Colombia’s Competition Authority -the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (“SIC”)-, through Resolution No. 56062 of 2023, opened an investigation and pressed charges against the Colombian Football Federation (“FCF”), the Major Division of Colombian Football (“DIMAYOR”), and twenty-nine (29) Colombian professional soccer clubs, to determine if they incurred in an anticompetitive conduct contrary to Article 1 of Law 155 of 1959 in the market of women’s professional soccer in Colombia.
Article 1 of Law 155 of 1959 prohibits any agreement that directly or indirectly limits production, distribution, or consumption of products, and, in general, any practice, procedure or system tending to limit free competition or determine unfair prices.
SIC found that FCF, DIMAYOR and the investigated soccer clubs allegedly (i) exchanged information and agreed to the standardization of the terms included in labor contracts of women soccer players; (i) allegedly exchanged salary information and agreed on salary caps for women soccer players; (iii) allegedly agreed to not receiving government funding for the promotion of women soccer in Colombia; and (iv) allegedly agreed to limit the emission of women soccer games on tv.
- The standardization of the labor contractual model for the players, from the DIMAYOR towards the clubs: it was found that DIMAYOR would have elaborated a labor contract model to hire the players that would participate in the league, socializing it with the clubs in the framework of its various meetings, to unify some of the labor conditions such as the term of the contracts and the exploitation of the collective rights of the players. According to SIC, this would have impeded the functioning of the market and affected the welfare of the players, who were limited in the possibility of accessing better conditions from one club to another, while also affecting the interests of the consumers to receive a better-quality product.
- Fixing salary ceilings and ranges for Colombian professional soccer players: it was found that the investigated parties fixed the salaries of the players, agreeing on the maximum salary ceilings and designing general salary categories. The above, known in other jurisdictions as “wage-fixing”, is defined by the SIC as the conduct under which “competing employers determine, through the assignment of maximum ceilings or specific ranges, the salary, benefit or another type of economic remuneration that an employee should receive”, and has been considered a behavior with the potential to affect free competition in labor markets. This would have eliminated competition for talent.
- The reluctance to receive money for the promotion and development of women’s soccer by the decision of the directors of the FCF, the DIMAYOR, and the clubs, which consisted of not receiving governmental resources to invest in women’s soccer. This was suitable to hinder the growth of the women’s soccer market and with it, free competition.
- Other behaviors that prove the reluctance to promote women’s soccer, such as the agreements defined by the DIMAYOR with the television operator Win Sports not to broadcast women’s soccer matches as a priority, and even to replace those of this League for any other, as an element to discourage the promotion and development of women’s soccer.
The investigation could have a duration of approximately one year. SIC may impose sanctions of up to $25 million US dollars approximately (under current exchange rates) per conduct against each investigated party. It could also impose sanctions against the individuals investigated of up to $500.000 US dollars approximately (under current exchange rates).