Sunday, July 21, 2024

Super League: European Court of Justice rules UEFA, FIFA’s ban breaks EU law

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European Court of Justice has deemed that FIFA and UEFA rules on prior approval of interclub football competitions, such as the proposed Super League, are contrary to European Union (EU) law.

“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 European Court of Justice ruled.

The Grand Chamber of the ECJ had been asked to decide whether UEFA, the European football governing body, and FIFA, the global footballing body, acted against competition law by blocking the formation of the Super League in 2021 and then threatening the clubs involved.

The key part of the judgement read: “The FIFA and UEFA rules on prior approval of interclub football competitions, such as the Super League, are contrary to EU law. They are contrary to competition law and the freedom to provide services.

“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. There is no framework for the FIFA and UEFA rules ensuring that they are transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate.

“Similarly, the rules giving FIFA and UEFA exclusive control over the commercial exploitation of the rights related to those competitions are such as to restrict competition, given their importance for the media, consumers and television viewers in the European Union.”

The summary of the written judgment stressed that the ruling doesn’t necessarily mean that the Super League project should now be authorised, just that FIFA and UEFA have been “abusing a dominant position”.

A22 Sports, the company promoting the Super League project, claimed victory.

“We have won the right to compete. The UEFA monopoly is over. Football is free,” the firm’s CEO Bernd Reichart declared in a social media post from the A22 account.

‘Selfish and elitist’

Following the ruling, Spanish league, LaLiga, put out a statement condemning the Super League as a “selfish and elitist model”.

In a post hey wrote: “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. #EarnItOnThePitch”

The CEO of German champions Bayern Munich, Jan-Christian Dreesen, said a European Super League would be “an attack on the importance of national leagues … the door to the Super League remains closed at Bayern”.

Manchester United, which was briefly part of the 2021 rebel Super League movement, said the club remained “fully committed” to participation in UEFA competitions.

And Atletico Madrid, which also took part in the previous breakaway, said: “The European football community does not support the European Super League.”

The two Spanish giants, however, maintained their support.

Florentino Perez, president of Real Madrid, welcomed the court ruling and said: “European club football will no longer be a monopoly.”

And a statement from Barcelona declared that it was maintaining its support for the Super League.

The first Super League project has been mothballed since it collapsed in early 2021 amid fan fury at the threat it posed to national league competitions.

Many football fans feared that a closed, US-style league with no promotion or relegation of clubs would have destroyed the hopes of glory for smaller teams and the prestige of beloved national competitions.

Football Supporters Europe (FSE), an umbrella lobby group spoke out after the verdict, saying “since 2021, FSE and fans across Europe have stood firm against a breakaway super league time and time again, and repeatedly called for the greater protection of our game.

“Whatever comes next, the super league remains an ill-conceived project that endangers the future of European football. FSE, our members, and fans across Europe will continue to fight it.”

With inputs from AFP

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