Super League Project Gains Momentum as Europe’s Top Court Rules against UEFA

In a groundbreaking development for the Super League project, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered a verdict on Thursday that condemned UEFA for “abusing a dominant position” in its control of European football. The Super League, in partnership with A22 Sports, staunchly argued that UEFA’s prohibition of the proposed competition and its threats of punishments for participating clubs constituted an illegal monopoly under European competition law. The recent ruling by the ECJ deemed FIFA’s and UEFA’s rules, which require new football competitions to obtain their prior approval and prohibit players from partaking in such competitions, as “unlawful.”

The court explicitly stated that FIFA’s and UEFA’s rules lacked transparency, objectivity, non-discrimination, and proportionality. Furthermore, the court emphasized that the exclusive control FIFA and UEFA possessed over the commercial exploitation of the rights related to football competitions created a restricted competition environment, considering its significance for media, consumers, and television viewers within the European Union. The court’s ruling further established that organizing football competitions constituted an economic activity that must adhere to competition rules and respect freedom of movement.

While the court’s decision did not guarantee the approval of the Super League project, as it focused on FIFA’s and UEFA’s regulations in general, it undoubtedly provided a significant boost to the initiative. The Super League project aims to supplant UEFA’s Champions League and has garnered support from clubs seeking independence from UEFA’s dominance. Bernd Reichart, CEO of A22 Sports, expressed his satisfaction with the ruling, highlighting the newfound freedom for clubs to determine their own future without fear of repercussions or punishments. The victory signifies an end to UEFA’s monopoly, giving football clubs the autonomy to shape their destiny.

UEFA swiftly responded to the court’s ruling, emphasizing that it had already revised its rules following the attempted launch of the Super League. The organization clarified that the ruling did not endorse or validate the Super League but instead drew attention to a pre-existing shortfall within UEFA’s pre-authorization framework. UEFA expressed confidence in the robustness of its new regulations, assuring compliance with relevant European laws and regulations.

Initiation and Retreat of the Super League

Initially, 12 prestigious clubs, including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus, signed on as members of the breakaway Super League. However, swift opposition from football’s governing bodies, fans, and politicians, particularly in England, forced nine of the initial members to withdraw from the project. Only Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus remained as public supporters. Dissatisfaction with UEFA’s role as the Champions League organizer and discontent with the competition’s format and revenue model spurred the formation of the Super League.

Florentino Perez, President of Real Madrid, hailed the court’s decision as it acknowledged the clubs’ right to propose and advocate for modernized European competitions that attract a global fanbase. Perez emphasized that the Super League defended a modern project congruent with national competitions, based on sporting merit, and implemented effective financial fair play measures. However, he acknowledged that dismantling a decades-long monopoly would inevitably present challenges. Perez firmly asserted that European football’s present and future now resided within the hands of clubs, players, and fans, signifying a new era for the sport.

Barcelona echoed the sentiment of satisfaction with the court ruling, portraying it as a beacon of hope for the establishment of a new elite-level football competition in Europe. The Super League’s legal battle reached the European Court of Justice after filing a lawsuit with a Spanish court in 2021, envisaging protection from potential sanctions imposed by UEFA. The Spanish court granted a preliminary injunction before referring the case to the court in Luxembourg for its final verdict. Since October 2022, A22 Sports, spearheaded by Bernd Reichart, has sought to relaunch and rebrand the Super League, offering a more open and meritocratic format. Reichart ensured that the Super League games would be broadcast free of charge for fans and guaranteed club income and solidarity payments.

Javier Tebas, President of LaLiga, and the league itself have been vocal opponents of the Super League project, asserting that it would undermine and damage national leagues. Tebas stressed that the court’s ruling validated the notion that anyone could organize competitions outside UEFA and FIFA’s ambit. However, the debatable legal question pertains to the status of such competitions within the UEFA and FIFA ecosystem, an issue yet to be resolved.

The European Court of Justice’s ruling against UEFA signifies a groundbreaking development in football’s battle for reform and increased competition. The decision serves as a resounding victory for the Super League project, bolstering its aspirations to redefine European football and provide clubs with greater autonomy in shaping their future. While the court’s decision does not automatically approve the Super League, it exposes flaws in existing regulations and highlights the necessity of fairness, transparency, and competition within European football. The future of football now rests in the hands of the clubs, players, and fans as they navigate the path toward a more inclusive and sustainable sport.

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