May 16, 2021

skaters who could not be penalized for participating in other competitions


When a humble sport like speed skating plays in favor of the richest teams in European football that have announced the Super League. In December 2017, the European Commission decided that the rules of the International Ice Skating Union (ISU) that provided severe penalties for athletes participating in speed skating competitions not authorized by the ISU violated EU antitrust law. With that decision, Brussels demanded that the ISU change those rules.

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European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said at the time: “International sports federations play an important role in the careers of athletes: they protect their health and safety and the integrity of competitions. However, the harsh sanctions that International Skating Union imposes on skaters they serve to protect their own commercial interests and prevent others from organizing their own events. The ISU now has to comply with our decision, modify its rules and open up new opportunities for athletes and competition organizers, for the benefit of all ice skating fans. ”

By analogy, the December 2017 decision of the European Commission protects the footballers threatened by FIFA and UEFA, who have announced that they will exclude from the Eurocup and the World Cup, competitions organized by them, the footballers who participate in the Super League. .

Of course, the Community Vice President of European Lifestyle, Margaritis Schinas, who in December 2017 was the spokesperson for the European Commission of Jean-Claude Juncker, has spoken out against the Super League: “We must defend a European model of sport promoted by values, based on diversity and inclusion. There is no margin to reserve it for the few rich and powerful clubs that want to break with everything that the associations represent: national leagues, promotions and relegation, support for grassroots and fan football. Universality , inclusion and diversity are key elements of European sport and of our European way of life. ”

The ISU is the only body recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to manage the sports of figure skating and speed skating on ice. Its members are national ice skating associations, which with the ISU organize and generate income from speed skating competitions, including major international competitions such as the Winter Olympics, world and European championships.

The European Commission investigation found that, under the ISU eligibility rules, in effect since 1998, speed skaters participating in competitions that are not approved by the ISU faced severe penalties, including a lifetime ban on speed skating. major international speed skating competitions. The International Ice Skating Union had the ability to impose these sanctions at its own discretion, even if independent competitions did not pose any risk to legitimate sporting objectives, such as the protection of the integrity and proper conduct of the sport, or health. and athlete safety.

“By imposing such restrictions, the ISU rules restrict competition and allow it to pursue its own commercial interests to the detriment of athletes and competition organizers. In particular, the European Commission considers that the ISU rules restrict the commercial freedom of athletes unable to participate in independent skating competitions. As a result of ISU rules, athletes cannot offer their services to organizers of other skating competitions and may be deprived of additional sources of income during their skating careers relatively short, “Brussels explained:” ISU eligibility rules prevented independent promoters from organizing their own speed skating competitions because they cannot attract the best athletes, which has limited the development of skating competitions alternative and innovative speed drives and has deprived fans of l ice skating to follow other events. ”

The ISU introduced certain changes to its eligibility rules in June 2016. Despite this, the European Commission ruled “that the established sanctions system remains disproportionately punitive and prevents the emergence of independent international speed skating competitions.” Therefore, the European Commission concluded that “the ISU’s eligibility rules are anti-competitive and violate the Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)“.

The European Commission’s decision required the ISU to stop its “illegal conduct within 90 days” and “to refrain from any measure having the same or equivalent object or effect.”

The Brussels opinion was born on October 5, 2015 after a complaint by two Dutch professional speed skaters, Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt.

“Sports rules established by sports federations are subject to EU antitrust rules when the body that establishes the rules, or the companies and individuals affected by the rules, are engaged in an economic activity,” explained Brussels: “On the Based on the jurisprudence of the EU Court, sporting rules are compatible with EU law if they pursue a legitimate objective and if the restrictions they create are inherent and proportionate to achieve this effective objective. This assessment can be carried out by the courts national authorities, national competition authorities, in particular vis-√†-vis national bodies, and by the European Commission, especially in the case of internships at an international level “.

And it added: “Article 101 of the TFEU and Article 53 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area prohibit restrictive business practices. The implementation of Article 101 TFEU is defined in the Competition Regulation (Council Regulation No. 1/2003), which can be applied by the European Commission and by the national competition authorities of the EU Member States “.

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