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FIFA and UEFA did not breach EU laws in blocking European Super League, but proponents aren’t for giving up

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(CNN) The decisions taken by soccer bodies FIFA and UEFA to block the European Super League (ESL) are in line with European Union (EU) competition laws, according to an EU Opinion issued on Thursday.

“The FIFA-UEFA rules under which any new competition is subject to prior approval are compatible with EU competition law,” Advocate General Athanasios Rantos at the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) said.

The ESL was set up in 2021 by 12 European clubs with the intention to break away from European football governing body UEFA to create their very own competition.

But it collapsed within 48 hours after launching as UEFA vowed to stop the “cynical project,” world football governing body FIFA threatened to expel clubs from international competitions and fan outrage across Europe.

The ESL had accused FIFA and UEFA of anti-competitive behavior incompatible with EU competition laws and brought proceedings before the Commercial Court in which it requested the Court of Justice to rule on the matter.

“FIFA welcomes the Opinion issued today by Advocate General Rantos of the European Court of Justice in which he confirms the standing and legitimacy of FIFA and UEFA to approve any new football competitions,” FIFA said in a statement.

“By the same token, the Advocate General considers that sanctions may be imposed in respect of competitions which do not satisfy the approved authorization criteria. FIFA also welcomes the Advocate General’s recognition of FIFA’s exclusive rights to market international competitions organized by FIFA.

“Finally, FIFA welcomes the recognition by the Advocate General of the special nature of sport, including the pyramid structure, which preserves the nature of sporting merit and open competitions accessible to all, as well as the principles of promotion and relegation, competitive balance, and financial solidarity.”

In a statement released on Thursday UEFA said it welcomed the EU Opinion describing it as “an encouraging step towards preserving the existing dynamic and democratic governance structure of the European football pyramid.”

“Football in Europe remains united and steadfastly opposed to the European Super League, or any such breakaway proposals, which would threaten the entire European sports ecosystem,” UEFA added.

Fans of Chelsea Football Club protest against the European Super League outside Stamford Bridge on April 20, 2021.

Spain’s La Liga, the only league involved in the procedure, supported the EU Opinion saying “that FIFA and UEFA rules under which any new competition is subject to prior approval are compatible with EU competition law.”

“La Liga, along with other European leagues, will continue to fight for the right of European institutions to legislate and provide legal protection for the current European football model,” said La Liga president Javier Tebas.

The European Club Association (ECA) which represents nearly 250 of Europe’s top football clubs, also welcomed the Opinion saying, it “proposes a clear rejection of the efforts of a few to undermine the foundations and historical heritage of European football for the many.”

“The Opinion published today by Advocate General Rantos reinforces ECA’s long-standing opposition to the European Super League and any breakaway project,” the ECA added.

A22 Sports Management — a company that was formed to sponsor and assist in the creation of the ESL — believes that the ruling was a step in the right direction as it said UEFA has a “special responsibility” to not unduly deny new competitions.

“We are pleased with the recognition of the right of third parties to organise pan-European club competitions,” said A22 CEO Bernd Reichart.

“We believe the 15 judges of the Grand Chamber who are entrusted with the responsibility to examine this case, will go substantially further and provide the opportunity for clubs to manage their own destiny in Europe.”

The EU Court of Justice is set to make a final judgement in 2023.

CNN contacted Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus, three teams who are still open to a Super League, for comment and did not immediately hear back.

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