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

Doyen’s Crusade Against FIFA’s TPO Ban: The Ruling of the Appeal Court of Brussels

Since last year, Doyen Sports, represented by Jean-Louis Dupont, embarked on a legal crusade against FIFA’s TPO ban. It has lodged a competition law complaint with the EU Commission and started court proceedings in France and Belgium. In a first decision on Doyen’s request for provisory measures, the Brussels Court of First Instance rejected the demands raised by Doyen and already refused to send a preliminary reference to the CJEU. Doyen, supported by the Belgium club Seraing, decided to appeal this decision to the Brussels Appeal Court, which rendered its final ruling on the question on 10 March 2016.[1] The decision (on file with us) is rather unspectacular and in line with the first instance judgment. This blog post will rehash the three interesting aspects of the case.

·      The jurisdiction of the Belgian courts

·      The admissibility of Doyen’s action

·      The conditions for awarding provisory measures More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – February 2016

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


The Headlines

The eagerly awaited FIFA Presidential elections of 26 February provided for a “new face” at the pinnacle of international football for the first time since 1998. One could argue whether Infantino is the man capable of bringing about the reform FIFA so desperately needs or whether he is simply a younger version of his predecessor Blatter. More...


Book Review: Despina Mavromati & Matthieu Reeb, The Code of the Court of Arbitration for Sport—Commentary, Cases, and Materials (Wolters Kluwer International 2015). By Professor Matthew Mitten

Editor’s note: Professor Mitten is the Director of the National Sports Law Institute and the LL.M. in Sports Law program for foreign lawyers at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He currently teaches courses in Amateur Sports Law, Professional Sports Law, Sports Sponsorship Legal and Business Issues Workshop, and Torts. Professor Mitten is a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and has served on the ad hoc Division for the XXI Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

This Book Review is published at 26 Marquette Sports Law Review 247 (2015).


This comprehensive treatise of more than 700 pages on the Code of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) (the Code) is an excellent resource that is useful to a wide audience, including attorneys representing parties before the CAS, CAS arbitrators, and sports law professors and scholars, as well as international arbitration counsel, arbitrators, and scholars.  It also should be of interest to national court judges and their law clerks because it facilitates their understanding of the CAS arbitration process for resolving Olympic and international sports disputes and demonstrates that the Code provides procedural fairness and substantive justice to the parties, thereby justifying judicial recognition and enforcement of its awards.[1]  Because the Code has been in existence for more than twenty years—since November 22, 1994—and has been revised four times, this book provides an important and much needed historical perspective and overview that identifies and explains well-established principles of CAS case law and consistent practices of CAS arbitrators and the CAS Court Office.  Both authors formerly served as Counsel to the CAS and now serve as Head of Research and Mediation at CAS and CAS Secretary General, respectively, giving them the collective expertise and experience that makes them eminently well-qualified to research and write this book.More...


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2016

Editor’s note: Our first innovation for the year 2016 will be a monthly report compiling relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked. 


The Headlines

The world of professional sport has been making headlines for the wrong reasons in January. Football’s governing body FIFA is in such a complete governance and corruption mess that one wonders whether a new President (chosen on 26 February[1]) will solve anything. More recently, however, it is the turn of the athletics governing body, IAAF, to undergo “the walk of shame”. On 14 January the WADA Independent Commission released its second report into doping in international athletics. More...


International Sports Law in 2015: Our Reader

This post offers a basic literature review on publications on international and European sports law in 2015. It does not have the pretence of being complete (our readers are encouraged to add references and links in the comments under this blog), but aims at covering a relatively vast sample of the 2015 academic publications in the field (we have used the comprehensive catalogue of the Peace Palace Library as a baseline for this compilation). When possible we have added hyperlinks to the source.[1]

Have a good read. More...

Goodbye 2015! The Highlights of our International Sports Law Year

2015 was a good year for international sports law. It started early in January with the Pechstein ruling, THE defining sports law case of the year (and probably in years to come) and ended in an apotheosis with the decisions rendered by the FIFA Ethics Committee against Blatter and Platini. This blog will walk you through the important sports law developments of the year and make sure that you did not miss any. More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: In defence of the compatibility of FIFA’s TPO ban with EU law

FIFA’s Third-Party Ownership (TPO) ban entered into force on the 1 May 2015[1]. Since then, an academic and practitioner’s debate is raging over its compatibility with EU law, and in particular the EU Free Movement rights and competition rules. 

The European Commission, national courts (and probably in the end the Court of Justice of the EU) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will soon have to propose their interpretations of the impact of EU law on FIFA’s TPO ban. Advised by the world-famous Bosman lawyer, Jean-Louis Dupont, Doyen has decided to wage through a proxy (the Belgian club FC Seraing) a legal war against the ban. The first skirmishes have already taken place in front of the Brussels Court of first instance, which denied in July Seraing’s request for provisional measures. For its part, FIFA has already sanctioned the club for closing a TPO deal with Doyen, thus opening the way to an ultimate appeal to the CAS. In parallel, the Spanish and Portuguese leagues have lodged a complaint with the European Commission arguing that the FIFA ban is contrary to EU competition law. One academic has already published an assessment of the compatibility of the ban with EU law, and many practitioners have offered their take (see here and here for example). It is undeniable that the FIFA ban is per se restrictive of the economic freedoms of investors and can easily be constructed as a restriction on free competition. Yet, the key and core question under an EU law analysis, is not whether the ban is restrictive (any regulation inherently is), but whether it is proportionate, in other words justified. More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals – Sporting Lisbon’s rebellion in the Rojo case. By Antoine Duval and Oskar van Maren

In this blog we continue unpacking Doyen’s TPO deals based on the documents obtained via footballleaks. This time we focus on the battle between Doyen and Sporting over the Rojo case, which raises different legal issues as the FC Twente deals dealt with in our first blog.

 

I.              The context: The free-fall of Sporting

Sporting Lisbon, or Sporting Club de Portugal as the club is officially known, is a Portuguese club active in 44 different sports. Although the club has the legal status of Sociedade Anónima Desportiva, a specific form of public limited company, it also has over 130.000 club members, making it one of the biggest sports clubs in the world.

The professional football branch of Sporting is by far the most important and famous part of the club, and with its 19 league titles in total, it is a proud member of the big three cartel, with FC Porto and Benfica, dominating Portuguese football. Yet, it has not won a league title since 2002. More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: FC Twente's Game of Maltese Roulette. By Antoine Duval and Oskar van Maren

The first part of our “Unpacking Doyen’s TPO deals” blog series concerns the agreements signed between Doyen Sports and the Dutch football club FC Twente. In particular we focus on the so-called Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA) of 25 February 2014. Based on the ERPA we will be able to better assess how TPO works in practice. To do so, however, it is necessary to explore FC Twente’s rationale behind recourse to third-party funding. Thus, we will first provide a short introduction to the recent history of the club and its precarious financial situation. More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO deals - Introduction

The football world has been buzzing with Doyen’s name for a few years now. Yet, in practice very little is known about the way Doyen Sports (the Doyen entity involved in the football business) operates. The content of the contracts it signs with clubs was speculative, as they are subjected to strict confidentiality policies. Nonetheless, Doyen became a political (and public) scapegoat and is widely perceived as exemplifying the ‘TPOisation’ of football. This mythical status of Doyen is also entertained by the firm itself, which has multiplied the (until now failed) legal actions against FIFA’s TPO ban (on the ban see our blog symposium here) in a bid to attract attention and to publicly defend its business model. In short, it has become the mysterious flag bearer of TPO around the world. Thanks to a new anonymous group, inspired by the WikiLeaks model, we can now better assess how Doyen Sports truly functions. Since 5 November someone has been publishing different types of documents involving more or less directly the work of Doyen in football. These documents are all freely available at http://footballleaks.livejournal.com/. By doing so, the group has given us (legal scholars not involved directly in the trade) the opportunity to finally peruse the contractual structure of a TPO deal offered by Doyen and, as we purport to show in the coming weeks, to embark upon a journey into Doyen’s TPO-world. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Will the World Cup 2022 Expansion Mark the Beginning of the End of FIFA’s Human Rights Journey? - By Daniela Heerdt

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

Will the World Cup 2022 Expansion Mark the Beginning of the End of FIFA’s Human Rights Journey? - 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.


About three years ago, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) adopted a new version of its Statutes, including a statutory commitment to respect internationally recognized human rights. Since then, FIFA undertook a human rights journey that has been praised by various stakeholders in the sports and human rights field. In early June, the FIFA Congress is scheduled to take a decision that could potentially undo all positive efforts taken thus far.

FIFA already decided in January 2017 to increase the number of teams participating in the 2026 World Cup from 32 to 48. Shortly after, discussions began on the possibility to also expand the number of teams for the 2022 World Cup hosted in Qatar. Subsequently, FIFA conducted a feasibility study, which revealed that the expansion would be feasible but require a number of matches to be hosted in neighbouring countries, explicitly mentioning Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One does not have to be a human rights expert to be highly alarmed by this list of potential co-hosting countries. Nevertheless, the FIFA Council approved of the possibility to expand in March 2019, paving the way for the FIFA Congress to take a decision on the matter. Obviously, the advancement of the expansion decision raises serious doubts over the sincerity of FIFA’s reforms and human rights commitments.


The Human Rights Climate in Potential Co-hosts

The list of human rights issues commonly linked to the potential co-hosts is long.[i] All of them uphold severe restrictions on the freedom of expression and regularly silence activists. Women face discrimination under the law of a number of these countries, and the rights of migrant workers are not adequately protected, leading to abusive situations and forced labour.[ii] Arbitrary arrests and unfair trials and sentencing are widespread in Oman.[iii] Bahrain has a habit of detaining, torturing and deporting human rights defenders and Kuwait refuses to recognize the 100,000 Bidun living in the country as Kuwaiti citizens, leaving them stateless. The latest add-on to Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights track record is the mass execution of 37 individuals, which proceeded against vociferous criticism from other states and human rights organizations about the lack of due process and allegations of torture having been used to obtain confessions of those convicted and executed. Furthermore, even the highest football official cannot have missed the allegations on Saudi officials being involved in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October 2018. Finally, the active involvement of and alleged attacks on civilians launched by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the Yemen war can also not be ignored.

In addition to these structural human rights issues spread in the region, a number of these countries have been involved in very recent football-related human rights cases. In January 2019, a British football fan, Ali Ahmad, has been detained for three weeks and suffered torture by UAE security officials for wearing a Qatari football jersey to an Asian Cup match between Qatar and Iraq. In February 2019, Hakeem al-Araibi, a football player from Bahrain, now living as refugee in Australia, has been released from Thai prison after his arrest in November 2018. The Thai authorities acted upon an arrest warrant issued by Bahrain, where Hakeem had been convicted in absentia to 10 years in prison for an incident dating back to November 2012. The official allegations were vandalism of a police station, but there is clear evidence that discharges Hakeem of these allegations. Most likely, he became a target of Bahraini government and football officials that identified and persecuted Bahraini football players that were involved in anti-government protests during the Arab Spring in 2012.


The Mismatch with FIFA’s Standing Human Rights Commitments

This brief overview presents just a fraction of the extremely negative human rights track record of the countries that FIFA is considering as potential co-hosts for the 2022 World Cup. In case one of these countries will indeed host a World Cup match, FIFA risks to throw away all efforts that it carefully put into building up its human rights profile in the past three years. After the inclusion of human rights into its Statutes, FIFA created a Human Rights Advisory Board in March 2017, adopted a human rights policy in May 2017, and launched a complaint mechanism for human rights defenders and media representatives in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Most importantly, in October 2017 FIFA integrated human rights requirements in its bidding requirements for the World Cup following John Ruggie’s recommendation to “set explicit human rights requirements of Local Organising Committees in bidding documents for tournaments and provide guidance on them”.[iv] The revised bidding requirements expect bidders to conduct all bidding and hosting activities in line with internationally recognized human rights.[v] Furthermore, bidders are required to submit a public commitment to respect human rights and a human rights strategy, together with a report on stakeholder engagement in developing the policy.[vi] The new requirements applied for the first time to the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup and while the 2022 World Cup had been awarded before, the new standard forms an integral part of FIFA’s human rights system by now and therefore should be considered in the recent expansion plans.

Interestingly, the feasibility study on the expansion of the 2022 World Cup mentions human rights at several points: in the context of requirements regarding stadiums (p. 32 & 46), as part of requirements for additional infrastructure and sites (p. 46), and as one of the necessary government guarantees to be submitted to FIFA (p.68). Receiving such guarantees from the respective government might not pose a problem. Instead, the real issue at stake is whether FIFA truly cares about its human rights commitments when considering if these guarantees turn out to be nothing but empty words on a piece of paper? FIFA risks failing its commitments by letting any of the proposed countries co-host the World Cup without having done a proper human rights risk assessment.

Despite this risk, the expansion seems to be more likely to happen than not. FIFA President Gianni Infantino appears to be convinced that the expansion can contribute to solving the diplomatic crisis that is ongoing in the region and stated on record that a preliminary survey showed that 90% of the member associations are in favour of the expansion. Indeed, the decision lies in their hands. They make up the members of the FIFA Congress, FIFA’s supreme body for decision-making, and each member association has one vote. While a number of associations and confederations already publicly announced their support of the expansion, there is still hope that other member associations or confederations remind FIFA of its human rights responsibilities and commitments by voting against it.


[i] For an overview of human rights issues linked to these countries, see Human Rights Watch (2019), “World Report 2018”. 

[ii] See for example Human Rights Committee CCPR/C/BHR/CO/1 (2018), “Concluding observations on the initial report of Bahrain”.

[iii] Human Rights Council A/HRC/29/25/Add.1 (2015), “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai – Mission to Oman”, para 20 ff.

[iv] John G. Ruggie (2017), “’For the Game. For the World’ FIFA & Human Rights”, p. 32.

[v] FIFA (2017), “FIFA REGULATIONS for the selection of the venue for the final competition of the 2026 FIFA World Cup™”, Regulation 8.1 (ii).

[vi] Ibid., Regulation 8.2.

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