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Posts Tagged ‘monopoly’

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Clean Report

In a decision that will sound alarm bells across dozens of international sport governing bodies, the European Commission yesterday ruled that the International Skating Union’s rules preventing skaters from competing in ‘unauthorized’ events are illegal and must be abolished within 90 days.  What does this have to do with sailing?  If you really don’t know, here’s our last big story on this case, and the short version is this:

World Sailing’s Eligibility Rules allow the body to revoke a sailor’s eligibility to compete if they compete in a ‘prohibited event’, which is basically any major competition that doesn’t pay World Sailing or seek its approval.  In other words, if you use the word “World Championship” in your fun regatta, World Sailing may ban every sailor in the event from racing in other competitions.  It’s not theoretical, either – the IKA has been using this bullying tool in their battle with the IFKO, enlisting World Sailing CEO Andy Hunt to write threatening letters to those daring to compete in their own event, and back when we organized the tongue-in-cheek World Sportboat World Championship of the World, ISAF actually sent a letter to one of the hosting organizations and threatened them with all sorts of penalties.

With World Sailing’s rules very similar to the ISA regs that were thrown out by the EC, Those days are over now, and World Sailing will now know that it’s on notice.  So call your random event “Worlds” without worries now, and if you get a letter from Andy Hunt, submit it to the European Commission’s confidential Whistleblower Tool and watch the sparks fly.  And now that there is a Commission directive, you can go for damages.

 

December 9th, 2017 by admin

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We were pretty surprised to see that North Sails is the only sailmaker allowed to make sails for the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race. What kind of bullshit is that? Why should it be North? Why not Doyle? Surely they have proven to make fabulous offshore sails? Quantum?  Or how about any competitor can choose whatever fucking sailmaker they want?

Just like the exclusive North deal with the new Melges IC 37, no other sailmaker gets a shot at making sails. Sure, it’s all praying to the gods of One Design, but it all seems just a little too cozy.

Regardless of the legality of the thing (and we expect ‘monopoly’ to be something the sport will have to deal with more and more in the age of single-manufacturer one-designs), it’s definitely no good for the sport in many, many ways.  Diversity of design? Gone. Diversity of employers? Going away.  That inexorable price creep as the monopoly takes hold?  Undoubtedly.

If all the arguments about how single-manufacture sails that North uses when they win these bids are accurate,  why doesn’t the entire sailing industry insist that every single sail that is made be North? Here’s our proposed rule: Competitors not using North Sails will have their eligibility removed for all events run under the RRS.

Title inspiration thanks to The Dead Kennedys. Simply replace ‘California’ with ‘North Sails’ and you get the idea.

UPDATE: Nick Bice, who with Mark Turner’s departure becomes BMOC of the VOR (and the guy who’s been working on VOR campaigns for most of his adult life), sends in a response.

It’s not really my style to get involved in any sort of back-and-forth but some facts are required here.  The VO65 is a strict One-Design class which includes sails.  We decided that would be the best approach from the very beginning of the project, as sail development was always a significant percentage of the team budgets from the previous race.  

So to bring costs under control, it was agreed that everything should be one-design.  It worked in controlling costs for the 14-15 Race, so we decided to continue the approach.  Even though every VOR since 2001 has been dominated by North Sails – as selected by independent teams – we again put the selection out for tender for the 2017-18 Race.  The process was:

-Request For Tender (RFT) sent out 8 May 2016

-RFT invited proposals to become sole official One-Design Sails Supplier for 17-18 VOR

-Aspects assessed were (but not limited to): design, consistency of manufacture, reliability, inventory, number of sails, manufacturing lead times, branding, finished sail weights, reparability, individual costings, sail bags, accessories, package and freight.

-After receiving numerous proposal, both Doyle and North were taken to the next stage, which included more details required to the topics above.  

-After much deliberation, both proposals had their own strengths and weaknesses, but based on the criteria laid out above, we chose North. 

-We did consider the option of opening up part or all of the inventory to other manufacturers for teams to choose on their own, but we concluded that the intention of the VO65 has always been to ensure that each and every team has the same opportunity to get on the podium regardless of how late they are to the game or how deep their pockets are!  

May the best team win!

-Bicey

October 1st, 2017 by admin

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screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-2-53-05-pmAs you’ve likely read on these pages before, one of our biggest beefs with the folks who run ISAF World Sailing has long been their willingness to threaten those who compete in non-ISAF sanctioned events with a ban from competition.  We’ve long maintained that the rule allowing them to do this (ISAF/World Sailing Regulation 19.14 (a)(ii)) is illegal in much of the modern world, and it appears that the European Commission agrees wholeheartedly.

Acting on complaints from a pair of Dutch speedskaters, EU regulators have told the International Skating Union that its threat to impose lifetime bans on speed skaters for taking part in unauthorized events is anti-competitive, putting pressure on the ruling body and other agencies with similar penalties to back down.  The skaters said the ISU threatened them if they competed in a big money “ice derby” in Korea, and after a year-long investigation, the EU agreed that the ISU violated the anti-trust sections of EU law.

For a legal description of what exactly happened and what the implications are for the ISU and other bodies (like ISAF), check out the EU Competition Law Review summary here.  We can sum it up quickly though:  The EU investigated ISU for a year, and determined that the ISU rules (that allow up to a lifetime ban for competitors) unduly restrict athletes’ commercial freedom and effectively discourage them from participating in events other than those organized by ISU or its members.  In other words, the international governing body’s rules are an attempt to create an impermissible monopoly over all skating events…

ISU now must issue a response to the EU, after which point the EU will decide what penalties and actions they will take against the ISU, and if the ISU’s incredibly condescending and dismissive initial response is any indicator, the EU is going to have to take a swing.  ISU said it was “surprised” at the EU view, and that, despite their investigation, they ‘failed to understand’ the international sports world.  Perhaps they meant to write that the EU  “failed to understand how crooked our international sports world is…”

The smarmy Swiss-based org went on to write that “any allegation that the ISU’s rules are somehow anti-competitive appears to be based on a misplaced understanding of the governance structure of sport and the Olympic movement. A neoliberal and deregulated approach to sport could destroy the Olympic values underpinning sport.”

It’s the same response that insiders always give when challenged with their malfeasance, and it’s always bullshit.  Bodies like ISU and ISAF need to face the fact that their monopolies are ending, and organizations that dedicate their resources to improving the services they offer in a competitive world are going to succeed. Those who stick their fingers in their ears and complain that the government just doesn’t understand them?  Folks who are allergic to transparency and equality?  It’s time to go.

We’ll dedicate an upcoming podcast to the wider-reaching implications of this anti-competition ruling, especially as it effects ISAF’s unfounded attacks on IKFO kiteboarders and the non-transparent and anti-competitive equipment selection process for the next Olympics.  The kiters are in almost the exact position as the Dutch skaters so we’d expect the IKFO to be filing a complaint with the same EU body very soon if they haven’t done it already.  This one is getting good.

 

September 29th, 2016 by admin

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