The Sports Law Review: Finland

Organisation of sports clubs and sports governing bodies

i Organisational form

There are some 20,000 registered non-profit associations in Finland whose purpose is to organise sports activities.2 As Finnish sport is based on the autonomy of non-profit associations, the sports clubs and federations decide autonomously on their administration and activities in accordance with their by-laws.

Generally, both non-professional and professional sports clubs are organised as non-profit associations. Hence, unpaid voluntary work is crucial for the organisation of sports in Finland. Only a few leagues, and teams participating in leagues at the highest national level, such as the ice hockey league, are organised as limited liability companies. Nevertheless, the leagues' articles of association require that the companies are tied to non-profit associations, and it is the associations (sports clubs) that hold the participating licences.

Most of the sports clubs are members of a national sports federation, while the national sports federations are members of the international sports federation for their respective sports.

Virtually all national sports federations are members of an umbrella organisation for sports in Finland, the Finnish Olympic Committee.

The anti-doping activities and advocating of ethical principles in Finnish sport are centralised under the Finnish Centre for Integrity in Sports (FINCIS), established in 2016. FINCIS's aim is to prevent, for example, match-fixing and spectator violence, and it also conducts doping control and brings rule violators to justice.

ii Corporate governance

As Finnish sport is organised on the principle of the autonomy of associations, there are no specific laws for good governance rules for sports organisations per se. However, the Associations Act (503/1989) provides for certain rules for decision-making and disqualifications.

Further, the Finnish Olympic Committee adopted a 'Social Responsibility Compass' – a governance document accepted by the Finnish Olympic Committee's board – in 2017.

Given the strong autonomy of the associations, the common rules for good governance are self-regulatory by nature and are binding on the federations only if they have specifically committed to their use. However, most of the sports federations have acknowledged the good governance principles in their own regulations. The Finnish Olympic Committee's agenda is to continue the governance dialogue with the federations, encourage them to adopt the Social Responsibility Compass in their activities and, in cooperation with the Federations, update the Social Responsibility Compass as necessary to reflect the reality in the field. The Finnish Olympic Committee has also drafted an equality plan for 2020–2022.3

iii Corporate liability

The members of the board and officers of an association are liable for damage that they cause to the association wilfully or negligently.4 Board members or officers can only avoid liability by not participating in the decision-making; for example, by recusing themselves.

The members of the board and officers of an association are similarly liable for damage that they cause to a third party by violating the by-laws of the association or the Associations Act. The liability requires wilfulness or negligence.

An employee of an association is liable for damage that he or she causes because of a mistake or omission up to an amount that is deemed reasonable considering the amount of damage, the omission or mistake, the position of the employee and other relevant circumstances.5 The liability for damage is, thus, slightly different from the liability of a board member or an officer. Also, if the employee is found to have been only slightly negligent, he or she shall not be liable at all, even if the employer would be found liable towards the third party.

The dispute resolution system

i Access to courts

There are no established principles in Finland regarding when the courts can examine and decide on lawsuits in relation to disciplinary measures of associations. The rule of thumb is that there has to be a legitimate need for judicial relief. In most cases the threshold is exceeded and sports-related cases can be – and have been – tried in the civil courts in Finland. Most cases have involved athletes' labour disputes or doping, and very few cases have been tried on the disciplinary measures of an association.

ii Sports arbitration

The Finnish Sports Arbitration Board was founded in 1991 by Finland's sports governing bodies as an independent appellate body for sports-related decisions and disciplinary sanctions. Despite its designation as an arbitration panel, it has worked as a disciplinary committee. According to its rules, the Sports Arbitration Board can also act as an arbitration panel within its jurisdiction, should the parties in the dispute enter into an agreement on arbitration or the athlete so demand.

The rules of the Finnish Sports Arbitration Board provide that the Sports Arbitration Board may handle appeals based on decisions made by associations regarding the discharge of membership from an association; limitations to member rights or disciplinary measures; or whether a decision made by an association is contrary to the by-laws of the association or the rules and regulations pertaining to competitions, although not to the rules and regulations relating to the sports discipline itself. The arbitration board may, in addition, handle appeals of an athlete for not having been selected for elite competitions (e.g., Olympics, world championships, European championships and equivalent), provided that the selection criteria clearly set by the federation or the Olympic Committee have not been followed, or if the decision is, without any acceptable reason, discriminatory on the basis of sex, age, conviction (political or religious), opinion, origin or other reason related to the athlete's person. The Sports Arbitration Board also serves as the first instance of appeal for decisions made by FINCIS, based on the anti-doping code.

The rules provide that, if the parties so agree or the statutes of respective associations so rule, the Sport Arbitration Board may act as an arbitral tribunal in matters within its competence, and in sports-related contractual disputes and matters relating to sports organisations' business affairs. This means that, in addition to all matters within the Board's original competence, sport-related contractual disputes might also be tried in arbitration proceedings. In principle, the arbitral tribunal consists of three arbitrators, unless the parties have agreed that only one arbitrator will decide the matter. Otherwise, the procedure is governed by the Arbitration Act (967/1992).

The Sports Arbitration Board cannot handle a matter that has been decided by or is pending in civil court or arbitration. If a matter pending before the Sports Arbitration Board is brought before a civil court, the case automatically lapses at the Sports Arbitration Board.

iii Enforceability

The Sports Arbitration Board is not nominated by the state or based on legislation. Thus, the enforceability of the decisions of the Sports Arbitration Board is based on the parties' engagement. The sports federations and sports clubs are bound to the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Board through their by-laws or through chaining of rules through membership, from the federations to the individual sports clubs. However, as the decisions of the Arbitration Board are merely recommendations, an association may decide not to adhere to the decision of the Board. This has happened on a few occasions in the history of the Arbitration Board. Usually, the associations, especially sports federations, have complied with the Board's decisions.

Despite the common use of the Sports Arbitration Board for resolving disputes in sports, a decision of the Sports Arbitration Board does not prevent the parties from bringing a suit in civil courts. If the Sports Arbitration Board acts as an arbitral tribunal, the enforcement of its arbitral award is decided by a competent court of first instance.

The Code of Judicial Procedure (4/1734) provides for interim relief, which can and has been applied to sports on a number of occasions.

As Finland is a party to the 1958 New York Convention, Finnish arbitral awards are internationally recognised and enforceable, and foreign arbitral awards are recognised and enforceable in Finland.

Organisation of sports events

i Relationship between organiser and spectator

The relationship between organiser and spectator is a contractual relationship governed by the general principles of contract law and the Contracts Act (228/1929). Consumer protection legislation safeguards the spectators from misleading marketing and unfair contract terms. Though an organiser's options to obligate spectators are limited, the organiser may, for example, try to prevent reselling of tickets in its ticket purchase conditions. The organiser's main obligation is to organise the event in the manner in which it has been advertised, otherwise the organiser may be in breach of the contract.

The Assembly Act (530/1999) governs the organising of public events. The Law provides for certain security and other measures, such as sufficient liability insurance, which the organisers should comply with.

ii Relationship between organiser and athletes or clubs

Although the relationship between an organiser and athletes or clubs is primarily governed by the by-laws of the relevant sports association, the offset in the relationship between an organiser and an athlete or club is the freedom to contract. The athlete's or team's main obligation is usually to take part in the event and compete. Often the organiser sets certain conditions for the athlete's right to participate, which the athlete accepts by entering the event. The Competition Act (948/2011) has been applied to the right to participate in a professional sports league and has relevance when sport is practised on a professional level.

iii Liability of the organiser

An organiser's civil liability may be contractual or extra-contractual. First, the organiser has contractual liability towards the spectators. If the event is cancelled or otherwise substantially deviates from what the spectator had reason to assume, spectators may be entitled to compensation.6 Secondly, an organiser also has contractual liability towards the athletes and clubs, with whom it has made entry agreements, its sponsors, other partners and the owner of the event venue.

An organiser's extra-contractual liability is partly governed by the Tort Liability Act (412/1974) and partly based on Finnish legal praxis. Organisers of events have a pronounced duty of care for the spectators' and athletes' safety.

Liability requires an organiser's negligence and must be evaluated on a case-by case basis by reviewing whether the organiser has fulfilled its obligations deriving from the legislation and safety guidelines of the sports governing bodies.7, 8

In principle, an organiser's liability towards the athletes is similar to that towards the spectators. However, the athletes themselves bear the risk of certain damage characteristic of the sport.

The criminal liability of an organiser can mostly be characterised as that of white-collar offences, including, inter alia, bribery, accounting offences, tax fraud and bankruptcy-related offences.

iv Liability of the athletes

The athletes' contractual liability towards an organiser is usually based on the entry agreement. An athlete is liable for the damage incurred by an organiser because of the athlete's absence from the event, unless the absence is caused by force majeure. The same basic contractual principle also applies when the participation obligation is provided by an agreement between the athlete and a club or a sports governing body.9

The athletes' extra-contractual liability is governed by the same sources of law as the organisers' extra-contractual liability. Negligence is evaluated in the light of the athlete's obligations resulting from legislation, club or sports governing body's general rules and sport-specific rules.10

The athletes' criminal liability is usually based on the idea of non-acceptable risk-taking. By entering into a sports event, an athlete accepts the risk of sport offences at least as far as they are not in violation of the sport's rules or the nature of the sport. These kinds of sport offences may normally fulfil the essential elements of an offence but are allowed in sport. However, any actions of an athlete that are in violation of the rules and characteristics of the sport in question, or actions that have no athletic function or temporal relation to the sport performance itself, can be considered prohibited risk-taking and fulfil the constituent elements of a criminal offence.11

Sports-related assaults12 are subject to public prosecution along with most violent offences. Offences against personal reputation may also occur in sports in the form of slander. Defamation is a complainant offence that the injured party must report for charges to be brought.13 However, the investigation of an offence may begin without contribution by the victim, as according to the Criminal Investigation Act (805/2011), the authorities are obliged to start investigations whenever there is reason to suspect that an offence has been committed.

v Liability of the spectators

As spectators usually have a contractual relationship only with the event organiser, the most interesting legal issues relate to their extra-contractual liability and criminal liability. A spectator may be held liable under the Tort Liability Act for the damage he or she has caused to the event organiser, another spectator or an athlete wilfully or negligently. Criminal liability of a spectator is evaluated in accordance with the general principles of criminal law. The venue of the crime does not impact the liability.

vi Riot prevention

The Assembly Act governs the organisation of public events. A sports event organiser shall inform the police of the event beforehand and take sufficient safety measures. The police may give the organiser more specific orders; for example, requiring the event organiser to hire community service officers to supervise public order at the event. At their discretion, the police may give backup to the organiser. The self-regulation of sports governing bodies may also include conditions relating to riot prevention or the clubs' liability for the actions of their fans.

Commercialisation of sports events

i Types of and ownership in rights

Commercialisation of sport events and athletes by sponsoring, branding, broadcasting and spin-off merchandising can all be effectively exploited in Finland. For teams and individual athletes, building up a strong individual personal brand is essential, since marketing increasingly uses well-known entertainment and sports individuals. Finland has a functioning trademark system overlapping with the international Madrid Protocol and European Union Trademark system. By registering the athlete's name or other well-known icon, an athlete is able to maximise the possible profit from sponsorship deals and other cooperation agreements, and to license the mark for the sale of spin-off products as well.

The sale and amount of advertising space available is usually divided between the athlete's sports federation, the organiser of an elite competition or sports event and the participating athlete or team. The organiser originally possesses most of the advertising space based on a lease agreement for the event location. Grant-back clauses are, however, commonly used in the organising and marketing of sports events, in which case the organising sports federation gives the exclusive right to the organiser to organise the event on the condition that the organiser grants back the advertising rights to the federation. The competition law compliance assessment of such a grant-back depends on, among other things, the amount of advertising space that the condition applies to. The individual athletes dispose of the advertising space available on their sports equipment and sportswear in accordance with the rules of the relevant national or international association. A club or association usually disposes of advertising in team sports.

Marketing of certain products or services may be restricted under Finnish law, and some sports associations and clubs also have internal rules on acceptable marketing. The marketing of strong alcohol beverages and tobacco is completely prohibited in Finland and no direct or indirect marketing of such products is possible.

Among the most valuable assets related to organising sports events are the broadcasting rights. Broadcasting rights are not separately protected as an exclusive right in Finland, but they can be efficiently covered and protected by the Finnish copyright system, partially when harmonised by EU directives. Although the sports event in itself is not protected by copyright because of its lack of sufficient independence and originality as required by the Copyright Act (404/1961), the television broadcast and possible sports coverage are. As a general rule, the organising sports association usually owns the broadcasting rights to the specific events or leagues it organises.

ii Rights protection

Rights related to exploitation and commercialisation of sports-related rights can be efficiently protected by intellectual property legislation, such as the Trademarks Act (544/2019), the Business Name Act (128/1979) and the Copyright Act. Whereas intellectual property laws grant protection to certain exclusive rights defined by such laws, the Unfair Business Practices Act (1061/1978) provides a wider and parallel protection compared with IP laws because its clauses are more general and have a wider scope.

A trademark, which can be a figurative mark, a word mark, a unique product package or even a slogan, can be registered for a period of 10 years in the Trademark Register kept by the Patent and Registration Office. The registration is renewable without limitations. The Copyright Act provides protection for 70 years from the death of the creator for works exceeding the originality requirements for copyright protection. Shorter protection is provided for neighbouring rights, such as those of a producer of a video recording.

iii Contractual provisions for exploitation of rights

Finland is a civil law country with written laws, some governing specific legal fields and other more generally applicable rules that also apply to special areas of law. As a general rule, Finnish law does not require that statutory provisions are incorporated into agreements, especially in the case of business-to-business agreements. The case can be different for consumer agreements, as legislation aims to protect the consumer and such provisions might have to be incorporated for information purposes. Naturally it is always advisable to agree on the possibility of transferring (or not transferring) a licence and the geographical and temporal scope of any licence.

Professional sports and labour law

i Mandatory provisions

Essential labour regulations in Finland are the Employment Contracts Act (55/2001) and the Working Hours Act (872/2019). The characteristics of an employment agreement are that one person (the employee) carries out work for another (the employer) under the supervision and management of the employer, from which work the direct benefit goes to the employer, and from which work the employee receives financial compensation. If these requirements are fulfilled, labour legislation sets the minimum level for the conditions of employment.

On the basis that the requirement for performing work under someone's supervision is usually absent in their relationships with their clubs, coaches or sports associations, individual athletes are usually not considered to be employees. However, it has been well established through a number of court decisions that players of team sports, when they receive remuneration for their performance, are deemed employees of their respective clubs.

Fixed-term employment contracts are only allowed on special grounds relating to the nature of the employment. Athletes are required to constantly strive to their best performance and their career peaks only last for a relatively short time. Thus, using fixed terms tied to, for example, league seasons is considered justifiable.

The termination of a fixed-term sports employment contract requires extremely weighty causes. Such a cause is at hand if the employee substantially breaches or neglects his or her obligations under the employment contract or legislation. For example, doping is usually considered a substantial breach of an athlete's or a coach's obligations and enables the employer to terminate the contract. The employer has a tortious liability for unlawful terminations.

According to the Employment Contracts Act, an employee shall be paid reasonable, normal remuneration for the work performed. Salary protection is reserved for the trade unions in the form of collective bargaining. In Finland, this possibility has been utilised by one player association14 and the Federation of Professional Coaches.15

ii Free movement of athletes

Discrimination is banned by the Constitution (731/1999), the Non-discrimination Act (1325/2014) and Employment Contracts Act, and sports clubs or associations cannot overrule these fundamental legislative restrictions.16 However, operations that first seem discriminatory may sometimes be objectively justified. For example, limiting the participation right in Finnish championships to athletes representing Finland and tying the representation right to Finnish nationality is an objectively justifiable condition, but requiring the athlete to originate from Finland would most likely be deemed prohibited discrimination. In team sports, operations that restrict the number of players from EU Member States are prohibited,17 but the number of non EU players may be limited to some extent.

iii Application of employment rules of sports governing bodies

Athletes are often bound to the regulations of international sports governing bodies by agreement, and such an agreement can also be an employment agreement. Conditions that undermine the minimum working conditions of employees under the scope of application of Finnish labour law are nevertheless invalid.

Sports and antitrust law

The national antitrust rules are, in essence, based on EU antitrust laws. Antitrust laws apply to the business activities of sports event organisers and sports governing bodies in the same manner as to any other businesses in Finland. The rules on dominant market position have been evaluated in a few national cases. Sports governing bodies have been found to have a dominant position when it comes to granting player or competition licences to athletes, or granting rights to organise competitions to event organisers.

An event organiser or sports governing body must comply with the Finnish Competition Act. First, the participation or organising rights and licences shall be granted on equal conditions. An equitable condition is, for example, a certain result or experience-level requirement. Second, the participation or organising right or licence cannot be tied to supplementary obligations that have no connection with the participation right or the licence itself. An obligation to acquire a certain accident insurance with the competition licence, for example, has been considered prohibited tying by the Competition Authority in decision No. 1089/61/95 of 4 March 1998.

Third, unfair conditions shall not be imposed on the participation or organising right or the licence. The decision of the Finnish Basketball Association's board to change the league rules with effect from the beginning of next season was considered an unfair condition by the Competition Authority in decision No. 511/61/94 of 5 September 1995. The transition phase was considered too short, as the change of league rules decreased the number of league games and thus had a negative impact on the income of the clubs.

Sports and taxation

As stated, Finnish sports clubs are usually established as non-profit associations and, as such, their activities are tax-free. However, if sports associations are engaged in professional sports on a larger scale, their actions, at least in relation to professional sports, may not be considered a public utility, and such activities may become taxable as business income.

Individual athletes are usually taxed under the Income Tax Act (1535/1992). Athletes may, however, consolidate part of their income from sports in special funds governed by sports associations. In such cases, the athletes may withdraw monies from the funds for the purposes of paying their sports-related expenses tax free, and only pay tax on the remaining monies later on when withdrawn as income.18 In addition to the training fund referred to above, athlete funds are intended to secure the athlete's income after the end of their sporting career. Taxation of income received from sports regarding athlete funds has been revised as a result of amendments to section 116c of the Income Tax Act entering into force on 1 January 2021. As a result of the legal amendment, the maximum amount of sports income transferable to an athlete fund has increased and provisions on the entry of assets as income have been amended.19

The administration of an individual top athlete's activities and contracts may be easier to arrange in the form of a limited liability company, but this involves the risk that income of the athlete steered through such a company may still be taxed as if the company did not exist. If the business actions are large-scale enough and the activities include a real business risk, the income can be considered as income of the company and taxed accordingly.20

Double taxation problems of athletes and taxable sports clubs when they participate in sports events abroad are acknowledged in Finnish tax legislation and in the taxation treaties that Finland has concluded. Double taxation is usually eliminated by deducting the tax paid abroad from the tax payable in Finland (the credit method). However, the fee is still taken into account when counting the annual gross income of an athlete or club, and affects its progression rate.21 Some of the tax treaties Finland has concluded follow the exemption method: income from a foreign sports event is not taken into account in the Finnish taxation at all.22

Specific sports issues

i Doping

A doping offence, an aggravated doping offence and a petty doping offence are criminalised in the Criminal Code (39/1889). The essential elements of a doping offence are that a person unlawfully prepares or attempts to prepare a doping substance, imports or attempts to import it or sells, conveys, gives to another or otherwise disseminates or attempts to disseminate it. A person who keeps in his or her possession a doping substance with the probable intent to disseminate it unlawfully can also be sentenced for a doping offence. The sentence for a doping offence is a fine or imprisonment for, at most, two years.

If the offence involves considerable amounts of doping substances, criminal organisation, considerable financial benefits are obtained or the substance is disseminated to minors, a doping offence may be considered as aggravated, with a sentence of imprisonment for at least four months and, at most, four years. If the offence is altogether petty, the sentence may simply be a fine.

ii Betting

The organising and advertising of betting on sporting events is strictly prohibited in Finland, except for by Veikkaus Oy under the Lotteries Act (1047/2001).23 Veikkaus Oy has a statutory obligation to prevent abuse or crimes as well as the harmful social and health effects of gambling and betting. The legitimacy of the Finnish monopoly system was assessed in judgment C-124/97 of the European Court of Justice, in which the Court found that the monopoly system can be justified, among others, by crime prevention and the prevention of the harmful effects related to gambling and betting.

The prohibition of the organising and advertising of betting and gambling applies both to offline and online environments. Unauthorised organising and advertising is monitored by the National Police Board, which may issue an injunction and fine an organiser or advertiser who fails to observe such an injunction. Unauthorised organising and advertising are also punishable under the Criminal Code.

iii Manipulation

Manipulation of game results and the criminalisation of such behaviour has been discussed in Finland, but no separate penal provision has been enacted. However, a penalty may be imposed for such behaviour based on fraud in accordance with the Criminal Code. It has been argued and assessed that the criminalisation of, inter alia, fraud protects sports-related interests fairly well without the need for any specific penal provision.

The essential element of fraud is the will to obtain unlawful financial benefit, or deceiving or taking advantage of someone's error, to harm another. Causing economic loss is also one of the key elements of the provision, so for this reason the fraud provision may not be applicable in all cases; for example, in the case of match-fixing where no economical loss is caused. The sentence for fraud varies from fines to imprisonment for up to two years.

There have been a couple of match-fixing cases in Finland in recent years involving football24 and Finnish baseball,25 in which the offenders were sentenced for aggravated fraud. Offenders have also been sentenced for bribery and money laundering in connection with match-fixing.

iv Grey market sales

Grey market sales of sports and other event tickets is still a relatively small-scale business in Finland, and it has not been seen as a major problem so far. Official ticket sellers have tried to prevent grey marketing by, for example, printing a prohibition against reselling the tickets on the tickets themselves. Thus, reselling the ticket would be considered a contractual breach. Ticket quotas per customer and designating tickets for specified customers have also been used to prevent grey market sales.

The year in review

The Finnish Olympic Committee has been preparing a proposal for centralising the investigation and discipline of serious ethical violations. The proposal and establishment of a centralised discipline model to deal with serious ethical violations was approved by the Finnish Olympic Committee's General Assembly in May 2021.26 The centralised discipline model includes common disciplinary provisions for serious misconduct and serious ethical violations in sport. Therefore, the rules of the Finnish Olympic Committee will be amended accordingly, and each federation must also amend its rules in order to join the proposed centralised investigation and discipline model. The proposed model also includes the rules of the joint disciplinary board for ethical infringements in the sports community. The centralised discipline will be effective as of 1 January 2022. Member federations can join the model as soon as they have adopted the necessary amendments to their own statutes.

FINCIS published the results of a harassment study conducted in 2020.27 The purpose of the study, Harassment in Finnish Competitive Sports, was to investigate the prevalence of sexual or gender-based harassment in competitive sports. The study was completed in cooperation with the Research Institute for Olympic Sports, and the study data comprised responses by more than 9,000 Finnish competitive athletes. The results concluded that sexual and gender-based harassment is common in sports, but not more common than elsewhere in society. The study found that harassment in sports is linked to cultural structures, such as gender inequality and other differences in social standing.28 In addition, female gender, young age and competing at higher levels of competition significantly increased the risk of experiencing sexual and gender-based harassment. The study showed that other factors that increased risk were belonging to a sexual, linguistic, religious or ethnic minority.29 FINCIS has drafted recommendations based on the results of the study. These include recommendations for:

  1. athletes and coaches to have the courage to change and intervene;
  2. sports organisations to increase awareness and facilitate openness and change;
  3. sports journalists and media for responsible news coverage;
  4. sports enthusiasts to be responsible for a supporter culture deserved by athletes; and
  5. the 'you are not alone' (Et ole yksin) service, to provide expertise and support from outside sports.30

A national overview of manipulation of sports competitions in 2021 was also published by FINCIS.31 The results of the study suggest that the situation in Finland regarding competition manipulation is not a severe issue. FINCIS has not been informed of any suspicions of competition manipulation in Finland in 2019–2020 for which a preliminary investigation would have been initiated, and inquiries made by the Finnish Sports Betting Association in December 2020 conclude that its members have not observed any clear competition manipulation in which sports betting or gambling would have been the motivating factor. Based on federation-specific assessments, Finnish sports are not currently exposed to a significant threat of international organised crime related to the manipulation of competition, or serious links to criminal activity. Based on the study, the biggest threat to sports federations in terms of combatting the manipulation of competition is lack of control over rules, regulations and policies. Finland has a functioning National Platform and the investigation and research of ethical issues in sport is centralised in FINCIS. Cooperation has been established between the various stakeholders to detect and combat competitive manipulation, which should continue in the future.

The reform of the Lotteries Act is currently in progress to further improve the prevention and reduction of harm caused by gambling. Compulsory authentication on decentralised slot machines took effect on 12 January 2021. One of the objectives of the reform is to extend the identification requirement to all gambling games.32 Veikkaus aims to make all gaming subject to authentication by the end of 2023.

Like everywhere else, the covid-19 pandemic has had and will continue to have considerable effects on the sports sector, increased by the second wave of covid-19 and the restrictions in autumn 2020. Sports operators that are funded through tax revenue, gambling revenue or membership fees, such as municipal sports services, training and research organisations, sports clubs and sports organisations, have been impacted by the restrictions put in place to mitigate the risks of the pandemic. The government outlined a support package for physical activity sports. An appropriation of €18.5 million is proposed, which is to be allocated to sports clubs, national and regional physical activity and sports organisations and events that have had to be cancelled or have suffered losses, as well as to future events.33

Outlook and conclusions

Centralising the investigation and discipline of ethical violations and amendment of the rules of the Finnish Olympic Committee and federations accordingly, as well as the necessary amendments to the code of conduct of FINCIS, will likely lead to some organisational and regulatory changes during the coming years, and Finland, like so many other countries, is also looking at new developments in the fight against match-fixing, spectator violence and unethical behaviour in sports.

The full effects of the covid-19 pandemic remain to be seen as the uncertainties around the arranging of competitions and leagues continue.


1 Pia Ek is a partner and an attorney-at-law, and Hilma-Karoliina Markkanen is a senior associate and attorney-at-law at Castrén & Snellman Attorneys Ltd. The authors would like to thank Ida Laakkonen for all her assistance in preparing this chapter.

2 Government proposal 190/2014 for revision of the Sports Act.

4 The Associations Act (503/1989).

5 Halila, H & Tarasti, L (2011), Right of Association (4th ed.) Talentum, Helsinki.

6 Consumer Disputes Board Decision No. 00/39/924, 28 August 2001. A certain amount of deviation and surprises goes with sports, but absence of an advertised athlete, for example, might lead to the contractual liability of the organiser.

7 Many sports governing bodies in Finland release their own safety guidelines. Breach of these guidelines does not immediately lead to civil liability, but inside the organisation the liability is usually strict and a breach leads to internal disciplinary actions regardless of negligence.

8 Compliance with the guidelines and special legislation does not always eliminate the organiser's liability. The Court of Appeal of Rovaniemi held the organiser of an ice hockey game liable when a puck had flown over the rink and hit a spectator's head, causing him a brain injury. The rink complied with the Finnish Ice Hockey Association's safety guidelines, but the Court set the organiser's duty of care even higher. See Court of Appeal of Rovaniemi 13 February 2004, S 03/306 and Hahto 2004.

9 In some cases, the athlete's liability is also governed by the Finnish Employment Contracts Act. These situations are covered in Section V.

10 Norros 2014.

11 Lappi-Seppälä et al. 2013, Peukunen 2014.

12 See, for example, Finnish Supreme Court rulings KKO:1996:74, 28 November 1995 and KKO:1997:129, 11 September 1997.

13 Defamation in sport has been handled by the Finnish Supreme Court in ruling KKO 2005:137, 19 December 2005. A driver had called another driver by derogatory names in a harness race. The Supreme Court found that a disciplinary sanction imposed on the offender by the sports governing body was not a sufficient reason to waive the punishment for defamation.

14 The Finnish Ice Hockey Players' Association has negotiated a collective agreement to be applied in player contracts at the highest league levels in Finland.

15 The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors and Service Sector Employers, Palta, have negotiated a collective agreement that applies to employees of sports associations (e.g., managers, secretaries, etc., positions where the employees work under the association's supervision). The Federation of Professional Coaches has joined this collective agreement and thus it is applicable to professional sports coaches.

16 Finnish Sports Arbitration Board Decision No. 4/2014, 14 March 2014.

17 European Court of Justice, Bosman C-415/93.

18 See the Finnish Tax Administration guide to non-profit foundations VH/1545/00.01.00/2021, 20 April 2021.

19 See the Finnish Tax Administration guide to taxation of income received from sports VH/8205/00.01.00/2020, 1 January 2021.

20 Supreme Administrative Court Ruling KHO 2010 T 103.

21 If Finland has not concluded a tax treaty with the country where the event is being held, the credit method is applied based on the Act on the Elimination of International Double Taxation (1552/1995, 18 December 1995).

23 The three organisations that were previously given a mandate to organise betting, Fintoto Oy, Veikkaus Oy and Finland's Slot Machine Association, were merged into one new company, Veikkaus Oy, on 1 January 2017.

24 Helsinki Court of Appeal Decision No. 333, 6 February 2003 (R01/2825).

25 Rovaniemi Court of Appeal Decision No. 237, 22 March 2012 (R11/734).

26 See news article of the spring meeting by the Finnish Olympic Committee: 2021/05/25/olympiakomitean-kevatkokoustiedote/.

27 See key research results in English p. 5–6, Harassment in Finnish Competitive Sports:äirintä-suomalaisessa-kilpaurheilussa.pdf.

30 See more detailed recommendations Harassment in Finnish Competitive Sports, p.98 (only available in Finnish):

31 National Overview of Manipulation of Sports Competitions 2021 (only available in Finnish):

32 Further information on the examination on the need to reform the Lotteries Act:

33 See the outline of support package for culture, art, physical activity and the event production industry:

The Law Reviews content