Free article section

You are reading a Free article. Apply for a subscription to access all the valuable information on the website Sports Law & Taxation

EDITORIAL

It is with much pleasure that we welcome readers to the December 2019 edition (citation: GSLTR 2019/4) of our ground-breaking journal and on-line database (www.gsltr.com): Global Sports Law and Taxation Reports (GSLTR). As usual, the past year has given rise to a wide range of interesting and challenging sports legal and tax issues, many of which we have covered in articles in this journal and also in topical posts on the GSLTR dedicated website. Once again, association football (soccer) has dominated the sporting legal and tax headlines during the past year and continues to be the world’s most favourite and lucrative sport and, as such, as we point out later, not without its controversies. According to the 2019 Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance, the European football market alone is now worth a record £ 25.1 billion (€ 28.4 billion).[1] With the continued importance, success and popularity of the women’s game and, in particular, the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the eighth edition of which, comprising 24 women’s national teams affiliated to FIFA, took place in France between 7 June and 7 July 2019, we devote the main part of this Editorial to a review of the main features of the FIFA Strategic Plan for Women’s Football, which has been contributed by Italian sports lawyer, Lucio Mazzei, based in the Milan Office of the English international law firm of Osborne Clarke, as follows. “There is an uneasy tension in the development of women's football. The game has undoubtedly made vast strides in recent years at every level. That said, it still significantly lags behind the men’s game in almost every respect, and there has been vocal criticism over equality and working conditions, in particular, from FIFPro, the global football player’s union. FIFA’s position in relation to the Women’s World Cup captures this dynamic. In October 2018, FIFA announced that they would (among other measures) double the prize money available to US$ 30 million, to be split between the 24 teams taking part in the 2019 tournament in France, and would grant, for the first time, clubs financial rewards for the participation of their players in the competition. Recently, FIFA decided to invest US$ 1 billion in women’s football, so doubling the amount of US$ 500 million that they had addressed before the 2019 FIFA Women World Cup. They justified this decision with the fact that the World Cup was an unexpected success and in view of this it was time to try to make women’s football gain the same level as the men’s game. All over the world, more than one billion people watched matches of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup: 993.5 million on home-TV; 481.5 million on the various digital broadcasting platforms; and 264 million people watched the final between the USA and the Netherlands. An impressive number! On 9 October 2018, FIFA published a report entitled Women’s Football Strategy with the aim of boosting the growth of women’s football through marketing and communication campaigns spread worldwide. In the report, FIFA showed its intention of collaborating with football stakeholders across the board to adopt innovative measures for women and girls and to make football become a sport open to all people, without any gender discrimination. FIFA wants to promote the growth of the game, both on and off the pitch, with the adoption of development programs; the institution of elite academies for women’s football; and the increase of the number of qualified coaches, instructors and referees. FIFA also wants to improve women’s competition through the redefinition of the qualifying stages for the next World Cup (the number of participating teams will be extended from 24 to 32); the creation of new international competitions (Women’s Nations League, FIFA Women World Cup for Clubs and some other competitions at youth level);  and the improvement of professional clubs with the goal of reaching more than 1.5 billion viewers for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Among the objectives of FIFA, there is also the promotion of the image of the best female football players, who will have the duty to increase the reputation of the entire women’s football movement and to encourage equality between men and women, ensuring that women will have a role in FIFA decision-making bodies. With the adoption of the Women’s Football Strategy, FIFA seeks to triple the number of female players by 2026; enhance the standards of women’s football clubs and leagues across all member associations; and double the number of associations which have organized youth leagues by 2026. In the shorter term, an important FIFA goal is to ensure that, by 2022, all FIFA member associations manage to develop effective football strategies and that there will be a greater cooperation between FIFA, the confederations and member associations. Moreover, women’s football could be a useful tool to draw public attention to concrete social and health problems, with the collaboration of NGOs to implement sustainable projects that could improve women’s lives all over the world. In the author’s view, it is pleasing to see that one of the main objectives of the Report is to set a women’s commercial programme which aims to ensure that, by 2022, at least one third of FIFA committee members will be women and that, by 2026, all FIFA member associations will have at least one woman present on their executive committees, with every member association allocating at least one seat on its executive committee to represent the interests of women in football. In this respect, it would be important for FIFA to incorporate the club licensing system, in line with male standards, as a development tool to raise the standards of clubs and leagues; to introduce training compensation and a solidarity mechanism for women, in order to reward and encourage academies for developing female football players; and to enhance the number of qualified female coaches by creating easier paths to gain qualifications and employment opportunities. Moreover, as another important step that FIFA should take is to guarantee that women can use the same facilities and structures as men and, in this sense, the obligation for European clubs to have an official women’s team was a good decision taken by football stakeholders. For example, in Italy, professional clubs of Serie A and Serie B must demonstrate to have a women’s football team, in order to sign up their men teams for the official leagues. In the author’s view, it is hoped that the FIFA decision to invest US$ 1 billion in women’s football will greatly help the development of the women’s game globally; and that this huge amount will be spent in the most appropriate way to pursue all the goals stated in the Women’s Football Strategy document, with the aim of increasing the overall “desirability” of women’s football as a product; making it more appealing and interesting for all people with the passion for sports; generating a positive feedback loop; and a substantial increase of the business around women’s football.” As readers will see from these remarks, there is a lot to play for in the further development of women’s football in the future. However, not all is financially rosy in football generally as Jonathan Copping points out in his article on “Football club insolvencies: time to change the ownership model?” As he notes in his introduction: “Away from the riches of the English Premier League, awash with its multi-billion pound broadcasting and shirt sponsorship deals that can run into the tens of millions of pounds, the economic landscape of football in England paints something of a different picture. Since the inception of the Premier League in the summer of 1992, there have been 56 cases of football clubs in the top six divisions of English Football entering into administration.” In the article, Copping deals with the recent cases of Bolton and Bury football clubs. Regarding Bolton, he comments as follows: “Following a six-year gap between 2013 and 2019, when no Premier League or Football League club entered insolvency, Bolton Wanderers (“Bolton”) entered administration on 13 May 2019. Bolton had already been relegated from the Championship, when they entered into administration, and have subsequently started the 2019-2020 season on minus 12 points. Bolton’s financial struggles have been well documented and it was common knowledge that Bolton had been trying to find a buyer for a long time. The last accounts (to 30 June 2017) filed prior to Bolton entering administration showed that Bolton posted an operating loss of £ 12.9 million. This is despite Bolton gaining promotion from League One to the Championship. Looking closer at the figures contained in the accounts showed that Bolton’s turnover was £ 8.3 million; however, wages and salaries totalled £ 12.6 million in addition to cost of sales at £ 4.9 million. Unfortunately, for Bolton the figures were not simply due to a one-off isolated season of poor financial performance; rather the figures were a continuation of very poor financial results over a number of seasons, largely stemming from Bolton’s time as a Premier League club. When Bolton entered into administration in May 2019, it had actually done a remarkable job of trying to drive down expenditure, including wages; however, such was the level of expenditure that it had contracted in the previous years, it was unable to continue operating without the assistance of the administration regime.” As regards Bury, Jonathan Copping writes as follows: “Whilst the story of Bolton’s insolvency woes can be traced back to its Premier League days, subsequent relegations and the inability to restructure the club quickly enough, Bury FC, only six miles from Bolton, has, at the same time as Bolton, been suffering a financial crisis and its owner, Steve Dale proposed a Company Voluntary Arrangement (“CVA”) in June 2019, which was accepted by the creditors. The Football League’s rules classify a CVA as an insolvency event. As such, Bury was deducted 12 points at the start of the 2019-2020 season. Whilst the underlying reason for Bury entering into administration is the same as that of Bolton – that is that both clubs have overstretched themselves financially – the Bury story is quite different to that of Bolton. In the 2018-2019 season, Bury was promoted from League Two to League One. During the season, the club was sold in December 2018 to businessman Steve Dale for £ 1. The fact that the club was sold for £ 1 is a sign that the club was in financial dire straits. Dale purchased the club from property-developer Stewart Day. The latest accounts filed by Bury, for the year ended 31 May 2017, show that Bury had a turnover of £ 4.6 million; however, its cost of sales was £ 3.6 million and its administrative expenses were £ 3.7 million, resulting in a loss of £ 2.8 million. The previous financial year also saw Bury suffer a loss of £ 2.5 million.” So, now read the article to find out the fate of both of these English football clubs and the reasons for the outcomes. Turning now to the other articles that we include in this issue. On the sports legal side, reflecting the above comments on women’s football, we feature the first part (the second and final part will appear in the March 2020 issue of GSLTR) of an article on the impact of gender discrimination on sport in the US by Paul J. Greene, Matthew D. Kaiser and Yelena G. Hazim. As will be seen, amongst other issues facing sports women are the gender pay gap between men and women. As the authors point out in their comprehensive and thought-provoking article “One of the most important issues in women’s sports recently has been the wage gap between male and female athletes. Overall, in the U.S., women earn about 85% of what men earn. And as the recent United States women’s national soccer team’s (“WST”) class action lawsuit against the USSF illustrates, this trend holds true for female athletes in the U.S. While this is not a U.S.-specific issue, considering the U.S. is seen as a progressive country, it is noteworthy when such failure is pervasive within the U.S.” We also publish sports law articles on: –  “Sports image rights and the Geovanni case” by Ian Blackshaw and Athena Constantinou; –  “Online sports betting, advertising and sponsorship under the new Dutch Remote Gambling Act” by Dolf Segaar and Tim Wilms; –  “Nothing to Declare? Doping control forms in adjudicating ADRVs” by Markus Manninen; –  “Court of Arbitration for Sport: The new Anti-Doping Division and other amendments to the CAS Code” by Rafael Braegger; –  “Sport and Human Rights: plea for a necessary coexistence” by Alexandre Miguel Mestre; –  “The Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Swiss Federal Tribunal: legal foundations and the Tribunal as gatekeeper of independence and fundamental freedoms” by Juan de Dios Crespo & Paolo Torchetti. On the sports tax side, we include articles on: –  “Asset protection for internationally successful athletes” by Dr. Marco Felder and Mag. iur. Rainer Sprenger, decribing the possibilities of a Liechtenstein foundation; –  “Can “football law” influence the VAT regime of services supplied by intermediaries in the football industry?”  by Andrea Parolini; –  “Sport in a post-brexit Europe” by Kevin Offer.   So, another year is drawing to an end and, as mentioned, has brought with it its own veritable crop of interesting and significant developments in sports law and sports-related tax law. No doubt, the New Year will also be full of other challenging sports legal and tax issues, which will keep sports lawyers, sports administrators and sports tax advisers well and truly - metaphorically speaking - on their toes! Not least, as pointed out in Kevin Offer’s article (referred to above), the legal and practical consequences in Europe of “brexit”, especially in relation to football and the recruitment of foreign players, when and if the United Kingdom finally leaves the European Union – now scheduled to take place by 31 January 2020. Also, we have the Summer Olympic Games, which are scheduled to take place in Tokyo, Japan, from 24 July to 9 August 2020, to look forward to, with the usual global interest and excitement. Finally, and as always, we would welcome and value your contributions in the form of articles and topical case notes and commentaries for our journal and also for posting on the GSLTR dedicated website www.gsltr.com. A number of you have already responded to this invitation, but, as they say, the more of you who do so,  the merrier! So, now read on and enjoy this information-packed December 2019 edition of GSLTR as we take this opportunity of wishing all our existing and new readers our sincere compliments of the season and also all the very best in their sporting endeavours, in whatever capacity, in 2020, the beginning of a new decade!   Dr. Rijkele Betten (Managing Editor) Prof. Dr. Ian S. Blackshaw (Consulting Editor)   December 2019   [1] See www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/press-releases/articles/european-football-market-worth-28-billion-euros-as-premier-league-clubs-lead-the-way-to-record-revenues.html (accessed 4 December 2019).

The Journal

Global Sports Law and Taxation Reports feature: articles; comparative surveys; commentaries on topical sports legal and tax issues and documentation.

The unique feature of Global Sports Law and Taxation Reports is that this Journal combines for the first time up to-date valuable and must-have information on the legal and tax aspects of sport and their interrelationships.

The Editors

The editors of  the Journal Sports Law & Taxation are Professor Ian Blackshaw and Dr Rijkele Betten, with specialist contributions from the world's leading practitioners and academics in the sports law and taxation fields.

The Editors

Managing editor
Dr. Rijkele Betten

Consulting editor
Prof. Dr. Ian S. Blackshaw

Editorial board

Prof. Guglielmo Maisto
Maisto e Associati, Milano

Dr. Dick Molenaar
All Arts Tax Advisors, Rotterdam

 

Mr. Kevin Offer
Hardwick & Morris LLP, London

Mr. Mario Tenore
Maisto e Associati, Milano

Address

Nolot BV
St. Jorisstraat 11
5211 HA  's-Hertogenosch
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.