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

Guest Blog - The Role of Sport in the Recognition of Transgender and Intersex Rights by Conor Talbot

Editor's note: Conor Talbot is a Solicitor at LK Shields Solicitors in Dublin and an Associate Researcher at Trinity College Dublin. He can be contacted at, you can follow him on Twitter at @ConorTalbot and his research is available at This piece was first published on the blog.

Sport is an integral part of the culture of almost every nation and its ability to shape perceptions and influence public opinion should not be underestimated.  The United Nations has highlighted the potential for using sport in reducing discrimination and inequality, specifically by empowering girls and women.  Research indicates that the benefits of sport include enhancing health and well-being, fostering empowerment, facilitating social inclusion and challenging gender norms.

In spite of the possible benefits, the successful implementation of sport-related initiatives aimed at gender equity involves many challenges and obstacles.  Chief amongst these is the way that existing social constructs of masculinity and femininity — or socially accepted ways of expressing what it means to be a man or woman in a particular socio-cultural context — play a key role in determining access, levels of participation, and benefits from sport.  This contribution explores recent developments in the interaction between transgender and intersex rights and the multi-billion dollar industry that the modern Olympic Games has become.  Recent reports show that transgender people continue to suffer from the glacial pace of change in social attitudes and, while there has been progress as part of a long and difficult journey to afford transgender people full legal recognition through the courts, it seems clear that sport could play an increasingly important role in helping change or better inform social attitudes.More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: The Final Whistle

Footballleaks is now operating since nearly half a year and has already provided an incredible wealth of legal documents both on TPO (and in particular Doyen’s contractual arrangements) and on the operation of the transfer system in football (mainly transfer agreements, player contracts and agents contracts). This constant stream of information is extremely valuable for academic research to get a better grip on the functioning of the transfer market. It is also extremely relevant for the shaping of public debates and political decisions on the regulation of this market. As pointed out on the footballleaks website, it has triggered a series of press investigations in major European news outlets.

In this blog, I want to come to a closure on our reporting on Doyen’s TPO deals. In the past months, we have already dealt with the specific cases of FC Twente and Sporting Lisbon, reviewed Doyen’s TPO deals with Spanish clubs, as well as discussed the compatibility of the TPO ban with EU law. In the Sporting Lisbon case, Doyen has since earned an important legal victory in front of the CAS (the ensuing award was just published by Footballleaks). This victory should not be overstated, however, it was not unexpected due to the liberal understanding of the freedom of contract under Swiss law. As such it does not support the necessity of TPO as an investment practice and does not threaten the legality (especially under EU law) of FIFA’s ban.

In our previous blogs on Doyen’s TPO deals we decided to focus only on specific deals, Twente and Sporting Lisbon, or a specific country (Spain). However, nearly six months after the whole footballleaks project started, we can now provide a more comprehensive analysis of the TPO deals signed by Doyen. Though, it is still possible that other, yet unknown, deals would be revealed, I believe that few of Doyen’s TPO agreements are still hidden. Thanks to footballleaks, we now know how Doyen operates, we have a precise idea of its turnover, its return on investments and the pool of clubs with which it signed a TPO agreement. Moreover, we have a good understanding of the contractual structure used by Doyen in those deals. This blog will offer a brief synthesis and analysis of this data.More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: TPO and Spanish football, friends with(out) benefits?

Update: On 14 April footballleaks released a series of documents concerning Sporting de Gijón. Therefore, I have updated this blog on 19 April to take into account the new information provided.  

Doyen Sports’ TPO (or TPI) model has been touted as a “viable alternative source of finance much needed by the large majority of football clubs in Europe". These are the words of Doyen’s CEO, Nélio Lucas, during a debate on (the prohibition of) TPO held at the European Parliament in Brussels last January. During that same debate, La Liga’s president, Javier Tebas, contended that professional football clubs, as private undertakings, should have the right to obtain funding by private investors to, among other reasons, “pay off the club’s debts or to compete better”. Indeed, defendants of the TPO model continuously argue that third party investors, such as Doyen, only have the clubs’ best interests in mind, being the only ones capable and willing to prevent professional football clubs from going bankrupt. This claim constitutes an important argument for the defendants of the TPO model, such as La Liga and La Liga Portuguesa, who have jointly submitted a complaint in front of the European Commission against FIFA’s ban of the practice.[1]

The eruption of footballleaks provided the essential material necessary to test this claim. It allows us to better analyse and understand the functioning of third party investment and the consequences for clubs who use these services. The leaked contracts between Doyen and, for example, FC Twente, showed that the club’s short term financial boost came at the expense of its long-term financial stability. If a club is incapable of transferring players for at least the minimum price set in Doyen’s contracts, it will find itself in a financially more precarious situation than before signing the Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA). TPO might have made FC Twente more competitive in the short run, in the long run it pushed the club (very) close to bankruptcy.

More than four months after its launch, footballleaks continues to publish documents from the football world, most notably Doyen’s ERPAs involving Spanish clubs.More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – March 2016. By Marine Montejo

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. 

Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an Intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

The Headlines

The Belgian Court of Appeal released its judgment this month regarding Doyen’s legal battle against the FIFA TPO ban. The Appeal Court confirmed the first instance decision and ruled out any provisional measures to block the ban’s implementation (for an in depth review, see our blog post). More importantly, the Court reaffirmed that Swiss based sport federations are liable in front of EU Members’ States courts when EU competition law is involved. That means the next important step for this legal battle is whether or not the European Commission is going to open a formal proceeding (Doyen already lodged a complaint) to assess the compatibility, and more importantly, the proportionality of the TPO ban with EU law. Only a preliminary ruling by the CJEU could hasten the decision if one of the European national courts, hearing a case brought by Doyen (France or Belgium), decided to refer a preliminary question.More...

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...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | WISLaw Blog Symposium - Freedom of Expression in Article 10 of the ECHR and Rule 50 of the IOC Charter: Are these polar opposites? - By Nuray Ekşi

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

WISLaw Blog Symposium - Freedom of Expression in Article 10 of the ECHR and Rule 50 of the IOC Charter: Are these polar opposites? - By Nuray Ekşi

Editor's note: Prof. Dr. Ekşi is a full-time lecturer and chair of Department of Private International Law at Özyeğin University Faculty of Law. Prof. Ekşi is the founder and also editor in chief of the Istanbul Journal of Sports Law which has been in publication since 2019.

While Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) secures the right to freedom of expression, Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter of 17 July 2020 (‘Olympic Charter’) restricts this freedom. Following the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’) relating to sports, national and international sports federations have incorporated human rights-related provisions into their statutes and regulations. They also emphasized respect for human rights. For example, Article 3 of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (‘FIFA’) Statutes, September 2020 edition, provides that “FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights”. Likewise, the Fundamental Principles of Olympism which are listed after the Preamble of the of the Olympic Charter 2020 also contains human rights related provisions. Paragraph 4 of Fundamental Principles of Olympism provides that the practice of sport is a human right. Paragraph 6 forbids discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. In addition, the International Olympic Committee (‘IOC’) inserted human rights obligations in the 2024 and 2028 Host City Contract.[1] The IOC Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration even goes further and aspires to promote the ability and opportunity of athletes to practise sport and compete without being subject to discrimination. Fair and equal gender representation, privacy including protection of personal information, freedom of expression, due process including the right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial panel, the right to request a public hearing and the right to an effective remedy are the other human rights and principles stated in the IOC Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration. Despite sports federations’ clear commitment to the protection of human rights, it is arguable that their statutes and regulations contain restrictions on athletes and sports governing bodies exercising their human rights during competitions or in the field. In this regard, particular attention should be given to the right to freedom of expression on which certain restrictions are imposed by the federations even if it done with good intentions and with the aim of raising awareness.


The provisions prohibiting propaganda and political demonstrations are enshrined in the statutes and regulations of international and national federations. For example, International Football Association Board (‘IFAB’) Laws of the Game 2020/2021 states that players must not reveal undergarments that display any political, religious, personal slogans, statements or images, or advertising other than the manufacturer’s logo.[2] As with any offence, the player and/or the team will be sanctioned by the competition organiser, national football association or by FIFA. On the one hand, freedom of expression is listed among the rights of athletes in Paragraph 11 of the IOC Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration[3], on the other hand, Rule 50(2) of the Olympic Charter restricts demonstrations or political, religious or racial propaganda, which may adversely affect freedom of expression. The propaganda ban was first introduced by the 1967 Olympic Charter.[4] This ban has been retained in later versions with minor modifications. Under the title of “propaganda advertising, demonstration”, Rule 50(2) of the current version of the Olympic Charter[5] provides that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas”. The aim of Rule 50(2) of the Olympic Charter in prohibiting political statements is to maintain the neutrality of sport.[6] Rule 50(2) is only applicable in Olympic venues, namely on the field of play, in the Olympic Village, during Olympic medal ceremonies or during the opening, closing and other official ceremonies.[7] Displaying any political messaging, including signs or armbands, gestures of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling, and refusal to follow the ceremonies protocol are some examples of what would constitute a protest, as opposed to expressing views non-exhaustingly indicated in Rule 50 Guidelines Developed by the IOC Athletes’ Commission.[8]


A disciplinary sanction can be applied against an athlete who has breached Rule 50(2) of the Olympic Charter. This sanction can be reviewed by the ad hoc division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (‘CAS’) established for the Olympic Games.[9] An arbitral award of CAS can be challenged before the Swiss Federal Court on the grounds listed in Article 190 of the Swiss Private International Law including public policy.[10] Since freedom of expression is among the fundamental human rights guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Swiss Federal Tribunal may rule that a CAS arbitral award is incompatible with public policy. The limitations set out in the statutes and regulations of the national and international sports federations pertaining to the freedom of expression are aimed to protect the neutrality of sport and separate it from political, religious or any other type of interference; however, one cannot exclude potential challenges to be filed against Switzerland before the ECtHR. As in the Pechstein and Mutu cases, the sports community, including CAS, anxiously awaited what the ECtHR would decide. The judgements of the ECtHR have been taken into consideration and respect for human rights has been integrated in the statutes of some SGBs, including the IOC Charter.


Although the IOC is established as an association under the Swiss Association Law, the rules of its Charter may adversely affect the enjoyment of certain human rights. Freedom of expression is enshrined not only in Article 10 of the ECHR but also in other international human rights legislative instruments, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, Article 11 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, Article 17(1) of Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 10 of the ECHR covers not only the disclosure of political ideas, but also the freedom to disclose any literary, commercial and other ideas. The freedom of expression protected under Article 10 of the ECHR is not limited to words, written or spoken, but it extends to pictures and images including tv or radio broadcasts, films as well as electronic information etc.[11] The right to freedom of expression can be restricted in certain circumstances provided in the provisions of the human rights instruments. Although these instruments are hard law for the Member States, statutes and regulations of the international or national SGBs contain restrictions as to the right to freedom of expression. International or national SGBs are mostly established as associations.[12] The problem so far has arisen as to how national or international sports federations can restrict the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the national constitutions and international conventions.


Article 10 of the ECHR can also be applied in the field of sports because athletes can address a wide public during the competitions and may protest human rights violations or political events in their own country or elsewhere. Human rights violations including the right to freedom of expression may also occur in countries where the Olympic Games are held.[13] Generally, the IOC and its international federations take the necessary measures to ensure that athletes do not make political statements during competition. In fact, in 1967 famous boxer Mohammad Ali refused to fight in Vietnam to protest racial segregation.[14] During the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics, after winning the gold and the bronze medal in the 200-meter sprint, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos stepped onto the podium barefoot, shared a pair of black gloves and raised their fists in the air when the national anthem played to protest against black poverty and lynching.[15] The IOC reacted swiftly and harshly to this 1968 black power salute, immediately suspending the athletes.[16] The history of sports has recorded various examples of athletes who were sanctioned or ostracized because they had exercised their freedom of expression. Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneeled or sat on the bench while the national anthem was played as a protest against racial discrimination and police brutality against people of colour in the United States.[17] Both players were not contracted in the NFL in the subsequent season.[18] Czech national gymnast Vera Caslayska’s career ended as she protested against Soviet hegemony in her country during a medal ceremony in Mexico in 1968.[19] John Carlos and Tommie Smith were suspended immediately from the United States Olympic Team as a result of the black power salute.  FIFA fined the England Football Association because its members displayed poppies, a symbol of National Armistice Day, during the World Cup qualifier against Scotland. Likewise, Scottish and Irish clubs were fined for flying the Palestinian flag in stadiums.[20] “During the Sochi Games, the IOC even reprimanded athletes for placing small stickers on their helmets in memory of deceased freestyle skier Sarah Burke, calling the gesture political”.[21]


Sometimes an athlete makes futile efforts to obtain permission to protest the situation in their countries. The request by Ukrainian athletes to wear a black headband to remember those who died during the political demonstrations in Kiev was rejected by the IOC as political propaganda. However, protests or demonstrations by athletes may not always contain political content. For example, Cheryl Maas, a Dutch and gay skier, wanted to wear rainbow gloves to protest Russia’s anti-gay legislation, but he was not allowed.  


As there is no judgment of the ECtHR to confirm whether or not Rule 50(2) of the Olympic Charter complies with Article 10 of the ECHR, various arguments have been put forward by academics. Dhonchak thinks the rule set out in Rule 50(2) of the Olympic Charter must be struck down at the earliest.[22] However, Faut puts forward two solutions which could increase compliance with Article 10 of the ECHR. “The first one lies in more transparent and less excessive sanction mechanisms. A second option would be a laxer prohibition on political statements in the Olympic Charter, covering a smaller range of incidents”.[23] Anmol believes that IOC could also re-assess its position and come-up with fresh guidelines that uphold a balanced political speech before the Tokyo Olympics 2021.[24] For example, the IOC could allow the disciplinary body to assess the speech by examining its content and core intentions in accordance with the Fundamental Principles of Olympism set out in the Olympic Charter. Shahlaei states that “perhaps the solution lies somewhere in the middle. To maintain their general political objectivity, sports organizations could continue to prohibit purely domestic political gestures, such as flying a banner in support of a preferred presidential candidate. At the same time, they could allow athletes to express support for human rights, such as racial equality”.[25]


However, it should be noted that Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter in no way eliminates freedom of expression. In accordance with the Rule 50 Guidelines developed by the IOC Athletes’ Commission, outside the Olympic venues athletes have the opportunity to express their opinions during press conferences and interviews or at team meetings or on digital or traditional media, or on other platforms. Any protest or demonstration outside Olympic venues must obviously comply with local legislation wherever local law prohibits such actions.[26] Nonetheless, this discussion will surely continue until the ECtHR will shed light on the application of Article 10 of the ECHR to Rule 50(2) of the Olympic Charter.

[1] Although certain steps have been taken on human rights by IOC since Sochi Olympics, they are found by Grell unsatisfactory and creates uncertainty in several ways. For more information see Tomáš GRELL, The International Olympic Committee and Human Rights Reforms: Game Changer or Mere Window Dressing?, 17(2018) International Sports Law Journal, p. 161 et seq.

[2] IFAB Laws of the Game 2020/2021, The Players’ Equipment, p. 60: (accessed 17.5.2021).

[3] 18.4.2021).

[4] FAUT, 254-255. For the text of the Olympic Charter of 1967 see (accessed 20.4.2021).

[5] Olympic Charter in force as from 17 July 2020 © International Olympic Committee, Lausanne, 2020.

[6] Rule 50 Guidelines Developed by the IOC Athletes’ Commission:

[7] Rule 50 Guidelines Developed by the IOC Athletes’ Commission.

[8] Rule 50 Guidelines Developed by the IOC Athletes’ Commission: (accessed 17.4.2021).

[9] Johan LINDHOLM, From Carlos to Kaepernick and beyond: Athletes’ Right to Freedom of Expression, 17(2017)1-3 International Sports Law Journal, p. 2.

[10] LINDHOLM, 2.

[11] Frédérique FAUT, The Prohibition of Political Statements by Athletes and its Consistency with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights: Speech is Silver, Silence is Gold?, 14(2014) International Sports Law Journal, p. 257; Monica MACOVEI, Freedom of Expression Human Rights Handbooks, No. 2 A guide to the Implementation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, 2nd edition, January 2004, p. 7.

[12] For the criticisms about the extraordinary autonomy that sports governing bodies enjoy under Swiss law see Margareta BADDELEY, The Extraordinary Autonomy of Sports Bodies under Swiss Law: Lesson to be Drawn, 20(2020) International Sports Law Journal, p. 3-17.

[13] For the human rights violations occurred in China during Beijing Olympic Games see Bruce KIDD, Human Rights and Olympic Movement after Beijing, 13(2010) Sports in Society, p. 901-909.

[14] Faraz SHAHLAEI, When Sports Stand Against Human Rights: Regulating Restrictions on Athlete Speech in the Global Sports Arena, 38(2017)1 Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review, p.100.

[15] ANMOL, 67; SHAHLAEI, 101.

[16] SHAHLAEI, 101.

[17] ANMOL, 66; Brendan SCHWAB, Celebrate Humanity: Reconciling Sport and Human Rights through Athlete Activism, 28(2018)1 Journal of Legal Aspects of Sport, p. 170-171.

[18] SCHWAB, 171 footnote 2.

[19] SCHWAB, 171 footnote 6; ANMOL, 66.

[20] SHAHLAEI, 108.

[21] SHAHLAEI, 108-109.

[22] Dhananjay DHONCHAK, Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter-Protesting Racial Inequality, 04.09.20:  (accessed 17.4.2021).

[23] FAUT, 262.

[24] Jain ANMOL, Political Speech in Sports: A Case for Non-Prohibition, 2(2020)1 Journal for Sports Law, Policy and Governance, p. 73.

[25] SHAHLAEI, 116.

[26] Rule 50 Guidelines Developed by the IOC Athletes’ Commission.

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