In a press release of 24 May 2022, the Polish Competition Authority ("UOKiK") announced that it had opened antimonopoly proceedings against the Polish Automobile and Motorcycle Federation ("PZM") and PGE Ekstraliga ("League"). This is another step in the UOKiK's investigation of the capping of riders' salaries.
In September 2021, the UOKiK announced that it had received complaints related to the lowering of riders' salaries due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. According to the press release, salary caps had been allegedly jointly agreed upon between the PZM, the League and clubs. The UOKiK opened explanatory proceedings (an in rem phase of an antitrust investigation where there are no parties).
Now, seven months later, the UOKiK has decided to open antimonopoly proceedings and focus its investigation against the PZM and the League.
The press release suggests that the alleged infringement extends beyond the pandemic; rules on salary caps may even have been applied since 2014.
The Chairman of the UOKiK confirmed that the alleged infringement is also being analysed under Article 101 TFEU because the remuneration scheme agreed in Poland might be used as a benchmark in other countries. Moreover, Polish clubs attract many foreign riders, which strengthens the cross-border impact of the conduct under investigation.
Unlike in the parallel proceedings concerning similar conduct in basketball (where proceedings are conducted against the league and member clubs), no charges have been levelled at clubs.
The speedway and basketball investigations show that the Polish regulator is actively enforcing the competition rules on the labour market, particularly in professional sports.
Comparable cases concerning no-poach, wage-fixing arrangements and restrictions of participation in non-authorised events are also being conducted by competition authorities, e.g. in Lithuania (basketball), Portugal (football) and the EU (International Skating Union). A request for a preliminary ruling has also been submitted to the CJEU by the European Super League in a case concerning the creation of a competitive football tournament parallel to UEFA/FIFA (C-333/21).
Although no decision has been issued yet, the UOKiK has stated that employment conditions (such as salary) would be regarded as "typical" parameters of competition, meaning that EU and national competition laws would be applied to any conduct restricting those conditions.
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