The Competition Commission has ordered a detailed investigation against the Amateur Baseball Federation of India (ABFI) for alleged abuse of its dominant position and also restrained it from indulging in certain anti-competitive practices. (More Sports News)
The regulator's decision has come on a complaint filed by Hyderabad-based not-for-profit group Confederation of Professional Baseball Softball Clubs.
The confederation was scheduled to organise a championship from February 16 to 21 this year for baseball clubs.
In January 2021, ABFI sent a letter to presidents and secretaries of state baseball associations prohibiting them from dealing with bodies and leagues that are not recognised by the federation.
It had also warned of disciplinary action if any of the players took part in leagues and tournaments that are not recognised by it, as per the complaint.
The confederation also said it faced financial distress as the event was rescheduled to take place from March 30 to April 4, 2021. Later, ABFI organised a national baseball championship from March 29 to April 4. The confederation alleged that this was done to sabotage its event.
The regulator noted that the confederation had to reschedule the event due to the communication sent by ABFI to its affiliated state associations.
According to the watchdog, ABFI is in a dominant position in the 'market for organisation of baseball leagues/events/tournaments in India'.
In an order, dated June 3, the regulator said it is of prima facie opinion that ABFI violated competition norms and that the matter warrants investigation.
It has ordered a detailed probe by the Director General (DG) for alleged abuse of dominant position and denial of market access.
Passing a separate order on the same day, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) restrained ABFI from issuing "any communication to its affiliated state associations dissuading them, in any manner whatsoever, from allowing their players from participation in tournaments organised by the associations/ federations/ confederations which are not purportedly 'recognised' by ABFI".
Besides directing ABFI not to threaten the players who want to participate in such events, the watchdog said the arrangement would continue till further orders or passing of final order in the matter, whichever is earlier.
"... it appears that even this schedule had to be further postponed by the informant due to the announcement of 34th Senior National Baseball Championship by ABFI to be conducted during 29.03.2021-03.04.2021, virtually coinciding with the event of the informant.
"Such brazen and predatory conduct of ABFI, if allowed to continue and perpetuate, it may hamper the objectives of the (Competition) Act and it has become imperative to issue an appropriate interim measure. Any delay in issuing the interim arrangement would irretrievably and irreparably damage the interests of other federations and the players," CCI said while imposing the restrictions.
Informant here refers to the Confederation of Professional Baseball Softball Clubs.
While passing the two separate orders, CCI also made it clear that nothing stated in them "shall tantamount to a final expression of opinion on the merits of the case and the DG shall conduct the investigation without being swayed in any manner whatsoever by the observations made herein".