Commercial providers of sports competitions come in conflict with the sport associations

More and more, sports competitions are offered by commercial entrepreneurs and not by the sports federations, such as running competitions, or privately organized tournaments of various sports. Can sports associations, subject to their autonomy and their own statutes, issue permits, demand fees or even impose sanctions?

Inconsistency of law:

This is the view of LG München I in a new judgment ( Az. 1 HK O 8126/16) which excludes national teams at the Olympic games from participating in events not approved by the International Basketball Association such as Euroleague and Eurocup which would be an abuse within the meaning of Article 102 AEUV.

The Court of Justice in Brussels ruled ( Cour d’ appel Bruxelles, No.rep.2016/3725, No.role2015/MR/, Ziff.56 ff. ) against the FEI World Cup in 2016 and rejected a private tournament series on the grounds that the health of the horses were endangered. It was also feared that further commercialization and privatization of the sport would take place, and saw an abuse of the dominant market position European antitrust law. On the other hand, the Higher Regional Court of Duesseldorf in 2013 ruled that the levying of an organizer’s fee by the sports association did not constitute a targeted restriction of competitors within the meaning of § 4 No. 10 UWG representation and also no restriction of competition within the meaning of § 20 I GWB.

So how far does the autonomy of the sports federations and their regulatory power reach, and when is this still permissible and not an abuse of the market-dominant position under the antitrust law?

In a decision adopted in 1970, the Federal Court of Justice ( Bundesgerichtshof – BGH, AZ. I ZR 139/67) ruled that sports federations may require the organizers to ensure that competitions can be carried out according to certain sporting rules of the umbrella organization if a uniform orientation and execution is customary and the same conditions of competition are necessary in order to obtain appropriate recognition of records and it has to be standardized for international qualification. If, on the other hand, it is a matter of sporting events which are aimed at everyone and no inter – institutional evaluations are necessary,

Authorization is not required. If an authorization is permitted under these criteria, sanctions may also be imposed on organizers and athletes, provided that they do not entail any economic disadvantages. The dispute between the European Union and the International Ice Ranges (ISU) may soon lead to clarification:

The ISU wants to threaten athletes with a ban on Olympic games and European championships if they participate in an ISU unapproved speed skating competition. Here the EU Commission sees an antitrust violation of Article 101 AEUV. If the ISU does not yield, a dispute is to be expected before the European Court of Justice.

Foto: © matimix / Depositphotos.com

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