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 Sports Law Digest – Issue II – July-December 2014

I. Literature

1. Antitrust/Competition Law and Sport

G Basnier, ‘Sports and competition law: the case of the salary cap in New Zealand rugby union’, (2014) 14 The International Sports Law Journal 3-4, p.155

R Craven, ‘Football and State aid: too important to fail?’ (2014) 14 The International Sports Law Journal 3-4, p.205

R Craven, ‘State Aid and Sports Stadiums: EU Sports Policy or Deference to Professional Football (2014) 35 European Competition Law Review Issue 9, 453

2. Intellectual Property Rights in Sports law / Betting rights/ Spectators’ rights/ Sponsorship Agreements


W T Champion and K DWillis, Intellectual property law in the sports and entertainment industries (Santa Barbara, California; Denver, Colorado; Oxford, England: Praeger 2014)

J-M Marmayou and F Rizzo, Les contrats de sponsoring sportif (Lextenso éditions 2014) 


Time to Cure FIFA’s Chronic Bad Governance Disease

 After Tuesday’s dismissal of Michael Garcia’s complaint against the now infamous Eckert statement synthetizing (misleadingly in his eyes) his Report on the bidding process for the World Cup 2018 and 2022, Garcia finally decided to resign from his position as FIFA Ethics Committee member. On his way out, he noted: “No independent governance committee, investigator, or arbitration panel can change the culture of an organization”. It took Garcia a while to understand this, although others faced similar disappointments before. One needs only to remember the forgotten reform proposals of the Independent Governance Committee led by Prof. Dr. Mark Pieth. More...

The CAS Ad Hoc Division in 2014: Business As Usual? - Part. 2: The Selection Drama

In a first blog last month we discussed the problem of the scope of jurisdiction of the Ad Hoc Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The key issue was whether an athlete could get his case heard in front of the CAS Ad Hoc Division or not. In this second part, we will also focus on whether an athlete can access a forum, but a different kind of forum: the Olympic Games as such. This is a dramatic moment in an athlete’s life, one that will decide the future path of an entire career and most likely a lifetime of opportunities. Thus, it is a decision that should not be taken lightly, nor in disregard of the athletes’ due process rights. In the past, several (non-)selection cases were referred to the Ad Hoc Divisions at the Olympic Games, and this was again the case in 2014, providing us with the opportunity for the present review.

Three out of four cases dealt with by the CAS Ad Hoc Division in Sochi involved an athlete contesting her eviction from the Games. Each case is specific in its factual and legal assessment and deserves an individual review. More...

Should the CAS ‘let Dutee run’? Gender policies in Sport under legal scrutiny. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

The rise of Dutee Chand, India’s 100 and 200-meter champion in the under 18-category, was astonishing. Her achievements were more than promising: after only two years, she broke the 100m and 200m national junior records, competed in the 100m final at the World Youth Athletics Championships in Donetsk and collected two gold medals in the Asian Junior Championships in Chinese Taipei. But, in July 2014, this steady rise was abruptly halted. Following a request from the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), the Sports Authority of India (SAI) conducted blood tests on the Indian sprinters. Dutee was detected with female hyperandrogenism, i.e a condition where the female body produces high levels of testosterone. As a result, a few days before the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the AFI declared Dutee ineligible to compete under the IAAF Regulations and prevented her from competing in future national and international events in the female category. Pursuant to the IAAF ‘Hyperandrogenism Policy’, the AFI would allow Dutee to return to competition only if she lowers her testosterone level beneath the male range by means of medical or surgical treatment.[1] On 25 September 2014, Dutee filed an appeal before the CAS, seeking to overturn the AFI’s decision and declare IAAF and IOC’s hyperandrogenism regulations null and void. She is defending her right to compete the way she actually is: a woman with high levels of testosterone. Interestingly enough, albeit a respondent, AFI supports her case.

IAAF and IOC rules set limits to female hyperandrogenism, which is deemed an unfair advantage that erodes female sports integrity. While these rules have been contested with regard to their scientific and ethical aspects, this is the first time that they will be debated in court. This appeal could have far-reaching ramifications for the sports world. It does not only seek to pave the way for a better ‘deal’ for female athletes with hyperandrogenism, who are coerced into hormonal treatment and even surgeries to ‘normalise’ themselves as women[2], but it rather brings the CAS, for the first time, before the thorny question:

How to strike a right balance between the core principle of ‘fair play’ and norms of non-discrimination, in cases where a determination of who qualifies as a ‘woman’ for the purposes of sport has to be made? More...

The O’Bannon Case: The end of the US college sport’s amateurism model? By Zygimantas Juska

On 8 August, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favour of former UCLA basketball player O'Bannon and 19 others, declaring that NCAA's longstanding refusal to compensate athletes for the use of their name, image and likenesses (NILs) violates US antitrust laws. In particular, the long-held amateurism justification promoted by the NCAA was deemed unconvincing.

On 14 November, the NCAA has appealed the judgment, claiming that federal judge erred in law by not applying a 1984 Supreme Court ruling. One week later, the NCAA received support from leading antitrust professors who are challenging the Judge Wilken’s reasoning in an amicus curiae. They are concerned that the judgment may jeopardize the proper regulation of college athletics. The professors argued that if Wilken’s judgment is upheld, it

would substantially expand the power of the federal courts to alter organizational rules that serve important social and academic interests…This approach expands the ‘less restrictive alternative prong’ of the antitrust rule of reason well beyond any appropriate boundaries and would install the judiciary as a regulatory agency for collegiate athletics”.   


Image Rights in Professional Basketball (Part II): Lessons from the American College Athletes cases. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

In the wake of the French Labour Union of Basketball (Syndicat National du Basket, SNB) image rights dispute with Euroleague and EA Games, we threw the “jump ball” to start a series on players’ image rights in international professional basketball. In our first blogpost, we discussed why image rights contracts in professional basketball became a fertile ground for disputes when it comes to the enforcement of these contracts by the Basketball Arbitral Tribunal (BAT). Indeed, we pointed out that clubs might take advantage of the BAT’s inconsistent jurisprudence to escape obligations deriving from image rights contracts.

In this second limb, we will open a second field of legal battles “around the rim”: the unauthorized use of players’ image rights by third parties. We will use as a point of reference the US College Athletes image rights cases before US Courts and we will thereby examine the legal nature of image rights and the precise circumstances in which such rights may be infringed. Then, coming back to where we started, we will discuss the French case through the lens of US case law on players’ image rights. 

Source: More...

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.  More...

UEFA’s tax-free Euro 2016 in France: State aid or no State aid?

Last week, the French newspaper Les Echos broke the story that UEFA (or better said its subsidiary) will be exempted from paying taxes in France on revenues derived from Euro 2016. At a time when International Sporting Federations, most notably FIFA, are facing heavy criticisms for their bidding procedures and the special treatment enjoyed by their officials, this tax exemption was not likely to go unnoticed. The French minister for sport, confronted with an angry public opinion, responded by stating that tax exemptions are common practice regarding international sporting events. The former French government agreed to this exemption. In fact, he stressed that without it “France would never have hosted the competition and the Euro 2016 would have gone elsewhere”. More...

The New Olympic Host City Contract: Human Rights à la carte? by Ryan Gauthier, PhD Researcher (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Three weeks ago, I gave a talk for a group of visiting researchers at Harvard Law School on the accountability of the IOC for human rights abuses caused by hosting Olympic Games. On the day of that talk, Human Rights Watch announced that the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) would insert new language into the Host City Contract presumably for the 2022 Olympic Games onwards. The new language apparently requires the parties to the contract to:

“take all necessary measures to ensure that development projects necessary for the organization of the Games comply with local, regional, and national legislation, and international agreements and protocols, applicable in the host country with regard to planning, construction, protection of the environment, health, safety, and labour laws.”More...

The UN and the IOC: Beautiful friendship or Liaison Dangereuse?

The IOC has trumpeted it worldwide as a « historical milestone »: the United Nations has recognised the sacrosanct autonomy of sport. Indeed, the Resolution A/69/L.5 (see the final draft) adopted by the General Assembly on 31 October states that it  “supports the independence and autonomy of sport as well as the mission of the International Olympic Committee in leading the Olympic movement”. This is a logical conclusion to a year that has brought the two organisations closer than ever. In April, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed former IOC President, Jacques Rogge, Special Envoy for Youth Refugees and Sport. At this occasion, the current IOC President, Thomas Bach, made an eloquent speech celebrating a “historic step forward to better accomplish our common mission for humanity” and a memorandum understanding was signed between the UN and the IOC. This is all sweet and well, but is there something new under the sun?More...

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

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

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

Implementation of Agenda 2020 into the HCC 

In December 2014, the IOC Session unanimously approved Olympic Agenda 2020 ('Agenda 2020'), a set of 40 recommendations intended to protect the uniqueness of the Games and strengthen Olympic values in society. Agenda 2020 makes five specific recommendations with respect to the HCC which should have been taken into account as of the 2022 HCC concluded between the IOC on the one hand and the City of Beijing and the Chinese Olympic Committee on the other hand.[1]

Most importantly, Agenda 2020 encourages the IOC to include in the HCC clauses reflecting the prohibition of discrimination as well as the protection of environmental and labour-related rights.[2] Fundamental Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, now also reflected in Article 13.2. (a) of the 2024 HCC, reads as follows: ''The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.'' Non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation had been absent from the Olympic Charter prior to Agenda 2020. As far as environmental and labour-related matters are concerned, the Host City, the Host National Olympic Committee ('Host NOC') and the Organising Committee of the Olympic Games ('OCOG') are obliged under the 2024 HCC to ''ensure that their activities in relation to the organisation of the Olympic Games comply with any international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country, with regard to planning, construction, protection of the environment, health and safety, labour and working conditions and cultural heritage''.[3] For the first time, the 2024 HCC also makes a specific reference to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.[4]

In addition to promoting non-discrimination, environmental protection and labour-related rights, Agenda 2020 also fosters transparency by demanding the IOC to: (i) make the HCC public; (ii) disclose details of the IOC's financial contribution to the OCOG; and (iii) provide the HCC at the outset of a bidding procedure.[5] Moreover, Agenda 2020 suggests that entities other than the Host City and the Host NOC may become signatories to the HCC in line with the local context.[6]


What exactly has been added to the 2024 HCC?

As indicated above, the prohibition of discrimination,[7] and to a certain extent also the protection of labour-related rights,[8] appeared for the first time in the 2022 HCC, reflecting the recommendations laid down in Agenda 2020.[9] Moving to the 2024 HCC, the core human rights provision inserted therein demands that the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG in their activities related to the execution of the Games ''protect and respect human rights and ensure any violation of human rights is remedied in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognized human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country''.[10] Of particular importance is the explicit reference to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights ('UN Guiding Principles'), a non-binding legal framework intended to minimize adverse human rights impacts triggered by business activities. The UN Guiding Principles are based on three pillars, namely (i) the State duty to protect human rights; (ii) the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and (iii) access to remedy.

The following sections will address some of the issues that remain outstanding even after the insertion of human rights obligations to the 2024 HCC.

No direct involvement of the Host Country

First and foremost, the Host Country itself is not directly obliged to protect and respect human rights under the 2024 HCC. Instead, the provision discussed above imposes human rights obligations on the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG. It is critical to note that the relevant provision requires the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG not only to respect, but also to protect human rights, suggesting that these entities shall take positive actions to facilitate the enjoyment of human rights. This begs the question whether the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG have the political, legal and financial capacity to effectively take such positive actions.

For instance, the Host City and the OCOG would be expected to include human rights obligations in their contracts with suppliers of public infrastructure and sporting facilities. However, even if they do so under the threat of contract's termination and further sanctions, it may not suffice to prevent Olympic Games-related human rights abuses from occurring. Unlike the Host Country Authorities, the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG do not possess the necessary powers to monitor and adjudicate the human rights compliance of their sub-contractors. Furthermore, much of the infrastructure build-up might be conducted by the Host Country directly and would therefore evade the scope of application of the HCC.

Who determines when human rights obligations are violated? 

In practice, human rights obligations arising out of a contractual relationship are not easy to deal with, because it might be rather difficult to decide whether they have been observed or not. For this reason, it is essential to entrust an independent body with competence to decide whether the Host City, the Host NOC or the OCOG have complied with their human rights obligations under the HCC. Unfortunately, the 2024 HCC in its current form does not stipulate who is responsible for adopting a decision determining that the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG are in breach of their human rights obligations. 

It follows that the IOC itself (via the Coordination or Legal Affairs Commission) may take on this inquisitorial and quasi-judicial role. However, this would lead a very interested party to monitor and adjudicate the human rights compliance of the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG. The potential for a conflict of interests is evident, as the IOC could face negative financial and other consequences if it decides to withdraw the Games from the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG. In this configuration, the incentives will therefore be strongly opposed to finding for a lack of compliance.

Instead, we could imagine a separate, truly independent body consisting of NGO members, athletes' representatives, union representatives, CAS arbitrators and independent experts (such as academics or judges at the European Court of Human Rights). This body could have an investigative and an adjudicative chamber (not unlike the FIFA Independent Ethics Committee), ensuring a separation between monitoring and adjudicating. Should the Host City, the Host NOC or the OCOG consider sanctions imposed under such a mechanism arbitrary, they might still activate the CAS arbitration clause[11] and challenge the validity of these sanctions before the CAS.

Will the sanctions contemplated by the HCC be effective? 

As explained in the first part of this blog, the most severe sanction contemplated by the HCC in the event of non-compliance is the withdrawal of the Games from the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG with prior notice.[12] It should be emphasized, however, that a removal of the Games would result in both financial and reputational harm being incurred by the IOC.[13] Therefore, it is arguable whether the IOC would in practice be ready to withdraw the Games. In fact, the IOC has withdrawn the Games so far only due to the outbreak of the First and Second World War, when the Games were cancelled altogether.[14] Being aware of the IOC's unwillingness to withdraw the Games, the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG may not perceive the threat of losing the Games as credible. Consequently, these entities may not feel obliged to adhere to their human rights obligations under the HCC.

With regard to other enforcement measures, the IOC is entitled, inter alia, to retain all amounts held in the General Retention Fund[15] or withhold any payment due, or grant to be made to the OCOG pursuant to the HCC.[16] By not providing the relevant financial contribution to the OCOG, the IOC would risk delays in construction and other preparatory works – something the IOC certainly wants to avoid. Eventually, these sanctions might prove to be as inefficient as the threat of losing the Games, given that the IOC may turn a blind eye to violations of the HCC in order to safeguard its financial and other interests. Besides financial considerations, the IOC's reluctance to impose sanctions on the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG follows from the fact that the IOC would thereby implicitly acknowledge its mistaken decision to award the Games to a particular Host City in the first place.



This blog has identified three specific concerns potentially relativizing the impact of the human rights obligations recently added to the 2024 HCC. First, the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG as the formal addresses of these obligations may not have the capacity to ensure the human rights compliance of their sub-contractors. Second, the 2024 HCC in its current form lacks clarity as to when the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG are in breach of their human rights obligations and who is responsible for adopting a decision to that effect. Third, being aware of the IOC's unwillingness to withdraw the Games due to financial and other interests involved, it is likely that the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG might refuse to abide by their human rights obligations under the HCC. This is not to say, however, that introducing human rights requirements is not an important step forward, but as always with this type of decisions the devil will be in the implementation.

[1]    The 2022 HCC was executed in Kuala Lumpur on 31 July 2015.

[2]    Agenda 2020; Recommendation 1.5.

[3]    2024 Host City Contract – Principles; Article 15.2. (b).

[4]    Ibid., Article 15.1.

[5]    Agenda 2020; Recommendations 1.6., 1.7., 1.10.

[6]    Ibid., Recommendation 1.9.

[7]    2022 Host City Contract; Preamble (L.).

[8]    Ibid., Article 21.

[9]    Agenda 2020; Recommendation 1.5.

[10]   2024 Host City Contract – Principles; Article 13.2. (b).

[11]   Ibid., Article 51.2.

[12]   Ibid., Articles 38.2., 38.3.

[13]   R. Gauthier, The International Olympic Committee, Law and Accountability, Routledge, 2017, at 144-145.

[14]   Ibid., at 144.

[15]   According to Article 8.2. (d) of the 2024 HCC, the General Retention Fund represents a percentage (5 %) of ''any sums of money or equivalent value-in-kind payable to the OCOG in relation to the International Programme''. It is maintained and controlled by the IOC.

[16]   2024 Host City Contract – Principles; Article 36.2. (a), (b).

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