Meca-Medina and Majcen v Commission

It is competition law rather than free movement law that has come to provide the main basis for addressing the intersection of the law of the EU’s internal market with sporting autonomy, the lex sportiva. The Commission’s reliance on Wouters in its ENIC decision was plainly significant in charting the way forward, but the authoritative voice of the Court was required to confirm the direction of travel. In the summer of 2006 the Court brought a welcome degree of analytical clarity to the matter. Meca-Medina is a landmark in the development of EU sports law which deserves to stand in bold prominence alongside Bosman.2S

The importance of Meca-Medina

In Meca-Medina the Court took the opportunity to confirm that the approach it had used in Wouters in connection with the regulation of the bar and the administration of justice was suitable for the application and interpretation of EU competition law in the context of sport. And this allowed it to shape an intellectually convincing understanding of how and why—and how far—sport is treated as special under EU law. In particular the Court in Meca-Medina was presented with the opportunity to develop more firmly the notion that the ‘sporting exception’ does not mean that a practice falls outwith the scope of the Treaty altogether but rather that the rules have an economic effect and so fall within the scope of the Treaty—but that they are not condemned by it in so far as they are shown also to exert virtuous effects in order to secure the sport’s effective organization.29 This is why the ruling matters so much. Autonomy is permitted to sport under EU law on condition that adequate reason for the prevailing pattern of sports governance is shown to the Court’s satisfaction.

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