Monday, October 3, 2011

FIFA vs. National Sovereignty

Today at Play the Game 2011, William Gaillard, (director of communications and public affairs for UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) and Senior Advisor to Michel Platini UEFA president) was asked in the Q&A following his presentation about the FC Sion case now being arbitrated. He had a strong reaction, and not in favor of FC Sion (A paraphrase: "Will we soon be challenged on whether having only 11 players on the pitch is an infringement of freedom of employment?").

The basic issue underlying the FC Sion case is what I have characterized as lex sportiva vs. lex imperium -- or the law of sport versus the law of the state. It might seem obvious that the law of the state should have primacy in all situations, but reality is not so simple.

The latest example of what can happen when the rules promulgated by sports associations (and especially powerful ones, like FIFA) conflict with national sovereignty comes from Brazil:
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff plans to meet the president of soccer's world governing body on Monday to resolve a legal dispute over the 2014 World Cup, the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper reported.

FIFA has asked Brazil to suspend several laws while it hosts the World Cup, including one that requires theatrical and sports events to provide half-price tickets to people over 65, the paper reported on Saturday.

The laws, FIFA says, threaten to increase the governing body's costs, reduce its ability to protect its brands and sponsors' trademarks and to saddle FIFA with other legal liabilities, Estado said, citing Orlando Silva, Brazil's sports minister.

Rousseff plans to meet FIFA President Joseph Blatter in Brussels on Monday and is ready to compromise on a series of FIFA complaints, Silva told the newspaper.
This reads as if President Rousseff is negotiating with Sepp Blatter not a peer head of state (which would be remarkable enough), but someone far more powerful. So powerful in fact that Rousseff is apparently ready to change laws set through democratically legitimate domestic institutions to ensure that FIFA's costs are not too onerous. Ahem.

The FT understates the circumstances:
[A]ny meeting between Rousseff and Fifa’s head, Sep Blatter, promises to be as interesting as anything on the pitch.
When lex sportiva meets lex imperium interesting things happen. That is one reason why the case of FC Sion is so interesting.  Stay tuned -- Part II coming soon.


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