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

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

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

FIFA's Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses in Qatar – Part II: The Zurich Court's Ruling - By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell comes from Slovakia and is currently an LL.M. student in Public International Law at Leiden University. He contributes also to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a part-time intern.

This is a follow-up contribution to my previous blog on FIFA's responsibility for human rights abuses in Qatar published last week. Whereas the previous part has examined the lawsuit filed with the Commercial Court of the Canton of Zurich ('Court') jointly by the Dutch trade union FNV, the Bangladeshi Free Trade Union Congress, the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation and the Bangladeshi citizen Nadim Shariful Alam ('Plaintiffs') against FIFA, this second part will focus on the Court's ruling dated 3 January 2017 ('Ruling').[1]  More...



FIFA's Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses in Qatar - Part I: The Claims Against FIFA - By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell comes from Slovakia and is currently an LL.M. student in Public International Law at Leiden University. He contributes also to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a part-time intern.

On 2 December 2010, the FIFA Executive Committee elected Qatar as host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup ('World Cup'), thereby triggering a wave of controversies which underlined, for the most part, the country's modest size, lack of football history, local climate, disproportionate costs or corruption that accompanied the selection procedure. Furthermore, opponents of the decision to award the World Cup to the tiny oil-rich Gulf country also emphasized the country's negative human rights record.

More than six years later, on 3 January 2017, the Commercial Court of the Canton of Zurich ('Court') dismissed the lawsuit filed against FIFA[1] jointly by the Dutch trade union FNV, the Bangladeshi Free Trade Union Congress, the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation and the Bangladeshi citizen Nadim Shariful Alam ('Plaintiffs').[2] The Plaintiffs requested the Court to find FIFA responsible for alleged human rights violations of migrant workers in connection with the World Cup in Qatar. Had the Plaintiffs' claims been upheld by the Court, such decision would have had far-reaching consequences on the fate of thousands of migrants, mostly from India, Nepal and Bangladesh, who are currently working on the construction of sporting facilities and other infrastructure associated with organization of the World Cup. More...

Doyen vs. Sporting II: The Bitter End of Sporting’s Fight at the Swiss Federal Supreme Court. By Shervine Nafissi

Editor’s Note: Shervine Nafissi (@SNafissi) is a Phd Student in sports law and teaching assistant in corporate law at University of Lausanne (Switzerland), Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC).

 

Introduction

The factual background

The dispute concerns a TPO contract entitled “Economic Rights Participation Agreement” (hereinafter “ERPA”) concluded in 2012 between Sporting Lisbon and the investment fund Doyen Sports. The Argentine player was transferred in 2012 by Spartak Moscow to Sporting Lisbon for a transfer fee of €4 million. Actually, Sporting only paid €1 million of the fee while Doyen Sports financed the remaining €3 million. In return, the investment company became the owner of 75% of the economic rights of the player.[1] Thus, in this specific case, the Portuguese club was interested in recruiting Marcos Rojo but was unable to pay the transfer fee required by Spartak Moscow, so that they required the assistance of Doyen Sports. The latter provided them with the necessary funds to pay part of the transfer fee in exchange of an interest on the economic rights of the player.

Given that the facts and circumstances leading to the dispute, as well as the decision of the CAS, were fully described by Antoine Duval in last week’s blog of Doyen vs. Sporting, this blog will solely focus on the decision of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court (“FSC”) following Sporting’s appeal against the CAS award. As a preliminary point, the role of the FSC in the appeal against CAS awards should be clarified.More...

Doyen vs. Sporting I: Doyen’s Pyrrhic Victory at the CAS

At the end of December 2015, the CAS decided on a very public contractual dispute between Sporting Clube de Portugal Futebol SAD (Sporting) and Doyen Sports Investments Limited (Doyen). The club was claiming that Doyen’s Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA) was invalid and refused to pay Doyen’s due share on the transfer of Marcos Rojo to Manchester United. The dispute made a lot of noise (see the excellent coverage by Tariq Panja from Bloomberg here, here and here) as it was the first TPO case heard by the CAS after FIFA’s ban. Yet, and it has to be clear from the outset, the case does not affect the legality of FIFA’s TPO ban; it concerned only the compatibility of Doyen’s ERPA with Swiss civil law. The hearing took place in June 2015, but the case was put under a new light by the football leaks revelations unveiled at the end of 2015 (see our blog from December 2015). Despite these revelations, the CAS award favoured Doyen, and was luckily for us quickly made available on the old football leaks website. This blog will provide a commentary of the CAS decision. It will be followed in the coming days by a commentary by Shervine Nafissi on the judgment, on appeal, by the Swiss Federal Tribunal. More...

UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations and the Rise of Football’s 1%

On 12 January 2017 UEFA published its eighth club licensing benchmarking report on European football, concerning the financial year of 2015. In the press release that accompanied the report, UEFA proudly announced that Financial Fair Play (FFP) has had a huge positive impact on European football, creating a more stable financial environment. Important findings included a rise of aggregate operating profits of €1.5bn in the last two years, compared to losses of €700m in the two years immediately prior to the introduction of Financial Fair Play.



Source: UEFA’s eighth club licensing benchmarking report on European football, slide 107.


 Meanwhile the aggregate losses dropped by 81% from €1.7bn in 2011 to just over €300m in 2015.More...




International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2017. By Saverio Spera.

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


The Headlines

The Diarra ruling of the Tribunal of Charleroi

On 19 January 2017, the Hainaut Commercial Tribunal – Charleroi rendered its decision on the lawsuit filed by the football player Lassana Diarra against FIFA and the Belgian FA (URBSFA) for damages caused by not being able to exercise the status of a professional football player during the entire 2014/2015 season. The lawsuit is linked to the decision, rendered by the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) on April 2015, to support Lokomotiv’s decision to terminate the player’s contract and to order Diarra to pay Lokomotiv the amount of EUR 10,500,000 for having breached his contract. According to the plaintiff, Diarra’s opportunity to be recruited by Sporting Charleroi was denied due to the club being potentially considered jointly liable for Diarra’s compensation pursuant to Article 17 (2) RSTP. The Belgian court held strongly that “when the contract is terminated by the club, the player must have the possibility to sign a new contract with a new employer, without restrictions to his free movement”. This case highlighted, once again, the need to read the RSTP in the light of EU law. Moreover, the decision is laying further ground for broader challenges to the RSTP on the basis of EU law (for a deeper insight into the Diarra ruling, see the recent blog written by our senior researcher Antoine Duval) More...


Introducing the new legal challenges of E-Sports. By N. Emre Bilginoglu

Editor’s Note: Emre Bilginoglu[1] is an attorney in Istanbul and the co-founder of the Turkish E-Sports Players Association, a non-profit based in Istanbul that aims to provide assistance to professional gamers and to work on the relevant laws affecting them. 


The world is witnessing the rise of a new sport that is growing at an incredible speed: E-Sports. We are only starting to understand its legal implications and challenges.

In recent years, E-Sports has managed to attract thousands of fans to arenas to see a group of people play a video game. These people are literally professional gamers (cyber athletes)[2] who make money by competing in tournaments. Not all video games have tournaments in which professional players compete against each other.

The most played games in E-Sports competitions are League of Legends (LoL), Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). LoL and DotA are both Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, a genre of strategy video games in which the player controls a single character in one of two teams. The goal of the game is to destroy the opponent’s main structure. CS:GO is a first-person shooter (FPS) game, a genre of video games where the player engages combat through a first-person perspective. The main objective in CS:GO is to eliminate the opposing team or to terrorize or counter-terrorize, planting bombs or rescuing hostages. Other games that have (popular) E-Sports competitions include Starcraft II (real time strategy), Hearthstone (collectible card video game), Call of Duty (FPS) and FIFA (football).

The gaming requires cooperation between team players, a high level of concentration, rapid reactions and some seriously fast clicking. E-Sports is a groovy term to describe organized competitive computer gaming. The E-Sports industry is exponentially growing, amounting to values expressed in billions of dollars. According to Newzoo, a website dedicated to the collection of E-Sports data, there are some 250 million occasional viewers of E-Sports with Asia-Pacific accounting for half of the total amount. The growth of the industry is indubitably supported by online streaming media platforms. This article aims to explain what E-Sports is and to give the readers an insight on the key legal questions raised by it. More...


Time for Transparency at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. By Saverio Spera

Editor’s Note: Saverio Spera is an Italian lawyer and LL.M. graduate in International Business Law from King’s College London. He is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.


The time is ripe to take a closer look at the CAS and its transparency, as this is one of the ways to ensure its public accountability and its legitimacy. From 1986 to 2013, the number of arbitrations submitted to the CAS has grown from 2 to more than 400 a year. More specifically, the number of appeals submitted almost doubled in less than ten years (from 175 in 2006, to 349 in 2013[1]). Therefore, the Court can be considered the judicial apex of an emerging transnational sports law (or lex sportiva).[2] In turn, the increased authority and power of this institution calls for increased transparency, in order to ensure its legitimacy.[3]

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.

 

Conclusion

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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