Competition Focus

European Super League Receives Favorable Ruling In Huge Blow to UEFA

Sports media firm A22, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid received a huge boost on Thursday morning after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that UEFA
and FIFA are in breach of competition law.

Essentially, this grants the trio with the freedom to provide services and get the previously doomed European Super League (ESL) off the ground.

As founding members of the breakaway competition, it has previously been reported by Mundo Deportivo that bitter rivals Barca and Real Madrid will be set to receive a huge payday totaling over $1.09 billion (€1 billion) each for revitalization of the ESL.

ForbesWhy The European Super League Is Still A Non-Starter

History Of ESL

The ESL tried to take off in April 2021 only to hit a brick wall when fans of the six English clubs which formed part of a group of 12 rebel outfits took to the streets to protest their opposition to the competition.

This led to a series of withdrawals, yet Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Juventus stood strong as a founding three.

They took the matter to the ECJ to determine whether the European football governing body UEFA – which runs the Champions League and the Europa League among others – enjoys a monopoly over elite continental competitions.

With Juventus later pulling out, each side of the legal battle was confident of a ruling in their favor.

On Thursday, the ECJ determined that FIFA and UEFA rules on prior approval of interclub football competitions, such as the Super League, are contrary to EU law, competition law and the freedom to provide services.

“There is no framework for the FIFA and UEFA rules ensuring that they are transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate” the ECJ stated.

“Similarly, the rules giving FIFA and UEFA exclusive control over the commercial exploitation of the rights related to those competitions are such as to restrict competition, given their importance for the media, consumers and television viewers in the European Union.”

Shortly after on X, formerly known as Twitter, A22 CEO Bernd Reichart celebrated his camp having “earned the right to compete.”

“UEFA’s monopoly is over. Football is FREE. Now clubs will no longer suffer threats and sanctions. They are free to decide their own future,” he added.

Reichart also said that “for the fans,” all ESL matches will be shown free of charge. For the clubs that wish to join, he promised that “income and payments in solidarity with football are guaranteed.”

On a video livestream, Reichart announced a new European Super League proposal with 64 teams spread across Star, Gold and Blue tiers.

The first two tiers will consist of 16 teams each while the Blue tier has 32 teams. Clubs will play a total 14 matches home and away in groups of eight, while there will also be promotion and relegation between leagues as others are able to qualify for the Blue tier if they have performed well domestically in traditional leagues.

As communicated through its own correspondence, however, UEFA will not go down without a fight and believes that the ruling “does not signify an endorsement or validation of the so-called ‘super league’.”

“It rather underscores a pre-existing shortfall within UEFA’s pre-authorization framework, a technical aspect that has already been acknowledged and addressed in June 2022,” the governing body explained.

UEFA said that it is “confident in the robustness of its new rules, and specifically that they comply with all relevant European laws and regulations.”

“UEFA remains resolute in its commitment to uphold the European football pyramid, ensuring that it continues to serve the broader interests of society. We will continue to shape the European sports model collectively with national associations, leagues, clubs, fans, players, coaches, EU institutions, governments and partners alike,” it vowed.

“We trust that the solidarity-based European football pyramid that the fans and all stakeholders have declared as their irreplaceable model will be safeguarded against the threat of breakaways by European and national laws,” a statement concluded.

While the European Club Association argued that the ECJ ruling “neither endorses nor supports” the ESL, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez commemorated a “great day for the history of football.”

“At Real Madrid we welcome the decision taken by the European Court of Justice, which is responsible for guaranteeing our principles, values and freedoms,” Perez began.

“In the coming days, we will study the scope of this resolution in detail, but I do anticipate two conclusions of great historical significance. Firstly, that European club football is not and will never again be a monopoly. And secondly, that from today the clubs will be the masters of their destiny.”

“We, the clubs, see our right to propose and promote European competitions that modernize our sport and attract fans from all over the world fully recognized. In short, today the Europe of freedoms has triumphed again and so have football and its fans.”

Perez said that Real Madrid would “continue to work for the good of football” after “law, reason, and freedom” prevailed following more than two years under pressure for the remaining founding clubs and A22.

He also noted how Real Madrid “took a fundamental step in the history of football with the creation of the European Cup” and today once more has “the duty and the responsibility to give European football the new impetus it so desperately needs.”

“And to this end, we will continue to defend a modern project, fully compatible with national competitions, open to all, based on sporting merit and which will effectively enforce respect for financial fair play.

“A project that will bring economic sustainability to all clubs and above all will protect the players and excite fans around the world,” Perez concluded.

In Catalonia, FC Barcelona wished to “express its satisfaction” with the ECJ ruling and felt that the sentence “paves the way for a new elite level football competition in Europe by opposing the monopoly over the football world.”

The Blaugrana said that it “has always been a pioneering club in the world of sport” since its founding in 1899, “leading the drive towards more professionalized structures both on a domestic and international scale, about both men’s and women’s competitions, in a variety of sports and from different social concerns.”

The club feels that the medium-term sustainability of European football “entails the need create a concept along the lines of the Super League proposed by A22” and a system of competition “that will address such issues as fixture overload and the excessive number of games between national teams,” which will work towards “regulation of financial fair play among participating teams.” and that will put “local and international players and supporters at the centre.”

To finish, Barca declared its support for the ESL and encouraged “constructive debate among both domestic and international football bodies, which have now been endorsed by today’s sentence by the ECJ.”

If the ESL goes ahead, and the reports of a payday exceeding $1.09 billion are accurate, it has been suggested that Barca’s declared net debt of $606 million (€552 million) as of June 30 this year would be wiped out as soon as the money clears.

Such cash would allow Barca to compete in the transfer market again and make marquee signings as in the days of old, before an economic crisis triggered by overspending on players and a lack of income during the pandemic almost ruined it.

Barca currently relies on free transfers and low-budget signings to build squads, or ‘economic levers’ pulled by president Joan Laporta related to the sale of percentages of future television rights income or stakes in Barca Studios.

The potential windfall would also come in handy when Barca is renovating its Spotify Camp Nou stadium, a project for which it closed a $1.6 billion financing deal in April.

In the mainland capital, Real Madrid expects to unveil its own finished renovation of the Bernabeu, which has cost a reported $1.53 billion (€1.4 billion), this weekend.

As hinted through his own words, the ESL’s inception would make Perez a pioneer akin to the man whom the stadium is named after – Santiago Bernabeu – all those years ago when the original European Cup came to life.

Perhaps above all those Champions League triumphs and the signing of ‘Galactico’ superstars, the ESL could be Perez’s defining legacy at a time when club transfer policy has been adapted to sign young promising players as cheap as possible.

This is because Madrid is astutely aware of the difficulty in taking on state-backed clubs like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain when the players have already become the finished product.

But the cash injection the ESL looks set to give would strengthen Madrid’s hand at the negotiation table and return them to an era Perez oversaw at the turn of the century when the world transfer record was routinely broken to bring in the likes of Figo and Zinedine Zidane.

With a year ahead when Madrid could try and sign Kylian Mbappe again in the summer, Perez might finally be able to turn the Frenchman’s head with salary offers mirroring those that are pocket change to his current employer PSG.

Now the football world awaits with bated breath to see if the ESL takes off for once and for all.

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