Super League given fresh hope after court rules Uefa and Fifa ‘unlawfully’ blocked controversial project

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The controversial European Super League was given fresh hope of revival after a landmark European Court of Justice ruling.

The Grand Chamber of the ECJ had been debating whether Uefa and Fifa acted against competition law by blocking the European Super League in 2021 and sanctioning clubs involved, but has ruled that the regulations at the time concerning the breakaway were inadequate and that the governing bodies acted “unlawfully” in blocking the rebel tournament.

The EU’s top court ruled that Fifa and Uefa abused their dominant position by forbidding clubs outright to compete in a ESL, but added that the Super League may still not be approved.

Sports development company A22, formed to assist in the creation of the ESL, had claimed that the governing bodies held a monopoly position which was in breach of the EU’s Competition and Free Movement Law.

“We have won the right to compete. The Uefa-monopoly is over. Football is free,” said A22 CEO Bernd Reichart. “Clubs are now free from the threat of sanction and free to determine their own futures,” Reichard added in a statement.

In its ruling, the ECJ stated: “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 decision by the ECJ is binding and not subject to appeal.

It added: “That does not mean that a competition such as the Super League project must necessarily be approved. The Court, having been asked generally about the FIFA and UEFA rules, does not rule on that specific project in its judgment.”

Chelsea fans protesting against the Super League in 2021

It was one of three judgements passed by the ECJ, with one case concerning two Dutch speed skaters who tried to compete in a rival competition, also falling against the governing body, and the other involving Antwerp contesting rules imposed by the Belgian FA regarding homegrown players.

Uefa had hoped the ECJ’s verdicts would favour the governing bodies in all three cases, but instead the the courts have ruled against them in all three decisions.

A22, the company backing the European Super League believed Uefa and Fifa are abusing a dominant position by acting as a governing body, regulator, commercial operator and gatekeeper, while also having significant sanctioning powers.

They argued Uefa and Fifa should not be able to run a “monopoly” over football and want to have the right to launch new competitions without facing punishment under a free market.

The case was first filed in May 2021, and after 1,000 days the hearing had to decide whether Real Madrid and Barcelona can relaunch the ESL and if Uefa and Fifa hold a monopoly over the sport then if that contravenes EU law.

When the plans were initially released in April 2021, many of the 12 founding ESL clubs rapidly backtracked following a furious backlash from fans, but Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus held firm, until this summer.

But the ESL has returned with a new format, removing the promise that its founding members would be immune from relegation.

The latest proposal could contain up to 80 teams in a multi-divisional format and would be based on sporting performance only with no permanent members.

The people involved with the European Super League believe football across the continent is in danger and they are the self-appointed guardians to save it.

A22 chief executive Bernd Reichart said the new-look Super League would be an open competition, with qualification achieved via performance at national level and with all its teams competing in their domestic leagues. Those national leagues would remain “the foundation” of the game, Reichart said, and argued that the new Super League would generate new revenues to support the entire pyramid. There is a guarantee of a minimum of 14 matches that would provide “stability and predictability” of revenue.

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