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Top EU Court Rules in Favor of Super League, Bars FIFA and UEFA From Taking Action

UEFA and FIFA

In a significant development for the Super League project, Europe’s top court ruled on Thursday that UEFA has been “abusing a dominant position” in its control of European football.

The Super League and its backers, A22 Sports, contended that UEFA’s prohibition of their proposed competition—launched in April 2021—and the threatened penalties for participating clubs constituted an illegal monopoly under European competition law.

Thursday’s ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) determined that FIFA’s and UEFA’s rules requiring prior approval for new football competitions and banning players from participating in those competitions were “unlawful.”

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

“Similarly, the rules granting 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 court noted that organizing football competitions is an economic activity and “therefore must comply with the competition rules and respect the freedom of movement.”

The ruling clarified that it “does not mean that a competition such as the Super League project must necessarily be approved,” emphasizing that the verdict was about FIFA’s and UEFA’s rules in general, not any specific project.

Nonetheless, the decision is a significant boost for the Super League project, which aims to replace UEFA’s Champions League.

“We’ve won the right to compete,” A22 Sports CEO Bernd Reichart said. “UEFA’s monopoly is over. Football is free. Now the clubs won’t suffer threats and punishments. They’re free to decide their own future.”

In response, UEFA released a statement on Thursday, arguing it had already updated its rules following the Super League’s attempted launch.

“This ruling does not signify an endorsement or validation of the so-called ‘Super League,'” UEFA stated. “It rather underscores a pre-existing shortfall within UEFA’s pre-authorisation framework, a technical aspect that has already been acknowledged and addressed in June 2022.

“UEFA is confident in the robustness of its new rules, and specifically that they comply with all relevant European laws and regulations.”

European Super League (Credits: SIPA USA/PA Photo)

Initially, 12 clubs—Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur from the Premier League; Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Real Madrid from LaLiga; and AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus from Serie A—signed up as members of the breakaway Super League at its launch on April 18, 2021, stunning the football world.

The project, spearheaded by Real Madrid’s Florentino Perez and Juventus’ Andrea Agnelli, was driven by frustration with UEFA’s dominant role as Champions League organizers and dissatisfaction with the competition’s format and revenue model.

Strong opposition from football’s governing bodies, fans, and politicians, especially in England, quickly led nine of those clubs to withdraw from the project, leaving Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus as the remaining public backers.

“From today, clubs will be masters of their own futures,” Perez said on Thursday. “Our right to propose and push for European competitions which modernize our sport and attract fans around the world has been recognized.

“Real Madrid will keep working for the good of football. We’ll keep defending a modern project, totally compatible with national competitions, open to everyone, based on sporting merit, with effective financial fair play.

“Nobody said that ending a monopoly after so many decades would be easy. … From today, the present and future of European football is at last in the hands of the clubs, the players, and the fans. Our destiny belongs to us.”

Barcelona also issued a statement on Thursday expressing “satisfaction” with the court ruling, saying it “paves the way for a new elite level football competition in Europe.”

The case reached the European Court of Justice after the Super League filed a lawsuit with a Spanish court in 2021, seeking protection against possible UEFA sanctions.

The judge in Madrid granted a preliminary injunction before passing the case on to the court in Luxembourg for a verdict.

Since October 2022, A22 Sports, led by Reichart, has been working to relaunch and rebrand the Super League, proposing a more open, merit-based format.

“For the fans: we’ll broadcast all the Super League games for free,” Reichart said on Thursday. “For the clubs: club income and solidarity payments in football are guaranteed.”

Spain’s LaLiga and its president, Javier Tebas, have been vocal critics of the project, arguing that the competition would harm and undermine national leagues.

“The ruling confirms what we’ve always said: anybody can organize competitions outside the UEFA and FIFA ambit, that can’t be prohibited, and nobody has doubted that. The legal question is the status of these competitions within the UEFA and FIFA ecosystem,” Tebas said. “In 2022, UEFA established a procedure for the authorization of new competitions, which the Super League or any other competition could make use of.”

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