Benelux athletes have always been at the forefront of the battle for fair sports in the EU. Twenty-five years after the famous Bosman ruling (case C-415/93) of the European Court of Justice) another Benelux case has just recently been decided by the European judges (case T 93/18). This time the proceedings related to the case initiated by two Dutch speed skaters, the Olympic Champion Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt, against the provisions of the International Skating Union (ISU) prohibiting athletes to compete in speed skating events which are not run by the ISU. The European judges ruled that a supreme regulatory body is bound by the EU competition law anchored in the European Treaties. A sport regulatory body must therefore abide by the competition rules of the EU and may not prevent athletes from competing and may not distort competition (access to the relevant market by third parties). As far as the equestrian sports are concerned, this case resembles the case of the Global Champions (GCL) League and the Federation Equestre International (FEI). Initially, the FEI tried to prevent riders from competing in events organized by the GCL but following a complaint filed by the GCL with the Belgian Competition Authority in 2015, the case was settled.
Important to note: the Dutch Speed Skaters were supported in their case by the EU Athletes which is a federation of European professional athletes, associations/unions representing more than 25,000 athletes. It is high time for equestrian athletes in the EU to join this organization.
If you’d like to know more about this, please contact Piotr Wawrzyniak.