The European Court of Justice has ruled UEFA and FIFA acted against competition law by blocking the formation of the European Super League in 2021.
The ESL’s backers, A22, proposed the idea of a new continental competition but it was effectively kyboshed by the current governing bodies due to the threat of sanctions against the clubs involved.
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A report from the ECJ released this morning made clear that UEFA and FIFA did not have those powers.
It read: “The FIFA and UEFA rules making any new interclub football project subject to their prior approval, such as the Super League, and prohibiting clubs and players from playing in those competitions, are unlawful.
“The Court holds that, where an undertaking in a dominant position [UEFA and FIFA] has the power to determine the conditions in which potentially competing undertakings may access the market, that power must, given the risk of conflict of interest to which it gives rise, be subject to criteria which are suitable for ensuring that they are transparent, objective, non discriminatory and proportionate.
“However, the powers of FIFA and UEFA are not subject to any such criteria. FIFA and UEFA are, therefore, abusing a dominant position.
“Moreover, given their arbitrary nature, their rules on approval, control and sanctions must be held to be unjustified restrictions on the freedom to provide services.
“That does not mean that a competition such as the Super League project must necessarily be approved. The Court, having been asked generally about the FIFA and UEFA rules, does not rule on that specific project in its judgment.”
#ECJ: The #FIFA and #UEFA rules on prior approval of interclub #football competitions, such as the Super League, are contrary to #EUlaw #EuropeanSuperleague 👉 https://t.co/ATb3CgbPxg pic.twitter.com/XCnLzwIKWb
— EU Court of Justice (@EUCourtPress) December 21, 2023
It is a major blow to UEFA and FIFA with A22 already outlining their delight at the verdict.
The group’s CEO Bernd Reichart wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “We have won the #RightToCompete. The UEFA-monopoly is over. Football is FREE.
“Clubs are now free from the threat of sanction AND free to determine their own futures.
“For fans: We propose free viewing of all Super League matches.
“For clubs: Revenues and solidarity spending will be guaranteed.”
It is not to say this necessarily opens the door for the creation of a new super league in the immediate future, though.
The original clubs involved in the ESL proposal were Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Milan, Inter, Juventus, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham.
However, the overwhelming condemnation from supporters to the idea meant that was quickly whittled down to just two – Real Madrid and Barcelona – who continue to back A22’s idea.
A statement from La Liga this morning made clear their continued opposition to the idea.
It read: “Today, more than ever, we reiterate that the “Super League” is a selfish and elitist model.
“Anything that is not fully open, with direct access only through the domestic leagues, season by season, is a closed format.
“European football has spoken. Listen.”
In the UK, the impending introduction of an independent regulator is also set to make it harder for any of the Premier League’s ‘big six’ to join a breakaway competition.