Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Archive for November 4th, 2010

Competition Law and Sport (V) FYI

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Some days ago I participated together with José Luis Buendía in a conference on sports law held at the UNED (the only state-run Spanish distance-learning university).  We covered a wide array of issues concerning the application of competition law in this sector, some of which have also been discussed here in the past (e.g. football tv rights, salary caps, state aids in sports, or the SCOTUS decision in American Needle).

In addition, we talked a bit about two cases on which we´ve worked but about which there is not much information available apart from news clips. I think both cases raise extremely interesting questions, and I believe that some of you may have an interest in knowing about their existence.  Accordingly, and as an exception, this post deals with two cases on which I was directly involved (take that as a diclaimer too).  I´ll  be as objective as I can in exposing the facts:

The first case is currently pending before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, so I won´t say much about it. It relates to a complaint lodged by the Spanish Basketball League against the project to partially close the Euroleague (the basketball equivalent to the Champions League). In the near future the CAS will therefore be ruling on whether the partial closure of a previously open league could restrict competition in any of the many markets in which basketball clubs are active.

The second case, which was recently settled, deals with exactly the same issue as the withdrawn preliminary reference  in the Oulmers case, i.e. the right of clubs to be compensated by national federations for the release of their players for international games and tournaments. It was initiated by a complaint lodged by ASOBAL (the Spanish Handball League) before the European Commission in March 2009. The complaint argued that by precluding the payment of a compensation to clubs the regulations governing the release of players restricted competition in a way contrary to both articles 101 and 102 TFEU (in the latter case, it was argued that the resulations were setting “unfair trading conditions”). The Commission took an interest in the case and started a preliminary investigation which was only put to an end pursuant to an agreement between ASOBAL and the European Handball Federation. This case adds up to the settlement between FIFA, UEFA and the European Clubs Association to put an end to Oulmers as one of the most interesting “non-precedents” regarding the application of EU competition law to sport.

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

4 November 2010 at 8:56 pm