Spanish Competition Authority fines national basketball association for charging discriminatory fees
The Spanish Competition Authority (“CNMC”) imposed fines of €400,000 on the national basketball association, Asociación de Clubes de Baloncesto (“ACB”) for its involvement in a serious and continuous infringement of Article 1 of the Spanish Competition Act, the Spanish equivalent of Article 101 TFEU. The infringement concerned the conclusion of agreements imposing discriminatory, disproportionate and unjustified entry fees on basketball clubs that were promoted for the first time to the highest basketball league in Spain (“ACB League”). The CNMC found that the infringement had lasted almost 25 years.
The CNMC found that the ACB was charging a very high entry fee to basketball clubs which were entitled to a promotion to the ACB League and which had never before participated in it (the “ACB fee”). A basketball club could be promoted to the highest basketball league if, at the end of the prior season, it had accumulated a sufficient number of points. The ACB fee was, at the end of each season, distributed amongst all clubs which took part in the ACB League.
In its decision, the CNMC found that this fee (i) conferred an economic advantage to clubs participating in the ACB League, which enjoyed a more competitive economic situation during the coming season as compared to new entrants; (ii) was discriminatory, given that there were several clubs in the ACB League which never had to pay the fee for new entrants; (iii) was disproportionate, since the amount of the fee exceeded the average annual revenue generated by clubs competing in lower leagues; and (iv) was unjustified, since the ACB League already charged promoted clubs other fees to compensate for the costs incurred by the ACB as a consequence of such promotion.
The ACB has already announced its intention to appeal against the CNMC’s resolution.