Editor’s Note: James’ post will be his last with the Marquette Sports Law Society Blog (SLS Blog), as he will be graduating in May with the Sports Law Certificate. The SLS Blog cannot thank James enough for his year-long work covering International Sports and providing excellent insight on the wide range of legal issues involved. We wish him the best of luck with his future endeavors! 

As I end my law school journey and enter the realm of law, it’s interesting to see how my perspective on sports continues to evolve. Instead of merely looking at issues from a journalistic perspective, my mind now sees the legal and business issues associated with sports.

With that in mind, here are five issues I see developing in a short time span.

FIFA, Israel and Palestine

This situation has not garnered a lot of attention in the United States, but how it is ultimately resolved will have huge ramifications going forward for all three entities. FIFA is attempting to resolve the issue of six Jewish soccer teams in Israeli settlements that currently reside within the West Bank.[1]

Per Article 72 of the FIFA bylaws, football clubs that are FIFA member affiliates, such as the Israel Football Association (IFA), may not play on the territory of other football associations without the other association’s permission.[2]  In this case, Palestine and the Palestinian Football Association have been recognized since 1998 by FIFA. Further complicating matters is Israel plays in European competitions while Palestine competes in Asia.

I will explore the intricacies of the debate for my seminar paper, but the issue has a larger context for one big reason: If FIFA decides to ultimately interject itself into the political dispute—regardless of what side benefits—it will likely have to deal with other thorny political issues (Ukraine, Russia and Crimea; People’s Republic of China/Taiwan) in the not-to-distant future.

Brexit and the English Premier League

Although this is not an immediate issue, the league must address a couple of issues that have long-range implications. First, the issue of homegrown players may have to be legislatively addressed as immigration exemptions would be required to keep many of the league’s top players.[3]  This is based on the European Union’s free movement of players.[4]

Otherwise, Premier League giants like Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United will be forced to sell top-tier players to maintain a certain quota of English-born players. Further, will England still be the top draw for football players if the British pound continues to be relatively weak? Will this have an impact on the league’s performance in European competitions? [5]  Speaking of European competitions…

Champions League Restructure

Starting in 2018, Europe’s richest competition becomes easier for the largest teams and leagues stay in. UEFA recently approved a play to allow the top four teams in the top four leagues—currently Spain, England, Germany and Italy—to qualify four teams to the group stage of the Champions League.[6] This compromise arose after negotiations floated the idea of a breakaway “European Super League” for at least three years. This would guarantee one half of the group stage teams from the top four leagues each year—adding a significant revenue stream to each league in a competition that pays out 1.3 billion euros in 2016-17.[7]

USA-Mexico-Canada 2026 World Cup Bid

FIFA shook up the 2026 World Cup by expanding the competition to 48 nations.[8]   North America is prepared to revolutionize the way a large spectator event is hosted. The United States, Canada and Mexico recently announced a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup in all three countries.[9]

Political logistics aside, this is the most ambitious bid ever. Japan and South Korea held the 2002 World Cup while Poland and Ukraine co-hosted the 2012 European Championships.[10]   Expansion likely allows all three host nations to automatically qualify for the tournament should FIFA approve the bid.

The expansion poses numerous logistical issues, including where matches will be played. Sixty of the eighty matches are scheduled as of now to be hosted by the U.S. with Canada and Mexico to host ten matches each.[11]   Although approval will not likely come until 2026, the fact CONCACAF last hosted the World Cup in 1994 (United States), the apparent strength of the bid and the potential for a shattering amount of revenue for FIFA (the ’94 games were the highest selling games ever) and it seems like a slam dunk. But as FIFA and the 2022 World Cup bid showed, nothing is ever completely safe.

Olympic bids shrinking fast

Will the last country willing to host the International Olympic Committee’s flagship events please turn out the lights? Much like the 2022 Winter Olympic bid, the 2024 Summer Games are down to just two bidders. The Winter Games, featured bids from Beijing, China, and Almaty, Kazakhstan, with Beijing (the 2008 Summer Games hosts) selected despite a notable lack of snow nearby.

Although there are only two bids on the table, both feature cities with strong infrastructure—Los Angeles and Paris.[12]  A third city, Budapest, Hungary, recently dropped out of the bidding process.[13]  International politics cloud both bids with the recent U.S. election results and the upcoming French elections as well as recent terror attacks in the city.[14]  Further clouding the Olympics is the recent lack of bidders in the process. Only four cities in the last two Olympic cycles have come up for full bid and the infrastructure needs required to host a large sporting event came fully into light during the recent Rio Games.[15]

Going forward, it will be very interesting to see what cities even attempt to bid for an Olympics. Not long ago, bidding for an Olympics put cities and countries on the map. Now, countries and politicians wonder if it’s worth it.[16]

Follow James on Twitter @jameswoldbdc and connect with him on LinkedIn


[1] Adam Rasgon, FIFA Postpones Making Decision on Six West Bank Soccer Clubs, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 12, 2017, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/FIFA-postpones-making-decision-on-six-West-Bank-soccer-clubs-478279.

[2] FIFA Statutes, FIFA (Apr. 2016), http://resources.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/generic/02/78/29/07/fifastatutsweben_neutral.pdf.

[3] EPL Clubs Fear Impact as Brexit Process Begins, USA Today, March 30, 2017, https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/soccer/2017/03/30/epl-clubs-fear-impact-as-brexit-process-begins/99832230/.

[4] Treaty on The Functioning of the European Union, C 326/47, Art. 45–48, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:2bf140bf-a3f8-4ab2-b506-fd71826e6da6.0023.02/DOC_2&format=PDF.

[5] EPL, supra note 3.

[6] Gabrielle Marcotti, Champions League set to approve four teams from top league – sources, ESPNFC, Aug. 15, 2016, http://www.espnfc.us/uefa-champions-league/story/2930481/champions-league-set-to-add-guaranteed-slots-for-top-leagues-sources.

[7] 2016/17 Champions League Revenue Distribution, UEFA, Aug. 25, 2016, http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/news/newsid=2398575.html.

[8] Grant Wahl, It’s the End of the World Cup as We Know It: Expansion to 48 Ruins FIFA’s Showpiece, SI.com, Jan. 10, 2017, https://www.si.com/planet-futbol/2017/01/10/fifa-world-cup-expansion-48-teams-2026-gianni-infantino.

[9] Andrew Das, U.S., Canada and Mexico Announce Shared Bid for 2026 World Cup, N.Y. Times, Apr. 10, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/10/sports/soccer/us-canada-and-mexico-launch-joint-bid-for-2026-world-cup.html?_r=0.

[10] UEFA Euro 2012 Matches, UEFA, last visited Apr. 17, 2017, http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/season=2012/matches/.

[11] Das, supra note 9.

[12] David Wharton, Olympic Bids by L.A., 2 Other Cities Face Issues, L.A. Times, Feb. 3, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/sports/olympics/la-sp-olympics-2024-bid-20170203-story.html.

[13] 2024 Olympics: Budapest to Drop Bid to Host Games, BBC, Feb. 22, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/sport/olympics/39059452.

[14] Wharton, supra note 12.

[15] Rio Olympics Causes ‘Real Problems’ in Brazil, Fortune, Aug. 22, 2016, http://fortune.com/2016/08/22/rio-olympics-problems-brazil/.

[16] Dave Zirin, Now That the Games Are Over, the Real Olympic Drama Begins in Rio, The Nation, Aug. 22, 2016, https://www.thenation.com/article/now-that-the-games-are-over-the-real-olympic-drama-begins-in-rio/.