News 7th April 2016

Bodies vie for control of European club basketball

The Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) has filed a complaint with the European Commission against the company that controls Euroleague Basketball, which alleges that it engaged in anti-competitive behaviour in order to control the sport. The complaint follows a similar complaint in February by Euroleague, alleging that FIBA and FIBA Europe had exerted similar pressure on clubs to join its Basketball Champions League, which was officially launched at the end of last month.

‘FIBA on Tuesday confirmed it had filed a complaint to the European Commission against Euroleague Properties SA, a subsidiary of Euroleague Commercial Assets (ECA)’, read a FIBA statement issued on Tuesday. ‘Recent events have shown that the complaint filed by ECA against FIBA was only serving as a smokescreen to mask its own anti-competitive behaviour’. The ‘recent events’ referred to is understood to mean the decision of seven Italian clubs to join FIBA’s Champions League.

FIBA alleges that the pressure exerted by Euroleague has included:
• threats that clubs will be expelled from the Euroleague unless they commit to its Eurocup competition;
• a ‘syndication agreement’ that allows six clubs to control all Euroleague decisions;
• ‘cherry picking’ of clubs to compete in the Euroleague and Eurocup, which it says destroys the value of domestic leagues and ‘undermines the competitive balance’ in European basketball; and
• discrimination against ‘financially weaker clubs’.

Euroleague Basketball’s earlier complaint alleges that FIBA and FIBA Europe have been using ‘illegal threats’ against member federations and clubs. ‘Euroleague Basketball has filed a complaint before the European Commission against FIBA and FIBA Europe as a consequence of the repeated pressures that European basketball clubs are suffering at the hands of the international federation and its affiliated national federations with the objective of forcing them to renounce their participation in European competitions that since 2000 the selfsame clubs have been managing through Euroleague Basketball’, reads a 22 February statement. ‘The complaint targets the unacceptable and illegal threats and pressures that FIBA and its member federations are making against clubs, players and referees to force them to abandon the Euroleague and the Eurocup and only participate in FIBA competitions’.

Euroleague alleges that by approving its 2012 calendar for national team competitions, FIBA broke a 2004 agreement understood to set out that national team competitions should not overlap with the Euroleague. ‘Euroleague Basketball considers totally unacceptable any pressure or threat against the different basketball collectives of clubs, players and referees in professional basketball’, read a 20 March statement in response to FIBA’s legal action. The row between FIBA and Euroleague dates back to 2000, when Europe’s top basketball clubs broke away fro FIBA to form a new tournament, using the Euroleague name which is understood that FIBA had failed to trademark.

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