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Recently, the Court of Appeal of Brussels dismissed the appeal filed by Doyen Sports Investments and the Belgian club, F.C. Seraign, questioning the illegality of the FIFA rules regarding Third Party Ownership (TPO) and Third Party Influence (TPI).
Said rules establish that:
a) TPO: No club or player may sign a contract with a third party which concedes to a third party the right to participate, whether partially or totally, in the value of a future transfer of a player from one club to another, or which grants rights related to a future signing or with the value of future signings.
b) TPI: No club shall sign a contract which allows opponent club/s and vice versa or third parties to assume a position in which they may influence employment matters, as well as regarding transfers related to independence, politics or the performance of club teams.
It is a question of much used legal figures over many years, mostly in South America where the economic situation of football clubs forced them to look for alternative financial support, whereby investors acquired certain economic rights over the players or the club. This implied that the investor would have the right, for example, to receive a percentage of future transfers of a player.
The problem with these figures, however, is in the convergence of the interests of the parties: economic interests vs. sporting interests. The investor may even come to have decision-making powers of attorney over a player or the club, which would cloud the purely sporting nature of the relations or the interests of the player himself regarding his future.
For these reasons, the FIFA decided to prohibit this type of sport-financial relationships which, given their constant evolution, came to have too much decision-making power in a market which, in line with the essence of the sport and competition, must safeguard the sporting interests of the factors in play (players, clubs).
The case in question arises from the disciplinary sanction (suspension and financial sanction) imposed by FIFA upon the club for having concluded two TPO agreements with the aforementioned investment fund, a prohibited practice, as explained in the foregoing. The club appealed before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the latter confirmed the sanction imposed by FIFA, but reduced the period of suspension. The Belgian club filed an annulation appeal against the ruling of the CAS before the Federal Swiss Court, alleging that such prohibitions by FIFA violated public order. Such intentions were dismissed and the Federal Swiss Court confirmed the arbitration award.
In turn, the Belgian club appealed before the courts in Belgium, which, having declared themselves competent to hear the case, passed judgment.
Thus, in resolution dated 12th December 2019, said court recognised the full effect as res judicata -a definite judgment no longer eligible for appeal- from the arbitration award issued on 9th March 2017 and the judgment of the Federal Swiss Court issued on 20th February 2018 regarding the same matter, and confirms the validity of the disciplinary decisions issued by the disciplinary committees of the FIFA for which F.C. Seraing was sanctioned for having violated the TPO and TPI rules.
Said resolution confirms that the appellants did not provide convincing arguments to the courts for questioning the legitimate objectives of FIFA rules.
Consequently, once more, an independent court declares that there is no reason to doubt the validity of the rules of FIFA regarding TPO and TPI rules pursuant to the legislation in force. These FIFA rules are emphatic, are essential for preserving the independence of the clubs and players and for guaranteeing the integrity of the matches and competitions.
The judgment passed by the Appeal Court of Brussels also decided to impose the costs of the procedure upon Doyen Sports Investments and F.C. Seraing.
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Barcelona, 20th December de 2019