Appeals Court rules in favour of Fiba Europe in Euroleague dispute

Lorenzo Brown of Crvena Zvezda Belgrade drives for the basket during a 2019-20 EuroLeague game (by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The European division of the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) has claimed victory over Euroleague Basketball in a court battle concerning the two parties’ long-running dispute over the sport’s calendar on the continent.

The Luxembourg Appeals Court has ruled in favour of Fiba Europe in the case relating to the termination of an agreement between the body and Euroleague Properties, a subsidiary of Euroleague Commercial Assets (ECA).

Fiba Europe said the Court of Appeals “integrally confirmed” the judgement on the first instance, rejecting the appeal filed by Euroleague Properties and ordering it to pay Fiba Europe €900,000 ($996,000) plus interest, an indemnification of €2,000 and to bear all costs of the proceedings.

Fiba Europe said in a statement: “The ruling states, among other points, that the new Fiba calendar that was approved in 2012 and came into force in 2017 did not constitute a breach by Fiba Europe of the provisions of the Euroleague Agreement.”

In 2004, Fiba Europe and the Union of European Leagues of Basketball (ULEB) signed a contract regulating the organisation of club competitions in Europe. Since 2010, Euroleague Properties had undertaken ULEB’s obligation to pay the annual fee of €400,000 to Fiba Europe. Euroleague Properties sought to terminate the agreement in December 2012, invoking the announced change to the Fiba calendar as of 2017.

Euroleague Basketball had appealed a ruling made in June 2017. The Luxembourg Commercial Court found that the contract between Fiba Europe and Euroleague Properties came to an end in January 2015. The fees awarded in favour of Fiba Europe covered the period between 2012 and 2015, while no fees were due after that date.

The court also ruled that the introduction of the new Fiba calendar did not represent a breach of contract by Fiba Europe, although this was the stated reason for Euroleague Properties’ decision to refuse payment between 2012 and 2015.

Fiba Europe yesterday (Monday) said that the compensation due from Euroleague Basketball will be assigned to the continuation in 2020 and 2021 of ‘Her World, Her Rules’. This is a project and social media campaign aimed at promoting women’s and girls’ basketball across Europe through various activities delivered in partnership with national federations.

The ruling from the Luxembourg Appeals Court comes after ULEB last month signed a joint defence agreement with Fiba over ECA’s perceived “anti-competitive behaviour” and its supposed abuse of a “dominant position in the market of European club competitions”.

The agreement came after Fiba in 2016 launched its complaint against the ECA body to the European Commission. Euroleague Basketball organises the EuroLeague and EuroCup club competitions. In March 2018, Fiba unanimously rejected a proposal from Euroleague Basketball over the calendar for the sport on the continent, stating that the offer was an “effort to harm” European basketball stakeholders in the form of federations, leagues, clubs and players.

Fiba runs its own club competition, the Basketball Champions League, which is a merit-based, Europe-wide tournament open to the winners of domestic leagues. The rival EuroLeague grants long-term licenses to the biggest club brands in Europe’s biggest leagues, with limited slots available to select domestic league winners.