Sporting Justifications under eu free Movement and Competition Law: The case of the football ‘transfer system’. Geoff Pearson



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European Labour Law (Cambridge University Press, 2009), 357; C. Barnard, The Substantive Law of the EU: The Four Freedoms (Oxford University Press, 213).

2 Case 36/74 Walrave and Koch v Union Cycliste Internationale [1974] ECR 1405.

3 H. Schepel, ‘Constitutionalising the Market, Marketising the Constitution, and to Tell the Difference: On the Horizontal Application of the Free Movement Provisions in EU Law’ (2012) 18/2 European Law Journal 177-178; J. Snell, ‘Private Parties and Free Movement of Goods and Services’ in M. Andenas and W. Roth (eds.) Services and Free Movement in EU Law (Oxford University Press, 2002) at 244.

4 Case 415/93, Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Football Association ASBL v Jean-Marc Bosman [1995] ECR I-04921

5 C. Barnard, The Substantive Law of the EU, 281 n 1 supra; P. Craig, and G. De Burca, EU Law (Oxford University Press, 2011), 731, 762; M. Maduro, ‘Harmony and Dissonance in Free Movement, in M. Andenas and W. Roth (eds.) Services and Free Movement in EU Law (Oxford University Press 2002) at 41, 60; W. Roth ‘The European Court of Justice’s Case Law on Freedom to provide Services: Is Keck Relevant?’ in M. Andenas and W. Roth (eds.) Services and Free Movement in EU Law at 1, 2; J. Snell and M. Andenas, ‘Exploring the Outer Limits: Restrictions on Free Movement’ in M. Andenas and W. Roth (eds.) Services and Free Movement in EU Law at 69, 81.

6 J. Snell and M. Andenas, Restrictions on Free Movement, 117 n 5 supra.

7 Case 85/96 Martinez Sala v Freistaat Bayern [1998] ECR I-2691, para 32

8 Currently professional football in the EU is a male-only preserve.

9 This paper will not address potential discriminatory claims under Council Directive 2000/78/EC which establishes equal treatment in employment on the grounds of age.

10 K. Groanendijk et al. note that transfer fees diminish the capacity of workers to enjoy their free movement rights (‘Annual Review on the Free Movement of Workers in Europe 2010-2011’, European Commission 2012, 104). This should be contrasted with a lack of labour mobility overall – free movement of professional footballers within the EU is actually increasing (M. Dalziel et al. ‘Study on the Assessment of UEFA’s ‘Home Grown Player Rule’, European Commission, 2013), the issue is that footballers have their freedom to move to the EU state of their choice restricted.

11 See K. Groanendijk et al. ‘European Report on the Free Movement of Workers 2011-2012’ (European Commission, 2013).

12 The professional football industry turns over €12bn p.a. for the whole of Europe (UEFA European Landscape of Professional Football, UEFA 2012).

13 Art 102 TFEU.

14 Case 49/07 MOTOE v Ellinko Dimosio [2008] ECR I- 4863, and Hendry and Williams and TSN v World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association [2002] ECC 8.

15 Bosman n 4 supra, para 73

16 D. McArdle, From Boot Money to Bosman: Football, Society and the Law (Cavendish, 2000), 19.

17 Ibid, 20.

18 See Kingaby v Aston Villa F.C. (1913) The Times 28 March 1913 and Eastham v Newcastle United [1963] 3 WLR 574.

19 Then Art 49.

20 e.g. R. Parrish, Sports Law and Policy in the European Union, (Manchester University Press, 2003); R. Parrish, and S. Miettinen, The Sporting Exception in European Union Law (TMC Asser Press, 2008); R. Parrish, ‘Lex Sportiva and EU Sports Law’ (2012) 37/6 European Law Review, at 716; S. Weatherill, ‘”Fair Play Please!” Recent Developments in the application of EC Law to Sport’ (2003) 40 Common Market Law Review at 51.

21 S. Weatherill, ‘Fair Play Please’, n 20 supra, 56

22 The European Court of Human Rights had previously ruled that the transfer system did not breach Article 4 of the ECHR (X v Netherlands (1983) ECHR Case 9322/81).

23 P. Antonioni and J. Cubbin, ‘The Bosman Ruling and the Emergence of a Single Market in Soccer Talent’ (2000) 9/2 European Journal of Law and Economics, at 157.

24 J. Drolet, ‘Extra Time: Are the New FIFA Transfer Rules Doomed?’, in S. Gardiner, R. Parrish and R. Siekmann (eds.), EU, Sport, Law and Policy: Regulation, Re-Regulation and Representation (TMC Asser Press, 2009) at 167, 169; A. Duval, ‘Lex Sportiva: A Playground for International Law’ (2013) 19/6 European Law Journal, at 822, 837.

25 Treaty of Amsterdam 1997, Declaration 29; Treaty of Nice 2000, Annex IV.

26 COM (1999) 664 Final 10/12/99

27 E. Szyszczak, ‘Competition and Sport’ (2007) 32 European Law Review 95, 98.

28 S. Weatherill, ‘Sport as Culture in EC Law’, in R. Crauford Smith (ed.), Culture and European Union Law (Oxford University Press, 2004) at 113, 116; S. Weatherill, ‘The Olivier Bernard Case: How, if at all, to Fix Compensation for Training Young Players?’ (2010) 1-2 International Sports Law Journal, at 3, 4.

29 S. Weatherill, ‘Sport as Culture’, n 28 supra, 151.

30 A. Caigner and J. O’Leary, ‘The End of the Affair: The Anelka Doctrine - the problem of Contractual Stability in English Professional Football’, in A. Caigner and S. Gardiner (eds.) Professional Sport in the EU: Regulation and Re-regulation (TMC Asser 2000), at 204.

31 R. Blanpain, in A. Caigner and J. O’Leary, ‘The End of the Affair’, n 30 supra, 205.

32 See A. Caigner and J. O’Leary, ‘The End of the Affair’, n 30 supra; S. Gardiner and J. Welch ‘The Contractual Dynamics of Team Stability versus Player Mobility: Who rules the Beautiful Game?’ (2007) 5/1 Entertainment and Sports Law Journal, online.

33 See A. Duval, ‘Lex Sportiva’, n 24 supra, 838.

34 Brussels 17/4/00, in A. Caigner and J. O’Leary, ‘The End of the Affair’, n 30 supra, 206.

35 S. Weatherill, ‘Fair Play Please’, n 20 supra, 72. See also R. Parrish and S. Miettenen, The Sporting Exception n 20 supra, 175-8.

36 ‘Commission Closes Investigations into FIFA Regulations on International Football Transfers’, IP/02/824 5.6.02

37 A. Egger, and C. Stix-Hackl, ‘Sports and Competition Law: A never-ending story?’ (2002) European Competition Law Review 81, 90.

38 ‘Commission Closes Investigations into FIFA Regulations’, n 37 supra.

39 R. Wenzel, ‘From Webster to Mutu via Matuzalem – A Natural Progression of a Legal Colte-Face?’ (2009) 17/1 Sport and the Law Journal, at 8.

40 ‘The Stability of Contract Principle No Longer Exists’, FIFPro statement 23/08/2013, http://www.fifpro.org/news/news_details/2338

41 KEA/CDES ‘Study on the economic and legal aspects of transfers of players’ (European Commission, 2013), 245.

42 J. Drolet, ‘Extra Time’ n 24 supra, 189.

43 FIFA purports to preclude access to ‘ordinary courts of law’ in football disputes and threatens sanctions for those choosing this avenue (FIFA Statutes, Art. 64(2)-(3)). Domestic decisions in Germany (Pechstein, Judgment of the Regional Court of Munich I, 26/02/2014 Case Number 37 O 28331/12) and the UK (Clyde & Co LLP & Anor v Winkelhof [2011] EWHC 668) question the enforceability of such arbitration clauses, particularly in employment cases.

44 Adrian Mutu v Chelsea FC, Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland decision, 10/6/10 (Case 4A_458/2009).

45 ‘The Stability of Contract Principle No Longer Exists’, FIFPro statement 23/08/2013, http://www.fifpro.org/news/news_details/2338

46 Heart of Midlothian v Webster and Wigan Athletic, (2008) CAS Decision 2007/A/1298-1300

47 Shakhtar Donetsk v Matuzalem (2008) CAS Decisions: 2008/A/1519

48 A likely claim for ‘just cause’ under art 14 of the Regulations was probably discounted following advice that it could lead to a protracted dispute (J. Soek, ‘The Prize for Freedom of Movement: The Webster case’ in S. Gardiner, R. Parrish and R. Siekmann (eds.) EU, Sport, Law and Policy: Regulation, Re-Regulation and Representation (TMC Asser, 2009), at 201, 210.

49 This type of compensation payment would not be considered to breach free movement (see Case 190/98 Volker Graf v Filzmoser Mashinenbau GmbH [2000] ECR I-493).

50 For more detailed analysis see J. Soek, ‘The Prize for Freedom of Movement’, n 48 supra and R. Wenzel, ‘From Webster to Mutu via Matuzalem’ n 39 supra.

51 I. Blackshaw, ‘The CAS Appeal Decision in the Andrew Webster case’ (2008) 1/2, International Sports Law Journal, at 14, 19; F. De Weger, ‘The Webster Case: Justified Panic as there was after Bosman?’ in S. Gardiner, R. Parrish and R. Siekmann (eds.) EU, Sport, Law and Policy: Regulation, Re-Regulation and Representation (TMC Asser, 2009), at 190, 195-197. J. Soek, ‘The Prize for Freedom of Movement’, n 48 supra , at 211..

52 Matuzalem n 47 supra, para 86

53 J. Perez, ‘Matuzalem CAS Award Commentary’ (2010) 3/4 International Sports Law Journal, at 170, 172.

54Matuzalem n 47 supra, paras 177-179

55 B. Dabscheck, ‘Being Punitive: The Court of Arbitration for Sport Overturns Webster’ 2009 3-4 International Sports Law Journal at 25. Some minor differences with Webster should be noted: Matuzalem’s conduct was questioned, and the transfer fee paid to purchase him was not totally amortized when the player terminated his contract (J. Perez, ‘Matuzalem CAS Award Commentary’, n 53 supra).

56 Matuzalem n 47 supra, para 63

57 Ibid, para 80

58 Ibid, para 152

59 Ibid, para 102

60 Ibid, para 117

61 CAS 2009/A/1881

62 In addition to a four month playing suspension because the breach was in the protected period.

63 CAS 2010/A/2145-2147

64 The extent to which CAS compensation awards can be enforced has been limited. A decision to ban Matuzalem from playing professional football until the award was paid was found to breach his rights under Art 27 of the Swiss Civil Code and was unenforceable (Matuzalem v FIFA, Swiss Federal Court 27/03/ 2012, Case 4A_558/2011).

65 Case 264/98 Tibor Balog v Royal Charleroi Sporting Club.

66 Court press release No. 11/2001 29 March 2001

67 A. Egger, and C. Stix-Hackl, ‘Sports and Competition Law’, n 38 supra. Gardiner and Welch argue that Balog could not have declared the existing transfer system illegal, just whether applying transfer rules to out-of-contract players breached what was then Art 81 for nationals of non-EU member states (S. Gardiner and J. Welch ‘Who Rules the Beautiful Game?’ n 32 supra, at para 13).

68 A. Egger, and C. Stix-Hackl, ‘Sports and Competition Law’, n 37 supra, 87-88.

69 Ibid, 83.

70 S. Weatherill, ‘Fair Play Please’, n 20 supra, 69.

71 Case 309/99 Wouters v Algemene Raad van de Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten [2002] ECR I-1577

72 Bosman n. 4 supra, para 106.

73 Case 519/04 P David Meca-Medina and Igor Macjen v Commission [2006] ECR I-6991, para 42.

74 See A. Manville, ‘UEFA, the “Home-Grown Player Rule” and the Meca-Medina Judgement of the European Court of Justice’ (2009) 1/2 International Sports Law Journal 25.

75 n 73 supra.

76 Ibid, para 27.

77 Art 165(2).

78 Case 325/08 Olympique Lyonnais v Bernard and Newcastle United [2010] All E.R. (EC) 615.

79 Joined Cases 403/08 and 429/08 Football Association Premier League Ltd v QC Leisure and Murphy v Media Protection Services [2012] 1 CMLR 29.

80 R. Parrish, ‘Lex Sportiva’, n 20 supra; S. Weatherill, ‘The Olivier Bernard Case’, n 28 supra, 6.

81 P. Downward, R. Parrish, G. Pearson and A. Semens, ‘An Assessment of the Compatibility of UEFA’s Home Grown Player Rule with Article 45 TFEU’, European Law Review, Forthcoming July 2014. See also S. Weatherill, ‘The Olivier Bernard Case’, n 28 supra. R. Parrish, B. García, S. Miettinen, and R. Siekmann, ‘The Lisbon Treaty and EU Sports Policy, Report for the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education, Brussels: (European Parliament, 2010).

82 S. Weatherill, ‘The Olivier Bernard Case’, n 28 supra, 4.

83 Bosman n 4 supra, para 106

84 Other examples include the UEFA ‘Home Grown Player’ Rule (see M. Dalziel et al. ‘Assessment of UEFA’s “Home Grown Player Rule”’ n 10 supra) and Collective Marketing of Broadcasting Rights (S. Weatherill, ‘Sport as Culture’, n 28 supra).

85 E.g. Bosman n 4 supra (competitive balance), Lehtonen v Federation Royale Belge des Societes de Basket-Ball ASBL [2000] ECR I-2681 and Meca-Medina n 73 supra (integrity of competition); Bernard, n 78 supra, para 29 (incentivising young development).

86 Case 55/94 Gebhard v Consiglio dell'Ordine degli Avvocati e Procuratori di Milano [1991] ECR I-4165, para 37.

87 Gebhard was a freedom of establishment case. In similar free movement cases (e.g. Case 237/94 O’Flynn v Adjudication Officer [1996] ECR 2631) the CJEU uses ‘objective justification’ as opposed to ‘imperative requirements’ (C. Barnard, The Substantive Law of the EU n 1 supra, 528).

88 T. Tridimas, ‘Proportionality in Community Law: Searching for the Appropriate Standard of Scrutiny, in E. Ellis (ed.) The Principle of Proportionality in the Laws of Europe (Hart, 1999) at 65, 68.

89 A. Duval, ‘Lex Sportiva’, n 24 supra, 840.

90 S. Weatherill, ‘Anti-Doping revisited – The Demise of the Rule of “Purely Sporting Interest”?’ in S. Weatherill (ed.), European Sports Law (Asser Press, 2008), at 136.

91 T. Tridimas, ‘Proportionality in Community Law’, n 88 supra.

92 F. Jacobs, ‘Recent Developments in the Principle of Proportionality in European Community Law’, in E. Ellis (ed.) The Principle of Proportionality in the Laws of Europe (Hart, 1999).

93 C. Barnard, ‘Derogations, justifications and the four freedoms: Is state interest really protected?’ in C. Bernard and N. Odudo (eds.) The Outer Limits of European Union Law (Hart, 2009), at 273.

94 Ibid, 285, 289

95 Ibid, 289.

96 Ibid, 299.

97 Ibid, 285.

98 N. Nic Shuibhne and M. Maci, ‘Proving Public Interest: The Growing Impact of Evidence in Free Movement Case Law’ (2013) 50 Common Market Law Review 965.

99 Ibid, 980.

100 Ibid, 982; Case C-333/08, Commission v. France, [2010] ECR I-757, para 97. The authors also point out that there is little in the way of guidance to national courts about how to apply the more rigorous evidential tests (at 991) and a more general lack of procedural rules which can lead to confusion and uncertainty (at 1004).

101 European Commission Guidelines on the Applications of Article 81(3) (Official Journal No C 101 of 27.4.2004) (para 41).

102 N. Nic Shuibhne and M. Maci, ‘Proving Public Interest’, n 98 supra, 973. The CJEU is willing to conduct an enquiry on the grounds of proportionality but falling short of a “full scale review of the merits” (T. Tridimas, ‘Proportionality in Community Law’, n 88 supra, 84).

103 n 4 supra, paras 107 and 110.

104 KEA/CDES ‘Study on the economic and legal aspects of transfers of players’ n 41 supra.

105 Although it also noted there were relatively few disputes about transfer fees.

106 UEFA solidarity payments are paid to support domestic association infrastructure and clubs eliminated from UEFA competitions at qualification stage. The amount is tiny in comparison to that available for successful clubs and the report found that most solidarity payments went to clubs in the five commercially dominant leagues.

107 KEA/CDES ‘Study on the economic and legal aspects of transfers of players’ n 41 supra, 250.

108 Ibid, 249.

109 Ibid, 247.

110 Already supported in Lehtonen, n 85 supra.

111 N. Nic Shuibhne and M. Maci, ‘Proving Public Interest’, n 98 supra, 982

112 Case 191/97, Deliège v Ligue francophone de Judo et disciplines Associeés Asb [2000] ECR I-2549

113 E.g. J. Snell and M. Andenas, Restrictions on Free Movement, n 5 supra, 130-1.

114E.g. KEA/CDES ‘Study on the economic and legal aspects of transfers of players’ n 41 supra., 257.

115 See S. Weatherill, ‘The Olivier Bernard Case’, n 28 supra, 5.

116 KEA/CDES ‘Study on the economic and legal aspects of transfers of players’ n 41 supra., 254.

117 E. Szyszczak, ‘Competition and Sport’, n 27 supra, 110.

118 R. Parrish, ‘Social Dialogue in European Professional Football’, (2011) 17/2 European Law Journal 213. This is despite the fact that concern has been expressed that the social dialogue project is failing in terms of leading to anything other than negotiated settlements in either sport (R. Parrish, ‘Social Dialogue in European Professional Football’, 228-229) or more generally (B. Bercusson, European Labour Law, n 1 supra, 256).

119 Even if it was, if it is not working as promised, the Commission has the right to review it (A. Egger, and C. Stix-Hackl, ‘Sports and Competition Law’, n 37 supra, 91).

120 FIFPro Press Release 17/12/13 http://www.fifpro.org/news/news_details/2455



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