As the World Cup soccer championship approaches, Live Nation and CTS Eventim may soon appear like two sides that can’t start their match until they’ve finished arguing about who should referee it.
Although taking a dispute to the International Court Of Arbitration (ICC) – as Eventim has done with LN – is often seen as a shortcut to settling it, the world’s biggest promoter and Europe’s biggest ticket seller could be arguing about it for months before the case is heard.
Under ICC procedure, the dispute is first heard by a panel of experts that puts forward a recommended settlement for the court’s consideration.
However, both parties can have their say on who the experts on the panel should be, which may well lead to what one LN exec described as “some legal posturing” before the issue’s resolved.
It could certainly delay the matter reaching the arbitration court.
If it does seem an expedient way for Live Nation and the German ticketing giant to sort out their relationship, then it may not be in either side’s interest to delay to the point that the court steps in to appoint the referee.
When the matter does arrive before the court, the ICC – which doesn’t settle legal disputes – will supervise the arbitration process, examine the submissions and award damages to one side or the other.
It’s become an increasingly popular method of dealing with the final determination of a contract, not least because the procedural rules are less stringent than would be the case in a High Court or Federal Court action.
Since the ICC arbitration court was founded in 1923 it’s administered more than 17,000 cases, and more than one-third of them have been in the last 10 years.
The procedure also tends to favour the plaintiff and LN’s London office believes this is why Eventim has chosen this route.
It twice tried to legally block the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger when it was before the UK’s Competition Commission, first by opposing it and then by appealing it. Ultimately it left the table empty-handed as the merger has been allowed without either of the American companies making concessions.
Eventim’s submission to the ICC includes a claim that the merger has resulted in “various breaches” of Live Nation’s obligations under the 10-year deal it made with the German company in 2008.
Live Nation’s counterclaim says Eventim has failed to deliver a ticket platform that meets the minimum contractual standards.
“Our customers continue to broaden their knowledge of the German language as error messages in that tongue continue to proliferate transactions,” explained Paul Latham, Live Nation chief operating officer for international music.
He said the Eventim site is selling “very few tickets” and he believes it’s because it’s been so badly marketed that it “lives in anonymity.”
Some London-based LN execs have privately expressed the view that Eventim has struggled in the UK because it didn’t invest enough in the setup and launch. They also believe that legal defeat over the Ticketmaster merger has caused it to give up on Britain, and it’s only gone to the ICC because it would like some money to take home.
Eventim denies its website isn’t up to scratch and says LN’s publicly complaining about it only because it’s trying to get away with breaching a contract.
“If you are not able or willing to see the real motivation that is driving Live Nation, and if you are really willing to believe what Rapino says, I can’t help you,” Eventim communications chief Rainer Appel told Pollstar.