The author is a 2nd year student of UPES, Dehradun.
Sporting Regulatory Authorities or SRAs are established in India with a primary objective of controlling, promoting, regulating and selecting teams for their specific sports. Amongst all SRAs, the most prominent one is Board of Control for Cricket in India or BCCI, a society registered under Tamil Nadu Society Registration Act, 1975 and established for the purpose of administering the game of cricket in India. Surinder Singh Barmi v. Board of Control for Cricket in India[i]was the first Indian case wherein the Competition Commission of India or CCI was posed with question of interpreting the provisions of our anti-trust law with that to our sports industry, the chronology of cases[ii]brought forth to CCI post-Barmi adjudication developed a jurisprudence in parlance with global trends, especially to that of European Union [EU].
The question which was very important for the commission to answer in Barmi and succeeding case was with regard to applicability of Competition Act, 2002 to such authorities. If competition act is applicable to such bodies then what is the mechanism for determining relevant market of such regulatory bodies?
It is imperative to state that Competition Act, 2002 aims to promote healthy competition in the economy rather than curbing monopolies, a legislative intent of it’s preceding legislation. The reason why SRAs are in dominance in India is because usually the International Sports Affiliation recognises one domestic SRA. So, dominance per se cannot be form of anti-competitive allegation, it is only through abuse of dominance an SRA can be brought under the net of our anti-trust law. Lastly if there is abuse of dominance by SRAs, it has to be carefully examined and construed in such cases whether such abuse of dominance was carried out while performing regulatory function or ‘economical’ function as interpreted under the Competition Act.
Post-Surinder Singh Barmi, the law on the subject of sports and competition law has diversified, in order to evaluate the position of BCCI or any other SRAs in near future with current standpoint of law, the general principles can be summarised as follows:
- SRAs would fall within the ambit of ‘enterprises’ only if it exercises its function of facilitating its concerned sport. Facilitation for this purpose means organising, promoting and educating about the concerned sport through sporting tournaments or events. Profit or not-for-profit motive in conducting events holds no relevance. [This principle is derived from all Indian Cases in this context and MOTOE v. Elliniko Dimosio,  C-49/07, (European Court of Justice, Grand Chamber)]
- While determining the relevant market of SRA, emphasises should be laid upon demand substitutability and ascertaining who is the relevant consumer, through the analysis of multitude relationship that regulator shares, for example, while granting of media rights by SRA to broadcasters, the broadcasters in this case forms the relevant consumer in media right market. [Barmi case just restricted itself to demand substitutability, whereas subsequently Dhanraj Pillay case propounded determination of relevant consumers through ‘principle of multitude relationships’]
- Dominance should be derived from the governing powers and objectives of the SRA, governing power is implied from its memorandum, bye-laws, rules and regulation, also laws from its affiliated international governing body. If the governing power is vested in such a way so as to cater SRA’s dominance in the relevant market, then SRA would have dominance in that relevant market.
- Abuse of dominance in relevant market would not amount to abuse when the restrictive condition (alleged anti-competitive conduct) is in consonance with the objectives of SRA and the effect arising from such condition is proportionate to the legitimate sporting interest, then condition so imposed by SRA cannot be termed as anti-competitive. If restrain is a necessary requirement for development of sports or preserving its integrity, then the same cannot be also classified as anti-competitive.
- International Affiliation Body would be also liable for any abuse of dominance on the part of SRAs if it has full knowledge and supported such abuse. [ Principle derived from Hockey India Federation and Chess Federation Case, due delay in propounding this principle ICC scouted free from its liability in Barmi’s case]
Apart from EU’s Competition Law, Competition Act, 2002 has borrowed it’s essence from U.S. Anti-Trust Law, interpretation of competition law and sporting industry in America initiated from the case of Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore, Inc v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs,259 U.S. 200 (1922, Court of Appeals, Columbia), wherein court held that sports and anti-trust law are different, both of them cannot be construed together, thereby holding a sports exception in which competition regulator cannot scrutinise the activities in sporting industry. Efforts and diligence of commission needs to applauded for recognising the difference in Indian sports environment to that of America’s, this is the reason why CCI did not adopt the exception because regulatory and organising role is carried out one entity in India whereas in U.S., it is in the hands of private individuals or bodies.
Ever since 1991, India has seen a surge in globalisation and commercialisation of every industry, it is only a matter of time that such surge is going change whole of dynamics of Indian sports industry as well the economy at large, there would challenging and new anti-trust issues in sports- competition law but given the way commission has evolved its take on these issues and developed a jurisprudence, it’s only a matter of time when India will surpass EU’s Sports-Competition Law.
[ii]Dhanraj Pillay & Others v. M/s Hockey India, Case No. 73 of 2011, (Competition Commission of India, 31/05/2013). Hemant Sharma & Others v. All India Chess Federation (AICF), Case No. 79 of 2011 (Competition Commission of India, 21/02/2018). Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports v. Athletics Federation of India, Reference Case No. 01 of 2015 (Competition Commission of India).