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Commercialised sports in the developed world constitute a multi-billion-dollar industry raising unique issues under competition law. Courts around the world have recognised that clubs that are commercial rivals necessarily need to collaborate in some ways for their sporting competitions to serve the public. Outside of North America, commercialised sports competitions form part of an integrated system of sports, typically under the supervision of a single national governing board. This too raises important questions about the use or abuse of a commercially-dominant position.
The overall structure of sporting competitions is thus potentially subject to judicial challenge under competition law statutes around the world. Specific agreements attributed to multiple parties, or to a single entity with a dominant position, are also subject to competition law challenges by governments, affected stakeholders or consumers.
The lecturer is an international leader in the field of the application of competition law to sports and has authored works dealing with this issue in developed economies, including Australia and New Zealand.
This subject considers the basic principles of competition law statutes applicable in North America, Europe and Australia/New Zealand, as well as relevant principles of the common law of restraint of trade. It then applies these principles in exploring a number of cutting-edge issues in the sports industry, including:
- The formation and structure of sports leagues
- Restrictive labour market practices (salary caps, drafts, limits on free mobility)
- Collective agreements regarding broadcasting, internet commerce, sponsorship, merchandise, intellectual property licensing etc.
- Competitive effects of league or federation rules regarding finances and ownership
- Permissible and impermissible responses to creation of rival competitions.
Application of competition law precedents covers several recurring questions, including the availability of private remedies, market definition and the relevance of non-commercial purposes in justifying conduct that might be clearly unlawful in non-sports industries.
Although the subject assumes no prior knowledge of competition law, other than a review of foundational principles underlying various competition statutes, it offers students with competition law background an opportunity to apply their knowledge to a unique and intellectually challenging setting.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the principles of competition law as they apply within the context of sport from international and comparative perspectives, including recent developments in these fields of law and practice
- Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess the effectiveness of these legal principles
- Be an engaged participant in debate regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field, such as sports competition structures and labour market controls, including player drafts, compensation fees and salary caps
- Have a sophisticated appreciation of the factors and processes driving parliamentary and sporting body revision of the legal and regulatory framework both domestically and internationally
- Have an advanced understanding of situations in which competition law issues may arise in sport industry and management practices
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating to competition law issues in sport, and to critically evaluate existing legal and regulatory theories, principles and concepts with creativity and autonomy
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging legal issues relating to competition law in sport
- Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding competition law issues relevant to specialist and non-specialist audiences
- Be able to demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and learner in the field of competition law in sport.
Last updated: 30 January 2024