Today’s ruling by the European Court of Justice that UEFA and FIFA acted unlawfully in blocking the European Super League in 2021 has prompted renewed talk of a breakaway competition.
However, with UEFA already in the process of amending their rules to make them compliant with EU law, and most clubs leaning towards maintaining the status quo – with the exception of Barcelona and Real Madrid – does the ECJ intervention change the landscape?
It would seem unlikely but, as always with this issue, it has prompted a raft of claims, counter claims, statements and opinion.
Here is who said what…
The European Court of Justice
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 Court holds that, where an undertaking in a dominant position [UEFA and FIFA] has the power to determine the conditions in which potentially competing undertakings may access the market, that power must, given the risk of conflict of interest to which it gives rise, be subject to criteria which are suitable for ensuring that they are transparent, objective, non discriminatory and proportionate.
However, the powers of FIFA and UEFA are not subject to any such criteria. FIFA and UEFA are, therefore, abusing a dominant position.
The Main Protagonists
European Super League organisers A22
— A22 Sports (@A22Sports) December 21, 2023
This ruling does not signify an endorsement or validation of the so-called ‘super league’; 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.UEFA remains resolute in its commitment to uphold the European football pyramid, ensuring that it continues to serve the broader interests of society. We will continue to shape the European sports model collectively with national associations, leagues, clubs, fans, players, coaches, EU institutions, governments and partners alike.
European Clubs Association
The world of football moved on from the Super League years ago and progressive reforms will continue.
Most importantly, football is a social contract not a legal contract – all the recognized stakeholders of European and world football – spanning confederations, federations, clubs, leagues, players and fans – stand more united than ever against the attempts by a few individuals pursing personal agendas to undermine the very foundations and basic principles of European football.
Our position has not changed. We remain fully committed to participation in UEFA competitions, and to positive cooperation with UEFA, the Premier League, and fellow clubs through the ECA on the continued development of the European game.
As one of the clubs driving the Super League project, FC Barcelona feels that the sentence paves the way for a new elite level football competition in Europe by opposing the monopoly over the football world, and wishes to initiate new discussions as to the path that European competitions should take in the future.
We have taken note of the judgement of the European Court of Justice. However, this does not change FC Bayern’s and the ECA’s position that such a competition would be an attack on the importance of the national leagues and the structure of European football. So let me make it very clear once again that the door for the Super League remains closed at FC Bayern.
Firstly, European club football will no longer be a monopoly. Secondly, as of today, clubs will have their fate in their own hands. The clubs have been fully acknowledged in our right to create and promote European competitions that will modernise our sport and appeal to fans around the world. Ultimately, today has been another triumph for a Europe of freedom, and for football and its fans.
Football Supporters Association
As our friends at Football Supporters Europe point out – there is no place for an ill-conceived breakaway super league. Supporters, players and clubs have already made clear they don’t want a stitched-up competition – we all want to see the trigger pulled on the walking dead monstrosity that is the European Zombie League. While the corpse might continue to twitch in the European courts, no English side will be joining. The incoming independent regulator will block any club from competing in domestic competition if they join a breakaway super league. Success must be earned on the pitch, not stitched up boardrooms.”