Spanish basketball league to appeal against fine imposed over access fee
The ACB, the organiser of the top Spanish basketball league, has vowed to appeal after being hit with a fine from the CNMC, the country’s competition regulator, over the access fee it charges for entry to the competition.
On Wednesday, the watchdog ruled that the ACB should pay €400,000 ($425,000) after ruling that the fee demanded of clubs promoted to the top-tier Liga Endesa, which amounts to €2.4 million, was “disproportionate, inequitable and discriminatory.”
It also called on the league to desist from applying the fee, which was introduced in 1991, but has prevented several teams from being able to take up places in the top flight in recent years.
The CNMC also denounced the ACB's promotion and relegation fund as discriminatory.
The ruling followed an 18-month investigation launched following a complaint from Burgos-based club CB Tizona in November 2015 after it was denied access to the Liga Endesa despite winning the second-tier LEB Oro.
In the past five seasons, only two clubs have been granted promotion to the top flight, and only one, MoroBanc Andorra, has paid the full fee, while eight teams already in the Liga Endesa have never had to pay the fee and if relegated would not have to pay as much if and when promoted back up.
In its ruling, the CNMC said the fee “is disproportionate, being much higher than the average annual income of any club before it belongs to the ACB, and exceeds the average annual benefits of the members of the ACB, especially the newly promoted.”
It added that the increase in the fee, from €600,000 to €2.4 million, in the 1993-94 season had been unjustified.
However, the ACB has defended the fee and pledged to appeal.
In a statement, it said that the decision “threatens the self-organising capacity of professional leagues recognised in the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union and European jurisprudence, which is unprecedented in Europe, and in the rest of the world.”
It claimed that there were “several aspects that need legal clarification by the CNMC itself.”
The league added: “The ACB has operated with this model for 27 years and is recognised as the second best national league in the world, only behind the NBA, a closed league that demands a multi-million-dollar entry fee when it accepts the sale of a club or increases the number of participating clubs."
The ACB said the access fee and the promotion and relegation fund had been agreed with the FEB, the Spanish basketball federation, and the CSD, the Higher Sports Council, and is "an essential element of the economic model of solidarity of the ACB. where centralised revenue and expenditure is managed and the surplus is distributed according to a solidarity model so that clubs with a lower earning potential receive significant amounts through centralised expenses and a solidarity sharing."
Justifying the level of the fee, the ACB said that a study conducted on its behalf by consultancy Dentsu Aegis had shown that the value of a place in the top flight was in excess of €22 million.
A working meeting involving the 17 top-flight clubs will take place in Madrid next Tuesday to consider the CNMC's resolution.