Articles by Stephen Hornsby

FOX/SKY; how feeble Ofcom report increases Murdoch’s chance of success

Whatever one thinks of Rupert Murdoch, his ambitions to acquire the shares of Sky that he does not already own can only ultimately be constrained by robust theories and facts that persuade an independent regulator that it is more likely than not that the public interest will be harmed (the legal test for control of […]


Pfizer’s trivial £84.2 million competition law fine highlights the advantages enjoyed by conglomerates

If George Orwell were alive today, the author of Animal Farm (where all animals are equal but some are more equal than others) would certainly be struck by how fines imposed for breaches of competition law committed by equally culpable companies bear down least heavily on multinational conglomerates and most heavily on companies that sell […]

Dispute resolution in a future EU / UK trade “deal”: what are the likely costs of avoiding indefinite European Court of Justice jurisdiction?

In most commercial negotiations, discussions about dispute resolution procedures are usually left until last. The parties don’t like to poison negotiations by talking about how they resolve disputes before they even reach agreement. But the future resolution of disputes in any eventual EU/UK agreement has exercised both sides already in the embryonic negotiations. This is […]


Brexit and Article 50 – Does the government really want to defeat the challenges?

A great deal of the comment on this case, which is summarised in Jonathan Haydn Williams’ note, has not taken into account that it is a typical judicial review, in which the claimants maintain that certain “rights” are to be removed by government to their detriment. What has also not been commented on extensively, is […]

The blanket banning of Russian participation in the Paralympics; Swiss courts to choose between Blackstone and Pol Pot

According to the great English jurist William Blackstone, it is better that ten guilty men go unpunished than one innocent man is convicted.  Authoritarian opponents of Blackstone (who, Wikipedia informs us, include Bismarck, Dick Cheney and Pol Pot) would appear to have been joined by the Court of Arbitration for Sport( CAS). CAS has decided […]


After the Premier League file closure: is this the new ‘industrial policy’ in action or time to strip Ofcom of its competition enforcement powers?

This week’s announcement that Ofcom is closing its investigation into Virgin Media’s complaint that the Premier League is restricting the supply of live TV rights to its matches, in return for the Premier League increasing their number from 168 to 190 and agreeing that no single buyer will scoop the pool next time the rights […]

Why Britain’s current semi-detachment from EU Competition principles could become complete post Brexit

Much of the speculative commentary on Brexit and its implications for competition law has adopted “a business as usual” analysis.  It is said that we are bound to follow EU law while we are members and that it is likely that competition law based on the EU/EEA model will kick in once we leave – […]


Adam Johnson’s gross misconduct: time for meaningful action from the players union

When it became public that Adam Johnson’s lawyers had somehow disclosed to Sunderland’s Chief Executive (Margaret Byrne) well before his trial, that their client had confessed to one of a number of criminal charges brought against him, the suggestion was made by much of the media that she should have informed the board. Had she […]

Sport and free market rules: should Pandora’s box have stayed closed?

  This article was first published in Lawyer Issue in July 2015, www.lawyerissue.com. In 1984, one of the very first complaints was made to a competition authority about the organisation of a sporting event. Its novelty caused some stirrings of interest in the EU Commission competition department. Swift action was required as it related to […]


What is really wrong with the new criminal cartel offence?

Too broad, too limited: and too far and too fast. Over the summer, a jury took less than three hours to acquit two businessmen  in the galvanised tank industry who had been charged with price fixing.  One other member of ‘ring’ who had pleaded guilty is awaiting sentence and is doubtless regretting his plea (see […]

Competition law and the cultural industries: is there now a “social” exemption?

Collective agreements between unions and employers setting minimum rates of pay which are intended to improve working conditions of employees generally fall outside the scope of competition law.   So trades unions can agree minimum fees for their members without fear of fines for breaches of the prohibition on cartels. But what about collective agreements entered […]


Does the FIFA Ban on TPO infringe EU Law?

Whether it be huge transfer fees, large broadcasting deals or the financial fair play rules, football and finance is rarely out of the news. The latest issue to rear its head is third party ownership of football players. Whilst the issue in the UK dates back to the well known Tevez-Mascherano saga in 2007, FIFA’s […]

Restraint of Trade, Competition Law and the Transfer Window: a Level Playing Field?

The January transfer window has once again brought allegations that a Premier League club has made an ‘illegal approach’ to sign a player without involving his current club. This puts the issue of restraint of trade and the FA transfer rules under scrutiny yet again. The differences between the FA rules and the FIFA rules […]


Virgin Media’s Ofcom complaint – payback time for the long suffering fans?

Stephen Hornsby’s article originally appeared in World Sports Law Report Volume 12, Issue 12, December 2014. To access the original, please visit: http://e-comlaw.com/world-sports-law-report/article_template.asp?ID=1729 Virgin Media’s Complaint to Ofcom As noticed briefly in last months issue, Virgin Media has complained to Ofcom that the English Premier League (“EPL”) practice of restricting the number of games available […]

UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFPR) settlements, Striani complaint and EU Law

  With attentions naturally focussed on an evenly balanced and therefore particularly exciting World Cup, where a number of less heralded small countries are holding their own and even defeating much larger rivals – the role of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFPR) in protecting the magic circle of clubs from new kids on the […]


A New Competition And Markets Authority: But No New Dawn For Public Competition Law Enforcement In The UK

With a certain amount of trumpeting, the new Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) came into existence on 1 April – thus merging the OFT and the Competition Commission. The CMA has the largest annual budget (£52m) of any competition law enforcement agency in Europe – so much will be expected of it. Unfortunately, any reform […]

Should Merger Control Be Repatriated To The UK (And All Other Member States)?

Since 2012, the Government has been conducting an audit of EU powers (or “competences” to use the jargon) with a view to seeking whether their repatriation to the UK in appropriate cases.  In a recent consultation, it has got round to asking interested parties on about the current division of regulatory responsibilities between Brussels and […]


Ofcom will Lose Competition Enforcement Powers

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill currently going through Parliament will merge the OFT with the Competition Commission creating the Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) and in so doing will broadly align the UK enforcement of competition law with systems in continental Europe such as DG Comp and the German cartel office. In the little noticed clause 45, the new CMA will have the power to insist that Ofcom hands over responsibility of a given competition matter to it.

ECHR – its Growing Influence on Substantive Competition Law

To date, the impact of the European Convention on Human Rights (EHCR) on competition law has mostly been confined to procedural matters. For example, Article 6 provisions in ECHR that recite a number of fundamental rights of defence, have often been invoked by companies that have been found guilty of competition law infringements on the grounds that these rights were ignored by the EC Commission. Although these challenges have generally been unsuccessful, it is now accepted that Article 6 rights apply not only to criminal proceedings in the classic sense, but can be used by companies subjected to regulatory fines.


Design Copyright Reform: The Hargreaves Process Bears Further Fruit?

In all the excitement about the (not very significant) changes to digital copyright law brought about by the Hargreaves process, commercially significant changes to UK Design Law have been overlooked

Statutory “Underpinning” of Professional Conduct

If the legal profession has it, why not the Press?


Ofcom and the Pub Landlord: Have Sky and (FAPL) Won?

The summer’s exciting sporting action has not entirely obscured important developments off the field in the Pay TV market. Ofcom has been trying for a long time to loosen Sky’s grip on Premier League rights and BT Vision has bought a package of rights at considerable expense. However Ofcom has lost a significant battle before the Competition Appeal Tribunal . And it looks as if the pub landlady’s much trumpeted “victory” will be snatched from her as the Premier League curtails the number of foreign broadcasts. Stephen Hornsby asks whether it is now time for the regulatory authorities to move on.