Super League’s claim that UEFA’s rule of European football constitutes an illegal monopoly under EU competition law has been rejected by the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice.
Advocate General Athanasios Rantos’ non-binding opinion was released Thursday ahead of the court’s final ruling on the matter, which is expected early next year.
The Super League filed a case in a Madrid court in April 2021 when the breakaway competition began, seeking protection from expected UEFA sanctions targeting the clubs involved.
The Spanish judge granted a preliminary injunction, prompting UEFA to suspend disciplinary proceedings — although that ban was lifted a year later — before the case was referred to the European Court of Justice.
In his opinion, Advocate General Rantos said that “any new competition under the FIFA-UEFA rules is subject to prior approval in line with EU competition law.”
“Regarding the nature of the competition, the restrictive effects arising from this scheme are intrinsic and proportionate to the achievement of legitimate objectives related to the specific nature of the sport pursued by UEFA and FIFA,” he said.
The Advocate General argued that EU competition law “did not prohibit FIFA, UEFA, their member federations or their national leagues from issuing threats of sanctions against clubs affiliated with those federations when those clubs participate in a project to establish a new competition.”
He found that while European Super League companies were free to set up their own competitions outside UEFA and FIFA, it could not continue to compete in UEFA and FIFA competitions at the same time without their approval.
UEFA released a statement It read in response to Thursday’s ruling: “UEFA warmly welcomes today’s unequivocal opinion recommending a ruling by the CJEU in support of our central mission to govern European football, protect the pyramid and develop the game across Europe.”
UEFA warmly welcomes today’s unequivocal opinion recommending a ruling by the CJEU in support of our central mission to govern European football, protect the pyramid and develop the game across Europe.
— UEFA (@UEFA) December 15, 2022
“UEFA welcomes today’s unequivocal opinion by 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 game, upholding the fundamental principles of sportsmanship and uniting football with shared responsibility and solidarity alongside open access among our members.
“Football in Europe is united and steadfast in its opposition to ESL or any such breakaway proposal, which would threaten the entire European sports ecosystem.
“While we await the court’s final ruling next year, UEFA, as a public interest, non-profit governing body, will remain fully focused on developing football for all in close cooperation with national associations, leagues, clubs, players, fans, EU institutions, governments. and other relevant stakeholders who hold the true values of football.”
In fact, if Super League clubs want to pursue this project, they will have to move away from the existing football ecosystem entirely.
LaLiga also released a statement which read: “LaLiga welcomes the Advocate General’s decision that the FIFA and UEFA rules which create any new competition subject to their approval are compatible with EU law.
“LaLiga believes that the court’s judges will share the Advocate General’s opinion when they issue their final verdict next month.”
The announcement of a separate Super League involving 12 of Europe’s top clubs — Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Liverpool, City of Manchester, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, AC Milan, Inter Milan And Atlético Madrid — and sent shockwaves through the soccer world when it arrived on April 18, 2021, to replace the UEFA Champions League.
Nine clubs were forced to publicly reject the project after pressure from fans, politicians and football’s governing bodies, but the remaining three – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus – maintained their support for the project.
In October this year the company behind the Super League, A22 Sports Management, appointed a new chief executive, Bernd Reichert, who began efforts to relaunch and rehabilitate the competition’s image.