On Wednesday 20 January 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret, is organising a Zoom In webinar
on the recent judgment of the General Court in the case International
Skating Union (ISU) v European Commission, delivered on 16 December
2016. The Court ruled on an appeal against the first-ever antitrust
prohibition decision on sporting rules adopted by the European
Commission. More specifically, the case concerned the ISU’s eligibility
rules, which were prohibiting speed skaters from competing in
non-recognised events and threatened them with lifelong bans if they did
(for more details on the origin of the case see this blog).
The ruling of the General Court, which endorsed the majority of the
European Commission’s findings, could have transformative implications
for the structure of sports governance in the EU (and beyond).
We have the pleasure to welcome three renowned experts in EU
competition law and sport to analyse with us the wider consequences of
Zoom In webinar series
In December 2020, The Asser International Sports Law Centre in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret launched a new series of zoom webinars on transnational sports law: Zoom In. You can watch
the video recording of our first discussion on the arbitral award
delivered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the Blake
Leeper v. International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) case
on the Asser Institute’s Youtube Channel. Click here to learn more about the Zoom In webinar series.
Editor’s note: Stefano Bastianon is Associate Professor in European
Law at the University of Bergamo and lawyer admitted to the Busto Arsizio bar.
He is also member of the IVth Division of the High Court of Sport
Justice (Collegio di Garanzia dello sport) at the National Olympic Committee.
1. From the very beginning, the outcome of the ISU case was highly predictable, at
least for those who are familiar with the basics of antitrust law.
Nevertheless, more than twenty years after the Bosman judgment, the sports sector has shown the same
shortsightedness and inability to see the forest for the trees. Even this
attitude was highly predictable, at least for those who know the basics of
sports governance. The final result is a clear-cut decision capable of
influencing the entire sports movement. More...
Editor's note: We (Ben Van Rompuy and Antoine Duval) are at the origin of today's decision by the European Commission finding that the International Skating Union's eligibility rules are contrary to EU competition law. In 2014, we were both struck by the news that ISU threatened lifetime ban against speed skaters wishing to participate in the then projected Icederby competitions and convinced that it was running against the most fundamental principles of EU competition law. We got in touch with Mark and Niels and lodged on their behalf a complaint with the European Commission. Three years after we are pleased to see that the European Commission, and Commissioner Vestager in particular, fully embraced our arguments and we believe this decision will shift the tectonic structure of sports governance in favour of athletes for years to come.
Here is our official statement:
Today is a great day for Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt, but more importantly for all European athletes. The European Commission did not only consider the International Skating Union's eligibility rules contrary to European law, it sent out a strong message to all international sports federations that the interests of those who are at the centre of sports, the athletes, should not be disregarded. This case was always about giving those that dedicate their lives to excelling in a sport a chance to compete and to earn a decent living. The majority of athletes are no superstars and struggle to make ends meet and it is for them that this decision can be a game-changer.
However, we want to stress that this case was never about threatening the International Skating Union’s role in regulating its sport. And we very much welcome the exceptional decision taken by the European Commission to refrain from imposing a fine which could have threatened the financial stability of the International Skating Union. The International Skating Union, and other sports federations, are reminded however that they cannot abuse their legitimate regulatory power to protect their economic interests to the detriment of the athletes.
We urge the International Skating Union to enter into negotiations with representatives of the skaters to devise eligibility rules which are respectful of the interests of both the athletes and their sport.
Since the summer of 2014, it has been our honour to stand alongside Mark and Niels in a 'David versus Goliath' like challenge to what we always perceived as an extreme injustice. In this fight, we were also decisively supported by the team of EU Athletes and its Chance to Compete campaign.
Finally, we wish to extend a special thank you to Commissioner Vestager. This case is a small one for the European Commission, but Commissioner Vestager understood from the beginning that small cases do matter to European citizens and that European competition law is there to provide a level playing for all, and we are extremely grateful for her vision.
Dr. Ben Van Rompuy (Leiden University) and Dr. Antoine Duval (T.M.C. Asser Instituut)