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 Kristoffersen ruling: the EFTA Court targets athlete endorsement deals - By Sven Demeulemeester and Niels Verborgh

Editor’s note: Sven Demeulemeester and Niels Verborgh are sports lawyers at the Belgium law firm, Altius.



In its 16 November 2018 judgment, the Court of Justice of the European Free Trade Association States (the EFTA Court) delivered its eagerly awaited ruling in the case involving Henrik Kristoffersen and the Norwegian Ski Federation (NSF). 

On 17 October 2016, Kristoffersen had taken the NSF to the Oslo District Court over the latter’s refusal to let the renowned alpine skier enter into a sponsorship with Red Bull. At stake were the commercial markings on his helmet and headgear in races organised under the NSF’s umbrella. The NSF refused this sponsorship because it had already granted the advertising on helmet and headgear to its own main sponsor, Telenor. Kristoffersen claimed before the Oslo District Court, that the NSF should be ordered to permit him to enter into an individual marketing contract with Red Bull. In the alternative, Kristoffersen claimed damages up to a maximum of NOK 15 million. By a letter of 25 September 2017, the Oslo District Court referred several legal questions to the EFTA Court in view of shedding light on the compatibility of the rules that the NSF had invoked with EEA law.

If rules do not relate to the conduct of the sport itself, but concern sponsorship rights and hence an economic activity, these rules are subject to EEA law. The EFTA Court ruling is important in that it sets out the framework for dealing with - ever more frequent - cases in which an individual athlete’s endorsement deals conflict with the interest of the national or international sports governing bodies (SGBs) that he or she represents in international competitions.More...

Season 2 of football leaks: A review of the first episodes

Season 2 of #FootballLeaks is now underway since more than a week and already a significant number of episodes (all the articles published can be found on the European Investigative Collaborations’ website) covering various aspect of the (lack of) transnational regulation of football have been released (a short German documentary sums up pretty much the state of play). For me, as a legal scholar, this new series of revelations is an exciting opportunity to discuss in much more detail than usual various questions related to the operation of the transnational private regulations of football imposed by FIFA and UEFA (as we already did during the initial football leaks with our series of blogs on TPO in 2015/2016). Much of what has been unveiled was known or suspected by many, but the scope and precision of the documents published makes a difference. At last, the general public, as well as academics, can have certainty about the nature of various shady practices in the world of football. One key characteristic that explains the lack of information usually available is that football, like many international sports, is actually governed by private administrations (formally Swiss associations), which are not subject to the similar obligations in terms of transparency than public ones (e.g. access to document rules, systematic publication of decisions, etc.). In other words, it’s a total black box! The football leaks are offering a rare sneak peak into that box.

Based on what I have read so far (this blog was written on Friday 9 November), there are three main aspects I find worthy of discussion:

  • The (lack of) enforcement of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) Regulations
  • The European Super League project and EU competition law
  • The (lack of) separation of powers inside FIFA and UEFA More...

Supporters of the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018: Altius

Editor's note: In the coming days we will introduce the supporters of our upcoming ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018 (also known as #ISLJConf18). To do so, we have sent them a tailored questionnaire aimed at reflecting both their activities and their expectations for the conference. It is a good opportunity for us to thank them for their enthusiastic support and commitment to international sports law research. We are very happy to finish this series of interviews with Sven Demeulemeester from Altius, a Belgian law firm based in Brussels with a very fine (and academically-minded!) sports law team. 

1. Can you explain to our readers the work of Altius in international sports law? 

Across different sports’ sectors, Altius’ sports law practice advises and assists some of the world’s most high-profile sports governing bodies, clubs and athletes, at both the national and the international level. The team has 6 fully-dedicated sports lawyers and adopts a multi-disciplinary approach, which guarantees a broad range of legal expertise for handling specific cases or wider issues related to the sports industry. We are proud to be independent but, in cross-border matters, are able to tap into a worldwide network.

2. How is it to be an international sports lawyer? What are the advantages and challenges of the job? 

Sports law goes beyond one specific field of law. The multiplicity of legal angles keeps the work interesting, even after years of practising, and ensures that a sports lawyer rarely has a dull moment. The main downside is that the sports industry is fairly conservative and sometimes ‘political’. While the law is one thing, what happens in practice is often another. Bringing about change is not always easy. 

3. What are the burning issues in international sports law that you would like to see discussed at the conference? 

 The much-anticipated overhaul of the football transfer system is eagerly anticipated and is worth a thorough debate, also in terms of possible, viable alternatives. The impact of EU law - both internal market rules, competition law and fundamental rights – can hardly be underestimated. Also, dispute resolution mechanisms within the realm of sports - and an accessible, transparent, independent and impartial sports arbitration in particular - will remain a ‘hot’ topic in the sector for years to come. Furthermore, ethics and integrity issues should remain top of the agenda, as is being demonstrated by the current money-laundering and match-fixing allegations in Belgium. Finally, in a sector in which the use of data is rife, the newly-adopted GDPR’s impact remains somewhat ‘under the radar’.

4. Why did you decide to support the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference? 

The ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference is refreshing, both in terms of its topics and participants. The academic and content-driven approach is a welcome addition to other sports law conferences in which the networking aspect often predominates.

Supporters of the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018: LawInSport

Editor's note: In the coming days we will introduce the supporters of our upcoming ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018 (also known as #ISLJConf18). To do so, we have sent them a tailored questionnaire aimed at reflecting both their activities and their expectations for the conference. It is a good opportunity for us to thank them for their enthusiastic support and commitment to international sports law research. We are very happy to continue this series of interviews with LawInSport, a knowledge hub and educational platform for the community of people working in or with an interest in sport and the law  (many thanks to LawInSport's CEO Sean Cottrell for kindly responding to our questions).

1. Can you explain to our readers what LawInSport is about?

LawInSport is a knowledge hub, educational platform and global community of people working in or with an interest in sport and the law.

Our objective is to help people ‘understand the rules of the game™’. What does this mean? It means people in sport having access to information that enables them to have a better understanding the rules and regulations that govern the relationships, behaviours and processes within sports. This in turn creates a foundation based on the principles of the rule of law, protecting the rights of everyone working and participating in sport.  

2. What are the challenges and perks of being an international sports law 'reporter’ ?

I do not consider myself a reporter, but as the head of an organisation that has a responsibility to provide the highest quality information on legal issues in sport,  focusing on what is important and not just what is popular, whilst trying to stay free from conflicts of interests. These two issues, popularism and conflict of interest, are the two of the biggest challenges.

Popularism and the drive to win attention is, in my opinion, causing a lack of discipline when it comes to factual and legal accuracy in coverage of sports law issues, which on their own may seem harmless, but can cause harm to organisations and individuals (athletes, employees, etc).

Conflict of interest will obviously arise in such a small sector, however, there is not a commonly agreed standard in internationally, let alone in sports law. Therefore, one needs to be diligent when consuming information to understand why someone may or may not hold a point of view, if they have paid to get it published or has someone paid them to write it. For this reason it can be hard to get a full picture of what is happening in the sector.

In terms of perks, I get to do something that is both challenging and rewarding on a daily basis, and as  a business owner I have the additional benefit of work with colleagues I enjoy working with. I have the privilege of meeting world leaders in their respective fields (law, sport, business, science, education, etc) and gain insights from them about their work and life experiences which is incredibly enriching.  Getting access to speak to the people who are on the front line, either athletes, coaches, lawyers, scientists, rather than from a third party is great as it gives you an unfiltered insight into what is going on.

On the other side of things, we get the opportunity to help people through either having a better understand of the legal and regulatory issues in sports or to understand how to progress themselves towards their goals academically and professionally is probably the most rewarding part of my work. 

3. What are the burning issues in international sports law that you would like to see discussed at the conference?

  • The long-term implications of human rights law in sport;
  • The importance of meaningful of stakeholder consultation in the creation and drafting of regulations in sport;
  • Effective international safeguarding in sport.

4. Why did you decide to support the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference?

We support ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference as it is a non-profit conference that’s purpose is to create a space to explore a wide range of legal issues in sport. The conference is an academic conference that does a great job in bringing a diverse range of speakers and delegates. The discussions and debates that take place will benefit the wider sports law community.  Therefore, as LawInSport’s objective is focused on education it was a straight forward decision to support the conferences as it is aligned with our objectives. 

Supporters of the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018: Women in Sports Law

Editor's note: In the coming days we will introduce the supporters of our upcoming ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference 2018 (also known as #ISLJConf18). To do so, we have sent them a tailored questionnaire aimed at reflecting both their activities and their expectations for the conference. It is a good opportunity for us to thank them for their enthusiastic support and commitment to international sports law research. We are very proud to start this series of interviews with Women in Sports Law, an association launched in 2016 and which has already done so much to promote and advance the role of women in international sports law (many thanks to Despina Mavromati for kindly responding to our questions on behalf of WISLaw).

1. Can you explain to our readers what WISLaw is about?

Women In Sports Law (WISLaw, is an international association based in Lausanne that unites more than 300 women from 50 countries specializing in sports law. It is a professional network that aims at increasing the visibility of women working in the sector, through a detailed members’ directory and various small-scale talks and events held in different countries around the world. These small-scale events give the opportunity to include everyone in the discussion and enhance the members’ network. Men from the sector and numerous arbitral institutions, conference organizers and universities have come to actively support our initiative.

2. What are the challenges and opportunities for women getting involved in international sports law?

Women used to be invisible in this sector. All-male panels were typical at conferences and nobody seemed to notice this flagrant lack of diversity. WISLaw created this much-needed platform to increase visibility through the members’ directory and through a series of small-scale events where all members, independent of their status or seniority, can attend and be speakers.

Another difficulty is that European football (soccer) is traditionally considered to be a “male-dominated” sport, despite the fact that there are so many great female football teams around the world. The same misperception applies to sports lawyers!

Last, there is a huge number of women lawyers working as in-house counsel and as sports administrators. There is a glass ceiling for many of those women, and the WISLaw annual evaluation of the participation of women in those positions attempts to target their issues and shed more light into this specific problem.

3. What are the burning issues in international sports law that you would like to see discussed at the conference?

The ISLJ Annual Conference has already set up a great lineup of topics combining academic and more practical discussions in the most recent issues in international sports law. 

4. Why did you decide to support the ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference?

The Asser International Sports Law Centre has promoted and supported WISLaw since the very beginning. The ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference was the first big conference to officially include a WISLaw lunch talk in its program, allowing thus the conference attendees to be part of a wider informal discussion on a specific topical issue and raise their questions with respect to WISLaw. Another important reason why WISLaw supports this conference is because the conference organizers are making sincere efforts to have increased diversity in the panels : this year’s ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference is probably the first sports law conference to come close to a full gender balance in its panels, with 40% of the speakers being women !

The proportionality test under Art. 101 (1) TFEU and the legitimacy of UEFA Financial fair-play regulations: From the Meca Medina and Majcen ruling of the European Court of Justice to the Galatasaray and AC Milan awards of the Court of Arbitration for Sport – By Stefano Bastianon

Editor’s note: Stefano Bastianon is Associate Professor in EU Law and EU sports law at the University of Bergamo and lawyer admitted to the Busto Arsizio bar. He is also member of the IVth Division of the High Court of Sport Justice (Collegio di Garanzia dello sport) at the National Olympic Committee.


1. On the 20th July 2018, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (hereinafter referred to as “CAS”) issued its decision in the arbitration procedure between AC Milan and UEFA. The subject matter of this arbitration procedure was the appeal filed by AC Milan against the decision of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the UEFA Financial Control Body dated 19th June 2018 (hereinafter referred to as “the contested decision”). As many likely know, the CAS has acknowledged that, although AC Milan was in breach of the break-even requirement, the related exclusion of the club from the UEFA Europe League was not proportionate. To date, it is the first time the CAS clearly ruled that the sanction of exclusion from UEFA club competitions for a breach of the break-even requirement was not proportionate. For this reason the CAS award represents a good opportunity to reflect on the proportionality test under Art. 101 TFEU and the relationship between the landmark ruling of the European Court of Justice (hereinafter referred to as “ECJ”) in the Meca Medina and Majcen affair and the very recent case-law of the CAS. More...

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!


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 ‘’.


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).


Asser International Sports Law Blog | The Olympic Agenda 2020: The devil is in the implementation!

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 Olympic Agenda 2020: The devil is in the implementation!

The 40 recommendations of the Olympic Agenda 2020 are out! First thought: one should not underplay the 40 recommendations, they constitute (on paper at least) a potential leap forward for the IOC. The media will focus on the hot stuff: the Olympic channel, the pluri-localisation of the Games, or their dynamic format. More importantly, and to some extent surprisingly to us, however, the IOC has also fully embraced sustainability and good governance. Nonetheless, the long-term legacy of the Olympic Agenda 2020 will hinge on the IOC’s determination to be true to these fundamental commitments. Indeed, the devil is always in the implementation, and the laudable intents of some recommendations will depend on future political choices by Olympic bureaucrats. 

For those interested in human rights and democracy at (and around) the Olympics, two aspects are crucial: the IOC’s confession that the autonomy of sport is intimately linked to the quality of its governance standards and the central role the concept of sustainability is to play in the bidding process and the host city contract.  

Good Governance = Autonomy

“Good governance and autonomy are strongly linked; they are two sides of the same coin”

This statement is to be found in the only document that really matters to understand the depth of the reforms envisaged: The context and background report. It is a confession; there is no autonomy of sport, unless this autonomy is in the hands of irreproachable institutions. The IOC is prone to consider itself as abiding to such standard, but it is not for itself to judge. The global public will be the sole arbiter of this pledge to good governance, as the IOC recognises: “Autonomy has to be earned”. 

In this regard, the IOC’s Agenda 2020 proposes a certain number of institutional and “good governance” reforms:

Recommendation 27 Comply with basic principles of good governance

The Agenda 2020 foresees that “all organisations belonging to the Olympic Movement [are] to accept and comply with the Basic universal Principles of Good Governance of the Olympic and Sports movements”. To this end, the organisations will be monitored and mentored and self-evaluation tests (probably similar to WADA’s compliance test) will be introduced. Furthermore, the IOC will update the principles of good governance with the help of a working group composed of “experts”. Obviously, the impact of this recommendation depends very much on the stringency of the monitoring and of the nature of the good governance requirements imposed. 

Recommendation 29: Increase Transparency

The IOC vows to publish financial statements according to the International Financial Reporting Standards and to produce an annual activity and financial report, including the allowance policy for IOC members. This is an important step, since it enables external observers to better scrutinise the financial flows in the Olympic movement and to have a full picture of the allowances received by each individual member of the IOC. It will be easier to follow where the IOC’s money is going and it will make money laundering harder. However, external revenues received by IOC members will stay undeclared, leaving the door open for suspicions.  

Recommendation 30: Strengthen the IOC Ethics Commission independence

This recommendation aims at securing the IOC’s ethics commission independence by proposing to elect its chair and its members via a secret ballot of the Session (the IOC’s parliament, assembling all IOC members). This seems quite an obvious thing in a democratic society, but for an institution versed in nepotism, it is a big step. Once implemented, the nomination process of the members of the Commission will be more difficult to control, and, thus, reinforce the independence of the sole potential counter-power (to the executive board) inside the IOC’s institutional structure. Again, this is no cure-all, and the Ethics Commission has yet to prove itself as an effective control mechanism, but it is a first step towards a more balanced institutional game.

Recommendation 32: Strengthen ethics

Here it is suggested to revise the Code of ethics, so that it “be fully aligned with the Olympic Agenda 2020’s drive for more transparency, good governance and accountability”. This is a vague, but potentially important, commitment to rethink the IOC’s Code of Ethics. Only time will tell if this revision will lead to better and accountable governance. In any event, only heightened public scrutiny can force the IOC to adopt governance standard ensuring full transparency and accountability. 

Recommendation 37: Address IOC membership age limit

The IOC is recommending a complex system to allow members over 70 to go beyond the official age limit entrenched in Article 16 of the Olympic Charter. In practice, the Session will be able to vote on allowing each member the right to stay on for maximum four years more than the age limit. This is a (minimal) concession to the IOC members strongly opposed to the age limit.  

Recommendation 38: Implement a targeted recruitment process

Recommendation 38 concerns the selection process of new IOC members. The IOC is no democratic institution. The “citizens” of the Olympic family do not elect their representatives. In fact, the IOC members are not necessarily part of the “Olympic family”. Historically, its selection process has been marred by nepotism (e.g. the Samaranch dynasty) as it is based on co-optation. The Agenda 2020 does not do away with this fundamentally oligarchic procedure, but it is slightly correcting it by empowering (and constraining) the nominations Commission, which is in charge of proposing candidates. The choice of the Commission is to be constrained by specific selection criteria, the most prominent being: gender balance; geographical balance; and the existence of an athletes’ commission within the organisation for representatives of Ifs/NOCs. As from now on, the press and the public will be able to blame the IOC if it does not follow its self-imposed requirements (gender balance being the one to watch closely) in the future. 

Some changes are also on the books concerning the Scope and Composition of IOC Commissions (Recommendation 40). Unfortunately, they are of unclear nature and magnitude.

These institutional innovations, if implemented, are positive steps forward to constrain power inside the IOC and to open it to outside scrutiny. The most remarkable outcome of the Olympic Agenda 2020 remains the crystal clear acknowledgment by IOC that the autonomy of sport is necessarily tied to the quality of the governing processes in place. This essentially means that the Agenda 2020 can only be the beginning of a dynamic institutional reform process that must lead the IOC to be more inclusive of the many constituencies of the sporting world. This is not enough, however; the IOC must also be receptive to the needs of society as a whole.  

Sustainability and Human rights in the bidding process

The bidding process should be at the centre of all critical attention. It is clear that it is the bidding process that entrusts the IOC with real political leverage. At this point, it takes fundamental decisions that will impact the life of millions (if not billions) of citizens Therefore, the brunt of the substantial (in contrast with the institutional measures discussed above) reforms was expected to impact on the bidding procedure (see the joint paper by the Swiss, German, Austrian and Swedish NOCs). It is also on the bidding process that the IOC received the most contributions in the framework of the Agenda 2020 (more than 90). In this regard, Sochi was a wake-up call, due to the abuses recorded on the human rights and anti-discrimination front, and the environmental sustainability side. The IOC Agenda 2020 is not shy of tackling these issues and, with caveats discussed below, should be praised for doing so. First, and this is a fundamental point, the Host City Contract will from now on be made publicly available (for now we only have leaked draft documents as for the 2022 contract). This is a necessary move for an institution claiming to follow good governance principles. Indeed, it will ease the work of critics and commentators scrutinising the contract and the public as a whole will have access to the official document itself.  

Recommendation 1: Shape the bidding process as an invitation

This first recommendation contains a variety of proposals. The spirit of which is “to invite potential candidate cities to present an Olympic project that best matches their sports, economic, social and environmental long-term planning needs”. Thus, for “reasons of sustainability”, the IOC will tolerate that events do not take place in the Host-city but in another nearby city or country (modification of article 34 of the Olympic Charter). The Host City Contract will include a provision banning discriminations, as was previously announced and celebrated by Human Rights Watch. In addition to this, article 21 of the 2022 Host City Contract will impose sustainability requirements on the Host city. Yet, the transformative quality of these provisions is still to be demonstrated. The main point remains that new regulations for the bidding procedure will be drafted. These will be key to set in stone the sustainability and Human rights turn of the Olympic family and will be the place to look at in order to assess whether the IOC is really serious about the changes put forward in the Olympic Agenda 2020.

Recommendation 2: Evaluate bid cities by assessing key opportunities and risks

The evaluation of the bids is key to the IOC’s impact on sustainability or human rights aspects (and not only to ensure that its commercial interests are safeguarded). Hence, it is good news that the IOC is to consider as positive aspects of a bid: “the maximum use of existing facilities and the use of temporary and demountable venues where no long-term venue legacy need exists or can be justified”. Furthermore, the Evaluation Commission is “to benefit from third-party, independent advice in such areas as social, economic and political conditions, with a special focus on sustainability and legacy”. In fact, the final reports by the Evaluation Commission are to include “an assessment of the opportunities and risks of each candidature, as well as of sustainability and legacy” (modification of bye-law to rule 33) and third-party independent risk-assessments are to be conducted. This will be a powerful tool in the hands of NGOs to decisively influence the selection process by providing in depth (and public) assessments of the sustainability of the different bids. It will also, and perhaps mainly, offer critical ammunitions in case the IOC is inclined to disregard the sustainability assessment provided by the Evaluation Commission. There is no rock solid guarantee that the IOC will in the end take into account the sustainability of a bid to allocate the Games. Yet, a full-blown neglect of this assessment would give way to damaging public criticism.  

Recommendation 4: Include sustainability in all aspects of the Olympic Games

This recommendation is aimed at ensuring that sustainability “is included in all aspects of the planning and staging of the Olympic Games”. Sustainability is to be achieved via “a sustainability strategy to enable potential and actual Olympic Games organisers to integrate and implement sustainability measures”. The IOC wants to assist the Organising Committees “to establish the best possible governance for the integration of sustainability throughout the organisation”. To this end, the “[n]ext Host City Contract [is] to reflect, through a number of additional obligations” these policy goals. Moreover, the IOC considers signing a “MoU with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for possible independent assessment of OCOG sustainability performances”. Again, depending on the extent to which the Host City Contract will be modified, these changes are substantial. However, the UNEP might need concrete commitments to be convinced to deepen its existing collaboration with the IOC, especially after the disaster of the Sochi Games. The Host City Contract is certainly an important lever to impose obligations on the Host City, but to effectively do so it needs to be accompanied by clear and potent procedures ensuring its enforcement.  

Recommendation 5: Include sustainability within the Olympic Movement’s daily operations

The IOC’s administration in its day-to-day operations is to follow sustainability standards. Most notably, it aims to “introduce sustainable sourcing policies in tendering processes, sponsorship, licensing and supplier agreements for renewals or new contracts”. This is an instance of IOC greening its own administrative operations to improve its image. 

Recommendation 14: Strengthen the 6th Fundamental Principle of Olympism

In a symbolic gesture, the 6th fundamental principle of Olympism, which forbids all types of discrimination, is to be re-written into a hybrid text of Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Article 2 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  This is a tricky move and guessing the way the new principle will be interpreted in the future is an impossible deed. On one side, it seems that the principle is now completely in line with anti-discrimination standards widely recognised under international law. On the other, one has the impression that the new wording narrows its scope of application. Indeed, discrimination is not “incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement” anymore, it is merely inadmissible when exercising the rights and freedom granted by the Olympic charter. In general, this is a symbolic provision, the wording of the Host City Contract or the bidding requirements have way more practical relevance, but this development is not necessarily a sign of a more stringent action from the part of the IOC against discriminations. 

Conclusion: The Devil is in the implementation/interpretation

This leads us to a final, and crucial, caveat. Law is very much about the interpretation of the meaning of words. In our case, the IOC will be the main responsible to give a practical meaning to the sweet words enshrined in the Agenda 2020’s recommendations. Starting with the IOC Session on the 8 and 9 December in Monaco, which will decide on the modifications to the Olympic Charter or its byelaws. The legal meaning of transnational concepts such as sustainability, good governance and discrimination is more or less shared around the globe. The IOC cannot afford to betray it; there is no space for the use of newspeak, or for any other word games leading to a practical disregard of the essential gist of those concepts. The IOC and its president have raised high expectations with this set of recommendations indicating a willingness to change from the side of the Olympic movement. Such expectations cannot be disappointed over and over again; it would certainly be suicidal for the Olympic movement to betray its grand promises. Now comes the time to deliver!

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