The impact on football from the European Super League court verdict

European Court of Justice rules that measures taken by Uefa and Fifa to stop breakaway league were unlawful

The breakaway European Super League received an unexpected legal victory on Thursday. Reuters
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Europe's top court on Thursday made a landmark decision, ruling that moves by football governing bodies Uefa and Fifa to hinder the creation of breakaway European Super League had broken the law.

The proposed league, which initially involved six top teams from England, three from Italy and three from Spain, fell apart just days after its creation in 2021 following a public uproar, as well as threats from world governing body Fifa and European counterparts Uefa, stating that any player or club taking part would be expelled from their competitions.

Thereafter, all the English clubs involved pulled out of the project, followed by Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan.

The breakaway competition started legal action to protect its position and the court was asked to rule on points of EU law by a Madrid tribunal. The clubs accused Uefa of breaching European law by allegedly abusing its market dominance.

"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 European Court of Justice ruled.

A22 Sports, the company behind the ESL project, claimed victory following the verdict.

"We have won the right to compete. The Uefa monopoly is over. Football is free," CEO Bernd Reichart declared in a social media post from the A22 account.

What will be the impact of court ruling on ESL and football?

For now, the Super League has not received the green signal to go ahead. The summary of the written judgment made it clear that its ruling doesn't mean that the Super League project has now been authorised. It only stated that Fifa and Uefa have been "abusing a dominant position" in the football market.

“The court, having been asked generally about the Fifa and Uefa rules, does not rule on that specific project in its judgment,” it said in a statement. “Given their arbitrary nature, their rules on approval, control and sanctions must be held to be unjustified restrictions on the freedom to provide services,” it added.

Anyhow, English clubs are still unlikely to join an ESL, even if it gets revived. The Premier League’s international reach and financial power have grown even more in the last few years. Also, a UK government bill announced last month by King Charles proposed powers to block English teams from trying to join a breakaway league.

In a document explaining the new Football Governance Bill, the government said a Super League was “fundamentally uncompetitive” and “threatened to undermine the footballing pyramid against the wishes of fans.”

Also, the Spanish league reacted to Thursday's verdict, stating “that the Super League is a selfish and elitist model. Anything that is not fully open, with direct access only through the domestic leagues, season by season, is a closed format.”

However, it does mean that teams and organisations can freely discuss any plans of a separate tournament, without the fear of sanctions from Uefa and Fifa, whose powers have now been clearly demarcated.

Updated: December 22, 2023, 6:54 AM