Key questions answered after ECJ rules UEFA and FIFA regulations unlawful

By Sports Desk December 21, 2023

International club football faces a potentially fragmented and uncertain future after UEFA and FIFA regulations giving them the right to block new competitions such as the European Super League were ruled to be contrary to EU law.

Here the PA news agency takes a closer look.

What has happened?

The 15 judges comprising the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice had been asked to decide whether UEFA and FIFA’s moves to block the formation of the European Super League in 2021, and then sanction those clubs involved, breached EU competition law.

The court found those rules to be contrary to EU law, and that UEFA and FIFA had abused a dominant position in the market by not having suitable conditions and criteria which could give rival promoters access to the market.

What does this mean?

Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean. The court stresses that the ruling does not necessarily give approval to the European Super League as it was proposed in 2021. What it does appear to do is to give companies like A22 the right to pitch a new football competition and for their application to be judged on criteria which are “transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate”.

Why is this a shock?

Because last December the Advocate General in the case gave a non-binding opinion which found UEFA and FIFA’s rules allowing them prior approval were compatible with EU law. In 80 per cent of cases an AG’s opinion is followed in the final ruling – this case is therefore one of the exceptions. Grand Chamber rulings are binding and cannot be appealed.

What has the early reaction been?

UEFA issued a statement noting the judgement but insisted it did not see it as an endorsement or validation of the Super League project. It is also confident that its authorisation rules for new competitions issued in 2022 are “robust” and comply with European law.

Super League promoter A22 is jubilant, with chief executive Bernd Reichart promising “free viewing” for fans of Super League matches though it is not immediately clear whether he means in stadiums or on TV. Real Madrid, one of the clubs who initially proposed the breakaway, claimed “European football is finally in the hands of the clubs, players and fans. Our destiny belongs to us,” while Barcelona feel the verdict “paves the way for a new elite level football competition in Europe by opposing the monopoly over the football world”.

Does this mean a Super League will happen?

No, it simply says UEFA’s rules governing access to the market were found to be contrary to EU law. A court judgement does not mean a Super League is inevitable – for a start it requires clubs to be willing. Premier League teams are looking forward to sharing in a £6.7bn bonanza in their next domestic television deal, and the new independent regulator is set to impose licensing conditions precluding clubs from joining certain competitions.

And aside from clubs, the first iteration of Super League in 2021 was deeply unpopular with English fans. A22 faces a huge PR battle to convince supporters of the merits of any new competition it proposes.

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