EU Legal Advisor Backs UEFA In Battle With Super League

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The European Court of Justice’s top legal adviser said on Thursday that football governing bodies UEFA and FIFA acted within the law when they threatened to expel clubs or players who joined the proposed Super League. Advocate General Athanasios Rantos’ opinion is not binding on the court, which is examining a complaint by a firm planning to launch a new league, but it will be influential and will be taken as a sign of the direction the case is taking.

“European Union competition rules do not prohibit FIFA, UEFA, their member federations or their national leagues from issuing threats of sanctions against clubs affiliated to those federations when those clubs participate in a project to establish a new competition,” he wrote.

The court’s final decision on the complaint is not expected until early next year, but the decision will come as a relief to the world’s biggest soccer body and existing national European leagues wary of allowing some of their wealthiest clubs to break away.

The legal opinion was welcomed by lobby groups representing European football clubs, leagues and supporters.

Fan association Football Supporters Europe said: “Last year, twelve obscenely rich clubs tried to destroy European football by creating a closed breakaway league.

“They failed because fans across the continent — including their own — united against their plans.”

And the European Club Association hailed Rantos’ suggestion as “a clear rejection of what many see as a clear rejection of attempts by a few to undermine the foundation and historic heritage of European football”.

The Spanish Liga also welcomed the news.

“La Liga is a strong advocate of the current model of European football, which has proven to be successful. The creation of a Super League outside of this governance model would also mean the end of European national leagues,” the Spanish league said in a message. statement

“La Liga, along with other European leagues, will continue to fight for European institutions to legislate and provide legal protection for the current European model of football,” La Liga president Javier Tebas said.

Efforts to set up an elite trans-European league in 2021 under the auspices of the European Super League Company (ESLC) initially attracted support from some of the continent’s biggest and richest clubs — but drew backlash from fans and several governments.

The attempt collapsed in a frantic 48 hours that threatened to explode the European game, but left bitterness and a key legal question.

ESLC filed a complaint in a Spanish court accusing UEFA, which regulates European soccer and organizes the Champions League and Europa League, of “abusing its dominant position” in the market to distort fair competition.

The case was appealed to the EU’s top court and the final verdict will be closely watched by teams and fans across Europe, worried that a Super League would constitute a monopoly club cornering marketing money and preventing smaller outfits from entering the top flight.

If the Court follows its counsel’s reasoning, ESLC’s challenge will fail.

“While the ESLC is free to establish its own independent football competitions outside the UEFA and FIFA ecosystems, it cannot continue to participate in football competitions organized by FIFA and UEFA without the prior approval of those federations, in parallel to the creation of such competitions,” Rantos wrote.

Off elite?

If the court agrees, Super League players may not be eligible for selection in their national teams for the UEFA European Championship and the FIFA World Cup. Super League teams may be relegated from competitions such as the National League and England’s FA Cup.

European law generally protects commercial competition, but the Advocate General found that threats by football governing bodies “may be justified by legitimate objectives relating to the specific nature of the sport”.

In the case of short-lived Super League initiatives, this could be a key issue.

Initially it was supposed to create a new competition for 12 clubs: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Fellow giants Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich refused to take part from the outset, and English clubs quickly distanced themselves from the plans in the face of fan fury.

UEFA imposed light fines on the nine clubs that were quickly relegated, with a pledge not to try again, but Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus face a disciplinary investigation that has been suspended pending a legal ruling.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)

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