Super League hopes faded after the EU court’s decision
The Super League’s claim that UEFA’s governance of European football is an illegal monopoly under EU competition law has been dismissed by the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice.
The non-binding opinion of Advocate General Athanasios Rantos was published on Thursday ahead of the court’s final ruling on the matter, which is expected early next year.
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The Super League filed a lawsuit in a Madrid court in April 2021 when the breakaway competition was launched, seeking protection from UEFA sanctions aimed at the clubs involved.
The Spanish judge granted the initial order, which led to UEFA suspending disciplinary proceedings – although it was lifted a year later – before referring the case to the European Court of Justice.
In his opinion, Advocate General Rantos said that “the FIFA-UEFA rules whereby any new competition is subject to prior approval in accordance with EU competition law.”
“With regard to the characteristics of competitions, the restrictive effect arising from such schemes is inherent in, and proportionate to achieving, the legitimate objectives regarding the specific nature of sport pursued by UEFA and FIFA,” it said.
The Advocate General argued that EU competition law “does not prohibit FIFA, UEFA, their member federations or their national leagues from issuing threats of sanctions against clubs affiliated with those federations when they participate in a project to create a new competition.”
He found that while the European Super League Company was free to organize its own competitions outside of UEFA and FIFA, it could not continue to take part in UEFA and FIFA competitions at the same time, without their permission.
UEFA released a statement in response to the decision on Thursday which read: “UEFA warmly welcomes today’s Firm Opinion recommending the CJEU’s decision to support our core mission to regulate European football, protect the pyramids and develop the game across Europe.
UEFA warmly welcomes today’s unequivocal Opinion recommending CJEU’s decision to support our core mission to regulate European football, protect the pyramids and develop the game across Europe.
— UEFA (@UEFA) December 15, 2022
“UEFA welcomes Advocate General Rantos’ Opinion today, which is an encouraging step towards preserving the dynamic and democratic governance structure of European football’s pyramid.
Opinion reinforces the federation’s central role in protecting sport, upholding the basic principles of sporting achievement and open access across our members, and uniting football with shared responsibility and solidarity.
“Football in Europe remains united and resolutely opposes ESL, or any such proposed separation, which would threaten the entire European sporting ecosystem.
“While we await the Court’s final decision next year, UEFA, as a public interest, non-profit governing body, will continue to focus fully on its mission to develop football for all, working closely with national associations, leagues, clubs, players, fans, institutions The EU, governments and other relevant stakeholders have the true value of football.”
As a result, Super League clubs will have to break away completely from the existing football ecosystem if they are to pursue the project.
LaLiga also released a statement which read: “LaLiga welcomes the conclusion of the Advocate General that FIFA and UEFA rules making any new competition subject to their authorization in accordance with EU law.
“LaLiga believes that the trial judges will share the opinion of the Advocate General when they publish their final verdict in the coming months.”
The breakaway Super League announcement involves Europe’s top 12 clubs — Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid — and is meant to replacing the UEFA Champions League sent shockwaves across the football world when it came April 18, 2021.
Nine clubs were forced to publicly disavow the project in days after coming under pressure from fans, politicians and football’s governing body, but three others — Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus — remained in support of the scheme.
In October this year, the company behind the Super League, A22 Sports Management, appointed a new chief executive, Bernd Reichart, who began efforts to relaunch and rehabilitate the competition’s image.