Articles | 2023-12-21

EN | Competition and EU Law v Sports: Landmark Hattrick by the ECJ

On 21 December, the Court of Justice of the European Union ("CJEU") published 3 decisions on the application of European Union law rules to sporting activities in matters such as fundamental economic freedoms (such as freedom of provision of services and freedom of movement of workers), the application of competition rules and effective access to the courts – hereinafter “ESLC” e “ISU” e “Royal Antwerp”.

Consequently, significant economic, legal and social implications are anticipated in the sector, including in Portugal.

In the ESCL judgment, the CJEU considered that UEFA e pela FIFA abused their dominant positions of sports federations at national and supranational level when prohibiting the creation of a new pan-european championship - European Super League given that the rules in question are not transparent, objective, non discriminatory and proportionate.

Also in the ISU judgment, the CJEU reiterated that a sports association like the ISU can adopt and ensure compliance with rules on the organisation and staging of competitions through sanctions, but they must be transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate. If they are not, these rules could exclude competing companies from the market and restrict the organisation of new competitions. In addition, they may prevent athletes from taking part in such competitions.

Lastly, in the “Royal Antwerp” judgment, the CJEU assessed the rules on home-grown players and considered that the same may give rise to indirect discrimination, based on nationality, against players from other Member States; and are likely to have the object or effect of restricting the possibility for clubs to compete with each other by recruiting new talent, regardless of where they were trained.

The CJEU recognises that top-level football is a sector where talent and merit play an essential role. It will now be up to the national courts concerned to determine whether those rules restrict competition because of their very object or because of their actual or potential effects. If that is the case, it will nevertheless remain possible for UEFA and URBSFA to demonstrate that those rules can be justified under the conditions recalled by the CJEU in its judgement.

Understand the importance of these rulings and their potential impact in Portugal through the Informative Note prepared by TELLES European and Competition team, co-coordinated by the partner Margarida Rosado da Fonseca, and Sports Law, coordinated by the consultant João Pinho de Almeida.

Informative Note | Competition and EU Law v Sports: Landmark Hattrick by the ECJ

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