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Topical Discussion

General note: This is part of a series of topical discussions written for the public, with special attention to the sports media. Feedback from reporters are particularly welcome directly to Steve Ross at

Institute Director Participates in Analysis of New Controversial Rules for European Soccer Clubs

The governing board for European soccer, UEFA, has recently promulgated “Financial Fair Play” rules for clubs seeking to participate in the lucrative Champions and Europa Leagues. Most controversial are requirements that clubs’ expenses match revenues over a three-year period, and even more controversially that subsidies from wealthy owners not be included in “football revenue” for purposes of the break-even requirement.

The rules are briefly summarized and introduced by Stefan Szymanski, a leading British sports economist who now teaches at the University of Michigan:

Szymanski’s more detailed critique of the FFP rules can be found at and

Institute Director Stephen Ross offers an American legal perspective:, raising questions about what problems the FFP rules solve, but offering a less critical view about the non-economic “fairness” concerns about wealthy “sugar daddies” who subsidize certain clubs.

Stephen Weatherill, a leading European sports lawyer who teaches at the University of Oxford, offers his views:

Professors Ross and Weatherill exchange further views. View the discussion

The general blog, sponsored by Professor Szymanski, offers readers an opportunity to comment.

Sports Law & Policy Institute Offers Analyses of NFL Labor Dispute

As NFL owners have locked out players, and players have gone to court to seek an injunction barring the lockout, the Institute offers two White Papers providing background on the issue. This website provides a number of resources for interested media, scholars, and members of the public. 

Penn State Institute for Sports Law, Policy, Offers Analysis of Player Recruitment Scandal

  • “Exploiting Kids: The Scandal in Agent Recruiting of Athletically-Gifted Teens” details the conflicting pressures on O.J. Mayo, a young athlete of professional basketball promise who played collegiate basketball for one year before his NBA career. Published today on the Institute’s website, the analysis details the potential liability under state and federal law of individuals and organizations that may have exploited Mayo before and during his collegiate career. The authors suggest reforms to the NCAA Rules that would reduce exploitation of young athletes.

“The whole process of recruitment of talented student-athletes by agents in the shadow of NCAA rules creates many opportunities for young men to be exploited by adults seeking their own financial gain and often leads to unwise decisions on agent selection at critical points in young careers,” said Stephen Ross, law professor at Penn State and one of the paper’s authors.

The analysis was co-authored with Raynell Brown, associate director of student services at Penn State Law and licensed National Basketball Players Association agent , and Penn State Law student Douglas Webster ’10.

Access the paper.

Federal Judge Issues Injunction Blocking NFL Discipline in Positive-Drug Test Case

  • Last year, Judge Paul Magnuson of the United States District Court in Minneapolis issued an injunction barring the NFL from disciplining five players who had tested positive for the diuretic bumetanide and who were suspended pursuant to the NFL's Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances. (The drug itself is not performance-enhancing, but has been found to mask the presence of performance-enhancing steroids). The court concluded that the balanced of equities favored the players because the NFL's own drug officials were aware that the over-the-counter supplement ingested by the players contained the banned substance, but failed to disclose this to the players, several of whom had called the NFL Hotline set up precisely for this purpose. The court further concluded that the NFL's chief lawyer, Jeffrey Pash, who decided the case as provided for in the labor agreement with the players' union, showed bias in adhering to a policy of strict liability for all positive drug tests. 

    This decision has far-reaching legal and policy implications. 
    Read the background paper.
    Read Judge Magnuson's opinion.
    Read the follow-up opinion of Professor Abrams.

Empirical Research on Racial Bias in NBA Referree's Calls Sparks Debate