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 Scala reform proposals for FIFA: Old wine in new bottles?

Rien ne va plus at FIFA. The news that FIFA’s Secretary General Jérôme Valcke was put on leave and released from his duties has been quickly overtaken by the opening of a criminal investigation targeting both Blatter and Platini.

With FIFA hopping from one scandal to the next, one tends to disregard the fact that it has been attempting (or rather pretending) to improve the governance of the organisation for some years now. In previous blogs (here and here), we discussed the so-called ‘FIFA Governance Reform Project’, a project carried out by the Independent Governance Committee (IGC) under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Mark Pieth of the Basel Institute on Governance. Their third and final report, published on 22 April 2014, listed a set of achievements made by FIFA in the area of good governance since 2011, such as establishing an Audit and Compliance Committee (A&C). However, the report also indicated the reform proposals that FIFA had not met. These proposals included the introduction of term limits for specific FIFA officials (e.g. the President) as well as introducing an integrity review procedure for all the members of the Executive Committee (ExCo) and the Standing Committees. More...

Why the CAS #LetDuteeRun: the Proportionality of the Regulation of Hyperandrogenism in Athletics by Piotr Drabik

Editor's note
Piotr is an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

Introduction

On 24 July the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) issued its decision in the proceedings brought by the Indian athlete Ms. Dutee Chand against the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in which she challenged the validity of the IAAF Regulations Governing Eligibility of Female with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition (Regulations). The Regulations were established in 2011 as a response to the controversies surrounding South African athlete Caster Semenya (see e.g. here, here, and here), and for the purpose of safeguarding fairness in sport by prohibiting women with hyperandrogenism, i.e. those with excessive levels of endogenous (naturally occurring) testosterone, from competing in women athletics competitions. Owing to the subject-matter that the Regulations cover, the case before the CAS generated complex legal, scientific and ethical questions. The following case note thus aims at explaining how the Panel addressed the issues raised by the Indian athlete. It follows a previous blog we published in December 2014 that analysed the arguments raised in favour of Ms. Chand. More...




Not comfortably satisfied? The upcoming Court of Arbitration for Sport case of the thirty-four current and former players of the Essendon football club. By James Kitching

Editor's note: James Kitching is Legal Counsel and Secretary to the AFC judicial bodies at the Asian Football Confederation. James is an Australian and Italian citizen and one of the few Australians working in international sports law. He is admitted as barrister and solicitor in the Supreme Court of South Australia. James graduated from the International Master in the Management, Law, and Humanities of Sport offered by the Centre International d'Etude du Sport in July 2012.


Introduction

On 12 May 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had filed an appeal against the decision issued by the Australian Football League (AFL) Anti-Doping Tribunal (AADT) that thirty-four current and former players of Essendon Football Club (Essendon) had not committed any anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) identified within the AFL Anti-Doping Code (AADC). The players had each been charged with using Thymosin-Beta 4 (TB4) during the 2012 AFL season.

On 1 June 2015, WADA announced that it had filed an appeal against the decision by the AADT to clear Mr. Stephen Dank (Dank), a sports scientist employed at Essendon during the relevant period, of twenty-one charges of violating the AADC. Dank was, however, found guilty of ten charges and banned for life.

This blog will solely discuss the likelihood of the first AADT decision (the Decision) being overturned by the CAS. It will briefly summarise the facts, discuss the applicable rules and decision of the AADT, review similar cases involving ‘non-analytical positive’ ADRVs relating to the use of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method, and examine whether the Code of Sports-related Arbitration (CAS Code) is able to assist WADA in its appeal.

This blog will not examine the soap opera that was the two years leading-up to the Decision. Readers seeking a comprehensive factual background should view the excellent up-to-date timeline published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. More...


EU Law is not enough: Why FIFA's TPO ban survived its first challenge before the Brussels Court


Star Lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont is almost a monopolist as far as high profile EU law and football cases are concerned. This year, besides a mediatised challenge against UEFA’s FFP regulations, he is going after FIFA’s TPO ban on behalf of the Spanish and Portuguese leagues in front of the EU Commission, but also before the Brussels First Instance Court defending the infamous Malta-based football investment firm Doyen Sport. FIFA and UEFA’s archenemy, probably electrified by the 20 years of the Bosman ruling, is emphatically trying to reproduce his world-famous legal prowess. Despite a first spark at a success in the FFP case against UEFA with the Court of first instance of Brussels sending a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), this has proven to be a mirage as the CJEU refused, as foretold, to answer the questions of the Brussels Court, while the provisory measures ordered by the judge have been suspended due to UEFA’s appeal. But, there was still hope, the case against FIFA’s TPO ban, also involving UEFA and the Belgium federation, was pending in front of the same Brussels Court of First Instance, which had proven to be very willing to block UEFA’s FFP regulations. Yet, the final ruling is another disappointment for Dupont (and good news for FIFA). The Court refused to give way to Doyen’s demands for provisional measures and a preliminary reference. The likelihood of a timely Bosman bis repetita is fading away. Fortunately, we got hold of the judgment of the Brussels court and it is certainly of interest to all those eagerly awaiting to know whether FIFA’s TPO ban will be deemed compatible or not with EU law. More...


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

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


Back to the future?

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

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




Compatibility of fixed-term contracts in football with Directive 1999/70/EC. Part 2: The Heinz Müller case. By Piotr Drabik

Introduction
The first part of the present blog article provided a general introduction to the compatibility of fixed-term contracts in football with Directive 1999/70/EC[1] (Directive). However, as the Member States of the European Union enjoy a considerable discretion in the implementation of a directive, grasping the impact of the Directive on the world of football would not be possible without considering the national context. The recent ruling of the Arbeitsgericht Mainz (the lowest German labour court; hereinafter the Court) in proceedings brought by a German footballer Heinz Müller provides an important example in this regard. This second part of the blog on the legality of fixed-term contract in football is devoted to presenting and assessing the Court’s decision.


I. Facts and Procedure
Heinz Müller, the main protagonist of this case, was a goalkeeper playing for 1.FSV Mainz 05 a club partaking to the German Bundesliga. More...


Compatibility of Fixed-Term Contracts in Football with Directive 1999/70/EC. Part.1: The General Framework. By Piotr Drabik

Introduction
On 25 March 2015, the Labour Court of Mainz issued its decision in proceedings brought by a German footballer, Heinz Müller, against his (now former) club 1. FSV Mainz 05 (Mainz 05). The Court sided with the player and ruled that Müller should have been employed by Mainz 05 for an indefinite period following his 2009 three year contract with the club which was subsequently extended in 2011 to run until mid-2014. The judgment was based on national law implementing Directive 1999/70 on fixed-term work[1] (Directive) with the latter being introduced pursuant to art. 155(2) TFEU (ex art. 139(2) TEC). On the basis of this article, European social partners’ may request a framework agreement which they conclude to be implemented on the European Union (EU, Union) level by a Council decision on a proposal from the Commission. One of the objectives of the framework agreement,[2] and therefore of the Directive, was to establish a system to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts or relationships[3] which lies at the heart of the discussed problem.[4] More...

UEFA’s FFP out in the open: The Dynamo Moscow Case

Ever since UEFA started imposing disciplinary measures to football clubs for not complying with Financial Fair Play’s break-even requirement in 2014, it remained a mystery how UEFA’s disciplinary bodies were enforcing the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play (“FFP”) regulations, what measures it was imposing, and what the justifications were for the imposition of these measures. For over a year, the general public could only take note of the 23 settlement agreements between Europe’s footballing body and the clubs. The evidential obstacle for a proper analysis was that the actual settlements remained confidential, as was stressed in several of our previous Blogs.[1] The information provided by the press releases lacked the necessary information to answer the abovementioned questions.

On 24 April 2015, the UEFA Club Financial Control Body lifted part of the veil by referring FC Dynamo Moscow to the Adjudicatory Body. Finally, the Adjudicatory Body had the opportunity to decide on a “FFP case. The anxiously-awaited Decision was reached by the Adjudicatory Chamber on 19 June and published not long after. Now that the Decision has been made public, a new stage of the debate regarding UEFA’s FFP policy can start.More...

Policing the (in)dependence of National Federations through the prism of the FIFA Statutes. By Tine Misic

…and everything under the sun is in tune,

but the sun is eclipsed by the moon…[1] 


The issue

Ruffling a few feathers, on 30 May 2015 the FIFA Executive Committee rather unsurprisingly, considering the previous warnings,[2] adopted a decision to suspend with immediate effect the Indonesian Football Federation (PSSI) until such time as PSSI is able to comply with its obligations under Articles 13 and 17 of the FIFA Statutes.[3] Stripping PSSI of its membership rights, the decision results in a prohibition of all Indonesian teams (national or club) from having any international sporting contact. In other words, the decision precludes all Indonesian teams from participating in any competition organised by either FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). In addition, the suspension of rights also precludes all PSSI members and officials from benefits of any FIFA or AFC development programme, course or training during the term of suspension. This decision coincides with a very recent award by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in this ambit, which shall be discussed further below.[4]More...


The Brussels Court judgment on Financial Fair Play: a futile attempt to pull off a Bosman. By Ben Van Rompuy

On 29 May 2015, the Brussels Court of First Instance delivered its highly anticipated judgment on the challenge brought by football players’ agent Daniel Striani (and others) against UEFA’s Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFP). In media reports,[1] the judgment was generally portrayed as a significant initial victory for the opponents of FFP. The Brussels Court not only made a reference for a preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) but also imposed an interim order blocking UEFA from implementing the second phase of the FFP that involves reducing the permitted deficit for clubs.

A careful reading of the judgment, however, challenges the widespread expectation that the CJEU will now pronounce itself on the compatibility of the FFP with EU law. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | The SFT’s Semenya Decision under European human rights standards: Conflicting considerations and why a recourse could be successful at Strasbourg - By Kevin Gerenni

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 SFT’s Semenya Decision under European human rights standards: Conflicting considerations and why a recourse could be successful at Strasbourg - By Kevin Gerenni

Editor's note: Kevin Gerenni is Assistant Professor in Public International Law (Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Buenos Aires) and LLM Candidate 2021 in Public International Law at the London School of Economics.


Even though the decision rendered by the SFT in the Semenya Case was foreseeable, the Tribunal did put forward some concerning reasoning in terms of public policy (“ordre public”) and human rights. In case Semenya decides to challenge the Swiss state before the ECtHR, one can expect the case to shake some grounds at the ECtHR, which would be faced with the question of the application to sport not of fair trial guarantees (as in Mutu & Pechstein) but of substantial human rights provisions such as the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex (Article 14 ECHR) and the right to private life (Article 8 ECHR).

Under Swiss law, the reasons that may lead to the annulment of an arbitral award are enumerated in art. 190 of the Swiss Private International Law Act (PILA). Semenya’s strongest case relied on art. 190(2)(e): the award’s incompatibility with public policy. Naturally, this point concentrated most of the SFT’s attention. In order to analyze the compatibility of the CAS award with Swiss public policy, the SFT focused on three main potential breaches of human rights: prohibition of discrimination, personality rights, and human dignity. In doing so, it put forward certain observations that differ with European human rights standards and the ECtHR’s jurisprudence. The purpose of this short article is to analyze those discrepancies and, consequently, Semenya’s prospects of success before the Strasbourg Tribunal.


I.               The scope of Swiss public policy versus ECHR guarantees

To begin with, the SFT distinguished between Swiss public policy and the scope of the ECHR provisions:

“An award is incompatible with public policy if it disregards essential and widely accepted values which, according to the views prevailing in Switzerland, should constitute the foundation of any legal system” (para. 9.1).[1]

“This is the place to specify that the violation of the provisions of the ECHR or of the Constitution does not count among the grievances restrictively enumerated by art. 190(2) PILA. It is therefore not possible to directly invoke such a violation. (…) Thus, the plea alleging a violation of public policy is not admissible insofar it simply tends to establish that the award in question is contrary to the various guarantees drawn from the ECHR and the Constitution.” (para. 9.2).

Contrary to this interpretation, the ECtHR has referred to the fundamental role of the ECHR in specifying the reach of a European public policy. In Loizidou v. Turkey (Preliminary Objections), it stated:

“(…) the Court must bear in mind the special character of the Convention as an instrument of European public order (ordre public) for the protection of individual human beings and its mission (…) "to ensure the observance of the engagements undertaken by the High Contracting Parties" ” (para. 93).      

In that same judgment, it remarked the value of the ECHR as “a constitutional instrument of European public order (ordre public)” (para. 75). Similar understandings can be found in Bosphorus v. Ireland and Avotiņš v. Latvia, among others. As a consequence of this preeminent position that the ECHR holds, certain interests of the State must be outweighed by the Convention’s role in the field of human rights (Bosphorus at para. 156).


II.             The concept of “horizontal effect” in human rights violations

The SFT continued with the analysis of the prohibition of discrimination, for which it partially rest upon an argument that evidently collides with European human rights criteria. Although the Tribunal also concluded that the “relationship between an athlete and a global sports federation shows some similarities to those between an individual and a State” (para. 9.4), it did argue that under Swiss law the prohibition of discrimination does not have a direct horizontal effect. The SFT considered that:

“Although the SFT has consistently held that the prohibition of discrimination is a matter of public policy (…) it has done so, primarily, in order to protect the individual vis-à-vis the State. In this respect, it may be noted that, from the point of view of Swiss constitutional law, the case law considers that the guarantee of the prohibition of discrimination is addressed to the State and does not, in principle, produce a direct horizontal effect on relations between private persons. (…) It is therefore far from obvious that the prohibition of discrimination by private individuals is one of the essential and widely recognized values which, according to the prevailing conceptions in Switzerland, should form the basis of any legal system.” (para. 9.4).

The ECtHR has a long tradition of deeming States responsible for not preventing or sanctioning human rights violations between private persons, which means that the ECHR also applies horizontally. Since its 1981 ruling Young, James and Webster v. the UK, the Court has repeatedly held that the responsibility of a State is engaged if a violation of one of the Convention’s rights is the result of non-observance by that State of its obligation under Article 1 to secure those rights and freedoms to everyone within its jurisdiction.[2]

In Pla and Puncernau v. Andorra, the Court held the State responsible for the rulings of its domestic courts, which did not redress an individual from the discrimination inflicted by another private person. The Court, referring to its duties, clearly affirmed that:

“In exercising the European supervision incumbent on it, it cannot remain passive where a national court’s interpretation of a legal act, be it a testamentary disposition, a private contract, a public document, a statutory provision or an administrative practice appears unreasonable, arbitrary or, as in the present case, blatantly inconsistent with the prohibition of discrimination established by Article 14 and more broadly with the principles underlying the Convention.” (para. 59).

Finally, in this same vein in Identoba and Others v. Georgia, the ECtHR sanctioned the State by explaining that the difference in treatment leading to discrimination can source from a purely private action, which in this particular case included attacks to a transgender person.


III.           The necessity and proportionality of the DSD regulations

Throughout its ruling, the SFT followed the reasoning advanced by the CAS to determine that the IAAF (today “World Athletics”) DSD regulations were not in violation of fundamental human rights. With a view to analyzing a recourse to the ECtHR, I will focus on the discrimination and human dignity sections of the ruling (for a remarkably-detailed insight of the SFT’s core findings please refer to  Marjolaine Viret’s recent blog).

In assessing the necessity of the DSD regulations –pursuant to the alleged legitimate aim of fair competition– the SFT considered that “female athletes are disadvantaged and deprived of chances of success when they have to compete against 46 XY DSD athletes. The statistics speak for themselves.” (para. 9.8.3.4). A fact that does not seem to be getting attention is the “800 Metres Women” all-time records table, which lists three women with a better time than Caster Semenya. None of these three women were reported to be DSD athletes. Also, the scientific articles that supposedly demonstrate unequivocal advantage for DSD athletes have been denounced as flawed (for example, by Pielke Jr., Tucker & Boye). Nevertheless, the SFT invoked the ECtHR’s FNASS and Others v. France to shockingly conclude that “the search for a fair sport represents an important goal which is capable of justifying serious encroachments upon sportspeople’s rights”[3] (para. 9.8.3.3).

In addition, the SFT assessed the proportionality of the regulations vis-à-vis the potential gender identity implications. The SFT primarily relied on the allegedly-mild side effects caused by the hormonal treatment: “no different in nature from the side effects experienced by thousands, if not millions, of other women of type XX” (para. 9.8.3.5).

Referring to gender identity (stemming from human dignity), the SFT argued that:

“It must be made clear that the sentence does not in any way seek to question the female sex of the 46 XY DSD athletes or to determine whether they are sufficiently “female”. It is not a question of knowing what a woman or an intersex person is. The only issue to be resolved is whether it is contrary to human dignity to create certain rules of eligibility, for the purposes of sporting equity and equal opportunity, applicable only to certain women who enjoy an insurmountable advantage arising from certain innate biological characteristics. (…) In some contexts, as specific competitive sport, it is permissible that biological characteristics may, exceptionally and for the purposes of fairness and equality of opportunity, overshadow a person’s legal sex or gender identity.” (para. 11.1).

The SFT struggles to highlight that Semenya’s “female sex” is not under question. However, the DSD regulations, implemented in competitions that are divided into the male/female binary, denote that Semenya’s innate sex is not female enough as to compete in female events. On the other hand, she is allowed to compete in male events.

The ECtHR has a growing jurisprudence relating to discrimination on the basis of sex which, especially linked to gender identity, leads to violations of the ECHR Articles 14 and 8. In the 2002 leading case Goodwin v. the UK which dealt with Article 8 ECHR violations, the Court remarked that:

“It is not apparent to the Court that the chromosomal element, amongst all the others, must inevitably take on decisive significance for the purposes of legal attribution of gender identity for transsexuals.” (para. 82).

It is true that Goodwin involved the rights of a trans person, not intersex.[4] However, as the European Commission points out in its Trans and intersex equality rights in Europe – A comparative analysis, the judgment was the inception of States obligation to legally recognize preferred gender in Europe. Similar conclusions in favor of gender identity would later appear, among others, in Y. Y. v Turkey, Van Kück v. Germany and Identoba and Others v. Georgia (this last one dealing with Article 14 ECHR). In Garçon and Nicot v. France the Court underpinned that “the right to respect for private life under Article 8 applies fully to gender identity, as a component of personal identity. This holds true for all individuals.” (para. 95). Later in that judgment, it rendered a particularly relevant observation for Semenya’s case:

“Medical treatment cannot be considered to be the subject of genuine consent when the fact of not submitting to it deprives the person concerned of the full exercise of his or her right to gender identity and personal development, which, as previously stated, is a fundamental aspect of the right to respect for private life.” (para. 130).

It must be noted that this paragraph pertains particularly to the world of sport. “Personal development” is a fundamental part of the Principles of the Olympic Movement, as this article by Durántez Corral et al. indicates.


Conclusions

The reasoning behind the above paragraphs supports Semenya’s case before the ECtHR and would give her a serious chance to prevail in Strasbourg. Even though it is true that the Court has mostly endorsed the lex sportiva system with its judgments FNASS, Platini and Mutu & Pechstein, the latter did aim at certain fair trial deficiencies and triggered concrete changes. Could Semenya’s case be stronger? Yes, for instance if Switzerland had ratified Protocol No. 12 ECHR or if the former IAAF were based in Switzerland instead of Monaco (an issue which the SFT took care to highlight).

On the other hand, the judges could additionally resort to extremely relevant reports in the field of intersex rights, namely the Council of Europe’s document on eliminating discrimination against intersex people, or refer to the categorical document against DSD regulations written by three UN experts. Needless to say, these instruments support the athlete’s claims even further.

The scenario is set for Semenya to create considerable turmoil if she decides to take the case to Strasbourg, where the ECtHR will have to engage –once again and deeper this time– with lex sportiva and Switzerland’s role in ensuring that sports governing bodies comply with human rights. Or, will it look the other way?


*All translations of the SFT’s decision done by the author from French, except where otherwise noted.


[1] Translation done by Marjolaine Viret for her blog article “Chronicle of a Defeat Foretold: Dissecting the Swiss Federal Tribunal’s Semenya Decision”, available here.

[2] See Spielmann, D.; “Chapter 14: The European Convention on Human Rights, The European Court of Human Rights” in Human Rights and the Private Sphere: A Comparative Study (p. 430); Eds. Oliver, D. &  Fedtke, J.; Routledge; 2007. 

[3] Translation done by Marjolaine Viret for her blog article “Chronicle of a Defeat Foretold: Dissecting the Swiss Federal Tribunal’s Semenya Decision”, available here.

[4] As shown in the excerpt, the judgment did address the relevance (or the lack of it) of the “chromosomal element” in defining a person’s gender.

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