In the world of soccer, the battle between Relevent Sports and FIFA, along with the U.S. Soccer Federation, has taken a new turn. The Miami-based promoter, which is owned by Stephen Ross, the Miami Dolphins owner, filed a lawsuit against FIFA and the USSF after the latter refused to sanction a league match between Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil in Miami. The lawsuit was thrown out by a lower-court judge, but on Tuesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the lawsuit can proceed toward trial.
The decision, which was written by Judge Raymond J. Lohier Jr., cited the fact that Relevent Sports had plausibly alleged that the 2018 policy reflected a contractual commitment of head-to-head competitors to restrict competition. According to the appeals court, Relevent’s lawsuit alleged that the policy itself violates antitrust laws and its implementation provides direct evidence of collusion among the parties.
FIFA had cited a 2018 policy that its ruling council “emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.” The policy was announced after Relevent Sports arranged with Spain’s LaLiga to host a regular-season match between Barcelona and Girona FC in Miami, which was eventually cancelled.
The 2nd Circuit rejected arguments by FIFA that it isn’t subject to a lawsuit in New York, stating that the USSF is FIFA’s agent and transacts substantial business on behalf of FIFA in New York.
This ruling is a significant victory for Relevent Sports and its high-profile lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, who also represented members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team in their wage and gender discrimination lawsuit against the USSF. It remains to be seen how this lawsuit will play out in court, but it is clear that the battle between Relevent Sports and FIFA, as well as the USSF, is far from over.
This case raises important questions about the power dynamics within soccer and the role of governing bodies like FIFA and the USSF in regulating the sport. While there are legitimate concerns about the impact of foreign matches on local leagues and associations, it is also important to consider the interests of fans and the potential benefits of global expansion. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, it is likely that these types of conflicts will become more common in soccer and other sports. Only time will tell how they will be resolved.