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regular-article-logo Monday, 15 April 2024

FIFA and UEFA defy European Union’s competition law by blocking Super League

Ruling was welcomed by Real Madrid who, along with Barcelona, are leading the fight to form a rival competition to the Champions League

Our Bureau Brussels Published 22.12.23, 07:57 AM
Flags with the Uefa logo are seen outside the association’s headquarters in Nyon on October 5, 2022.

Flags with the Uefa logo are seen outside the association’s headquarters in Nyon on October 5, 2022. File picture

The European Super League was revived on Thursday after the European Union’s top court ruled that Uefa and Fifa defied competition law by blocking the breakaway project.

The ruling was welcomed by Real Madrid who, along with Barcelona, are leading the fight to form a rival competition to the Champions League.

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“It has been fully recognised that the clubs have the right to propose and promote European competitions that modernise our sport and attract fans from all over the world,” Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said. “Today (Thursday), a Europe of freedoms has triumphed, and also football and its fans have triumphed.”

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin remained defiant. “We will not try to stop them. They can create whatever they want. I hope they start their top competition as soon as possible… with two clubs. Football is not for sale,” Ceferin said in Nyon.

The case was heard last year at the European Court of Justice after Super League failed at launch in April 2021. Ceferin called the club leaders then “snakes” and “liars.”

Uefa has organised pan-European competitions for nearly 70 years and sees the Super League project as a significant threat to the lucrative Champions League, for which teams qualify on merit.

The company formed by 12 rebel clubs — now led by only Real Madrid and Barcelona after Juventus withdrew this year — started legal action and the court was asked to rule on points of EU law by a Madrid tribunal.

“We have won the right to compete. The Uefa monopoly is over. Football is free,” said Bernd Reichart, the CEO of A22 Sports Management that promotes the Super League. “Clubs are now free from the threat of sanctions and free to determine their own futures.”

Madrid-based A22 immediately announced new proposed competitions for men and women, saying young fans are “turning away” from football.

In a presentation streamed on YouTube, Reichart said there would be no permanent members of the new competition and they would remain committed to their domestic leagues. The league and knockout competition would also be played midweek so as not to impact domestic leagues.

The clubs accused Uefa of breaching European law by allegedly abusing its market dominance of football competitions.

“The Fifa and Uefa rules making any new inter-club 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 said. “There is no framework for the Fifa and Uefa rules ensuring that they are transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate.”

While clearing the way, the court also said it “does not mean that a competition such as the Super League project must necessarily be approved.”

Two years after the original idea collapsed, Super League promoters presented in February a new proposal for a multi-division competition involving up to 80 European football teams and operating outside of Uefa’s authority. The latest plans announced on Thursday would involve 64 men’s teams and 32 women’s clubs.

The European Club Association, which represents Europe’s top football clubs, reiterated its staunch opposition to Super League.

The Spanish league said on Thursday “that the Super League is a selfish and elitist model. Anything that is not fully open is a closed format.”

With inputs from AP/PTI

... But clubs back Uefa

London: Major clubs and leagues across Europe rejected the Super League in favour of the status quo following Thursday's EU court verdict which said Uefa and Fifa contravened EU law by preventing the formation of a Super League.

Manchester United were one of the first to say they remain committed to playing in competitions run by Europe's football governing body Uefa, as did German giants Bayern Munich.

United were one of the 12 clubs involved in the formation of the breakaway Super League in April 2021 but pulled out due to pressure from fans, governments and players. "Our position has not changed," the club said.

Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal were the other five English clubs involved before pulling out.

The English Premier League said they would face a 30-point deduction if they attempt a similar move in future and each would be fined £25 million for any such breakaway attempt.

Bayern Munich said they were committed to Uefa.

Reuters

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