Serie A clubs to consider damages claim against three agencies after antitrust ruling

The clubs from Italy’s Serie A will discuss next Monday the possibly of launching a damages claim against the three agencies – MP & Silva, IMG and B4 – fined late last month for allegedly being involved in a cartel in the acquisition of the league’s international rights.

Italy’s competition authority, L’Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato, ruled that the agencies had been party to anti-competitive agreements in the acquisition of the international rights to Serie A, Serie B, the Coppa Italia and the Italian Super Cup.

MP & Silva was fined almost €64m ($71.4m), B4 €3.1m and IMG almost €344,000.

Item six on the agenda of Monday’s league assembly is: “Cartel against the league operated by IMG/MP&S/B4: analysis [of the] opportunity [of a] joint damages action.”

By ‘joint’, the league means for the clubs and the league to launch a single claim. Claims launched by individual clubs, at the same time as a league claim, could complicate the proceedings and add costs, legal experts say.

In its findings, the authority said that the action of the three agencies in not competing for the rights had dampened growth in their value. It argued that in the period under question, 2009 to 2018, the other four main European leagues enjoyed an annual growth rate of 21 to 22 per cent. In the same period, the Italian rights had grown by an annual average of only 13.6 per cent. On this basis, a damages claim could be as high as €180m, according to an analysis by SportBusiness Media.

It remains unclear who the clubs would be able to act against. The MP & Silva subsidiaries implicated, plus the agency’s parent company, are either in liquidation or close to liquidation. The same is thought to be the case with B4. This could leave IMG as the only company facing a claim.

IMG, which sells the international rights to Serie A for the three seasons from 2018-19 to 2020-21, is involved in a separate dispute with the league. It has claimed damages of almost €60m for breach of contract over the way in which the Italian-language rights to Serie A were sold by another of the league’s partners, Italian state broadcaster Rai. In April, the league rejected the claim.

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