Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

Sport and Competition Law: An Interesting Twosome

Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

Sport and Competition Law: An Interesting Twosome

Article excerpt

  "I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift nor the
  battle to the strong, and neither is bread to the wise, nor wealth to
  the discerning, nor favour to men of ability; for time and chance
  overtake them all."

    Ecclesiastes 9 verse 11

Not that long ago, at the end of the twentieth century, competition law made its entry into the world of sport. Sports regulations have been placed in a (European) competition law framework ever since because of conflicts between players or athletes and the association, between the clubs and the association, between the association and emerging other associations, or between the association and third parties such as broadcasting licence holders, etc. In 1999 the European Commission had to handle more than 50 sport-related complaints. Competition law is being used as an instrument to settle disputes in favour of the individual's own interests, the club's interests, or those of a third party (such as broadcasting licence holders), which are often diametrically opposed to the interests of the collective, the sports organization as a whole (chapter 16). Casting a side-glance at the development of applying competition law to sports regulations in the United States, one may assume that the trend to interfere using competition law wilt continue for the time being.

Central to this research was the tension between sports regulations and European competition law. In that context the research was aimed at determining whether sports regulations have their own sphere, and, if so, how this sphere is defined in relation to European competition law.

The key question was researched from two important angles:

a. The uniqueness of sport. Referred to in this study also as the basic principles of sport or the intrinsic value of sport;

b. Sport's beneficial function to society. Referred to in this study also as the extrinsic value of sport.

The uniqueness of sport

To find an answer to the central question in this doctoral thesis, a profound understanding of sport is necessary. For there is no authoritative definition (par. 1.5), the basic characteristics of this phenomenon have been researched. Sport is a (visible) form of competition or rivalry (par. 1.2 and 1.5). Sport has its own rules, making the game recognizable throughout the world (par. 1.3). The conditions of the (usually physical) contest in sport are identical to the extent possible, the ultimate goal being to produce a winner (par. 1.5). Collectively, these characteristics distinguish sport from various other social phenomena (par. 1.6).

Subsequently, in the second chapter, sport in an organized form was researched. Sport developed in clubs and associations (par. 2.2 and 2.3). The sports organization governed by private law is distinguished by a monopolistic structure (see par. 2.3). The association is the umbrella organization that stipulates when, where, and under which rules the product, the game or the competition, is realized. Sports regulations that have a direct relationship to the basic characteristics form part of this "uniqueness" of sport (par. 2.4). In addition, there are numerous sports regulations regarding the structure of the sports organization and sports regulations guarding the "integrity" of sport and the sports organization, for example through disciplinary rules (see par. 2.4.4).

Sport as a phenomenon placed in a favourable social framework

In the third chapter the social framework of sport was researched. Sport's importance to society is, inter alia, evidenced by the Declarations to the Treaty of Amsterdam and Nice (par 3.2.1., 3.2.2), the European Constitution [Europese Grondwet] (par, 3.2.3), and the Treaty of Lisbon (par. 3.2.3). Not only is sport viewed as a means to improve health, the educational, social, cultural, and recreational dimension is also continuously emphasized by governments or by institutions such as the European Commission. …

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