Commentary

U.S. Soccer wins six-year antitrust suit

By Paul Kennedy

In an 82-page opinion issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber ruled for U.S. Soccer in the six-year case ChampionsWorld v. U.S. Soccer, throwing out the testimony of ChampionsWorld's expert witness, therefore rejecting its antitrust claim and issuing a summary judgment in favor of U.S. Soccer.

From August 18, 2012



The case involved ChampionsWorld, the organization formed by former MetroStars executive Charlie Stillitano to promote international matches in North America. ChampionsWorld filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and later filed suit against U.S. Soccer and MLS, claiming U.S. Soccer and MLS conspired to put ChampionsWorld out of business to control the lucrative market for international matches for MLS's marketing agency, SUM, take over.

In 2003, ChampionsWorld matches averaged 45,427, and it paid international match fees of more than $200,000 per game to U.S. Soccer. ChampionsWorld's creditors attempted to recoup the more than $3 million in fees that U.S. Soccer charged ChampionsWorld as well as damages for being put out of business.

Initially, U.S. Soccer argued that it had authority to govern professional and international matches under the Ted Stevens Olympic & Amateur Sports Act, but Judge Leinenweber in a 2010 ruling knocked down U.S. Soccer's arguments, writing that there was no evidence that the Amateur Sports Act gave national governing bodies power beyond amateur sports or Olympic-related competitions.

But in the key turning point in the case, FIFA's player' status committee ruled the USSF has the authority to require international matches be sanctioned and to impose fees for organizers to put on the matches, and both the authority of the player' status committee to arbitrate the case and it decision were upheld by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

In his latest ruling, Judge Leinenweber affirmed U.S. Soccer's request to enforce what was termed the "arbitral award" of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

He also said the sanctioning U.S. Soccer gave ChampionsWorld was sufficient consideration for the fees its charged, and he rejected ChampionsWorld's claim that U.S. Soccer defrauded and extorted it.

Judge Leinenweber, who sits in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, then threw out the expert testimony of University of Michigan professor Rodney Fort on behalf of ChampionsWorld on the market for international soccer matches in the United States and therefore ruled ChampionsWorld failed to prove the elements of an antitrust case under the Sherman Act.
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