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Why sports federations are under increasing scrutiny from competition authorities

Multi sports athletes
Tuesday, 19 December 2017 By Viktoria Tsvetanova

Sport governing bodies are responsible for upholding fair competition in their respective sport, but are they themselves abiding by competition rules? This is a question the European Commission and national competition authorities are seeking to address.

In recent years, competition authorities have demonstrated an increased interest in the sports sector. To date, skating,[1] horse riding,[2] tennis,[3] football[4] and bodybuilding[5] governing bodies have been investigated. Most recently, in October 2017, a meeting was rumoured to have taken place between the European Commission and the European national competition authorities to discuss coordinated investigations into the rules imposed by sport federations.[6] Coincidentally, at the end of October, the German national competition authority (the Bundeskartellamt) commenced an investigation into the German Olympic Sports Federation and, by extension, the International Olympic Committee (IOC),[7] which sets the rules that the national body enforces.

To examine this issue, this article will look at:

  • The application of EU competition rules to sport governing bodies;

  • What sparked competition authorities' increased interest in the rules implemented by sport governing bodies;

  • The German national competition authority's investigation of the German Olympic Sports Federation;

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Viktoria Tsvetanova

Viktoria Tsvetanova

Viktoria is an Associate in the Competition team at Dentons. Viktoria advises on all aspects of competition law, including cartel investigations, competition litigation, market investigations, abuse of dominance, merger control and state aid.

Prior to joining Dentons, Viktoria obtained a Master’s degree in European Law from the College of Europe, majoring in competition law, and worked in the EU Competition and Antirust departments at two international law firms in Brussels.

Before starting her career in law, Viktoria was an international badminton player, representing Scotland at numerous badminton tournaments and event around the world. Viktoria is originally from Bulgaria, and has lived in Switzerland, Cyprus, Belgium and Scotland. Viktoria has on-the-ground experience in the Scottish, Bulgarian, Belgian and Malaysian legal systems, and works in English, French, Bulgarian and Russian.
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