The forthcoming legal challenge against UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) will be heard the Court of First Instance in Brussels, Belgium on Thursday 26 & Friday 27 February 2015.
- The hearing takes place at Tribunal de Première Instance (Bruxelles), Place Poelaert 1, 1000 Brussels.
- Commences at 09.00 on Thursday 26 February. It is expected to last two days.
- Bosman lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont will be leading the legal challenge on behalf of player agent Daniel Striani as well as fans of Paris St Germain and Manchester City FC.
- There will be a defence team on behalf of UEFA defending FFP.
- Members of the public including the media can attend the hearing.
Background to the hearing:
- The Court is being asked to judge FFP's infringement of EU competition law and the right to free movement (of workers, services and capital).
- Specifically, the legal argument is that the break-even requirement of FFP is in breach of article 101.2 of the EU Treaty. This article basically prohibits cartels and other agreements that could disrupt free competition and, therefore, have an impact on consumer protection.
- The action is being led by player agent Daniel Striani (who makes the case his business prospects will be limited) as well as fans from PSG and MCFC, as well as other individual fans (who claim their interests as consumers are being adversely affected).
- In October the European Commission decided not to investigate the Striani complaint, explaining that "the Court of Brussels is well placed to ensure compliance with European competition law including by making a reference for a preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice".
- That decision is now being challenged by Striani and the EU Ombudsman has agreed to investigate on his behalf. The issue under review is whether the then competition commissioner (Joaquin Almunia from Spain) had a conflict of interest in preventing that investigation. The grounds for this are that Almunia is an associate of both UEFA President Michel Platini and Athletico Bilbao which is a beneficiary of FFP. Please look at the European Ombudsman website athttps://bit.ly/1JpBDF7
- At the same time, the Commission decided the complaint by the fansisadmissible and an investigation by the EC's competition authorities is underway under the guidance of the new competition commissioner, Denmark's Margrethe Vestager.
- The ultimate function of EU competition law is consumer protection so the European Commission will be looking at whether football fans are being unfairly disadvantaged by FFP.
- This was confirmed in a European Commission answer to a question tabled by a Belgian MEP in the European Parliament seeking clarification from the European Commission on its view of FFP. More at https://bit.ly/1y6x4UG
- Including the action in the Belgium courts and the investigation by the European Commission, there are now challenges to FFP in 4 separate jurisdictions.
- In January 2015 another legal action was placed before the French courts on behalf of PSG fans against UEFA, the French football federation (FFF) and the French professional football league. This action is based on the same legal arguments as the Belgian action (see attached press release in French). A court hearing is yet to be set.
- In early February 2015 a complaint was also lodged with the Swiss Competition Authority (COMCO) about UEFA's FFP. The plaintiffs argue that COMCO should ensure that Swiss territory cannot be misused as a safe haven for international organizations (such as UEFA which is based in Nyon) to adopt and implement anticompetitive agreements that affect trade not only in Switzerland but across all of Europe.
More detail about the different dimensions of the case was published this week in a blog onLawInSport.com. To view that article go to - https://www.lawinsport.com/