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Play On? An Evaluation of FIFA’s Legal Regime and Its Foundation in Alternative Dispute Resolution

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

By: Blaine Sanders

Few associate the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, with its legal regime. Rather, and understandably so, sports fans and commentators tend to focus on World Cups, corruption, or even the FIFA video game. Yet, FIFA’s role in the sport of soccer extends well beyond what receives the most commercial attention. FIFA shoulders the burden of regulating soccer’s member associations, national teams, clubs, players, and countless other personnel through its FIFA Statutes. This is a considerable undertaking, which FIFA achieves through its comprehensive system of alternative dispute resolution. Soccer is now a global business, largely due to the economic might of the transfer market. This marketplace is the forum where clubs swap players and money in sometimes-complicated transnational business transactions. FIFA’s internal institutions and the Court of Arbitration for Sport serve to resolve legal disputes resulting from dealings in the transfer market. FIFA’s legal regime mostly functions as intended, though it is also subject to criticism as it supplants domestic court systems and their jurisdiction over potential contract and labor law disputes. This Note maintains that FIFA’s legal regime should continue to exist in its current structure, but also argues that moderate reforms would improve the efficacy and legitimacy of its institutions and relationship with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. More specifically, this Note proposes the adoption of a Players’ Bill of Rights and two amendments to the FIFA Statutes concerning arbitration. Not only would such reforms strengthen the stature of FIFA’s legal regime, but they would also better inform soccer-related actors of their rights and obligations under FIFA’s governance. While FIFA rightly prides itself on the success of its legal regime, there is room to improve. This Note’s proposals do not constitute an overhaul, but rather an acknowledgement that FIFA must continue to adapt as soccer flourishes in terms of popularity and wealth.

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10 nov 2023

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