The future of the football business is in the hands of a Belgian court
Belgium can start a new revolution in the football business, as it was 20 years ago, with the Bosman rule, which has changed the transfer market forever.
On January 18, 2018, the Brussels Court of Appeal is expected to adjudicate a small club in the Liège region and the Doyen Sports investment fund against three of FIFA and UEFA’s main rules of financial fair play, the ban on the possession of players’ rights third party (TPO) and the legitimacy of the Court of Arbitration in Lausanne.
The plaintiffs insist that the case be referred to the European Court of Justice because they believe that the rules of FIFA and UEFA violate the fundamental laws of the European Union: free competition, free movement of capital, freedom of investment, free movement of workers and services.
A similar case already took place in 2015 when a Brussels court of first instance satisfied a complaint by football agent Daniel Striani and redirected it to the European Court of Justice. He then attacked the rules of financial fair play as contradictory to the EU’s fundamental rules. The European Court, however, considered it unacceptable and “useless” the inquiry into the Belgian court’s decision and did not consider it, which was accepted as a victory for UEFA.
At the same time, the trial, which is expected to expire on January 18th, was also filed. The same lawyers working on the Bosman case and Striani’s case, Jean-Louis Dupont and Martin Hissel, work on it.
The claimants are FC Seren and the ubiquitous investment fund Doyen Sports, which had a solid clientele headed by Neimar, Falcao and a bunch of other players before the ban on third-party competition. They want the ban to be replaced by stricter regulation.
In their motives, they point out that FIFA does not currently have such strict regulations on the ownership of clubs that are often dominated by mobsters. They are exemplary and circumventing the ban, with investment funds most often buying a club that sign today with a football player and sells it the next day, retaining a percentage of its rights, which in practice makes TPO meaningless. This was the case with the Uruguayan club Deportivo Maldonado, owned by the management agency Stellar Group.
The Lausanne court is being attacked, because it is precisely where the disputes with FIFA and UEFA are resolved, and he does not apply European law, but at the same time he is economically and politically dependent on the two mighty international organizations.
The Brussels court decision is only the first step that can seriously shake the current state of affairs, namely the right of FIFA and UEFA to regulate all economic aspects of sport and to have an independent judiciary. The interest in doing so is enormous. Attacked rules definitely violate many business interests.