidated Version, O.J. 2012, C326, 26 October 2012 and as amended by the Croatian Accession Treaty, O.J. 2012, L112/1.

[7] FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries, adopted in Zürich on 21 March 2014.

[8] D. Lowen, A guide to the FA’s Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (www.lawinsport.com, 17 February 2015), <http://www.lawinsport.com/articles/item/a-guide-to-the-fa-s-regulations-on-working-with-intermediaries>.

[9] D. Lowen, FIFA’s Regulation on Working with Intermediaries (T.M.C. Asser Instituut – Summer Programme, 30 June 2015), pp. 2.

[10] N. De Marco, The new FA Intermediaries Regulations & disputes likely to arise (www.lawinsport.com, 31 March 2015), <http://www.lawinsport.com/articles/item/the-new-fa-intermediaries-regulations-disputes-likely-to-arise>.

[11] Focus, Streit mit DFB: Gericht gibt Spielervermittler in Teilen Recht (www.focus.de, 30 April 2015), <http://www.focus.de/regional/frankfurt-am-main/fussball-streit-mit-dfb-gericht-gibt-spielervermittler-in-teilen-recht_id_4650008.html>.

[12] Article 1(2) FIFA Regulations, cited supra note 7: ”Associations are required to implement and enforce at least these minimum standards/requirements in accordance with the duties assigned in these regulations, subject to the mandatory laws and any other mandatory national legislative norms applicable to the associations. Associations shall draw up regulations that shall incorporate the principles established in these provisions.

[13] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, paras. 15-16.

[14] Article 1(3) FIFA Regulations, cited supra note 7: “The right of associations to go beyond these minimum standards/requirements is preserved.

[15] Arts. 3(2), 3(3) DFB-Reglement für Spielvermittlung, cited supra note 5.

[16] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, paras. 16-17: “Mit dieser Erklärung erkennt der Vermittler das Reglement auch für sich als verbindlich an und unterwirft sich damit der Verbandshoheit des Antragsgegners einschliesslich der Sportgerichtsbarkeit.”

[17] Ibid., para. 19.

[18] Ibid., paras. 32-39.

[19] Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen (GWB), (BGBl. I S. 1554), 26.07.2011.

[20] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, paras. 43-45.

[21] Ibid., para. 46.

[22] Case T-193/02, Laurent Piau v Commission, [2005] ECR II-00209, para. 70.

[23] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, para. 50.

[24] Case 71/74, Nederlandse Vereniging voor de fruit- en groentenimporthandel, Nederlandse Bond van grossiers in zuidvruchten en ander geimporteerd fruit "Frubo" v Commission, [1975] ECR 00563, para. 17.

[25] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, para. 51.

[26] Case 123/83, Bureau national interprofessionnel du cognac (BNIC) v Guy Clair, [1985] ECR 00391, para. 17.

[27] Bosman, cited supra note 2, para. 127.

[28] Case C-176/96, Jyri Lehtonen and Castors Canada Dry Namur-Braine ASBL v Fédération royale belge des sociétés de basket-ball ASBL (FRBSB), [2000] ECR I-02681, paras. 53-60.

[29] Piau, cited supra note 22, para. 73: “As regards, second, the concept of a decision by an association of undertakings...This is therefore an economic activity involving the provision of services, which does not fall within the scope of the specific nature of sport, as defined by the case-law.”

[30] Ibid.

[31] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, paras. 52-53.

[32] Ibid., para. 55.

[33] Piau, cited supra note 22, paras. 112-115.

[34] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, paras. 57-58.

[35] Case C-309/99, J.C.J. Wouters ao v Algemene Raad van de Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten, [2002] I-01577, para. 95.

[36] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, paras. 59-61.

[37] Case C-519/04 P, David Meca-Medina and Igor Majcen v Commission, [2006] ECR I-06991.

[38] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, paras. 63-64.

[39] Piau, cited supra note 22, paras. 100-104.

[40] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, paras. 66-68.

[41] Ibid., paras. 69-70.

[42] Ibid., paras. 72-73.

[43] Ibid., paras. 75-78.

[44] Ibid., para. 80.

[45] Ibid., paras. 83-84.

[46] Ibid., paras. 86-87.

[47] Ibid., paras. 89-91.

[48] Ibid., para. 93.

[49] Ibid., para. 94: “Für die Vermittlung von Lizenzspielern ist eine derartige Beschränkung allerdings unverhältnismäÿig. Lizenzspieler der ersten und zweiten Bundesliga sind nicht in dem Masse schutzbedürftig wie Vertragsspieler der unteren Ligen.

[50] Handelsblatt, Gericht gibt Spielervermittler teils recht (www.handelsblatt.com, 30 April 2015),<http://www.handelsblatt.com/sport/fussball/streit-mit-dfb-gericht-gibt spielervermittler-teils recht/11716170.html>.

[51] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, para. 104.

[52] Ibid., para. 105.

[53] Piau, cited supra note 22, paras. 117-118

[54] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, paras. 98-99.

[55] Rogon v DFB, cited supra note 4, para. 100.

[56] Ibid., para. 96: “Hier geht es jedoch darum, dass die Antragsgegnerin aufgrund ihrer Monopolstellung Dritte faktisch in die Verbandsherrschaft zwingt, indem sie Verbandsangehörige mit Sanktionen bedroht, sollten diese nicht auf die Antragstellerin im Sinne einer Zustimmung zur Vermittlererklärung einwirken. Insofern fehlt es an der freiwilligen Unterwerfung; es handelt sich vielmehr um eine durch wirtschaftlichen Druck erzwungene Unterwerfung eines nicht verbandsangehörigen Dritten.”

[57] Hamburger Abendblatt, Landgericht bestätigt teilweise neue Spielerberater-Regeln (www.abendblatt.de, 30 April 2015), <http://www.abendblatt.de/sport/article205286615/Landgericht-bestaetigt-teilweise-neue-Spielerberater-Regeln.html>.

[58] Article 7(8) FIFA Regulations, cited supra note 7: “Players and/or clubs that engage the services of an intermediary when negotiating an employment contract and/or a transfer agreement are prohibited from making any payments to such intermediary if the player concerned is a minor ...

[59] D. Lowen, cited supra, note 8.

 

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