Unsaddling The Unruly Horses- A Peek Into The Antitrust Enforcement Mechanism Against Mammoth Saddling Sportís Bodies
Sports, especially cricket in the Indian subcontinent is a religion, and
cricketers are often worshipped and have almost demi god like status in India.
The organizations which administer these sports are immensely powerful and enjoy
huge earning's through advertisement revenue, ticket sale and merchandise sale.
The old adage-power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely
rings true in the context of these sports bodies, and it often been observed,
even in foreign jurisdictions that sports administrative bodies behave in a
monopolistic manner, and in a manner which affects free competition in the
market and affects the level playing turf.
This Article will endeavour to explain through the analysis of 3 case-Laws what
kind of conduct will attract censure under The Competition Act, 2002 and what
kind of conduct will be deemed not to attract censure under The Competition Act,
Hemanta Sharma Vs All India Chess Federation: The Informants in the present
case are chess players of the National level. They have alleged that the All
India Chest Federation is engaging in conduct which is prejudicial to the
Competition Act, 2002. They have alleged that they were made to sign a
declaration that they will not participate in any tournament not organized by
Informants have also alleged that a condition was put on them that if they
participate in any tournament not authorized by AICF they will face a ban of
more than one year. Informants have also alleged that chess players all over the
world are given ELO rankings, which is an international benchmark for all chess
players. It is contended by them that AICF has arbitrarily withdrawn their
rankings after that they participated in the chess tournament organized by the
Chess Federation of India. It was also contended that AICF was picking players
not based on merit and not as per Long Term Development Plan rather it was
The first contention that arose before the AICF was whether AICF was an
enterprise within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the Act? It was concluded by
the Director General that AICF was an enterprise within the meaning of Section
2(h). AICF has opposed it by saying that they only regulate the game, and act
without any profit motive.
The Commission noted that AICF has earned significant amounts of revenue through
the charging of entry fees, sale of media rights and money earned through
sponsorship. The Commission noted that absence of profit motive will not allow
the AICF to not fall within the definition of enterprise and it is thus held
that it is an enterprise within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the Act.
The next issue that arose for consideration before the Commission was What is
the Relevant market in the present case?- It was concluded by the Commission
that the relevant market was as follows-market for organization of chess
tournaments in India?
The next question that arose before the Commission was whether AICF enjoys
dominant position in the above defined relevant market?-It was noted by the
Commission that AICF is the only national level chess federation which regulates
the sport of chess in India, as it the only chess body in India recognized by
FIDE. AICF has the power to control professional chess players in India. It is
based on these factors that AICF enjoys a position of dominance in India in the
The next question that arose for consideration was whether AICF had abused
its dominant position?-It was noted by the Commission that when chess
players register with the AICF they are made to sign a declaration saying that
they will not participate in any tournament which is not sanctioned by the AICF.
The restriction is absolutist is nature, and ELO rankings of players were
arbitrarily removed who had participated in such unauthorized tournaments.
It has also been noticed that AICF wrote letters to the Bangkok chess club to
discourage their participation. It was concluded by the Competition Commission
of India that due to the impugned restrictions, chess players cannot participate
in any other tournaments. AICF has also not put forth any document to show in
what manner it decides what is an unauthorized tournament.
It was concluded by the Commission that such a blanket restriction by the AICF
is in the nature of creating barriers for organization of other chess
tournaments and amounts to denial of market access. AICF has also not been able
to show how such a blanket restriction will preserve the integrity of the sport.
Commission has also concluded that practise of AICF allowing entries under
special fees category and not as per the methodology of the Ministry of
Sports is a violation of Section 4(2)(a)(1) of The Competition Act, 2002. Cease
and desist orders were issued.
Surinder Singh Barni Vs Board Of Cricket Control In India
In this case the Informants challenged Rule 28(1) of BCCI rules as violating
Section 4(2)(c) of The Competition Act, 2002, resulting in denial of market
access. As per the said rule no player or umpire registered with the BCCI could
play in any other domestic cricket league† other than the Indian Premier
League, as per the informants it forecloses the market for organization of any
other rival professional cricket domestic league.
BCCI first contended that it is not a enterprise within the meaning of Section 2
(h) of The Competition Act, 2002 as it does not work for profit. Commission
concluded that the BCCI was an enterprise under the meaning of Section 2(h) of
the Act because the defining criteria is economic activity irrespective of the
fact whether it is carried out for a profit motive or not. BCCI argued before
the Commission that IPL can be substituted with other popular television serials
which run regularly on television.
It was concluded by the Commission that cricket enjoyed vast popularity in India
and it cannot be replaced by and any other programme or sports on television.
Thus the Commission said that the relevant market is market for professional
domestic cricket league in India.
Commission has concluded that due to the unique position of BCCI due to the
pyramid structure of sports governance, and BCCI being the sole authorized
regulator of cricket in India as authorized by the ICC and the widespread
popularity of cricket and the large amount of money earned through endorsements,
it is unequivocally concluded that BCCI is dominant within the meaning
of Section 4 of The Competition Act, 2002.
The Commission said that Rule 28 of the BCCI rules which prohibit any player or
umpire associated with the BCCI to participate in any tournament not sanctioned
by the BCCI is a practise which amounts to denial of market access in terms of
Section 4(2)(c) of The Competition Act, 2002 as it forecloses other bodies from
organizing cricket tournaments.
Dhinraj Pillai Vs Hockey India:
It was alleged by the Informant in this case that Hockey India(Apex Body for
regulation of hockey in India) that players who had participated in tournaments
of rival hockey leagues were disqualified from Hockey India. It was also
contended by the Informant's that Hockey India was not granting permission for
organization of professional sports bodies. The Commission dismissed these
allegations as it accepted Hockey India submission that the players were dropped
because they did not participate in a compulsory national training camp. It was
also concluded by the Commission that Hockey India was not the sanctioning
authority for the tournament which was sought to be organized.
The above mentioned Case Laws help us understand the judicial intricacies which
the Commission and the Courts have to deal with when they are dealing with
aspects of anti- trust Law. Sports Bodies have to a large extent become like
mighty corporations and it is the need of the hour to regulate their activities
in order to nurture a level playing field to ensure that sports men and women
get equal opportunity and viewers of these sports enjoy the spectacle to the
fullest extent possible.
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