25. Jan 17

Bundeskartellamt investigates ticket allocation for international football fixtures

The Deutscher Fußballbund (DFB) [German Football Association] continues to attract the attention of the Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s Federal Cartel Office. This is due to the practice of linking the allocation of tickets to membership of the fan club for Germany’s national football team.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: For fans of the German national team, it can sometimes prove difficult getting a hold of tickets for international matches. Even in the case of the UEFA European Championship matches in France, the DFB linked the allocation of tickets to membership of the fan club for the national team. Membership of the fan club comes with a charge. The result is that the fans are asked to pay up twice if they wish to obtain admission tickets. The Bundeskartellamt began to address this allocation practice as early as the start of the year, alleging that violations of antitrust law may have occurred.

According to media reports, the cartel authorities have since expanded their investigations. These now also extend to the allocation of tickets for the 2018 Football World Cup in Russia, including the qualification matches and the 2017 Confederations Cup. The DFB cites security reasons as a justification for this allocation practice, stating that this is meant to prevent spectators who are prepared to resort to violence from entering the stadiums. In April, the DFB then granted the fans a special right to terminate their membership of the fan club.

The Bundeskartellamt opened investigations in the spring to determine whether the link between the allocation of tickets and membership of the fan club constituted an abuse. In the interests of protecting consumers, antitrust law is supposed to ensure effective and diverse competition. This is the basis upon which violations of the Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen (GWB) [Act against Restraints on Competition] or abuse of a dominant market position can be severely punished and give rise to appropriate sanctions. Having said that, it is possible for anti-competitive measures to be permissible under certain circumstances provided they have a positive impact on the market.

In order to avoid time-consuming and costly legal disputes, lawyers who are versed in the field of antitrust law can be consulted early on. They will be able to assess whether there is cause for concern from the perspective of antitrust law and can take appropriate measures to overcome any existing difficulties. They can also enforce and fend off claims arising from violations of antitrust law or competition law.

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