Horacio González Mullin is a partner at the law firm González Mullin, Kasprzyk & Asociados. A graduate of the University of the Republic, he has practised as attorney at law and notary since 1989. He advises on civil, commercial and labour law and has particular expertise in sports law, acting for both national and international clients, having participated in several leading cases. Currently, he is the vice president of the executive committee of AIAF.
What do you enjoy most about working in the sports sector?
Sports law is the perfect mix of two of my great passions: sport and law. However, what I enjoy most about working in this area is that most of the time, we have to litigate in international courts. That means that you can meet many people from different parts of the world. I had never imagined how many friends from different countries I would make in just 10 years.
How did you come to specialise in sports law?
I really had luck! In 2005, our law firm was hired by one of the most important football clubs in Uruguay, in order to advise it in a conflict with two players, their agent and a French football club. That was my first contact with sports law, with FIFA and the CAS. Because of this case, I met many recognised lawyers (today friends) such as Juan de Dios Crespo Pérez, Ricardo Frega Navía and Norberto Outerelo. Thanks to them and to the effort and work done by me afterwards, I became a specialist in sports law.
How have client demands and priorities changed since you began practising?
Clients in sports law are very different from clients in civil, commercial or labour law. When I started practising sports law, it was unusual for clubs, athletes and agents to consult a lawyer. In general, contracts were made and signed in a clubs’ offices or even in bars or restaurants on a napkin, without proper advice. They even didn’t know precisely the “rules of the game” relating to the transfer system, players’ contracts, minors, solidarity contribution, training compensation, agents’ contracts, doping, etc. Then, as the years passed, and as a result of the problems they had because of their ignorance, national federations, clubs and agents’ companies started to be more professional and began to ask for advice.
What impact has covid-19 had on your practice and the sports market so far?
Fortunately, covid-19 hasn’t had an important impact on our practice, as a lot of clubs, agents and players required our advice because they didn’t know what to do with labour contracts, debts of transfer prices, etc. At the same time, and as we especially work in international cases, we continued working on procedures before FIFA and CAS, because they weren’t suspended. Of course we advised many foreign funds and investors who came to Uruguay to acquire clubs through sports companies, a tool that is very useful in our country. Related to the sports market, covid-19 had a big impact especially regarding the transfer market of players; not only because the clubs didn’t have the money (the brands and TV companies stopped paying the TV and image rights, the clubs didn’t collect the tickets from the matches, etc) but also because championships were suspended for some months and, as a result, transfer periods were suspended or changed.
What has been the most interesting case you have worked on to date, and why?
Fortunately, we have had several interesting cases. The first was the one that made me start practising sports law. We defended an Uruguayan club, Club Atlético Peñarol ,against two football players, Carlos Bueno and Christian Rodriguez, and the French club, Paris Saint Germain. That was our first case before FIFA and the CAS and where I met my dear friend Juan de Dios Crespo Pérez. It was a leading case called The South American Bosman case because it changed all the contracts system in our country and in South America related to unilateral renewal clauses.
But, in my opinion, the most interesting and important case we have worked on was the claim filed by the Uruguayan player, Sebastian Ariosa, against the Paraguayan club Olimpia, regarding the breach of the contract because the player suffered from a disease (cancer) during the term of the contract. That was another leading case, as it was the first and only case – at least at the moment – where the CAS ordered the club to pay the player the moral damages he suffered.
Finally, we also had two very interesting cases; one of them regarding doping where we proved – through a doping exam carried out on the pet of the family (a dog) – that the adverse result was the consequence of environmental pollution at the home. The second one, an Uruguayan leading case, was a claim from an agent against a football player, where we alleged, defending the player, that in that case the tribunal had to apply the consumer rights law in order to reject the claim. That was the first case where the Uruguayan tribunals applied the abovementioned law in a sports law case.
How does your firm distinguish itself from its competitors?
I don’t want to talk about other law firms; I will only speak about us. The most important value we have is our “name”. In Uruguay and in the rest of the world everyone knows us for our honesty, for our knowledge in most areas of law (civil, commercial, labour, etc), which helps us to provide an excellent service in sports law, and for the seriousness with which we work. We have practised the profession of attorney at law since 1989 and we started practising sports law 16 years later, in 2005. So first of all, we are lawyers and then we are sports law lawyers. As we always say: don’t forget that sports law is first of all “law” and then “sport”.
Where do you think the future of sports law lies?
Sports law has become an independent and autonomous branch of law that is here to stay. Just check out all the sports law congresses, masters and courses that are given throughout the year all over the world.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Throughout my professional life I have received a lot of valuable advice. One of them I always repeat to the lawyers and people that work with us: the most important value we have is our name, so we have to take great care of it.
Regarding sports law, I always remember the advice I received from a friend of mine, one of the most recognised lawyers in sports law, in 2010 during the CAS Congress in Lausanne: Horacio, if you want to be someone in sports law, you have to attend every CAS Congress.