Plans for a breakaway league featuring the most prominent European soccer clubs won a boost Thursday when Europe’s top court ruled that world football governing bodies UEFA and FIFA had breached EU law by blocking the project. The European Court of Justice ruling — which could change the way soccer is run — says that the sport’s top governing bodies were wrong to block the creation of a Super League in a move that “abuses a dominant position.”
Sports development company A22 set up the rebel league, which claimed that UEFA and global soccer federation FIFA held a monopoly position that breached EU competition laws and free movement rules. Its lawyers argued that the governing body’s rules requiring new interclub competitions to have prior approval and preventing the clubs involved from competing in other competitions were illegal.
A22 also alleged that UEFA threatened to sanction clubs and players if they broke rules to prevent rival competition from forming. In a landmark ruling, the court said that it was wrong for the governing bodies to threaten sanctions and that their actions violated EU law. The ECJ’s ruling is a significant blow to the governing bodies, which had been confident that their rules were legal.
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The ruling is not a final decision on whether the league should be allowed to proceed, but it sets out a clear roadmap for how the case can proceed. The ECJ judges will now decide whether the governing bodies’ rules are compatible with EU law and, if not, whether they should be changed.
It will be up to the 15 Grand Chamber judges to come to a verdict in a hearing scheduled for January 2022. Before the judges hand down a verdict, their opinions are scrutinized by an expert called an advocate general. In his opinion, published last December, advocate general Athanasios Rantos sided with the A22 camp, saying that the governing bodies’ powers were incompatible with EU law and that their attempts to block the creation of a Super League breached competition laws.
Despite the ruling, A22 is still hoping to establish the breakaway league. The firm vowed to continue the fight, describing the ECJ’s decision as “a step in the right direction.”
UEFA, based in Switzerland, was unavailable for comment on Thursday. LaLiga, representing the biggest clubs in Spain, released a statement saying it was disappointed with the court’s ruling but reaffirmed its opposition to any breakaway league and its desire for a fully open format for European soccer. It also condemned the elitist Super League model as a “selfish and harmful” one. It added that the “Super League concept would have a detrimental impact on football in Europe.”