The court overturned the Competition Council's ruling that LKL and the clubs had violated competition rules by allegedly agreeing not to pay the players' salaries for the remainder of the 2019–2020 championship season, when it had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Court also annulled the fines imposed on the LKL and the clubs, totalling €40,080.
This was the first investigation and ruling of the Competition Council related to the COVID-19 pandemic and sports in Lithuania. The Polish Competition Authority later followed suit by launching a similar investigation.
The court, after assessing the transcript of the audio recording of the LKL meeting and other evidence gathered by the Competition Council, found that the council did not, however, prove that the discussions held during the LKL Board meeting in March 2020 in itself restricted competition.
The court agrees that the fate of the championship season was indeed at stake on that occasion. At that meeting, the LKL also discussed the legal and financial implications involved. However, such discussions cannot in themselves be regarded as restricting competition.
The Court also stressed that the Competition Council did not carry out a competition impact assessment. This contributed to the decision to annul the council's decision in its entirety.
The court's judgment emphasises that liability under competition law is the most severe type of liability, and therefore the Competition Council's conclusions on the infringement and the application of liability must be reached only after a proper and comprehensive assessment.
COBALT lawyers, who represented the LKL and one of the basketball clubs, are pleased that the court has looked into the context and content of the discussions between the LKL and the basketball clubs at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has properly assessed the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the specifics of the sporting activity and other factors.
That said, this case has not fully concluded. The Competition Council indicates on its website that it will consider whether to appeal against the decision. Everything should become clear in early July.
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