Super League boost: Court rules UEFA, FIFA ‘abused’ power with ‘unjustified restrictions’

Jason Soutar
Florentino Perez and Joan Laporta both want the European Super League
Florentino Perez and Joan Laporta both want the European Super League

The European Super League (ESL) has received a boost after a Spanish court ruled that UEFA and FIFA “abused their dominant position” and “prevented free competition”.

English football’s co-called ‘big six’ – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – were founder members of the original Super League project in April 2021 but quickly withdrew amid fan protests and pressure from the football authorities and the British Government.

All six publicly distanced themselves from efforts to launch a new competition in the wake of a ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last December.

It was suggested that UEFA’s 2021 rules which blocked the Super League’s formation were anti-competitive and ruling in a Spanish court on Monday proved that FIFA and UEFA “abused” their power in opposing the breakaway competition.

This ruling has echoed a previous one by the ECJ which ordered FIFA and UEFA “to halt anti-competitive behaviour”.

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Both governing bodies imposed “unjustified and disproportionate restrictions” on free competition within the market, the court said.

A22 Sports Management – the promoters of the ESL – were handed a huge boost by last December’s decision by the ECJ that proved the ban was contrary to European law as UEFA did not have the criteria to authorise or not authorise a new competition.

Judge Sofia Gil explained her ruling on Monday: “It is not possible to impose a prohibition or restriction as a matter of principle, in other words to prohibit any other project in the future.

“To admit the contrary would be tantamount to accepting a kind of ban…on any football competition project that competes with the current Champions League.”

This means that challenger leagues and competitions do not require FIFA or UEFA authorisation to stage events.

Spain did not sign a joint declaration against a project like the ESL in February, stressing the need for “open” competition.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are still strongly backing the league that was proposed in 2021 by 12 European clubs.

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The proposal quickly crashed and burned after clubs pulled out and both governing bodies threatened those involved.

It was relaunched in winter after UEFA and FIFA were not “governed by any criteria ensuring that they are transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate”.

UEFA did correct this ‘shortcoming’ with more detailed regulations adopted in June 2022.

“This ruling does not mean that the so-called ‘Super League’ has been approved or validated,” said UEFA in response to the ECJ ruling.

“The judgement is not final, nor does it bring anything new of significance,” La Liga chief Javier Tebas – who is against the ESL project – said.

More: Real Madrid | Barcelona | European Super League