The European Commission has intervened in the Danish Tennis
Federation's sponsorship agreement with its tennis ball suppliers.
This is the first time the Commission has come to a formal
conclusion about the contents of such sponsorship contracts. It has
approved the system following acceptance of the Commission's
conditions to guarantee full and fair competition on the market.
The DTF has agreed to 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
title "Sponsor of the DTF" 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 adjusted to improve compatibility with
competition rules. In particular, there will be an open procedure
for calls for tender with objective conditions, rather than
allotting exclusivity contracts unilaterally by the DTF without any
objective selective criterion. For team tournaments, each team can
obtain balls of the brand chosen by the DTF where it wishes,
including abroad or via parallel imports, rather than being limited
to balls sold by the official network in Denmark. Also,
denominations such as "official ball" or "official supplier" have
been required by the Commission to be abolished, to avoid
misleading consumers into believing that the products which benefit
from them are technically superior or of better quality than
others, which is not always the case.
The Commission concluded that this type of
agreement can contribute considerably to the promotion of sport
without threatening competition, provided that the criterion for
openness and transparency are met (IP/98/355).