Relevent Sports refiled its lawsuit against
U.S. Soccer, adding FIFA as a defendant to the suit filed in the Southern District of New York over the federation's policy for sanctioning international matches.
The case brought by the Relevent Sports Group in September 2019 was initially dismissed in July. The court granted U.S. Soccer's motion that any tort claim Relevent had against U.S. Soccer should go to FIFA arbitration. It also dismissed Relevent's antitrust claim.
Most significantly, the new filing included a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice to U.S. Soccer and FIFA stating that a prohibition against staging league matches internationally could violate American antitrust laws.
Relevent was given until Tuesday to file an amended antitrust complaint and allege facts sufficient to show the court has personal jurisdiction over FIFA or join FIFA in the lawsuit.
The amended filing outlined FIFA's business connections to Manhattan, including media deals with New York-based Fox and Telemundo and its agreement with match agents, including Relevent's Charlie Stillitano, that Relevent argues are indeed sufficient to give personal jurisdiction over FIFA by fulfilling the "substantial business connections" test.
Relevent sued U.S. Soccer over the federation's policy for sanctioning international matches, arguing it violated federal antitrust law by conspiring with FIFA to prevent clubs from playing international matches in the United States if they have not been sanctioned by U.S. Soccer.
Relevent has organized the International Champions Cup and other international friendly matches, but the issue came to a head when it signed an agreement with LaLiga, which was pushing to play in official league matches in the United States. When sanctioning was not forthcoming from U.S. Soccer for an Ecuadoran league match -- Barcelona SC vs. Guayaquil City FC -- at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium, Relevent sued in New York state court to compel the federation to sanction the game.
The FIFA Football Stakeholders Committee -- on which MLS commissioner Don Garber and former U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro serve -- voted in late February to propose to the FIFA Council that the ban on staging league matches internationally be codified in the FIFA Statutes. In its amended filing, Relevent states that the Department of Justice's intervention in the case, through its Antitrust Division, was based on its concern that the proposal violated U.S. antitrust laws.
Relevent is owned by Stephen M. Ross, the real estate developer and principal owner of the Miami Dolphins. He is also a contributor to President Donald Trump.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino is also friendly with Trump, having met with him several times, including as a guest of the president at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey last summer. In January, Infantino was invited by Trump to make the introduction speech at a dinner at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.