In the second part of the this article the author examines Articles 59-118 of the controversial Greek Sports Law, 2725/1999, and explains how these pertain to professional sport in Greece.
Professional sports leagues are established under a ministerial decision from the Minister of Cultural affairs on receiving an application from the representative sports federation. Clubs that wish to participate in a professional league have to establish a department of paid athletes and depute the economic administration to a natural or legal person. Cubs that have established a department of paid athletes can modify this department and establish a sports incorporated company based on Law 2190/1920 “for incorporated companies” and the Sports Law.
Sports incorporated companies do not differ from other typical incorporated companies. The purpose of the sports incorporated companies as it is defined in article 65: the establishment, organization and administration of a professional sports club; the organisation of official or friendly sports games in a professional level; the participation of the club in other sports games; and the organization of sports events of general interest.
Sports incorporated companies must include their names the name of the amateur sports club that the company originates from, the field of sports that are going to participate in and the words “incorporated company” and use the symbols and the colours of the amateur sports club. As in all incorporated companies, the owners of the sports incorporated companies are shareholders that express themselves through the general assembly. The conditions under which someone can participate in a sports incorporated company and the restrictions of this participation are cited in articles 67-74 of the Sports Law.
The concept of the Sports Law which reflects the general policy about sports in Greece is that all sports private actors are under the supervision of the State. As incorporated companies, sports incorporated companies are controlled by the Ministry of Development concerning the typical part of their establishment. For all other issues a Committee of Professional Sports has been established under the supervision of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. The Committee’s main purpose is to ensure the compliance of all sports incorporated companies with the Sports Law.
The competences of the Committee of Professional Sports are analysed in article 77A. The Committee audits the books of the companies and their economic relations with the athletes, the coaches and all the workers. Furthermore, the Committee reports the violations of the Sports Law on behalf of the companies to the administrative and judicial authorities and has the power to impose a fine (1,000-300,000 euro) without regard to the further judicial decision. This fine can be escalated by the Minister of Cultural Affairs.
Articles 85-96 defines the relationship between professional athletes and the departments of professional sports or sports incorporated companies. A professional athlete or athlete with repayment1 is the one that has a relationship based on labour law with a sports incorporated company or a department of paid athletes of a sports club. Therefore, any type of agreement between the club and the athlete is based on labour law and the Sports Law. The details concerning the lowest possible budget, the type of the contract and every other issue related to the status of professional athletes are decided by Article 87 Sports Law; this is based on an agreement among the sports federation, the association of sports incorporated companies and the association of the professional athletes. The validity of a contract between an athlete and a professional club fluctuates between 6 months and 5 years.2
Football, being the most developed sport at a professional level in Greece, has a huge impact on the economy and as such the Sports Law specifies the transfer status and the economic payoff of the trainee football players. Trainee football players, during their training period, cannot be transferred to any club in Greece or abroad without the acquiescence of the sports company that the training academy belongs to. According to Article 90 (1), athletes below the age of 18 cannot sign a professional contract. If the sports company decides the trainees after the age of 18 are under the obligation to sign a special contract of 5 years, otherwise they obtain the free player status. After 2 years pass, the team can unilaterally terminate the contract without any consequences and the player obtains the free player status. The monthly wages of a trainee football player are set by the sports company but cannot be less than that stated in Article 87 of the Sports Law. The law recognises the clubs invest time and money into the development of a player and gives priority to those clubs to negotiate with their players.
Concerning the registration of players in a club, the Sports Law does not allow any negotiation process to start between a professional athlete and a club other than the one that he/she is registered within the official registration period.3 All contracts or agreements signed as above are void; the only exception is for athletes that have the free player status. Clubs that have not fulfilled their tax and insurance obligation cannot sign any athletes; every contract or agreement signed is void and therefore the participation of those athletes in sports games is illegal.
Articles 108-112 make a specific reference to professional football. Article 108 states that professional football in Greece is a sport where teams are football incorporated companies participate. The professional divisions in Greece are the Greek Superleague, the Second Division and the Third Division. In order for a football incorporated company to participate in the Greek Superleague they shall have at least 1.000.000 euro as a stock, 500.000 euro stock for participating in the Second Division and the lowest stock that any other incorporated company shall have as is mentioned in Law 2190/1920 “for incorporated companies” for participating in the Third Division.
Articles 113-118 refer to professional basketball. Being the second most popular sport in Greece, basketball plays an important role in the sports culture of Greece; it also has a quite big economic affect on society. The definition of the professional basketball player is similar to the one of the professional football player as it is mentioned in the paragraph above. The professional basketball divisions in Greece are the A1 and the A2 National Divisions. For the participation in the A1 National Division a basketball incorporated company shall have at least 235.000 euro and in the A2 Division 147.000 euro.
Justice in sports
Another important issue that the Sports Law contains is the one of disciplinary and criminal responsibility. In Greece there are two level of jurisdiction in sports:
- The jurisdictional body of first instance, the jurisdiction of which is analysed in article 120 of the Sports Law; and,
- The Supreme Council of Dispute Resolution in Sports, which acts as a “court of appeal” concerning the decisions of the jurisdictional body of first instance.
The jurisdictional body of first instance is competent of trying cases concerning bribery in sports, objections for the result of a game and disciplinary violations. The decisions of the jurisdictional body of first instance can be appealed in the Supreme Council of Dispute Resolution in Sports (under the conditions set out in article 121 of the Sports Law) as well as the decisions of the sports associations and of the disciplinary bodies of sports clubs. In the districts of Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, a special Public Prosecutor is appointed who is responsible for the criminal proceedings of crimes committed during a sports event and because of a sports event.
Doping is a major problem that sports authorities have to combat worldwide. Athletes resort to chemical substances to achieve better results, violating the rules and values of sport as well as putting their health in danger.4
To combat doping in sport within Greece the Greek the National Council for Fighting Doping has been established. The Council is responsible for the general policy adopted within this specific field and supervises the anti-doping control plan in co-operation with the sports associations. Furthermore the Council designs and promotes special informational programmes to explain the fatal effects of substances abuse to athletes and the impairment that doping cause to the values of sports. In addition the Council proposes the changes needed in order for Greece to be compliant with the anti-doping policies that are adopted internationally and within the Council of Europe.
Where there is a violation of the anti-doping rules the penalty can be in disciplinary and criminal level. According to article 128H for an athlete the disciplinary measures can be:
- Written reprimand;
- Temporary ban on participation in any kind of sporting events and tournaments for all sports;
- Lifetime ban on participation in any kind of sporting events and tournaments for all sports;
- Deprivation of all kinds of benefits and advantages of the State and the sports federations and any tax exemptions and interruption of any fellowship that has been granted;
- Return of any financial benefit given from the day of the violation;
- Fine up to 100.000 euro for professional athletes;
- Deduction or exclusion from participation in government, body or committee of any sports organisation.
For all other actors of sports the measures can be:
- Temporary ban on participation in organising and conducting meetings and sporting events and exercise its duties in conducting the above;
- Lifetime ban on participation in organising and conducting meetings and sporting events and exercise its duties in conducting the above;
- Deduction from the administrative position held in any sport and ban from any sports body representation;
- Fine up to 200.000 euro for actors related to professional sports;
- Referral to a special commission, the Commission of Sporting Attitude to Article 130 of the Sports Law.
There are criminal sentences (article 128Θ) for those who violate the anti-doping rules. For those found guilty of supplying athletes with any of the substances mentioned in article 128Γ of the Sports Law, there is a minimum 2 years of imprisonment and up to 10 years if the athlete supplied which the substance is under 18 years old; the same sentences apply for the producers of banned substances. Imprisonment up to 2 years can face an athlete that uses one of the illegal substances of article 128Γ.
The Sports Law provides a clear graduated set of disciplinary sanction and criminal sentences for crimes of violence and doping in sport. However, it has been claimed that Sports Law goes to far and is makes the administration of sport unnecessarily more complicate; too many committees and councils have been established on its provisions, with concerns being raised over their competence, creating a more bureaucratic sports system.
The constitutional recognition of sports is rare among the constitutions of most nation states. It can be argued that the protection given under article 16 (9) of the Greek Constitution was sufficient for the State to protect and develop the sports culture within Greece. As it stands the Greek State has tried to protect the values of sport by exerting controls of all organisations and associations related to sports. It remains to be seen if this encroachment of the self-regulation of sport is a step too far.
Written by Konstantinos Margaritis.
1 The FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfers of Players do not recognize the term “athlete with repayment” (article 2). In practice the separation in Greek Sports Law is almost out of importance.
2 The Greek Sports Law is at that point in conformity with article 18 (2) of the FIFA Regulations on Status and Transfer of Players.
3 For example the registration periods in football are cited on article 6 (2) of the FIFA Regulations on Status and Transfer of Players.
4 A comprehensive reference of all illegal substances can be found in article 128Γ of the Sports Law.
- P. D. Dagtoglou, “Constitutional Law Human Rights A”, Ant. N. Sakkoulas Publishers, Athens-Komotini, 2nd edition, 2005 (in Greek).
- S. Kousoulis, A. Malatos, “Sports Legislation”, Ant. N. Sakkoulas Publishers, Athens-Komotini, 2002 (in Greek).
- A. Loverdos, “The Protection of Sports as an Individual and Social Right”, Proceedings of 1st international conference of sports law, Athens 1993 (in Greek).
- A. Malatos, “Scientific Approach to Sports Law”, Ant. N. Sakkoulas Publishers, Athens-Komotini, 2006 (in Greek).
- P. Poulis, “Introduction to Public Law”, Ant. N. Sakkoulas Publishers, Athens-Komotini, 3rd edition, 2007 (in Greek).