Research Articles

Constitutionalizing FIFA: Promises and Challenges



FIFA’s reformation process, which began with the World Cup bid in 2010 and culminated in the explicit inclusion of human rights in FIFA’s statutes since April of 2016, exemplifies how transnational sports law (lex sportiva) can undergo processes that contribute to the protection of human rights. In fact, when viewed through the lens of societal constitutionalism, FIFA’s reformation process can be analyzed as a process of emergent constitutionalization. This paper provides the requisite empirical investigation and applies Teubner’s theory on societal constitutionalism to study FIFA’s reform process. FIFA has effectively formulated limitative rules by introducing human rights to their private ordering. This marks a decisive evolutionary step in the way sport related disputes are settled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Given FIFA’s new statutes, human rights no longer just apply subsidiarily (if at all), but directly. Further going re-specialization and regime-specific application of human rights can also be observed in FIFA’s reformation process. Human rights are positivized by a process formed like a ‘patchwork quilt’, entwining pressure from NGOs, private ordering, contracts, CAS decisions, and national courts decisions. Each part represents a valuable contribution to FIFA’s ‘common law’ transnational, social constitution. But this self-evolving constitution can be effective only when coupled to regimes of reflexivity and enforceability. Our case study reveals that FIFA’s reformation process already features high levels of reflexivity. Nevertheless, it is lacking in regimes of enforceability. It remains an outstanding question to what extent FIFA can be held accountable for human rights violations. Here, the societal constitutionalist lens draws attention to the normative importance of society for limiting the negative effects which FIFA has on its environment.


FIFAhuman rightssocietal constitutionalismtransnational lawarbitrationself-regulation
  • Year: 2020
  • Volume: 25 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 40–54
  • DOI: 10.5334/tilr.192
  • Published on 22 Jun 2020
  • Peer Reviewed