Judge rules for US Soccer in antitrust suit
A federal judge ruled for the U.S. Soccer Federation in an
antitrust and racketeering lawsuit filed by a defunct promoter but
also reaffirmed his decision that Congress’ amateur sports act gave
the governing body authority over only Olympic events and not the
entire professional sport in the country.
The USSF was pleased with the opinion by U.S. District Judge
Harry D. Leinenweber in Chicago in the six-year-old case, saying
his interpretation of the amateur sports act would not impact its
authority over the professional sport because it was derived from
FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.
Leinenweber issued a summary judgment Friday in a suit filed by
ChampionsWorld LLC against the USSF and Major League Soccer, a case
that claimed the two conspired to put the promoter out of business.
But he refused to change his 2010 decision that the Ted Stevens
Olympic and Amateur Sports Act of 1998 ”gives USSF no more of an
antitrust exemption or authority over professional soccer than
necessary for it to oversee Olympic and related events.”
”USSF’s request for reconsideration is denied,” Leinenweber
wrote. ”USSF seems to argue that the 1975-77 President’s
Commission on Olympic Sports’ final report, which notes that USSF
was unique among the national governing bodies in that it had
professional members, compels reconsideration. Even assuming that
Congress noted that fact in passing the Act, this is insufficient
to change this Court’s conclusion as to the law as Congress
actually adopted it. That law was directed at the authority of the
national governing bodies relating to amateur and Olympic sports. A
note in the commission’s report that USSF exercised authority over
its professional members does not mean that the Act bestowed any
The USSF says it has sole authority over professional soccer in
the United States because it is recognized by FIFA.
”We are pleased that the court ruled in U.S. Soccer’s favor,”
said Russ Sauer, the federation’s lead lawyer in the case.
”Neither the earlier ruling nor the Ted Stevens Act impacts U.S.
Soccer’s authority over professional soccer. U.S. Soccer has
authority over domestic professional leagues because they have
agreed to be members of U.S. Soccer. U.S. Soccer also has authority
over foreign national and club teams playing in the United States
by virtue of their membership in FIFA. Lastly, U.S. Soccer has
control over its World Cup teams as required by FIFA.”
ChampionsWorld, the company run by former MetroStars executive
Charlie Stillitano, promoted games in the U.S. but filed for
bankruptcy in 2005 and went out of business the following year. It
claimed the USSF and MLS, who combined to establish Soccer United
Marketing, wanted the market for themselves.
The USSF charges a fee of 5.25 percent of the gross gate for
games in the U.S. involving one international club and 9 percent
for matches involving two international clubs. For games involving
national teams, it charges 11.25 percent of the first $200,000 and
15 percent of the remainder. The fee is cut in half if the match is
part of a doubleheader involving MLS teams.
In litigation that sprawled across the Atlantic, FIFA’s player
status committee ruled the USSF has the right to sanction matches
in the U.S. and to charge sanctioning fees. a decision upheld by
the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. In a 2010
Leinenweber ruled ChampionsWorld did receive consideration for
its fee: game officials arranged by the USSF and the sanction. He
accepted the CAS decision that foreign clubs and national teams
would not have participated in unsanctioned games.