On April 12, 2017, the Spanish National Commission for Markets and Competition (Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia or “CNMC”) announced that it had fined the Spanish Basketball Clubs Association (Asociación de Clubes de Baloncesto or “ACB”) €400,000 for alleged anticompetitive agreements contrary to Article 1 of Law 15/2007 for the Defense of Competition and previous Law 16/1989.

The CNMC initiated proceedings (under reference S/DC/0558/15 ACB) following a complaint lodged by Club Baloncesto Tizona, S.A.D., one of the basketball clubs affected by the practices investigated.

According to the CNMC, through a series of agreements adopted from 1991, the ACB imposed excessive, unequal and discriminatory economic-administrative conditions on those basketball clubs which had been promoted to the ACB League on merit but had never been part of the ACB.

First, the ACB had imposed an entry fee (known as the “ACB canon”) for those clubs promoting from lower leagues, which was then distributed between the ACB members only. The CNMC considered this fee disproportionate, as it exceeds the average income of any club before entering the ACB and had been unjustifiably increased from €601,012 in season 1992/1993 to €2.4 million in season 1993/1994. The CNMC also points out that the fee seems unjustified when taking into account that there is already another economic mechanism applicable to those clubs participating in the ACB League for the first time, aimed at compensating the unamortized investments carried out by the ACB.

Moreover, the ACB canon had also been unequally applied as eight of the ACB members have never paid this fee and, even if they were to be relegated and then promoted again, they would only be required to pay a much lower amount.

Second, the ACB created a fund for relegations and promotions (Fondo de Ascensos y Descensos or “FRAD”), aimed at compensating the economic loss which the relegation of a team represents for the ACB. However, only new entrants had to contribute to the fund. The CNMC has considered this system discriminatory and has suggested that all the clubs which have participated in the ACB League should cover this fund.

According to the CNMC, these practices hindered access to the ACB League and affected the competitive position of recently promoted basketball clubs, which due to the economic conditions imposed lacked funds to recruit players or carry out other investments. At the same time, these practices benefited certain members of the ACB which, based on their sporting results, should have been relegated to lower leagues but remained in the ACB League for purely financial reasons.

The decision is not yet available, but the CNMC’s press release (in Spanish) is available here.