The 2022-23 series will be given by Professor Stephen Weatherill, Emeritus Jacques Delors Professor of European Law. The series will be made up of three lectures to be given on Monday 14th, Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th November at 5:30pm in The Gulbenkian Lecture Theatre at the Faculty of Law.
The lectures will be presented in person with recordings made available at a later date. The event will not be live streamed.
We hope you will be able to join us.
'FIFA's business plan is to deny it has a business plan': how (and why) governing bodies in sport resist regulation, how (and why) they can be regulated better.
Overall Synopsis: Governing bodies in sport dream fondly of escaping legal supervision and instead enjoying autonomy to make their own choices. They typically advance some plausible arguments in favour of that prize, as well as some wildly implausible ones, and they devise clever strategies to achieve it - most of all, through commitment to arbitration in order to keep disputes 'in house'. But sometimes autonomy runs dry, and governing bodies find that they must defend their practices before courts. They commonly argue that 'sport is special': that legal rules should be interpreted in the peculiar context of professional sport. They typically advance some plausible arguments in favour of that interpretative sensitivity, as well as some wildly implausible ones. The case law of the EU's Court of Justice offers a rich store of insights into just when sport is truly special, and what that entails at law. Consider the transfer system, rules on player nationality, and anti-doping: the pending 'European SuperLeague' case is just the latest episode. And yet: isn't it time to be more ambitious? Intriguing though the application of competition (anti-trust) law to sporting practices is, it is ex post, reactive and ad hoc. Should sports law be more proactive? Isn't it time to clean up sporting governance by setting aside autonomy disciplined from time to time by the accidents of litigation in favour of ex ante regulation pursuant to a comprehensive legislative regime? Action of this type taken unilaterally by states is unlikely to be effective, and so it is the European Union which is the strongest candidate to deliver systematic reform. The prize is huge: let's make sport better.
Lecture 3 - Making sport better
Much of sports law involves checking whether practices pursued by governing bodies are compatible with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the sport is played. That is: external sports law is applied to internal sports law. But this is ex post, reactive and ad hoc. Should sports law be more proactive? In particular, have the many scandals which have plagued major sports in recent years deprived governing bodies of credibility when they claim autonomy, and should instead legislative pre-conditions – on representation, on equality, on accountability, on governance generally, on compliance with human rights, and perhaps too on the shape of the preferred Model(s) of Sport(s) – be imposed on those that wish to act as governing bodies and to offer sports events to the market? That is, is it time for sports law to move beyond its traditional focus on competition (anti-trust) law and become more actively regulatory in character? If it is, who can do it and who should do it? Action taken unilaterally by states is unlikely to be effective, and so it is the European Union which is the strongest candidate to deliver systematic reform, but does it and should it have the authority to assume such a role? We must engage with questions about public regulation and private autonomy, relative expertise, regulatory capture, legitimacy, and whether EU rules will become global standards (the ‘Brussels effect’). But the prize is huge: let's make sport better. There's a World Cup next week, time is short.