We could soon be turning to a new chapter in the FIBA-EuroLeague rift. A recent ruling by the European Commission addressing a complaint lodged by two professional ice skaters against the International Skating Union (ISU) could have set a precedent that could affect how international sports governing bodies, such as FIBA, sanction teams and players.
The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague made a statement on their website in support of the abovementioned ruling and renewed their defense of the freedom of choice of basketball coaches, players, clubs, and domestic leagues.
Here is the statement:
1. Euroleague Basketball welcomes and supports the European Commissions’ ruling, as it defends the freedom of athletes to participate in the speed skating competition of their choice, even if such a competition is not organised by the international federation (ISU).
2. Euroleague Basketball has always defended such freedom of choice for basketball players, coaches, officials, referee coaches, clubs and domestic leagues against the sanctions and repeated threats of sanctions that the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has imposed to these collectives. As a direct consequence of the ISU ruling, FIBA will no longer be able to:
a. Sanction or threaten to sanction clubs for participating in Euroleague Commercial Assets’ (ECA) competitions (EuroLeague & EuroCup) as opposed to FIBA competitions (FIBA Basketball Champions League & FIBA Europe Cup).
b. Sanction or threaten to sanction domestic leagues for their clubs choosing to participate in ECA’s competitions as opposed to FIBA’s competitions.
c. Sanction or threaten to sanction officials or referee coaches for officiating in ECA’s competitions.
d. Sanction or threaten to sanction national federations including their national teams for clubs from their territory choosing to participate in ECA’s competitions.
3. After making many efforts to resolve the above with FIBA, in 2016 Euroleague Basketball presented a complaint to the European Commission warning that FIBA was conducting similar practices to ISU, requesting the modification or elimination of a number of articles that prevented the freedom of choice of clubs, players, coaches, officials and referee coaches to participate in competitions that are not recognised by FIBA, which currently allow FIBA to issue severe sanctions. These articles were found in the FIBA Statutes, FIBA Internal Regulations, FIBA Europe Bylaws, and FIBA Europe Regulations.
4. Euroleague Basketball welcomes the decision of the European Commission as it sets a precedent to ensure freedom of choice for athletes across all sports (as well as clubs and competition organisers) as the European Commission “requires the ISU to stop its illegal conduct” and “not to impose or threaten to impose unjustified penalties on athletes”.