Brussels, 2nd of November 2015
Dear Commissioner Vestager,
We wanted to express our support and appreciation for the important decision to open an antitrust investigation into the case of the two skaters Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt.
This is an important case with implications for all of the 25,000 athletes working throughout Europe that are represented through the members of EU Athletes. It is essential that our members’ athletes are protected against the International Sports Federations abusing their monopolistic market positions.
We understand that the Commission may be interested in finding a principle based solution that could apply to all federations. Such an outcome would be supported and should set a precedent for all sports whilst hopefully removing the need for further complaints on this issue.
EU Athletes would be keen to participate in the development of any principle based solution. We believe that it would be helpful for the wider legitimacy of any agreement to have the independent athletes trade unions involved in these discussions and we would be happy to contribute if the Commission found it helpful. Our general view is that athletes should not be unduly prohibited from exercising their profession (considering the short life span of their careers) and that there can only be limited grounds to justify any restrictions. These grounds would need to be defined in objective, transparent and non-discriminatory terms and be subject to some form of independent review.
As an aside, we would like to make an important point about athletes’ representation through the Athletes Commissions. These Athletes Commissions are the International Federations favoured means of involving athletes in decision making processes. Unfortunately there are a number of serious concerns with this approach in that the Athlete Commissions are completely funded by the Federations and are to all intents and purposes merely a sub-committee of the federation. Whilst some Athletes Commissions are democratically elected this is not the case for far too many of them.
We remain grateful to the European Commission as one of the few organisations that is both able and willing to stand up for our athletes fundamental rights. EU Athletes is committed to assisting the Commission in any way that we can.