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National Corporate Federation Under Investigation for Violation of Antitrust Law in Restriction on Athletes Changing Teams

On Dec. 20 it was learned that the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) has launched an investigation into the Japan Industrial Track and Field Association (JITA), organizers of the New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships and other major events, for possible violation of antitrust law in its policy of indefinitely barring athletes whose original team do not consent to grant them release.

Under the JITA policy, a team may issue a departing athlete a certificate of amicable release designating the athlete as eligible for transfer. Athletes with this designation may sign with another team, but without it they cannot register with another team and are not allowed to compete in events organized by the JITA. Its policy also stipulates that athletes who try to transfer without having a certificate of amicable release may be subject to having their personal JITA registration deleted and being suspended from competing.

The JFTC believes that these restrictions may violate the "Prohibited Acts by Business Associations" clause of Article 8 of the national Antitrust Act. A JITA spokesperson commented, "We can confirm that we are under investigation. In the past there have been instances of teams actively scouting other teams' athletes, and our policies were established based on fans' disapproval of such circumstances."

In February the JFTC announced its intention to protect the rights of freelance workers under the Antitrust Act. Regarding sports, beyond the question of whether multiple teams agreeing to restrict transfers constitutes a violation of law, it is comprehensively examining both sides of the situation including possible mitigating factors such as teams' desire to recoup the costs of their development of an athlete.

source article:
https://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2018/12/20/kiji/20181220s00056000342000c.html
translated by Brett Larner

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