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Sporting Organisations on Thin Ice: Speed Skating, Arbitration and the Competition Rules (T-93/18 International Skating Union)

Christopher McMahon


Keywords: arbitration, sporting organisations

Case T-93/18 International Skating Union v Commission, Judgment of the General Court (Fourth Chamber, Extended Composition) of 16 December 2020
The complex relationship between the commercial and regulatory responsibilities of large sporting federations is one that has proven particularly challenging for the interpretation of competition rules in the European Treaties. In a recent judgment, the General Court has confirmed a decision of the Commission finding the International Skating Union to have restricted competition by object contrary to Article 101 TFEU due to the particularly punitive nature of its eligibility rules for athletes and its pre-authorisation system for events organised by third parties. It is argued that this judgment will serve as a potent warning for sporting federations from which they can draw several important lessons. This judgment makes it clear that the regulatory discretion of such organisations must be tightly constrained and that excessively vague rules may operate to their detriment. Participation in and the organisation of third-party events must be approached with caution. The judgment also sheds light on the relationship between competition law and arbitration in refuting the Commission’s contention that an arbitration clause reinforced the impugned infringement.

Christopher McMahon is a PhD Candidate and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin. He holds degrees from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Oxford and is a qualified barrister. For correspondence: <>.


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