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 – June - August 2020 by Thomas Terraz

Editor's note: This report compiles the most relevant legal news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. 



The Headlines

CAS Decision on Manchester City FC Case

After the UEFA’s Adjudicatory Chamber of the Club Financial Control’s (CFCB) decision earlier this year to ban Manchester City FC for two seasons, observers waited impatiently to see the outcome of this high profile dispute. The CFCB’s decision had found that Manchester City FC overstated sponsorship revenues and in its break-even information given to UEFA. While some feared this showdown could lead to the demise of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, the now publicized CAS panel’s decision is more nuanced. The panel’s decision turned on (see analysis here and here) (a) whether the ‘Leaked Emails’ were authentic and could be admissible evidence, (b) whether the ‘CFCB breached its obligations of due process’, (c) whether the conclusions of the 2014 Settlement Agreement prevents the CFCB from charging Manchester City FC, (d) whether the charges are time-barred, (e) the applicable standard of proof, (f) whether Manchester City FC masked equity funding as sponsorship contributions, and (g) whether Manchester City FC failed to cooperate with CFCB. In the end, among other findings, the Panel held that some of the alleged breaches were time-barred but maintained that Manchester City FC had failed to cooperate with CFCB’s investigation. In light of this, the Panel significantly reduced the sanction placed on Manchester City FC by removing the two-season suspension and reducing the sanction from 30 million euros to 10 million euros.


Qatar Labour Law Reforms Effectively Abolishes the Kafala System

Just a few days after Human Rights Watch released a lengthy report on abusive practices suffered by migrant workers in Qatar, Qatar adopted a series of laws that effectively gets rid of the Kafala system by no longer requiring migrant workers to obtain a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from their employer in order to start another job. The International Labour Organization declared that this development along with the elimination of the ‘exit permit requirements’ from earlier this year means that the kafala system has been effectively abolished. In addition to these changes, Qatar has also adopted a minimum wage that covers all workers and requires that employers who do not provide food or housing at least give a minimum allowance for both of these living costs. Lastly, the new laws better define the procedure for the termination of employment contracts.

In reaction to these changes, Amnesty International welcomed the reforms and called for them to be ‘swiftly and properly implemented’. Indeed, while these amendments to Qatar’s labour laws are a step in the right direction, Amnesty International also cautions that the minimum wage may still be too low, and in order to be effective, these new laws will have to be followed with ‘strong inspection and complaint mechanisms’.


CAS Decision Concerning Keramuddin Karim Abuse Case

In June of last year, Keramuddin Karim, former president of Afghanistan’s soccer federation, was banned by FIFA for life (see the decision of the adjudicatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee) after reports of sexual and physical abuse that emerged in late 2018. Following a lengthy and tumultuous investigation in Afghanistan, Afghan officials came forward with an arrest warrant for Mr. Karim. Nevertheless, despite attempts to apprehend Mr. Karim, Mr. Karim has still avoided arrest over a year later. Most recently in August, Afghan Special Operation officers attempted to apprehend him but he was not at the residence when they arrived.

Meanwhile, Mr. Karim had appealed FIFA’s lifetime ban to the CAS and the CAS Panel’s decision has recently been released. In its decision, the Panel upheld both the lifetime ban and the 1,000,000 CHF fine, finding that due to the particular egregious nature of Karim’s acts, ‘they warrant the most severe sanction possible available under the FCE’. Since both Karim and his witnesses were unable to be heard, the case raises questions connected to the respect of fundamental procedural rights at the CAS.  More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – March-May 2020 by Thomas Terraz

Editor's note: This report compiles the most relevant legal news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. 


The Headlines

Coronavirus Pandemic Takes Over Sports

Since the last monthly report, the coronavirus pandemic has completely taken over the headlines and has had enormous impacts on the sports field. The most significant of these impacts so far was the rather slow (see here and here) decision by the IOC to move the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to 2021 after a widespread push among athlete stakeholders to do so. Concerns were raised that besides the wellbeing of the participants, athletes under lockdowns would not have the access to the training facilities, meaning preparations for the Games would suffer. The IOC has already started its new planning for Tokyo 2021 and sees this new opportunity to be ‘an Olympic flame’ at the end of a ‘dark tunnel’ for the entire world.

Besides the Olympics, football has also experienced colossal effects as this crisis landed right as leagues were approaching the end of their season. In this context, FIFA has released specific guidelines on player contracts and transfer windows, which has included extending player contracts to the new postponed end of season dates. It has also organized a working group on COVID-19, which has already made recommendations to postpone all men and women’s international matches that were to be played during the June 2020 window. Earlier in March, UEFA had already announced that the EURO 2020 was also postponed by 12 months and has also recently approved guidelines on domestic competitions. These guidelines place emphasis on ‘sporting merit’ and urge ‘National Associations and Leagues to explore all possible options to play all top domestic competitions giving access to UEFA club competitions to their natural conclusion’. Nevertheless, UEFA also emphasizes that the health of all stakeholders must remain the top priority.

In the end, numerous sport federations have also had to amend their calendars due to the pandemic (see UCI and FIBA) and a variety of sport stakeholders have been confronted with immense financial strain (e.g. football, tennis and cycling). For example, UEFA has acted preemptively in releasing club benefit payments to try to alleviate the economic pressure faced by clubs. There have also been efforts to support athletes directly (e.g. FIG and ITF). All in all, the social and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on sport have been unprecedented and will require creative solutions while continuing to place public health as the top priority.

Platini’s ECtHR Appeal Falls Flat

There have also been a few other stories that have (understandably) been overshadowed by the pandemic. One of these include Michel Platini’s unsuccessful appeal to the ECtHR challenging his 2015 football ban. The ECtHR’s decision concerned the admissibility of his appeal and in the end found it to be ‘manifestly ill-founded’. This is because he failed to raise his procedural rights concerns under Article 6 (1) ECHR in his proceedings at the Swiss Federal Tribunal. Besides rejecting his other claims based on Article 7 and 8 ECHR, the ECtHR decision also touched upon the issue of CAS’ procedural and institutional independence. In doing so, it referred to its Pechstein decision and once more affirmed that the CAS is sufficiently independent and impartial (see para 65), further giving credence to this notion from its case law. However, there are still concerns on this matter as was highlighted in the Pechstein dissent. Overall, the decision indicates that the ECtHR is willing to give the CAS the benefit of the doubt so long as it sufficiently takes into account the ECHR in its awards.

Mark Dry – UKAD Dispute

In February, Mark Dry was suspended by UKAD after a decision of the National Anti-Doping Panel (NADP) Appeal Tribunal  for four years after having given a ‘false account’ in order to ‘subvert the Doping Control process’. Specifically, Dry had told anti-doping authorities that he had been out fishing after he had missed a test at his residence. After further investigation, Dry admitted that he had forgotten to update his whereabouts while he was actually visiting his parents in Scotland and in panic, had told anti-doping authorities that he had been out fishing. Following the decision of the NADP Appeal Tribunal, athlete stakeholders have argued the four-year ban was disproportionate in this case. In particular, Global Athlete contended that Whereabouts Anti-Doping Rule Violations only occur in cases where an athlete misses three tests or filing failures within a year. Furthermore, even if Dry had ‘tampered or attempted to tamper’, a four-year sanction is too harsh. Subsequently, UKAD responded with a statement, arguing that ‘deliberately providing false information’ is ‘a serious breach of the rules’ and that the UKAD NADP Appeal Tribunal ‘operates independently’. In light of the mounting pressure, Witold Bańka, WADA President, also responded on Twitter that he is ‘committed to ensuring that athletes’ rights are upheld under the World Anti-Doping Code’. More...

Anti-Doping in Times of COVID-19: A Difficult Balancing Exercise for WADA - By Marjolaine Viret

Editor's note: Marjolaine is a researcher and attorney admitted to the Geneva bar (Switzerland) who specialises in sports and life sciences.

I.               Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the manner in which we approach human interactions that suppose close and prolonged physical contact. Across the world, authorities are having to design ways to resume essential activities without jeopardising participants’ health, all the while guaranteeing that other fundamental rights are paid due respect. The fight against doping is no exception. Anti-doping organizations – whether public or private – have to be held to the same standards, including respect for physical integrity and privacy, and considerate application of the cornerstone principle of proportionality.

Throughout this global crisis, the World Anti-Doping Agency (‘WADA’) has carefully monitored the situation, providing anti-doping organizations and athletes with updates and advice. On 6 May 2020, WADA issued the document called ‘ADO Guidance for Resuming Testing’ (‘COVID Guidance’). A COVID-19 ‘Q&A’ for athletes (‘Athlete Q&A’) is also available on WADA’s website, and has been last updated on 25 May 2020. This article focuses on these two latest documents, and analyses the solutions proposed therein, and their impact on athletes.

Like many public or private recommendations issued for other societal activities, the WADA COVID Guidance is primarily aimed at conducting doping control while limiting the risk of transmission of the virus and ensuing harm to individuals. More specifically, one can identify two situations of interest for athletes that are notified for testing:

  1. The athlete has or suspects that they may have been infected with COVID-19, or has come in close contact with someone having COVID-19;
  2. The athlete fears to be in touch with doping control personnel that may be infected with COVID-19.

Quite obviously, either situation has the potential to create significant challenges when it comes to balancing the interests of anti-doping, with individual rights and data protection concerns. This article summarises how the latest WADA COVID Guidance and Athlete Q&A address both situations. It explores how the solutions suggested fit in with the WADA regulatory framework and how these might be assessed from a legal perspective.

The focus will be on the hypothesis in which international sports federations – i.e. private entities usually organised as associations or similar structures – are asked to implement the COVID Guidance within their sport. National anti-doping organizations are strongly embedded in their national legal system and their status and obligations as public or semi-public organisations are likely to be much more dependent on the legislative landscape put in place to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in each country. Nevertheless, the general principles described in this article would apply to all anti-doping organizations alike, whether at international or national level. More...

(A)Political Games: A Critical History of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter - By Thomas Terraz

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a fourth year LL.B. candidate at the International and European Law programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences with a specialisation in European Law. Currently he is pursuing an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on International and European Sports Law.


Since its inception, the Olympic Movement, and in particular the IOC, has tirelessly endeavored to create a clean bubble around sport events, protecting its hallowed grounds from any perceived impurities. Some of these perceived ‘contaminants’ have eventually been accepted as a necessary part of sport over time (e.g. professionalism in sport),[1] while others are still strictly shunned (e.g. political protest and manifestations) and new ones have gained importance over the years (e.g. protection of intellectual property rights). The IOC has adopted a variety of legal mechanisms and measures to defend this sanitized space.  For instance, the IOC has led massive efforts to protect its and its partners’ intellectual property rights through campaigns against ambush marketing (e.g. ‘clean venues’ and minimizing the athletes’ ability to represent their personal sponsors[2]). Nowadays, the idea of the clean bubble is further reinforced through the colossal security operations created to protect the Olympic sites.

Nevertheless, politics, and in particular political protest, has long been regarded as one of the greatest threats to this sanitized space. More recently, politics has resurfaced in the context of the IOC Athletes’ Commission Rule 50 Guidelines. Although Rule 50 is nothing new, the Guidelines stirred considerable criticism, to which Richard Pound personally responded, arguing that Rule 50 is a rule encouraging ‘mutual respect’ through ‘restraint’ with the aim of using sport ‘to bring people together’.[3] In this regard, the Olympic Charter aims to avoid ‘vengeance, especially misguided vengeance’. These statements seem to endorse a view that one’s expression of their political beliefs at the Games is something that will inherently divide people and damage ‘mutual respect’. Thus, the question naturally arises: can the world only get along if ‘politics, religion, race and sexual orientation are set aside’?[4] Should one’s politics, personal belief and identity be considered so unholy that they must be left at the doorstep of the Games in the name of depoliticization and of the protection of the Games’ sanitized bubble? Moreover, is it even possible to separate politics and sport?  

Even Richard Pound would likely agree that politics and sport are at least to a certain degree bound to be intermingled.[5] However, numerous commentators have gone further and expressed their skepticism to the view that athletes should be limited in their freedom of expression during the Games (see here, here and here). Overall, the arguments made by these commentators have pointed out the hypocrisy that while the Games are bathed in politics, athletes – though without their labor there would be no Games – are severely restrained in expressing their own political beliefs. Additionally, they often bring attention to how some of the most iconic moments in the Games history are those where athletes took a stand on a political issue, often stirring significant controversy at the time. Nevertheless, what has not been fully explored is the relationship between the Olympic Games and politics in terms of the divide between the ideals of international unity enshrined in the Olympic Charter and on the other hand the de facto embrace of country versus country competition in the Olympic Games. While the Olympic Charter frames the Games as ‘competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries’, the reality is far from this ideal.[6] Sport nationalism in this context can be considered as a form of politics because a country’s opportunity to host and perform well at the Games is frequently used to validate its global prowess and stature.

To explore this issue, this first blog will first take a historical approach by investigating the origins of political neutrality in sport followed by an examination of the clash between the ideal of political neutrality and the reality that politics permeate many facets of the Olympic Games. It will be argued that overall there has been a failure to separate politics and the Games but that this failure was inevitable and should not be automatically viewed negatively. The second blog will then dive into the Olympic Charter’s legal mechanisms that attempt to enforce political neutrality and minimize sport nationalism, which also is a form of politics. It will attempt to compare and contrast the IOC’s approach to political expression when exercised by the athletes with its treatment of widespread sport nationalism.More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – February 2020 - By Thomas Terraz

Editor's note: This report compiles the most relevant legal news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. 


The Headlines

Manchester City sanctioned by UEFA’s Financial Fair Play

Manchester City has been sanctioned under UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations for two seasons for ‘overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information’ it had provided UEFA. The February 14 decision of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) likely heralds the start of a long and bitter legal war between Manchester City and UEFA, which may end up settling many of the questions surrounding the legality of FFP rules. Since its introduction in 2010, the compatibility of FFP with EU law, especially in terms of free movement and competition law, has been a continued point of contention amongst the parties concerned and commentators (see discussion here, here and here). It was only a matter of time that a case would arise to test this issue and the present circumstances seem to indicate that this may go all the way.                                 

Regardless, the ban will not be enforced this season and in light of the appeal process, it is hard to predict when the CFCB’s decision will have any effect. Indeed, Manchester City has shown an incredible willingness to fighting this out in the courts and shows no signs of backing down. The next stop will be the CAS and perhaps followed by the Swiss Federal Tribunal. It should also be recalled that the CAS has already examined FFP in its Galatasaray award, where it found FFP compatible with EU law (see commentary here). There is even a decent chance that this emerging saga may end up in front of the European Commission and eventually the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Sun Yang CAS award published

After a much-anticipated public hearing, the Panel’s award in the Sun Yang case has finally been published, sanctioning Sun Yang with an eight-year period of ineligibility (see here for a detailed commentary). The decision does not reveal anything groundbreaking in terms of its legal reasoning and in many ways the case will most likely be remembered for its historical significance: the case that jumpstarted a new era of increased public hearings at the CAS.

Perhaps of some interest is the extent to which the panel took into account Sun Yang’s behavior during the proceedings in order to support its assessment of the case. For example, the panel describes how Sun Yang had ignored the procedural rules of the hearing by inviting ‘an unknown and unannounced person from the public gallery to join him at his table and act as an impromptu interpreter’. The Panel interpreted this as Sun Yang attempting ‘to take matters into his own hands’ which it found resembled the athlete’s behavior in the case (see para 358). The Panel also found it ‘striking’ that Sun Yang did not express any remorse concerning his actions during the proceedings. Since the proceedings were held publicly and have been recorded, it is possible to verify the Panel’s assessment in this regard.

In the end, it is possible that Sun Yang may seek to reduce the period of ineligibility once the 2021 WADA Code comes into force (see para 368). For now, Sung Yang may also try to appeal the award to the Swiss Federal Tribunal on procedural grounds, and has already indicated his wish to do so. More...

Mega-sporting events and human rights: What role can EU sports diplomacy play? - Conference Report – By Thomas Terraz

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a fourth year LL.B. candidate at the International and European Law programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences with a specialisation in European Law. Currently he is pursuing an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on International and European Sports Law.


1.     Introduction

 On March 05, the T.M.C. Asser Institute hosted ‘Mega-sporting events and human rights: What role can EU sports diplomacy play?’ a Multiplier Sporting Event organized in the framework of a European research project on ‘Promoting a Strategic Approach to EU Sports Diplomacy’. This project funded by the European Commission through its Erasmus+ program aims to help the EU adopt a strategic approach to sports diplomacy and to provide evidence of instances where sport can help amplify EU diplomatic messages and forge better relations with third countries. In particular, Antoine Duval from the Asser Institute is focusing on the role of EU sports diplomacy to strengthen human rights in the context of mega sporting events (MSE) both in Europe and abroad. To this end, he organized the two panels of the day focusing, on the one hand, on the ability of sport governing bodies (SGB) to leverage their diplomatic power to promote human rights, particularly in the context of MSEs and, on the other, on the EU’s role and capacity to strengthened human rights around MSEs. The following report summarizes the main points raised during the discussions. More...

Special Issue Call for Papers: Legal Aspects of Fantasy Sports - International Sports Law Journal

The International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) invites submissions to a special issue focusing on legal aspects of fantasy sports. For some time, fantasy sports has been a major phenomena in North America and this has been reflected in the sports law literature. Fantasy sports have more recently grown in popularity in the rest of world, raising a number of novel legal questions. The ISLJ wants to support fruitful global discussions about these questions through a special issue. We welcome contributions from different jurisdictions analyzing fantasy sports from the perspective of various areas of law including, but not limited to, intellectual property law, gambling law, and competition law.

Please submit proposed papers through the ISLJ submission system ( no later than November 15, 2020. Submissions should have a reccomended length of 8,000–12,000 words and be prepared in accordance with the ISLJ's house style guidelines ( All submissions will be subject to double-blind peer review.

Question about the special issue can be directed to the Editor–in-Chief, Johan Lindholm (

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2020 - By Thomas Terraz

Editor's note: This report compiles the most relevant legal news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. 


The Headlines

IOC Athlete Commission releases its Rule 50 Guidelines for Tokyo 2020

The IOC Athlete Commission presented its Rule 50 Guidelines for Tokyo 2020 at its annual joint meeting with the IOC Executive Board. It comes as Thomas Bach had recently underlined the importance of political neutrality for the IOC and the Olympic Games in his New Year’s message. Generally, rule 50 of the Olympic Charter prohibits any political and religious expression by athletes and their team during the Games, subject to certain exceptions. The Guidelines clarify that this includes the ‘field of play’, anywhere inside the Olympic Village, ‘during Olympic medal ceremonies’ and ‘during the Opening, Closing and other official ceremonies’. On the other hand, athletes may express their views ‘during press conferences and interview’, ‘at team meetings’ and ‘on digital or traditional media, or on other platforms. While rule 50 is nothing new, the Guidelines have reignited a debate on whether it could be considered as a justified restriction on one’s freedom of expression.


The IOC has made the case that it is defending the neutrality of sport and that the Olympics is an international forum that should help bring people together instead of focusing on divisions. Specifically, Richard Pound has recently made the argument that the Guidelines have been formulated by the athletes themselves and are a justified restriction on free expression with its basis in ‘mutual respect’. However, many commentators have expressed their skepticism to this view (see here, here and here) citing that politics and the Olympics are inherently mixed, that the IOC is heavily involved in politics, and that the Olympics has often served as the grounds for some of history’s most iconic political protests. All in all, the Guidelines have certainly been a catalyst for a discussion on the extent to which the Olympics can be considered neutral. It also further highlights a divide between athlete committees from within the Olympic Movement structures and other independent athlete representation groups (see Global Athlete and FIFPro’s statements on rule 50).


Doping and Corruption Allegations in Weightlifting 

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has found itself embroiled in a doping and corruption scandal after an ARD documentary was aired early in January which raised a wide array of allegations, including against the President of the IWF, Tamás Aján. The documentary also included hidden camera interviews from a Thai Olympic medalist who admits having taken anabolic steroids before having won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games and from a team doctor from the Moldovan national team who describes paying for clean doping tests. The IWF’s initial reaction to the documentary was hostile, describing the allegations as ‘insinuations, unfounded accusations and distorted information’ and ‘categorically denies the unsubstantiated’ accusations. It further claims that it has ‘immediately acted’ concerning the situation with the Thai athletes, and WADA has stated that it will follow up with the concerned actors. However, as the matter gained further attention in the main stream media and faced increasing criticism, the IWF moved to try to ‘restore’ its reputation. In practice, this means that Tamás Aján has ‘delegated a range of operation responsibilities’ to Ursual Papandrea, IWF Vice President, while ‘independent experts’ will conduct a review of the allegations made in the ARD documentary. Richard McLaren has been announced to lead the investigation and ‘is empowered to take whatever measures he sees fit to ensure each and every allegation is fully investigated and reported’. The IWF has also stated that it will open a whistleblower line to help aid the investigation.More...

How 2019 Will Shape the International Sports Law of the 2020s - By Thomas Terraz

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a fourth year LL.B. candidate at the International and European Law programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences with a specialisation in European Law. Currently he is pursuing an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on International and European Sports Law.


1.     Introduction

As we begin plunging into a new decade, it can be helpful to look back and reflect on some of the most influential developments and trends from 2019 that may continue to shape international sports law in 2020 and beyond. Hence, this piece will not attempt to recount every single sports law news item but rather identify a few key sports law stories of 2019 that may have a continued impact in the 2020s. The following sections are not in a particular order.More...

Free Event! Mega-sporting events and human rights: What role can EU sports diplomacy play? - 5 March at the Asser Institute in The Hague

The upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and its links to human rights violations has been the subject of many debates in the media and beyond. In particular, the respect of migrant workers’ labour rights was at the forefront of much public criticisms directed against FIFA. Similarly, past Olympics in Rio, Sochi or Beijing have also been in the limelight for various human rights issues, such as the lack of freedom of the press, systematic discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or forced evictions. These controversies have led sports governing bodies (SGBs) to slowly embrace human rights as an integral part of their core values and policies. Leading to an increased expectation for SGBs to put their (private) diplomatic capital at the service of human rights by using their leverage vis-à-vis host countries of their mega-sporting events (MSEs). In turn, this also raises the question of the need for the EU to accompany this change by putting human rights at the heart of its own sports diplomacy.

Research collective 
This Multiplier Sporting Event, organised in the framework of the transnational project on ‘Promoting a Strategic Approach to EU Sports Diplomacy’ funded by the Erasmus + Programme, aims to trigger discussions on the role of an EU sports diplomacy in strengthening respect for human rights in the context of MSEs both at home and abroad. It will feature two roundtables focused on the one hand on the diplomatic power and capacity of SGBs to fend for human rights during MSEs and on the other on the EU’s integration of human rights considerations linked to MSEs in its own sports diplomacy.


13:20 – 14:00 – Welcome and opening speech –Antoine Duval (Asser Institute)
14:00 - 15:30 - Panel 1: Leveraging the Diplomatic Power of the Sports Governing Bodies for Human Rights

  • Lucy Amis (Unicef UK/Institute for Human Rights and Business)
  • Guido Battaglia (Centre for Sport and Human Rights)
  • Florian Kirschner (World Players Association/UNI Global Union)
  • Claire Jenkin (University of Hertfordshire)

15:30 – 16:00 - Coffee Break

16:00 - 17:30 - Panel 2: A Human Rights Dimension for the EU’s Sports Diplomacy?

  • Arnout Geeraert (Utrecht University)
  • Agata Dziarnowska (European Commission)
  • Alexandre Mestre (Sport and Citizenship)
  • Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (TBC)

17:30 - Reception

Asser International Sports Law Blog | The Pechstein ruling of the OLG München - A Rough Translation

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 Pechstein ruling of the OLG München - A Rough Translation

The Pechstein decision of the Oberlandesgericht of Munich is “ground-breaking”, “earth-shaking”, “revolutionary”, name it. It was the outmost duty of a “German-reading” sports lawyer to translate it as fast as possible in order to make it available for the sports law community at large (Disclaimer: This is not an official translation and I am no certified legal translator). Below you will find the rough translation of the ruling (the full German text is available here), it is omitting solely the parts, which are of no direct interest to international sports law.

The future of CAS is in the balance and this ruling should trigger some serious rethinking of the institutional set-up that underpins it. As you will see, the ruling is not destructive, the Court is rather favourable to the function of CAS in the sporting context, but it requires a fundamental institutional reshuffling. It also offers a fruitful legal strategy to challenge CAS awards that could be used in front of any national court of the EU as it is based on reasoning analogically applicable to article 102 TFEU (on abuse of a dominant position), which is valid across the EU’s territory.

Enjoy the read! 


PS: The translation can also be downloaded at


OLG München · 15 January 2015 · Az. U 1110/14 Kart


Part 1. The facts (omitted)

Part 2. Holdings of the Court

A. The claim is partially receivable

I. The international competence of the German courts (omitted)

67 - II. The arbitration clause signed on the 2 January 2009 by the appellant (Pechstein) and the respondent nr 2 (ISU) does not preclude access to the ordinary courts

68 - To this end the question whether the CAS, designated by the arbitration clause, can be considered a real arbitration tribunal, despite the fact the parties have no equal influence on its composition, can stay open. The arbitration clause would also be null in that case.

1. […]

2. […]

71 - 3. The arbitration clause is in the present case inapplicable because it goes against antitrust law

a) […]

aa) […]

bb) […]

75 - b) The arbitration clause signed on the 2 January 2009 between Pechstein and ISU is invalid based on Art. 34 EGBGB, §134 BGB, §19 Abs. 1, Abs.  4 Nr. 2 GWB.

76 - aa) The ISU is a monopolist on the market for the access to Speed-Skating World Championships and therefore in a dominant position in the sense of §19 Abs.1, Abs 4 Nr. 2 GWB.

77 - An economic activity, in the sense of the German Act against restraints of Competition (GWB), is any activity consisting of offering goods or services on a market. If this condition is fulfilled, the fact that an activity is linked to sport cannot preclude the application of the Competition rules (C-49/07 MOTOE v. Greece). Sports associations offering their services on the market of sports competitions are to be considered undertakings.

78 - In the present case, the market for the organisation of the World Championships in speed skating is the relevant market. Contrary to the view of ISU, the participation to the event cannot be supplanted by the participation in national competitions, due to the worldwide interest it triggers and the connected side revenues that successful athletes can hope for.

79 – […]Moreover, it is not convincing to argue that international events as the Open Belrus Cup, the Cup of Kazakhstan, the Dutch Classics or the International Race-Seniors could trigger the same interest and be substitutable to the World Championships.

80 - ISU is thus, because of the “One-place-principle”[1], the only provider on the market for the organisation of World Championships in Speed-Skating and therefore, due to the absence of competition, a monopolist in a dominant position in the sense of § 19 Abs. 2 Nr. 1 GWB.

81 - bb) An undertaking in a dominant position is prohibited under § 19 Abs. 1, Abs. 4 Nr. 2 GWB from demanding payment or other business terms which differ from those which would very likely arise if effective competition existed.

82 - Hence, the ISU could not require Pechstein to agree to the arbitration clause signed on 2 January 2009.

83 - (1) The notion of terms of trade is be understood broadly. It comprises everything that can be agreed on contractually, including an agreement to arbitrate disputes excluding the recourse to national courts.

84 - aaa) Contrary to the opinion of ISU, the applicability of § 19 Abs. 1, Abs. 4 Nr. 2 GWB is not precluded because the signing of the arbitration clause was mandated to ISU by the International Convention Against Doping in Sport from the 19th October 2005 ratified by Switzerland.

85 - The Convention does not include a rule imposing a duty to conclude an arbitration clause in favour of CAS. Rather, it refers in Art. 4 §1 to the principles of the World Anti-Doping Code, which in turn in Article 13.2.1 provides that in cases involving international competitions or international athletes, appeals against anti-doping decisions can only be submitted to CAS. It cannot be assumed, despite the compliance mandate that the Code imposes to its signatories in Article 23.2.2, that the Convention includes this provision in the fundamental principles to which the State parties have to abide following Art.4 §1. Moreover, the obligations stemming from Art. 4 par.1 require transposition by the national states as foreseen by Art.5 1) of the Convention. It is not clear from the submissions of ISU that Switzerland has introduced any law that would impose to ISU the duty to sign arbitration clauses in favour of CAS.

86 - The fact that the ISU may have felt that it had to sign arbitration clauses in favour of CAS due to other non-legal reasons, as for example to preserve its recognition by the IOC, is irrelevant in the context of this competition law analysis. 

87 – bbb) Omitted

88 - (2) The imposition of an arbitration clause by the organizer of International sporting competitions is not per se an abuse of a dominant position.

89 - aaa) In fact, sound and weighty arguments speak in favour of avoiding to leave to the many potentially competent national courts the duty to deal with disputes arising between athletes and International federations in the framework of international competitions, and instead to refer them to a single sports tribunal. In particular, a uniform competence and procedure can preclude that similar cases be decided differently, and therefore safeguard the equal opportunities of athletes during the competitions.

90 - bbb) Contrary to the view of the first instance court, arbitration agreements between a dominant organizer of international sports competitions and the athlete taking part in these competitions are not per se invalid due to the lack of free will of the athlete.

91 - Omitted

92 - Art 6 par. 1 ECHR is opposed to the validity of an arbitration agreement to which one of the parties has not acquiesced. But, if consent is present, the sole fact that this consent was necessary economically to be able to exercise one’s profession is not sufficient to constitute a violation of the rights warranted by Art.6 par.1 ECHR. 

93 - (3) Nevertheless, the fact that ISU required from Pechstein to sign an arbitration agreement in favour of CAS is an abuse of dominant position.

94 - It can be assumed that, due to the above-mentioned advantages, athletes would agree to the competence of a neutral arbitral tribunal if free competition would prevail on the market for the organisation of international competitions. However, an arbitration clause in favour of CAS would not be agreed under normal circumstances, as the one-sided designation of the potential arbitrators favours the associations (the International federations – such as the ISU – the national Olympic Committees and the International Olympic Committee) involved in disputes with athletes as regard the composition of the arbitral panel. Athletes accept this arrangement only because they have to in order to participate in international sporting competitions. 

95 - aaa) The aforementioned sports associations have a decisive influence on the selection of the persons acting as CAS arbitrators

96 – a-1) Pursuant to the CAS procedural rules of 2004, in place at the moment of the signing of the arbitral convention, the parties have to select an arbitrator amongst the list of CAS arbitrators compiled by ICAS [R33 par.2 of the procedural rules and S6. Nr.3 of the Statutes].

97-103 […]The Court goes on to describe the composition of the ICAS as provided for in article S4 and the mode of selection of the arbitrators included on the CAS list as provided for in article S14 of the statutes. 

104 - These provisions regulating the selection of the potential CAS arbitrators favour the sports associations in disputes against athletes, thus embedding a structural imbalance that is threatening the neutrality of CAS.

105 - Sports association hold, with 12 members directly designated by them, the majority in ICAS. Already through this situation they enjoy, due to the majority rule applying in ICAS’ decision-making procedure, a favourable position that enables them to have a decisive influence on the composition of the list of CAS arbitrators. Furthermore, due to the fact that the 12 members previously designated by the sporting associations nominate them, the independence of the 8 other members of ICAS is also not preserved. Even the CAS statutes themselves do not assume the independence of the ICAS members and of the CAS arbitrators, as they require that the last 4 ICAS members and the last fifth of CAS arbitrators be independent from the organisations which were responsible for the nomination of all the other previous members of both ICAS and the CAS arbitrators list.

106 - This disproportionate influence creates the risk that the persons included on the CAS arbitrators list predominantly or even entirely favour the side of the sporting associations over the athletes. This is also true concerning the arbitrators that are not suggested by the sporting association, but are selected in view to protect the interest of athletes or on the basis of their independence, as they are designated by ICAS members chosen by the sporting associations. A balanced influence of the parties on the composition of the arbitral tribunal that would be needed to safeguard its independence is thus not provided. Such a structural deficiency threatens the neutrality of the arbitral tribunal; this is independent of the fact whether the persons included on the CAS list of arbitrators are in any way linked to the sports associations, as this would actually open the possibility to challenge their nomination. Even when the personal integrity of the persons included on the CAS list is not affected, there is a potential risk that arbitrators share the worldview of the sports associations rather than the one of the athletes.

107 - The imbalance in favour of the sports associations is not offset by the fact that the CAS arbitrators’ list comprises a minimum of 150 persons, as the risk of a potential capture by the sports associations extends to each one of them.

108 - a-2) Moreover, an imbalance in favour of the sports associations is also grounded in the fact that in the appeal procedure before CAS, when the parties have not managed to agree on a name (see R 50 par.1 procedural rules 2004), the president of the panel is designated by the president of the appeal division of CAS, while the president of the appeal division is himself nominated by ICAS, which is structurally dependent on the sporting associations, through a simple majority decision. In this way, the sports associations can also exercise an indirect influence on the third member of the arbitral panel competent to deal with a specific dispute. The trust of the parties in the independence and impartiality of an arbitral tribunal is eroded when there are reasons to fear that the judge facing them has been designated specifically in regard of the specific case at hand. Thus, it is necessary to take measures to combat the sheer possibility and suspicion of a manipulation of the designation of the judge.

109 - bbb) There is no rational justification for such an imbalance in favour of the sports associations 

110 - Contrary to the arguments of the ISU, a shared interest of the sports associations and the athletes cannot justify such an imbalance, as especially in disputes between athletes and sports associations no shared interest can be identified, to the contrary opposing interests are facing each other. In this regard, the fact that sports functionaries were often athletes in the past is also not a sufficient guarantee to ensure that the interests of the athletes are adequately protected.

111 - The circumstance that in a dispute between an international sports association and an athlete, the national sports association decides to support the athlete – as it was the case here in front of CAS - is not sufficient to challenge the fundamental homogeneity of the interests of the sports association. Surely, the national sports association concerned might have a specific interest that their own successful athlete be cleared, but other national sports associations do not share this interest so much that from a general point of view one can assume a homogeneity of the interests.[…]

112 - Finally, the argument of the ISU regarding the lack of organisation of the athletes that would hinder their participation in the drafting of the CAS arbitrators list must be rejected. If it would be impossible to involve athletes in the drafting of the list then athletes should be freed from their duty to nominate an arbitrator from the list, and be authorized to pick the arbitrator they wish – possibly under the condition of abstract qualification requirements.

113 - ccc) The reason why athletes accept to subject their disputes with sports associations to an arbitration tribunal, the composition of which is mainly determined by sports associations, is solely linked to the monopoly position of the sports associations. If the athlete could participate to the World Championship while agreeing to the competence of a neutral arbitration tribunal, we can safely assume that only this arbitration clause would be agreed upon to the detriment of the arbitral tribunal structurally favourable to the sports associations.

114 – Omitted

115 - ddd) The departure from arbitration agreements that would have been signed under normal conditions of competition strips Pechstein from her fundamental right of constitutional rank, flowing from the rule of law principles, to access to national courts and to a legally mandated judge (Art. 101 Abs. 1 Satz 2 GG). Hence, the arbitration agreement goes beyond the intensity threshold required for the recognition of an abuse of dominant position. 

116 - eee)[…] German law specific considerations to the notion of abuse of dominance not directly linked to the sporting context.

117 - (4) No need to discuss the other arguments raised by Pechstein against the CAS. […]

118 - cc) The arbitral convention is contrary to the ban on abuses of dominant position ((§ 19 Abs. 1, Abs. 4 Nr. 2 GWB) and therefore null and void on the basis of § 134 BGB. [...]

119 - c) The contradictory behaviour of Pechstein cannot justify refusing to grant her access to the ordinary courts.

120 - Based on its wording the arbitration clause covers a wide scope of potential disputes. The fact that Pechstein claims damages in front of the ordinary courts does not stand in contradiction with the fact that she challenged the doping sanction in front of CAS.  Even if the appeal to CAS would constitute a, legally doubtful, recognition of its competence to deal with the doping sanction, it would not entail that this recognition extends to every potential other dispute between the parties.

121 - Moreover, it has not been demonstrated by the ISU, nor is it clearly understandable, why, based on good faith, it could legitimately rely on the expectation that Pechstein would refer other disputes to CAS. Indeed, the fact that the arbitral convention underlying CAS competence is the result of an abuse of a dominant position by the ISU speaks out against any such legitimate expectations.

122 - 4. The fact that Pechstein signed, in the framework of the arbitral procedure involving her doping sanction, the Order of Procedure from the 29 September 2009, does not constitute an arbitration clause barring access to the ordinary courts, as it was in any case only referring to the specific dispute before CAS. Thus, it cannot constitute a valid arbitration agreement covering other disputes.

123 - III. Pechstein’s complaint is partially admissible. […]

124 – 128 Omitted

129 - B. As far as the complaint is admissible it is not yet ready for decision. Contrary to the view of the first instance court, the complaint cannot be discarded on the basis of the res judicata effect of the CAS award.

130 - I. It is true that the procedural relevance of a foreign arbitral awards, in particular its res judicata effect, does not necessitate a particular recognition process; but, this implies that the fundamental conditions for the recognition be fulfilled, which is not the case in the present instance.

131 - II. The recognition of the CAS award – which would anyway only be possible if CAS would constitute a proper arbitral tribunal – would go contrary to the public order. Consequently, the CAS award cannot be recognized due to § 1061 Abs. 1 Satz 1 ZPO in relation with Art. V par. 2. b) of the New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards from the 10th June 1958.

132 - 1. An arbitral award violates the ordre public, and is thus not recognizable, when it leads to an outcome that is obviously incompatible with the fundamental principles of German law, and therefore breaches the prime foundations of the German legal order. However, not any decision potentially contrary to German mandatory laws constitutes a violation of the ordre public

133 - Fundamental provisions of competition law are part of the ordre public exception to the recognition of arbitral awards in the sense of Art. 5 par.2 b) New York Convention (CJEU, 4 June 2009, C-8/08 - T-Mobile Netherlands BV u.a./Raad van hestuur van de Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit; CJEU, 13. July 2006 - C-295-298/04 - Vincenzo Manfredi/Lloyd Adriatico Assicurazioni SpA;  CJEU 1. June 1999 - C-126/97 - Eco Swiss China Time Ltd/Benetton International; [...])

134 - 2. Thus the CAS award cannot be recognized

135 - a) In the present case the ISU was barred by § 19 Abs. 1, Abs. 4 Nr. 2 GWB from imposing the arbitration agreement onto Pechstein. The recognition of an award based on an agreement contrary to competition law would perpetuate the abusive conduct of the ISU, which would be contrary to the objective underlying the ban on abusive practices imposed by the competition rules. This is further confirmed by the fact that Pechstein disposes, on the basis of § 33 Abs. 1 Satz 1 GWB, of a right to require the ISU to remedy the consequences of the forced arbitration clause. This includes the fact that the ISU cannot rely on the CAS award issues on the basis of this arbitration agreement.

136 - Omitted

137 - b) The question whether with Pechstein’s appeal to CAS or her signing of the Order of Procedure a new arbitration agreement was concluded can stay unanswered.  Indeed, this would also constitute a perpetuation of the abuse of a dominant position by the ISU. Pechstein had no other credible option available to obtain the right to participate to the Winter Olympics taking place between the 12 and 28 February 2010 in Vancouver, but to appeal to CAS on the basis of the arbitral agreement of the 2 January 2009.  A recourse to the Swiss courts was in light of their jurisprudence, as confirmed later by the ruling of the Swiss Federal tribunal on the CAS award, not particularly promising. Similarly, a request for an order to be authorised to participate to the Olympics in front of the German courts can hardly be deemed a reliable alternative mean due to the uncertainties related to the assessment of their international competence in that matter.

138 - III. Due to the impossibility to recognize the CAS award, German Courts are not bound by its findings in their evaluation of the legality of the doping sanction in order to assess the legitimacy of Pechstein’s damage claims. 

[1] The concept of « Ein-Platz-Prinzip » is specific to German law and qualifies the fact that sports associations are monopolists by nature.

Comments are closed