A regional court has today ruled against FIBA and FIBA Europe from suspending national sides for competing under the Euroleague Basketball umbrella.
14 nations, which included Spain and Slovenia were handed letters suspending them from international competition but during a recent FIBA Europe board meeting in Dublin, Ireland, the ban was lifted leaving people to wonder why they issued the threats in the first place?
Below is the full press release from Euroleague Basketball:
* The court decision prohibits FIBA and FIBA Europe from sanctioning clubs for participating in Euroleague Basketball competitions.
* In addition, any national team that has achieved qualification to competitions organised by FIBA and FIBA Europe may not be excluded as a result of any club’s decision to participate in Euroleague Basketball competitions.
* Any direct or indirect sanctions, threats of sanctions, as well as undue pressure on clubs to act against their own will would result in a violation of the judge’s resolution.
On Thursday 2 June 2016, the Munich Regional Court I, competent court for decisions imposed on FIBA Europe and FIBA, ruled on the complaint presented by Euroleague and Eurocup clubs, domestic leagues and Euroleague Basketball by issuing a resolution that prohibits FIBA and FIBA Europe from sanctioning clubs, domestic leagues or national federations should their clubs choose to participate in the Euroleague or Eurocup competitions.
The resolution also prohibits FIBA and FIBA Europe to exclude national teams from participating in competitions organised by FIBA and FIBA Europe, anytime this sanction is imposed due to a decision by clubs from a certain country to register in the Euroleague or Eurocup competitions. In the ruling the Judge specifically mentioned that “… by way of a temporary injunction, subject to an administrative fine of up to two hundred fifty thousand euro or imprisonment for up to six months for each infringement – imprisonment also in the event that the administrative fine cannot be raised, to be enforced on the managing director in the case of FIBA Europe and on the secretary general in the case of FIBA -, FIBA Europe and FIBA are prohibited from sanctioning or threatening to sanction, directly or indirectly, (i) the Applicants, (ii) other basketball clubs in the geographic area of FIBA Europe, (iii) National Basketball Federations in the geographic area of FIBA Europe, or (iv) national or supra-national basketball leagues in the geographic area of FIBA Europe because of a decision or intention on the part of the entities named in (i) to (iv) to co-operate with Euroleague Commercial Assets and its subsidiaries; …” In order to ensure that the decision was communicated to all relevant stakeholders, the clubs, domestic leagues and Euroleague Basketball had requested to the Judge that FIBA, FIBA Europe and the national federations be obliged to publicly rectify themselves while announcing the decision.
However, the Judge decided that having Euroleague Basketball publish the decision on its own platforms would be sufficient, and therefore has not considered that petition.
The ruling found its origin in the threats and pressure that FIBA and FIBA Europe are continually making against European professional basketball clubs and domestic leagues that have decided to take part in international competitions organised by Euroleague Basketball, namely the Euroleague and the Eurocup.
Ultimately, FIBA Europe imposed sanctions on all national teams whose national federations did not take action against clubs that joined the Eurocup. Despite FIBA Europe’s public announcement on 27 May 2016 stating that “no federation is currently affected in a negative way” due to their “positive reaction” to FIBA Europe’s decision to impose sanctions on national teams, pressure from the international and national federations has continued, as confirmed recently to different media outlets by the presidents of the French, Russian and Slovenian national federations. The resolution confirms that good governance is also necessary in sports, and that sporting organisations professional or otherwise cannot under any circumstance operate outside the realms of the law. Euroleague Basketball has been emphasising this fact to FIBA and FIBA Europe repeatedly in recent years due to the illegalities of certain articles within the FIBA General Statutes.
Due to the lack of positive response from FIBA, Euroleague Basketball filed a formal complaint to the European Commission in February 2016, which remains ongoing and is independent from the ruling in Munich. Euroleague Basketball believes that sanctions, threats and pressure have no room in professional sports and that the rights of clubs and domestic leagues to defend their freedom of choice must be respected. In May 2016, given that the threats and pressure from FIBA, FIBA Europe and national federations had not stopped, a group of Euroleague and Eurocup clubs, domestic leagues and Euroleague Basketball, decided to take legal action at the competent court in Munich, Germany, to ensure that FIBA and/or FIBA Europe do not create irreversible damage before the European Commission can rule on Euroleague Basketball’s complaint. Euroleague Basketball regrets that national federations, despite suffering damages from the sanctions decided by the FIBA Europe Board, opted not to take any action to defend the hard-earned qualifications of their national teams to international competitions, but followed FIBA Europe’s instructions instead.
Euroleague Basketball applauds the ruling that keeps the practice of sport free and voluntary at all levels, and clearly confirms that clubs can take decisions in their best interests without negative consequences being imposed on themselves, their domestic leagues nor on their national teams, which should be protected for the good of the sport.
The ruling allows all European clubs to continue planning the 2016-17 season including their budget, sponsorship agreements, player contracts and all other preparations that had been adversely affected until now. Euroleague Basketball and its clubs will continue tirelessly to defend freedom of choice for all European clubs and domestic leagues. Any direct or indirect sanctions, threats of sanctions, as well as undue pressure on clubs to act against their own will would be a violation of the judge’s resolution; therefore Euroleague Basketball will pursue every legal action necessary to defend European clubs and domestic leagues.
It is Euroleague Basketball’s firm belief that the organisation of professional sports must be based on consensus amongst relevant stakeholders in a clearly defined collaborative framework that aims at progress for clubs, domestic leagues and national teams. Euroleague Basketball hopes that such a stable framework can be built together with FIBA to form a solid and durable joint effort towards growth of the sport at all.