Biden administration sides with promoter, says lawsuit over FIFA policy should go to trial

FIFA President Giovanni Infantino attends the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup UAE 2024 final match between Brazil and Italy at the Dubai Design District Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Christopher Pike)

FIFA President Giovanni Infantino attends the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup UAE 2024 final match between Brazil and Italy at the Dubai Design District Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Christopher Pike)

NEW YORK (AP) — The Biden administration sided with a promoter who filed an antitrust suit against FIFA and the U.S. Soccer Federation over the world governing body’s policy against hosting league matches from other countries, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the case to proceed to trial.

In a 23-page brief filed Thursday by Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, the government said the Supreme Court should not review the case and should allow a 2023 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision to stand.

The USSF “did not act independently. Rather, it participated in a membership association that adopted a policy binding the association’s members, and it invoked that policy as its stated rationale for denying approval of the proposed matches,” the government wrote.

The government added the USSF “was not a randomly selected FIFA member, nor was it a passive or unknowing bystander to the adoption and enforcement of the 2018 policy.”

Relevent Sports, controlled by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, announced in August 2018 it planned to host a Spanish league match between Barcelona and Girona at Miami Gardens, Florida, the following January.

In October 2018, FIFA said its ruling council adopted a policy that “emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.” Barcelona then withdrew its commitment to play in Florida.

Relevent in 2019 also was refused permission by the USSF to sanction a league match between two teams from Ecuador.

Relevent sued claiming violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and tortious interference.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in July 2021 granted the USSF’s motion to dismiss the antitrust claim. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the antitrust claim in March 2023 in a unanimous decision by Chief Judge Debra Ann Livingston and Circuit Judges Raymond J. Lohier Jr. and Gerard E. Lynch.

The USSF asked the Supreme Court in August to take the case, and the court in November invited the government to file a brief stating its opinion.

FIFA filed a new motion to dismiss with the trial court in December, claiming the USSF is not its U.S. agent and the court has no jurisdiction over FIFA. The USSF filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the claims were barred by a 2016 settlement agreement between the USSF and Relevent.

FIFA, the USSF and Relevent’s lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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