UEFA and FIFA’s right to block new competitions like the European Super League is compatible with EU law, according to a key legal opinion published on Thursday.
The opinion of the Advocate General in the case, Athanasios Rantos, was read Thursday morning at the Court of Justice of the European Communities in Luxembourg.
Super League supporters have argued that UEFA and FIFA were abusing a dominant position under European competition law by first blocking the league in April 2021 and then seeking to sanction the clubs involved.
Although this opinion is not binding until next year’s final decision, it appears to dash any hope of a Super League operating in the mainstream of European football if it does not have UEFA’s approval and of FIFA.
A court statement said: “While the ESLC (European Super League Company) is free to create its own independent football competition outside the UEFA and FIFA ecosystem, it cannot, however, at the same time to the creation of such a competition, continue to participate in football competitions organized by FIFA and UEFA without the prior authorization of these federations.
This would effectively mean that clubs would be free to split up and join an unapproved Super League, but also couldn’t compete in domestic leagues.
UEFA said they “warmly welcomed” the GA’s opinion which they described as “unequivocal”.
Rantos said in his opinion: “The non-recognition by FIFA and UEFA of an essentially closed competition such as the ESL could be considered inherent in the pursuit of certain legitimate objectives, in that the purpose of this non-recognition is to maintain the principles of participation based on sporting results, equal opportunities and solidarity on which the pyramid structure of European football is based and to combat scenarios of dual membership.
If the final decision reflected the opinion of the GA, it would ward off the threat of a Super League for generations to come, unless those involved are prepared to operate entirely outside the existing framework.
The threat of a big club breakaway has hung over UEFA for almost as long as the European Cup and its successor the Champions League have existed.
The most recent attempt to form such a league involved 12 of Europe’s top teams in April last year, including the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’. The intention was for 15 clubs to be permanent members of the league, free from the threat of relegation, with five clubs invited to join on a seasonal basis. However, UEFA and FIFA refused to endorse it and threatened clubs with sanctions if they entered.
Supporters of Premier League clubs in particular opposed it, while then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened to “drop a legislative bomb” on the clubs concerned.
In the opinion of the AG, EU competition rules also do not prohibit UEFA, FIFA, national federations or leagues from threatening sanctions against clubs that take part in a new project. .
UEFA and FIFA’s exclusive right to market its competitions did not constitute a breach of EU competition law either, the GA concluded.
“These restrictions are inherent in and proportionate to the pursuit of legitimate objectives relating to the specific nature of the sport,” the court document states.