European Leagues target football governance reform

European Leagues target football governance reform

Good governance in football – Leagues ask for concrete reforms

The thirty largest European Leagues are targeting good governance as the most critical issue currently facing football. Representing a universe of almost 1000 professional clubs across Europe, the EPFL member Leagues, gathered at their General Assembly in Kiev on 25 October 2011, have reinforced their determination for greater transparency and democracy within the sport, through the direct participation of the key stakeholders, such as the Leagues, in the discussions and decisions of matters in which they have serious concerns and legitimate interests.

For years, the European Leagues have been calling for a proper reform of the decision-making structures of international sports federations. The measures unveiled by the FIFA President last Friday, involving the creation of new task forces and a multi-stakeholder ?Committee on Good Governance? including Leagues’ representatives, are regarded as a positive ?first step”. But, the EPFL stresses, much more needs to be done to accomplish the expected reforms and to effectively restore the credibility and transparency both within FIFA and the global game. Aware of its responsibilities and legitimacy, the EPFL is therefore keen to cooperate with FIFA to implement the needed reforms within the earliest possible deadline.

These and other pressing challenges facing will soon be addressed between high-level delegations of EPFL and UEFA. Within a framework of constructive dialogue and cooperation, governance, international calendar and other pertinent matters to the EPFL and its thirty member Leagues will be part of the agenda.

Culminating the General Assembly, which counted with the presence of FIFA, UEFA, ECA and Transparency International representatives, the EPFL Chairman Sir David Richards assured: “For the European Leagues there is no way back. The whole world is watching us and expecting concrete reforms. If this opportunity is not grasped, not only will this be detrimental to FIFA, but to the game that we all cherish”. “The time is right for turning a new era in the governance of European and world football?, added the EPFL CEO Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros, convinced that ?evolution? will lead the way to ?better decision-making, problem-solving and greater cohesion within the football family”.

Within this context, Sylvia Schenk from Transparency International stated, during the EPFL General Assembly: “All stakeholders within and outside of FIFA have to go on pushing for reforms. The EPFL has today underlined its strong commitment to play an important role for transparency and integrity in professional football”.

International match calendar – Leagues not receptive to increase of dates

Voicing the views and concerns of hundreds of clubs across Europe, the European Leagues call FIFA for a proper and inclusive review of the International Match Calendar, with the engagement of the EPFL and other key stakeholders in that process, in order to find a proper balance between national team and club football, safeguard players’ health and facilitate the Leagues’ fixture planning.
The European Leagues insist that the current situation surrounding the International Match Calendar can and must be improved. The Leagues also reiterate their willingness to consider all possible solutions, but make clear that will not endorse any proposal to increase dates, in particular weekend dates, for international matches in detriment of national league football.

EPFL Global Strategy Plan unanimously approved

The EPFL Global Strategy Plan for 2011/12 was approved by unanimity by the General Assembly. Four top strategic flags will guide the activities and initiatives to be pursued by the Association and its Members:

  • Good governance (including democracy, transparency, accountability and proper representation of the key stakeholders in the decision-making bodies of international sports federations)
  • Financial transparency, stability and solidarity
  • Integrity of sport (including sports betting regulation and zero tolerance policy against match-fixing)
  • Sustainable development of the Leagues’ business models (including the protection of intellectual property rights and promotion of new business opportunities for the Leagues and clubs)

With these key priorities in mind, during the season, the EPFL is already working on a series of projects, which, among others, include an EPFL Convention on Good Financial Governance, the implementation of the EPFL Football Betting Manifesto, the Code of Conduct on Sports Betting Integrity and the Betting Operators Standards, as well as the development of guidelines for Leagues and clubs on Supporter Charters. In order to enhance information and knowledge sharing , the EPFL intends to organise a series of conferences and workshops on specific matter of great relevance for professional football, such as youth development, fan management, safety and security, players’transfers and insurance, social responsibility and sports betting, just to name few.
The EPFL 2010/2011 Annual Report of Activities and Financial Report, as well as the 2011/2012 Budget were also approved by unanimity by the General Assembly.

EPFL Statement about ECJ’s verdict on QC Leisure case

The verdict of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on the so-called QC Leisure case was another important topic addressed at the Leagues’ conclave. This is clearly a complex ruling, which affects rights owners, broadcasters and many others across many sectors.

The EPFL notes that a system of licences granting absolute territorial exclusivity on an EU member State basis is against EU law. The EPFL also notes that the screening in a public house for broadcasts containing protected works requires authorisation.

EPFL analysis of the CJEU’s preliminary ruling concludes that exclusive licences are not called into question, and that the ruling is confined to satellite broadcasting. Also, the CJEU has clearly confirmed that broadcasting in a public house is a ?communication to the public? within the meaning of the EU Copyright Directive, and therefore cannot be carried out without prior authorisation of rights holders.

One area that has not been highlighted in commentary to date, and which the EPFL strongly welcomes, is the clear view of the Court at paragraphs 100-104 that Member States have the right to grant sports organisations with specific rights and protection which are equivalent to those afforded under copyright laws. An example is the “Sports Event Organisers Right” under French law, which approach the EPFL calls on all Member States to adopt, and on the European Commission to promote in its consideration of IP and broadcasting issues and, for instance, in establishing the legal relationship between betting and sport. The judgment is firm in its recognition of the specific and original nature of sports competitions and their inherent social and cultural value in Europe and the virtue of a strong rights framework.

Kiev, 25 October 2011

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