Relevent settles with FIFA on antitrust lawsuit

Relevent Sports has settled its antitrust lawsuit with FIFA as it pertains to the holding of league matches outside of a league’s home territory. The settlement now allows FIFA and Relevent to work together in bringing league matches from Europe and elsewhere to the United States.

The settlement, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, states that “Relevent and FIFA stipulate and agree to the dismissal without prejudice of all claims asserted by Relevent against FIFA in the above-captioned action, with each side bearing its own attorneys’ fees and costs.”

The document adds that “The Stipulation has no bearing on Relevent’s claims against Defendant United States Soccer Federation, Inc. (“USSF”).”

The USSF didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

It was not immediately clear whether the settlement would result in non-U.S. teams playing regular season matches there.

“FIFA and Relevent Sports have agreed to resolve this matter specific to FIFA while FIFA considers changes to its existing rules about whether games can be played outside of a league’s home territory,” said Relevent CEO Danny Sillman. “Relevent Sports looks forward to supporting FIFA as both sides work to grow the game.”

“FIFA and Relevent have agreed to resolve this matter”, soccer’s governing body said in a statement.

“As it concerns FIFA, pending FIFA’s consideration of changes to existing FIFA policies with respect to playing official season games outside of a league’s home territory. FIFA has not admitted any liability and continues to deny the legal claims alleged in Relevent’s complaint.”

The lawsuit, first filed in 2019, came about after Relevent, controlled by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross, signed a commercial rights deal with Spain’s LaLiga, and tried to host a league match involving Barcelona and Girona at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. Such matches must be approved by the national federations of the league as well as by the federation where the match will be played.

Relevent’s request was denied by the Royal Spanish Football Federation. Relevent later tried to host an Ecuadoran league match between Barcelona and Guayaquil City, but the USSF refused to sanction the event.

The USSF stated that its reason for denying Relevent the approval to hold the match was due to a FIFA policy adopted by its ruling council in 2018 that, “emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.”

The lawsuit was dismissed in July of 2021. Relevent alleged that the agreement intended to “adhere to the FIFA Policy and to boycott leagues, clubs, and players that participate in unsanctioned games in the United States.”

Judge Valerie Caproni ruled that the USSF’s adherence to FIFA policy, without additional factual allegations, wasn’t enough to prove that the USSF entered into an unlawful agreement with FIFA to “restrict output.”

However, an appeals court overturned that ruling in May of 2023, stating that “Relevent plausibly alleges that the 2018 Policy reflects a contractual commitment of head-to-head competitors to restrict competition.”

With the case headed to the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar filed a 23-page brief stating that the appellate court ruling should stand. The USSF “did not act independently. Rather, it participated in a membership association that adopted a policy binding the association’s members, and it invoked that policy as its stated rationale for denying approval of the proposed matches,” the government wrote.

The government added the USSF “was not a randomly selected FIFA member, nor was it a passive or unknowing bystander to the adoption and enforcement of the 2018 policy.”

Information from Reuters contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *