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

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


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

The “Victory” of the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the European Court of Human Rights: The End of the Beginning for the CAS

My favourite speed skater (Full disclosure: I have a thing for speed skaters bothering the ISU), Claudia Pechstein, is back in the news! And not from the place I expected. While all my attention was absorbed by the Bundesverfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe (BVerfG or German Constitutional Court), I should have looked to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECtHR). The Pechstein and Mutu joint cases were pending for a long time (since 2010) and I did not anticipate that the ECtHR would render its decision before the BVerfG. The decision released last week (only available in French at this stage) looked at first like a renewed vindication of the CAS (similar to the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH) ruling in the Pechstein case), and is being presented like that by the CAS, but after careful reading of the judgment I believe this is rather a pyrrhic victory for the status quo at the CAS. As I will show, this ruling puts to rest an important debate surrounding CAS arbitration since 20 years: CAS arbitration is (at least in its much-used appeal format in disciplinary cases) forced arbitration. Furthermore, stemming from this important acknowledgment is the recognition that CAS proceedings must comply with Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), in particular hearings must in principle be held in public and decisions freely available to all. Finally, I will criticise the Court’s finding that CAS complies with the requirements of independence and impartiality imposed by Article 6 § 1 ECHR. I will not rehash the  well-known facts of both cases, in order to focus on the core findings of the decision. More...

ISLJ International Sports Law Conference 2018 - Asser Institute - 25-26 October - Register Now!

Dear all,

Last year we decided to launch the 'ISLJ Annual International Sports Law Conference' in order to give a public platform to the academic discussions on international sports law featured in the ISLJ. The first edition of the conference was a great success (don't take my word for it, just check out #ISLJConf17 on twitter), featuring outstanding speakers and lively discussions with the room. We were very happy to see people from some many different parts of the world congregating at the Institute to discuss the burning issues of their field of practice and research.

This year, on 25 and 26 October, we are hosting the second edition and we are again welcoming well-known academics and practitioners in the field. The discussions will turn around the notion of lex sportiva, the role of Swiss law in international sports law, the latest ISU decision of the European Commission, the Mutu/Pechstein ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, or the reform proposal of the FIFA Regulations on the Transfer and Status of Players. It should be, it will be, an exciting two days!

You will find below the final programme of the conference, please feel free to circulate it within your networks. We have still some seats left, so don't hesitate to register (here) and to join us.

Looking forward to seeing you and meeting you there!


Football Intermediaries: Would a European centralized licensing system be a sustainable solution? - By Panagiotis Roumeliotis

Editor's note: Panagiotis Roumeliotis holds an LL.B. degree from National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece and an LL.M. degree in European and International Tax Law from University of Luxembourg. He is qualified lawyer in Greece and is presently working as tax advisor with KPMG Luxembourg while pursuing, concomitantly, an LL.M. in International Sports Law at Sheffield Hallam University, England. His interest lies in the realm of tax and sports law. He may be contacted by e-mail at ‘’.


The landmark Bosman Ruling triggered the Europeanization of the labour market for football players by banning nationality quotas. In turn, in conjunction with the boom in TV revenues, this led to a flourishing transfer market in which players’ agents or intermediaries play a pivotal role, despite having a controversial reputation.

As a preliminary remark, it is important to touch upon the fiduciary duty of sports agents towards their clients. The principal-agent relationship implies that the former employs the agent so as to secure the best employment and/or commercial opportunities. Conversely, the latter is expected to act in the interest of the player as their relationship should be predicated on trust and confidence, as much was made clear in the English Court of Appeal case of Imageview Management Ltd v. Kelvin Jack. Notably, agents are bound to exercise the utmost degree of good faith, honesty and loyalty towards the players.[1]

At the core of this blog lies a comparative case study of the implementation of the FIFA Regulations on working with intermediaries (hereinafter “FIFA RWI”) in eight European FAs covering most of the transfers during the mercato. I will then critically analyze the issues raised by the implementation of the RWI and, as a conclusion, offer some recommendations. More...

Seraing vs. FIFA: Why the rumours of CAS’s death have been greatly exaggerated

Rumours are swirling around the decision (available in French here) of the Court of Appeal of Brussels in the case opposing RFC Seraing United to FIFA (as well as UEFA and the Belgian Football Federation, URSBFA) over the latter’s ban on third-party ownership. The headlines in various media are quite dramatic (see here and here), references are made to a new Bosman, or to a shaken sport’s legal system. Yet, after swiftly reading the decision for the first time on 29th August, I did not have, unlike with the Pechstein ruling of the Oberlandesgericht München, the immediate impression that this would be a major game-changer for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the role of arbitration in sports in general. After careful re-reading, I understand how certain parts of the ruling can be misunderstood or over-interpreted. I believe that much of the press coverage failed to accurately reflect the reasoning of the court and to capture the real impact of the decision. In order to explain why, I decided to write a short Q&A (including the (not water-proof) English translations of some of the key paragraphs of the decision).


New Article Published! The Olympic Charter: A Transnational Constitution Without a State?

My latest article has just been published online by the Journal of Law and Society. It is available open access here.

The article stems from a conference organised by Jiri Priban from Cardiff University on Gunther Teubner's idea of societal constitutionalism applied to transnational regimes. My role was to test whether his descriptive and normative framework was readily applicable to the lex sportiva, and in particular its overarching "constitutional" text: the Olympic Charter.

As you will see my conclusion is mixed. I find that the Olympic Charter (OC) displays many constitutional features and is even able to regularly defend successfully its autonomy vis-à-vis national states and their laws. However, while I document some inception of limitative constitutional rules, such as the ban on discrimination or the principle of fair play, I also conclude that those have limited impact in practice. While constitutional changes to the OC can be triggered by scandal, resistance and contestation, as illustrated by the emergence of environmental concerns after the Albertville Games and the governance reshuffle of the IOC after the Salt Lake City scandal, I am also sceptical that these were sufficient to tackle the underlying problems, as became obvious with the unmatched environmental damage caused by the Sotchi Games in 2014.

In conclusion, more than sporadic public outrage, I believe that the intervention of national law and, even more, European Union law will be capable and needed to rein the Olympic regime and impose external constitutional constraints on its (at least sometimes) destructive operations.

Here is the abstract of the article: This article examines various aspects of Teubner's theory of societal constitutionalism using the lex sportiva as an empirical terrain. The case study focuses on the operation of the Olympic Charter as a transnational constitution of the Olympic movement. It shows that recourse to a constitutional vocabulary is not out of place in qualifying the function and authority of the Charter inside and outside the Olympic movement. Yet, the findings of the case study also nuance some of Teubner's descriptive claims and question his normative strategy.

Good read! (And do not hesitate to share your feedback)

New Position - Internship in International Sports Law - Deadline 15 August

The T.M.C. Asser Instituut offers post-graduate students the opportunity to gain practical experience in the field of international and European sports law.  The T.M.C. Asser Instituut, located in The Hague, is an inter-university research institute specialized in international and European law. Since 2002, it is the home of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre, a pioneer in the field of European and international sports law. More...

Human Rights Protection and the FIFA World Cup: A Never-Ending Match? - By Daniela Heerdt

Editor’s note: Daniela Heerdt is a PhD candidate at Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. Her PhD research deals with the establishment of responsibility and accountability for adverse human rights impacts of mega-sporting events, with a focus on FIFA World Cups and Olympic Games. She recently published an article in the International Sports Law Journal that discusses to what extent the revised bidding and hosting regulations by FIFA, the IOC and UEFA strengthen access to remedy for mega-sporting events-related human rights violations.

The 21st FIFA World Cup is currently underway. Billions of people around the world follow the matches with much enthusiasm and support. For the time being, it almost seems forgotten that in the final weeks leading up to the events, critical reports on human rights issues related to the event piled up. This blog explains why addressing these issues has to start well in advance of the first ball being kicked and cannot end when the final match has been played. More...

Call for papers: Annual International Sports Law Conference of the International Sports Law Journal - 25 & 26 October - Asser Institute, The Hague

 Call for papers: Annual International Sports Law Conference of the International Sports Law Journal

Asser Institute, The Hague

25 and 26 October 2018

The editorial board of the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) is inviting you to submit abstracts for its second ISLJ Annual Conference on International Sports Law, which will take place on 25 and 26 October at the Asser Institute in The Hague. The ISLJ published by Springer in collaboration with Asser Press is the leading academic publication in the field of international sports law. Its readership includes academics and many practitioners active in the field. This call is open to researchers as well as practitioners. 

We are also delighted to announce that Prof. Franck Latty (Université Paris Nanterre), Prof. Margareta Baddeley (Université de Genève), and Silvia Schenk (member of FIFA’s Human Rights Advisory Board) have confirmed their participation as keynote speakers.

Abstracts could, for example, tackle questions linked to the following international sports law subjects:

  • The interaction between EU law and sport
  • Antitrust and sports regulation
  • International sports arbitration (CAS, BAT, etc.)
  • The functioning of the world anti-doping system (WADA, WADC, etc.)
  • The global governance of sports
  • The regulation of mega sporting events (Olympics, FIFA World Cup, etc.)
  • The transnational regulation of football (e.g. the operation of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players or the UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations)
  • The global fight against corruption in sport  
  • Comparative sports law
  • Human rights in sport 

Please send your abstract (no more than 300 words) and CV no later than 30 April 2018 to Selected speakers will be informed by 15 May.

The selected participants will be expected to submit a draft paper by 1 September 2018. All papers presented at the conference are eligible for publication in a special edition of the ISLJ.  To be considered for inclusion in the conference edition of the journal, the final draft must be submitted for review by 15 December 2018.  Submissions after this date will be considered for publication in later editions of the Journal.

The Asser Institute will cover one night accommodation for the speakers and will provide a limited amount of travel grants (max. 300€). If you wish to be considered for a grant please justify your request in your submission. 

Stepping Outside the New York Convention - Practical Lessons on the Indirect Enforcement of CAS-Awards in Football Matters - By Etienne Gard

Editor’s Note: Etienne Gard graduated from the University of Zurich and from King's College London. He currently manages a project in the field of digitalization with Bratschi Ltd., a major Swiss law firm where he did his traineeship with a focus in international commercial arbitration.

1. Prelude

On the 10th of June, 1958, the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, widely known as the “New York Convention”, was signed in New York by 10 countries.[1] This rather shy figure progressively grew over the decades to now reach 157 signatory countries, turning the New York Convention into the global recognition and enforcement instrument it is today. As V.V. Veeder’s puts it, “One English law lord is said to have said, extra judicially, that the New York Convention is both the Best Thing since sliced bread and also whatever was the Best Thing before sliced bread replaced it as the Best Thing.”[2]

However, among the overall appraisal regarding the New York Convention, some criticisms have been expressed. For instance, some states use their public policy rather as a pretext not to enforce an award than an actual ground for refusal.[3]  A further issue is the recurring bias in favor of local companies.[4] Additionally, recognition and enforcement procedures in application of the New York Convention take place in front of State authorities, for the most part in front of courts of law, according to national proceeding rules. This usually leads to the retaining of a local law firm, the translation of several documents, written submissions and one, if not several hearings. Hence, the efficiency of the New York Convention as a recognition and enforcement mechanism comes to the expense of both money and time of both parties of the arbitral procedure.

In contrast with the field of commercial arbitration, where the New York Convention is often considered the only viable option in order to enforce an award, international football organizations, together with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”), offer an effective enforcement alternative. This article aims at outlining the main features of the indirect enforcement of CAS awards in football matters in light of a recent case. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | The UCI Report: The new dawn of professional cycling?

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 UCI Report: The new dawn of professional cycling?

The world of professional cycling and doping have been closely intertwined for many years. Cycling’s International governing Body, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), is currently trying to clean up the image of the sport and strengthen its credibility. In order to achieve this goal, in January 2014 the UCI established the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) “to conduct a wide ranging independent investigation into the causes of the pattern of doping that developed within cycling and allegations which implicate the UCI and other governing bodies and officials over ineffective investigation of such doping practices.”[1] The final report was submitted to the UCI President on 26 February 2015 and published on the UCI website on 9 March 2015. The report outlines the history of the relationship between cycling and doping throughout the years. Furthermore, it scrutinizes the role of the UCI during the years in which doping usage was at its maximum and addresses the allegations made against the UCI, including allegations of corruption, bad governance, as well as failure to apply or enforce its own anti-doping rules. Finally, the report turns to the state of doping in cycling today, before listing some of the key practical recommendations.[2]

Since the day of publication, articles and commentaries (here and here) on the report have been burgeoning and many of the stakeholders have expressed their views (here and here). However, given the fact that the report is over 200 pages long, commentators could only focus on a limited number of aspects of the report, or only take into account the position of a few stakeholders. In the following two blogs we will try to give a comprehensive overview of the report in a synthetic fashion.

This first blogpost will focus on the relevant findings and recommendations of the report. In continuation, a second blogpost will address the reforms engaged by the UCI and other long and short term consequences the report could have on professional cycling. Will the recommendations lead to a different governing structure within the UCI, or will the report fundamentally change the way the UCI and other sport governing bodies deal with the doping problem? 

Relevant findings

Different forms of doping have been around since the earliest days of cycling (1890’s), but it was the introduction of Erythropoietin, or EPO, in the professional peloton that brought the problem of doping to new levels. Taking it enabled an athlete to gain a significant competitive advantage that could range between 10 and 15%.By using EPO, a rider is able to increase the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity, to stimulate muscle growth and aid muscle recovery.[3] However, the use of EPO thickens the blood, and race dehydration concentrates the blood further, which can cause clotting, stroke or heart failure.[4] In fact, there is widespread suspicion that EPO caused the deaths of up to 20 cyclists between 1987 and 1990. Even though cyclists started using forms of EPO as far back as the 1980’s, it was not until 2001 that a reliable detection test for EPO was developed. This meant that professional cyclists were able to use EPO for over a decade with very little chance of getting caught. The exact percentage of professional cyclist using EPO remains unknown, but it is very likely that this figure was well above 50%. “Doping became the norm in the peloton, not only to increase performance but also just to keep up with the rest of the peloton”.[5]

One of the main findings of the report is the revelation that the UCI’s past policy regarding anti-doping was primarily aimed at protecting the health and safety of the riders and not trying to curtail the use of doping all together from (professional) cycling. This is especially evident from the way it chose to combat EPO. In 1997, UCI introduced the “No Start Rule”. Under the rule, the UCI carried out blood tests before and during competition and any rider with a haematocrit reading higher than 50% (when natural levels are normally between 40 and 45%) was deemed unfit for competition and prevented from competing for 15 days from the date of the test.[6] The UCI stated that the purpose of this rule was to protect riders’ health and safety and to prevent further deaths from EPO. It was not an anti-doping rule, but a health and safety measure. However, the problem with this measure is that it allowed the use of EPO, and therefore doping, to a certain extent. Furthermore, given that the advantage gained from EPO was so significant, the riders were in fact obliged to use EPO simply to keep up, let alone to win.

In order to understand the UCI’s position in this matter, the report explains in full detail the facts that led up to this situation. In doing so, it also addressed the questions whether UCI officials directly contributed to the development of a culture of doping in cycling.[7] It has to be borne in mind that as an umbrella sporting organisation, the UCI was for many years an institution with a minimal structure and no real power. When Hein Verbruggen became president of the UCI in 1991, the UCI had less than 15 employees and very little revenue. The UCI itself does not organise the major cycling event such as the Tour de France. In fact, the organisation that organises the Tour (Amaury Sport Organization) enjoys a dominant position and is economically much more powerful than UCI.[8]

With the inclusion of professional cycling in the Olympic games of 1996, revenue redistributed by the IOC became substantial, while the proceeds derived from TV rights increased dramatically for the UCI. To further boost its revenues, the UCI needed a “big star” to attract broadcasters and sponsors.[9] Lance Armstrong, being outspoken, charismatic and, above all, a cancer survivor, was exactly the type of “big star” it was looking for. The timing of Armstrong’s comeback in professional cycling (1998/99) could not have been better, since the image of cycling and its main event, the Tour de France, were at an all-time low after the “Festina affair” of 1998.[10]

The report shows well the UCI’s conflict of interest during the Tour de France of 1999: On the one hand, it wanted to eliminate doping from the sport, especially after the “Festina affair” a year earlier; on the other hand, it wanted to make the sport more appealing to the public and for that it required the presence and victory of a hero: Lance Armstrong. The practical meaning of this conflict of interest became apparent during that same Tour. Armstrong was tested positive four times for corticosteroids that was forbidden under the UCI Anti-Doping Rules.[11] Armstrong justified the positive tests by submitting a medical certificate that was provided after the tests. According to the UCI’s own rules, the medical certificates should have been handed in prior to the tests. Had the UCI applied its rules, Armstrong would have received a sanction for violating anti-doping rules, which would have resulted in him not being allowed to win the Tour of 1999, the first of his seven Tour victories. [12]  

Apart from UCI decisions concerning Armstrong, it becomes evident from the report that the UCI took a number of controversial decisions regarding doping violations which, in hindsight, should have been dealt with differently. However, to answer the question why the UCI made these decisions, it is necessary to understand how the UCI made these decisions. As mentioned above, it is clear that the conflict of interest regarding the UCI’s objectives was a prime factor in the choices made. However, it was also the UCI’s governing structure that allowed for such decisions, especially the way the UCI dealt with its anti-doping policy.

In 1992, the UCI set up an Anti-Doping Commission (ADC). The ADC was headed originally by a lawyer, Werner Goehner. He was succeeded by the ADC’s first Vice-president, Lon Schattenberg, an occupational therapist, in 2003. It has been reported that Schattenberg de facto ran the ADC from the start. Furthermore, even though the ADC was composed of three members in total, it was Schattenberg who effectively ran the whole Commission. The conflict of interest is further substantiated in the report when it stresses that the focus of Schattenberg’s work was on health concerns rather than on disciplinary aspects of doping. His view was that trying to catch the doped cyclists amounted to a witch hunt.[13] In other words, between 1992 and 2006, most, if not all, of the Anti-Doping Commission’s decisions were taken by one man whose primary aim was to protect the riders’ health rather than catching and sanctioning the doped cyclists.

Similarly, the report emphasised the prime role of the UCI President Hein Verbruggen (1991-2005) as regards the UCI’s governance structure. Due to the passive nature of the large majority of the UCI’s governing bodies, the president had a wide range of executive powers. In the CIRC’s view this led to serious problems of governance and deficiencies in internal control processes. By way of example, Verbruggen, with the agreement of the majority of his colleagues on the Management Committee, chose his successor (Pat McQuaid) and managed to secure his election.[14] Moreover, even though Schattenberg’s ADC was formally considered independent, Hein Verbruggen was not only informed of all relevant anti-doping matters, he also interfered in the decision-making of the anti-doping Commission. As is stated in the KPMG report on UCI Governance and Independence Assessment (2013), “(t)he President has taken many decisions alone or based on external advice during critical times…Critically important matters…are taken solely by the President.”[15] 

The report further notes that Mr. Verbruggen was constantly in conflict with WADA and its leadership. The importance of these conflicts when answering the question how the UCI made its decisions should not be underestimated. The first WADA Code, implemented in 2004, included the standard sanction of two years of ineligibility in case of a first Anti-Doping violation. Nonetheless, the UCI (read: Verbruggen) opposed the standard sanction and lobbied for much lower sanctions. It should be noted that, as the “new kid on the block”, the role and power of WADA in relation to sports federations in general and the UCI in particular was unclear. According to the UCI, WADA’s function was to assist sports federations, but not to interfere with internal matters or criticise their governance or anti-doping policy. Any interference or criticism by WADA in relation to UCI’s anti-doping policy was perceived by the UCI leadership as completely unacceptable and seemed to have been interpreted as a personal attack.[16]  


The goal of this report was to investigate the causes of the pattern of doping that developed within professional cycling over the last decades, especially taking into account the role of the UCI, and to recommend better ways of tackling doping problems in the future.

According to the report, the UCI’s role in the widespread use of doping in cycling was fundamental in several ways. Firstly, during the heydays of EPO the UCI was primarily focused on protecting the health and safety of the riders, rather than trying to eliminate the use EPO in the peloton. Secondly, the UCI’s objective of forming professional cycling into a global money-making sport had an impact on enforcing anti-doping rules. This became especially evident after Lance Armstrong’s comeback. Even though Armstrong took forbidden substances during the Tour de France of 1999, the UCI decided not to sanction him. Armstrong was the “big star” the UCI needed to further increase revenues, and a sanction would have been counterproductive in this regard. A third major element that allowed for doping to flourish was the UCI’s governing structure. The executive dominance of the UCI President Hein Verbruggen caused great deficiencies in the UCI’s internal control process. Moreover, the lack of collaboration with WADA was instrumental in delaying the full implementation of the WADA Code. 

The Report is in interesting plunge in the world of cycling at the turn of the century. It highlights the systematic failure of sports organisation to truly engage in the fight against doping. Indeed, both the fundamental objectives and the basic governance structure of the UCI seem to have run counter any attempt to deal efficiently with the recourse to doping of the cycling stars. This is a potent lesson, for doping seems to be as much a product of the institutional and economical system in place in a particular sport as of the malign intentions of the athletes. 

Having deciphered the main reasons that caused the pattern of doping, the report consequently outlined a set of recommendations. An analysis of these recommendation as well as the reforms the UCI has already undertaken shall be discussed in a second blog.

[1] CIRC Report to the President of the UCI, page 6

[2] Ibid

[3] CIRC Report to the President of the UCI, page 57

[4] Ibid, page 33

[5] Ibid, page 41

[6] Ibid, page 35-36, a haematocrit reading measures the percentage of red blood cells in blood. As EPO stimulates the production of red blood cells, an elevated haematocrit reading above 50% is “a strong indication of EPO use”.

[7] Ibid, page 90

[8] Ibid, page 91

[9] Ibid, page 91-92

[10] The affair concerned a large haul of doping products found in a car of the Festina cycling team just before the start of the Tour de France of 1998. The investigation revealed systematic doping, and suspicion was raised that there may have been a widespread network of doping involving many teams of the Tour de France.

[11] These rules state that “the use of corticosteroids is prohibited, except when used for topical application (auricular, opthmalogical or dermatological) inhalations (asthma and allergic rhinitis) and local or intra-articular injections. Such forms of utilisations can be proved with a medical prescription”.

[12] CIRC Report to the President of the UCI, page 171-173

[13] Ibid, pages 98-100

[14] Ibid, page 97

[15] Ibid, pages 104-105

[16] Ibid, page 108

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