Hammer blow for the European Super League as top court backs UEFA in row over competition among continent's top clubs
- 12 clubs wanted to form breakaway competition
- Backed down amid opposition from fans
- Case heard by European court
WHAT HAPPENED? A stunning announcement in April 2021 revealed that 12 leading clubs from across Europe - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Inter, Juventus and AC Milan - were preparing to form their own breakaway competition. Said proposals were met by fierce opposition from football supporters, leading to the plans being ripped up inside a matter of days. The company formed by the rebel outfits began legal action after being forced to backtrack, with the ECJ asked to rule on points of EU law by a Madrid tribunal at a case that was heard in July.
WHAT THEY SAID: The teams involved accused UEFA of alleged abuses of market dominance, as the controlling power in European football matters and competition, but a continental governing body defended its case by stating that it seeks to protect European sport by running competitions in a pyramid structure that are open to all – not the kind of closed shop that was being proposed by Real, Juve and Co.
Advocate General Athanasios Rantos, who has been examining the case, has said – with a 50-page document to follow – that while an independent tournament could be set up "outside the UEFA and FIFA ecosystem, it cannot however, in parallel with the creation of such a competition, continue to participate in the football competitions organised by FIFA and UEFA without the prior authorization of those federations."
THE BIGGER PICTURE: A statement from European football’s governing body reads: “UEFA warmly welcomes today’s unequivocal Opinion recommending a ruling of the CJEU in support of our central mission to govern European football, protect the pyramid and develop the game across Europe. UEFA welcomes today’s unequivocal Opinion of Advocate General Rantos, which is an encouraging step towards preserving the existing dynamic and democratic governance structure of the European football pyramid. The Opinion reinforces the central role of federations in protecting the sport, upholding fundamental principles of sporting merit and open access across our members, as well as uniting football with shared responsibility and solidarity.
“Football in Europe remains united and steadfastly opposed to the ESL, or any such breakaway proposals, which would threaten the entire European sports ecosystem. While we await the Court’s final judgment due next year, UEFA, as a public interest, not-for-profit governing body, will continue to be fully focused on its mission to develop football for all, in close cooperation with national associations, leagues, clubs, players, fans, EU institutions, governments and other relevant stakeholders who have the true values of football at heart.”
IN THREE PHOTOS:
WHAT NEXT? A full judgement from the ECJ will arrive in early 2023, which expands on the opinion expressed in the present, with the case then being referred back to the Madrid court.