Where does Thursday’s ECJ ruling leave European football?

By Sports Desk December 22, 2023

Premier League clubs have quickly distanced themselves from being involved in any attempt to revive the European Super League.

Here the PA news agency takes a closer look at how events this week could shape top-level football in the future.

Why is everyone talking about the Super League again?

The European Court of Justice determined on Thursday that UEFA rules used to block the formation of the original Super League in 2021 were contrary to EU law. Backers of the Super League immediately declared victory and set out plans for new men’s and women’s competitions.

Did the court approve the Super League then?

No. It simply said the rules UEFA used to block the league’s formation in 2021 were unlawful, and said governing bodies must apply transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate criteria when considering whether or not to authorise new competitions.

What have clubs said?

The Premier League’s Big Six – who were all signed up to the original Super League project in 2021 before withdrawing amid fan protests – have pledged their commitment to UEFA competitions. So far only Real Madrid and Barcelona, plus Napoli, have publicly spoken out in favour of the Super League. The court may have given Super League the right to be listened to by UEFA, but without widespread club support the idea is a non-starter. One leagues source PA has spoken to has already declared “the Super League is dead”.

So nothing for UEFA or FIFA to worry about then?

There is plenty for them to chew on here. The court has told them in no uncertain terms that failure to set out a proper framework for how competitors can seek to enter the market amounts to an abuse of a dominant position under competition law. UEFA says the rules it introduced in 2022 on authorisation of new competitions are compliant with European law. A22’s lawyers disagree – it will be interesting in future to see whether the new UEFA rules are challenged by A22 or someone else.

While the European Club Association is supporting UEFA in the face of the Super League threat, there is no doubt the ruling further shifts the balance of power in football to the ECA and its clubs. Concessions to Europe’s big clubs have already been secured since the first Super League scandal in 2021 – an expansion of the Champions League and the creation of a joint venture between the ECA and UEFA on commercial matters.

Maheta Molango, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, says the ruling should be a “wake-up call” to FIFA and UEFA. In his view, the ruling is about how those bodies wield the powers they hold responsibly and fairly. The PFA and domestic leagues worldwide have criticised FIFA over what they say is a lack of consultation on its expansion of the men’s World Cup and the Club World Cup.

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