On 10 April 2018, the European Commission (EC) carried out "dawn raids" at the premises of several companies active in the market for the distribution of sports media rights. The raids were carried out across a number of Member States pursuant to the EC's powers of investigation under Council Regulation (EC) No. 1/2003, which governs the implementation of EU competition rules. An EC statement confirmed the raids were a preliminary step in an investigation into suspected anti-competitive practices in the distribution of sports media rights. Cartels and other restrictive business practices are prohibited under EU competition rules. There is a substantial market for sports broadcasting rights in the EU, with broadcasting revenues reported to be €5.5bn for the top five football leagues in Europe for the 2017/2018 season alone.
Next Steps in Investigation
The next step for the EC is to review the documents collected during the dawn raids and conduct an in-depth investigation. The relevant parties may then receive a statement of objections (SO) listing the details of the EC's claim and the evidence and legal arguments the EC is relying on in its claim. A relevant party, or third parties with a sufficient interest, may make written submissions in response to the SO and may also request an oral hearing.
The EC will publish a preliminary decision if the results of its investigation have not dispelled its concerns. The Advisory Committee on Restrictive Practices and Monopolies ("Advisory Committee") will then form an opinion on the preliminary decision. Having considered the Advisory Committee's opinion, the EC will adopt and publish its final decision.
Enforcement and Penalties
The EC may make one of a number of orders against a relevant party including requiring the cessation of the infringement, behavioural remedies or structural remedies. Where the EC determines that the infringement was intentional or negligent, fines may also be imposed up to a maximum of 10% of the relevant party's worldwide turnover.