We successfully represented basketball club Žalgiris in a case against the Lithuanian Competition Council before Vilnius Regional Administrative Court.
The Competition Council fined the Lithuanian Basketball League and 10 of its clubs for an alleged anti-competitive agreement according to which they allegedly decided not to pay salaries or other compensation to their basketball players for the prematurely interrupted season. The 2019–2020 season was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fines were imposed unreasonably
An investigation into a possible breach of the Law on Competition and TFEU started in April 2020, after information appeared in public about the discussion between the league and the basketball clubs during the extraordinary board meeting.
The court ruled that the Competition Council had not proved that such an agreement had been reached at all, or that internal discussions between the league’s clubs on how to act during the pandemic were forbidden. Therefore, the imposed fines were annulled.
“The court stated that the Competition Council had incorrectly assessed the facts, had not provided clear evidence, and had not fully assessed the relevant context, which was very important in this case. This is both the global Covid-19 pandemic and the specifics of the sport. The basketball clubs discussed how to deal with clubs in an unusual situation and what decisions to make. Such discussions are not prohibited,” commented Daivis Švirinas, the Sorainen partner representing the client.
The highest of any of the fines for the clubs reached EUR 16,510 and was imposed on Žalgiris. Furtheremore, had the court affirmed the conclusions of the Competition Council, the general manager could have been disqualified for 3 to 5 years.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision. Žalgiris has been negotiating with the Euroleague Players’ Association since the beginning of the pandemic and has paid the players’ salaries. Žalgiris did not participate in any agreements with other Lithuanian Basketball League clubs on the payment of salaries. Therefore, the position of the Competition Council always seemed unreasonable to us,” says Paulius Motiejūnas, the director of Žalgiris.
Our team and services
Our team, consisting of partners Daivis Švirinas and Monika Mališauskaitė-Vaupšienė, as well as associate Auridas Litvinas, assisted Žalgiris on all matters related to competition law and represented the client in the court dispute.