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An overview of the dispute between FIBA & EuroLeague – Is there an end in sight?

Basketball between hands
Wednesday, 28 February 2018 By Alexander Engelhard, Luka Milanovic

European basketball fans recently experienced top basketball players missing from their national teams in qualifying matches for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. The fact that the National Basketball Association (NBA) enjoys a special status when it comes to the (non-)release of national team players for international duty is nothing new. What is new is that since November 2017 national teams can also no longer rely on all players playing for clubs participating in Europe’s top club competition EuroLeague.

The root cause of this situation is a dispute between the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and FIBA Europe on one side, and on the other EuroLeague Commercial Assets S.A. (ECA), which runs the European club competitions EuroLeague and Eurocup. Both sides are fighting over the appropriate format in which basketball is organized at a European level. Their dispute has already been litigated before a state court in Germany and both have filed complaints before the European Commission, in which they accuse one another of anti-competitive behaviour.

Lately, the dispute escalated further when ECA decided in July 2017 not to align the EuroLeague match calendar to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifying windows in November 2017 and February 2018, but to play EuroLeague games at the same time, with the consequence that many EuroLeague players were unable to play for their national teams. For this, ECA has been criticized by basketball fans and even members of the European Parliament (see below).

It is thus time to take a closer look at the underlying dispute between FIBA ​​and ECA and outline a possible solution.

The article examines:

  • The background of the FIBA – ECA relationship
  • The initiation of proceedings before the European Commission
  • ECA’s request for preliminary measures before the Regional Court in Munich
  • The calendar dispute
  • The European Commission’s decision in the case between Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt and the International Skating Union (ISU)
  • Commissioner Vestager’s Comments of February 2018
  • Outlook

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Written by

Alexander Engelhard

Alexander Engelhard

Alexander Engelhard is a dispute resolution and commercial lawyer advocating before state courts and arbitral tribunals, especially in the sport, media and entertainment industry. He also acts as arbitrator and mediator. In addition, he advises clients on the drafting of contracts, rules and regulations.

He is a member of various arbitration and sports law-related organisations. He is also a lecturer at the University of Frankfurt for German and international arbitration, as well as on dispute resolution in national and international sport.

JUVE Handbook 2018/2019: highly recommended lawyer for dispute resolution.

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Luka Milanovic

Luka Milanovic

Luka Milanović represents and advises Slovenian and international clients in sports-related cases before sports arbitration tribunals (e.g., before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Basketball Arbitral Tribunal (BAT), FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC)). As a former FIBA Agent license holder Luka has great access to a global network in sport. 

Luka's work includes sports and legal representation, in particular advising clients on the drafting of contracts as well as representing clients in damage compensation cases. Furthermore, Luka is a legal advisor to the Slovenian Basketball Coaches Association and a legal counsel for EuroLeague Players Association (ELPA). 

Luka holds a master of laws degree from the University of Ljubljana. He is currently employed at the Ljubljana Higher Court. He was a trainee at Arnecke Sibeth Dabelstein in Frankfurt, Germany and Martens Rechtsanwälte in Munich, Germany.

Since 2017 Luka has been a Visiting Lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ljubljana. Luka is fluent in 4 languages. 
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