Belgian Competition Authority Temporarily Suspends Exclusivity Clause in International Show-Jumping Regulations

On 27 July 2015, the Competition College (Mededingingscollege / Collège de la concurrence) of the Belgian Competition Authority (Belgische Mededingingsautoriteit / Autorité belge de la concurrence) suspended the exclusivity clause preventing horse riders from participating in show-jumping competitions not approved by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (“FEI”).

This case was triggered by a complaint by Global Champions League (“GCL”), Global Champions Tour’s new show-jumping league and team competition. GCL had complained to the BCA that the exclusivity clause included in the General Regulations of FEI, the governing body for show-jumping, was anti-competitive. Pursuant to this clause, athletes and horses cannot compete in FEI approved events if they participated in an event not approved by the FEI over the previous six months. According to GCL, this clause prevents riders from participating in non-FEI events since show-jumping competitions take place all year round. GCL stressed that FEI not only sets the rules applicable to all competitions but also competes with some organisations governed by its regulations by running its own commercial show jumping events.

GCL’s complaint included an application for interim measures in order to prevent FEI from implementing this exclusivity clause for the duration of the investigation. After a prima facie analysis of the case, the Competition College of the BCA decided to grant GCL’s request and ordered FEI to suspend its exclusivity clause until the BCA adopts a final decision on the merits of the case or until the BCA reviews the interim measure.

The BCA announced that “with the measure, the College wishes to avoid, pending the procedure on the complaint, that the Global Champions League cannot be organised in 2016, with the risk that the project needs to be abandoned”. This suspension implies that FEI cannot reject or penalise, directly or indirectly, athletes or horses for their participation in a GCL competition and must inform its members, athletes, officials and organisers accordingly.

Interim measures adopted by the BCA are only temporary and do not prejudge the existence of any infringement of Belgian or European competition law.