Horse Trading With The Irish Competition Authority - At The Competition/Sport Interface

Author:Mr John Kettle, Niall Collins and Anthony Burke
Profession:Mason Hayes & Curran

On the 30 May 2012, the Irish Competition Authority (the "Authority") announced that Show Jumping Ireland ("SJI") had agreed to amend an alleged anticompetitive rule which prevented its members from competing at unaffiliated show-jumping events with a prize fund in excess of €50/£50, and with potential penalties for non-observance.

The Authority had initially formed the opinion that the rule amounted to a decision of an association of undertakings, which was likely to restrict the participation of SJI members at unaffiliated show-jumping events and the organisation of such unaffiliated events in Ireland. The Authority further considered that the rule was disproportionate and was, accordingly, likely to infringe section 4 of the Competition Act 2002 (as amended) and Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union ("TFEU").

However, SJI co-operated with the Authority's investigation and agreed to amend the rule in order to address the Authority's concerns. The amendment of the rule means that members of SJI may now participate in unaffiliated events with a prize fund greater than €50/£50, without being penalised for so doing, provided that the unaffiliated event concerned (i) has signed up to health and safety standards specified by SJI; and (ii) has adequate insurances in place. Accordingly, it is clear that the Authority looked unfavourably on an outright ban on its members participating in events organised by any competitor to SJI. However, it would appear that the Authority was prepared to accept arguments related to the need to ensure that competitors in such events were appropriately protected from a health and safety perspective.

It has been ninety years since Mr Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. decided in Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore, Inc. v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs that the US Sherman...

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