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Sportradar’s Genius-FDC case to be heard by Competition Appeal Tribunal

| By Robin Harrison
Sportradar’s legal claim against Genius Sports Group and Football DataCo (FDC) is to be heard by the Competition Appeal Tribunal, after the court dismissed an application by the defendants to have the case transferred to the High Court.

The claim, which was filed in February this year, challenges the structure put in place for the licensing and distribution of football leagues in England and Scotland by FDC and Genius following their exclusive rights deal struck in May 2019.

It looks to have that agreement declared void, and damages awarded.

Sportradar alleges that the agreement is in breach of UK and European Union competition law, namely Chapters I and II of the UK Competition Act 1998 and Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union. 

This deal gives Genius sole rights to collect, license and distribute live data from the English Premier League, Football League and Scottish Premier League. 

Genius and FDC filed draft counter-claims that alleged breach of confidence and unlawful means conspiracy on Sportradar’s part, in relation to in-stadium data collection. As these fell outside the jurisdiction of the Tribunal – which is also why they are considered “draft” counter-claims – the partners had applied to have the whole case transferred to the High Court.

However Judge Peter Roth ruled that the claim brought by Sportradar turns on questions of competition law, and therefore had to remain in the jurisdiction of the competition forum.

“We welcome the fact that the Competition Appeal Tribunal’s judgment has upheld Sportradar’s submissions, and that the competition law claim will proceed to be determined first and in the specialist forum,” David Lampitt, managing director of sports partnerships for Sportradar, said.

“As the Tribunal has clearly stated, the dispute manifestly depends on questions of competition law, and private law rights cannot be relied on to give effect to an exclusive agreement which violates competition law,” Lampitt explained. 

Judge Roth ruled that the appropriate way forward was for the case to be chaired by a High Court judge, who would have the option to hold a joint case management conference on the Sportradar claim and Genius-FDC counterclaim.

This is normal practice, according to Roth’s ruling, to avoid “potential inefficiency” created by two different judges presiding over the Competition Appeal Tribunal and High Court cases.

“Once FDC and Genius bring their claim or claims in the High Court, those proceedings can sensibly be docketed to the same High Court judge,” Roth said.

This element of the decision was welcomed by Genius Sports and FDC. In a statement they said that while the Tribunal had decided to retain jurisdiction over Sportradar’s claims, it had recognised that the private law rights claims were “intertwined” with the dispute and should be case managed together. 

“Genius Sports’ and DataCo’s connected arguments to be heard in the High Court concern Sportradar’s alleged trespass, rights infringement and breach of contract,” it said. “These are cases that centre on the funding of sport and football leagues’ ability to participate in revenue from data collected on their events.”

However Lampitt added that the application to have proceedings shifted Court had caused “considerable delays”.

“Now that all elements of that application have been rejected we look forward to progressing our competition law claim to trial as soon as possible,” he said.

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