Brussels, 15 April 1998
The Commission conditionally approves sponsorship contracts between the Danish Tennis Federation and its tennis ball suppliers
The European Commission has just informed the Danish Tennis Federation (DTF) that its sponsorship agreements with its tennis ball suppliers no longer raise competition problems. This is the first time the Commission has come to a formal conclusion about the contents of such a sponsorship contract. The approval of the system follows acceptance of the Commission's conditions to guarantee full and fair competition on the market. The DTF will call for tender every two years to choose a sponsor. The selection will be transparent, non discriminatory and open to all suppliers. The selected sponsor will be granted the denomination "sponsor of the DTF" (but not "official") and will become the only tennis ball supplier for tournaments organised by the DTF during the two-year period. In exchange, it will supply a specified quantity of balls at a preferential price below the Danish market price.
The sponsorship agreements between the DTF and its tennis ball suppliers were challenged for the first time in the eighties. Following investigation by the Commission, these agreements have been considerably improved:
1. In the past, exclusivity contracts were allotted unilaterally by the DTF, without any objective selection criterion. From now on, there will be an open procedure for calls for tender with objective conditions.
2. Previously, players in official DTF tournaments could only use balls sold by the official network in Denmark could be used. Today, for team tournaments, which are the most interesting commercially, each team can obtain balls of the brand chosen by the DTF where it wishes, i.e. including abroad or via parallel imports.
3. Denominations such as "official ball" or "official supplier" have been abolished. Indeed, the use of such denominations can mislead consumers into believing that the products which benefit from them are technically superior to or of better quality than others, which is not always the case.
This type of agreement, which is increasingly widespread in the field of sport, can contribute considerably to the promotion of sport without threatening competition, provided that certain criteria for openness and transparency are met.