Mexico City, September 24th, 2021.
The Federal Economic Competition Commission («FECC») published yesterday the resolution of the trial-like proceeding under case file IO-002-2018 in the market for contracts of professional soccer players in Mexico. The proceeding concluded with the imposition of fines totaling 177.6 million pesos to 17 soccer clubs for carrying out collusive conducts. It also sanctioned the Mexican Soccer Federation and 8 individuals for assisting in these practices.
The sanctioned clubs engaged in two conducts that the FECC considered anticompetitive in this market: (i) the imposition of maximum caps on the salaries of female soccer players from November 2016 to May 2019 to prevent clubs from competing for female players with better salaries, which the FECC considered an anticompetitive price fixing; and (ii) the segmentation in the players’ market by establishing a mechanism that prevented them from freely negotiating with new teams (commonly called the gentlemen’s agreement) from June 2008 to December 2018 to unduly restrict the mobility of athletes and limit their bargaining power to obtain better salaries.
This resolution is particularly relevant as the FECC analyzed competition in a human resources market related to the salaries and mobility of individuals (players) hired by different competitors (clubs). First, it analyzed the imposition of maximum salaries of female soccer players as coordinated price fixing among leading Mexican soccer clubs, from an antitrust perspective; and second, it considered that the restriction of mobility of players imposed by competitors implies a market segmentation from an economic competition perspective.
This resolution is also innovative in terms of gender equity and antitrust, as it highlights the salary gap between the women’s and men’s soccer leagues. Also, by sanctioning the imposition of maximum salaries for female soccer players and imposing an end to such conduct, it is expected that the salary conditions of women who belong to the women’s league will be more competitive.
The legality of the FECC’s action may still be challenged before the Federal Judiciary. However, the Mexican Soccer Federation stated yesterday in a joint press release with the clubs, that they reiterate their commitment to abide by the resolution issued by the FECC. They also stated that they have no intention of contesting the resolution and that they will assume responsibility for the sanctions decreed therein.
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S I N C E R E L Y,