European competition law includes legislation in the areas of antitrust, merger control and State Aid. Antitrust rules are of particular relevance to the sport sector as they prohibit anti-competitive agreements and practices, as well as abuse of a dominant position.
Such cases have generally concerned regulatory and organisational aspects of sport and certain revenue-generating activities connected with it, such as the selling of media rights and the ticket sales arrangements for events.
The growing economic significance of activities connected to sport has meant that the European Commission has had to deal with an increasing number of sport-related competition cases.
Local or national sport-related cases are normally dealt with by the national competition authority in the Member State concerned, with the Commission generally focussing on cases with cross-border implications. There is close co-operation between the Commission and national competition authorities to ensure a consistent application of EU antitrust rules.
In the QC Leisure (also known as 'Murphy') ruling of 4 October 2011, the European Court of Justice interpreted the application of EU competition law provisions to broadcasting licence agreements for sporting events, including analysis of the admissibility of exclusive licence agreements for specific territories.
The Meca-Medina ruling of 18 July 2006 was a landmark decision where the Court provided useful guidance on the application of EU competition rules to sport, notably in respect of the regulatory aspects of sport.