Green light for the Super League in European justice. TJUE

The European Court of Justice allows competitions outside UEFA's sphere because it considers that UEFA, together with FIFA, is abusing its dominant position by attempting to restrict competition in a disproportionate and discriminatory manner.

The first step was to sanction the 12 clubs that would launch the new competition, and later to threaten the players themselves if they took part. When the players refused to back down for fear of losing power and business, the conflict culminated in a case before the European Court of Justice.

After a trial initiated in Madrid, the ECJ ruled that FIFA and UEFA's rules on the prior approval of club football competitions, such as the Super League were "contrary to European Union law."

Furthermore, it expressed that these rules,  used by UEFA and FIFA to have absolute control over tournaments and their economic benefits, as well as controlling second-tier associations, are contrary to competition law and the free provision of services within the European Union.

The European Superleague Company brought an action against FIFA and UEFA in the Commercial Court No. 17 of Madrid, arguing that their rules on competition authorization and the exploitation of broadcasting rights were contrary to European Union law and that FIFA and UEFA hold a monopoly position on the market, with the consequent economic effects. 

As a result, the case reached the Court of Justice, which considered that the organisation of club football competitions and the exploitation of broadcasting rights are economic activities, over and above the sporting specificity that they entail.

Manchester City won the last edition of the UEFA Champions League. MANCITY
Manchester City won the last edition of the UEFA Champions League. MANCITY

From the point of view of the Court: "Activities must comply with competition rules and freedom of movement, even if sport, as an economic activity, has certain specific characteristics, such as the existence of associations with normative, control, and sanctioning powers." 

In other words, it recognises the special nature of these associations but insists that, given their economic aspect, the rules of common law must apply and not the law of the association as proposed by FIFA and UEFA. 

The Court ruled that "where an undertaking in a dominant position has the power to determine the conditions under which potentially competing undertakings may enter the market, that power must, in view of the risk of conflict of interest which it entails, be accompanied by criteria ensuring that it is transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate." 

It goes on to say: "Well, the powers of FIFA and UEFA are not subject to any such criteria. Consequently, FIFA and UEFA abuse their dominant position".

The Court also found that FIFA and UEFA had abused their dominant position by assuming the power to adopt licensing, monitoring and sanctioning rules. According to the Court, these rules are arbitrary and unjustified and undermine the possibility of the free provision of services. 

As a result, a competition such as the Super League project does not necessarily require authorisation to take place. It is not for the Court of Justice to grant it but to establish a position, technically called a preliminary ruling, which allows the courts of the Member States, in the context of a dispute they are dealing with, to ask the Court of Justice about for an interpretation of European Union law or a ruling on the validity of a European Union act. 

What does this mean? The Court of Justice did not resolve the dispute brought before the Court of First Instance in Madrid, but established a criterion which is binding both on itself and on other courts. It found that FIFA and UEFA had gone too far in trying to prevent the creation of a new league (contrary to the rights established in the European Union) and, with this new criterion, opened the way for the planning of the new Super League of Football or any other league created outside the parent associations.

About the new Super League:

Initially, the following clubs were involved: Club Atlético de Madrid, Fútbol Club Barcelona and Real Madrid Club de Fútbol in Spain; Associazione Calcio Milan, Football Club Internazionale Milano and Juventus Football Club in Italy; Arsenal Football Club, Chelsea Football Club, Liverpool Football Club, Manchester City Football Club, Manchester United Football Club and Tottenham Hotspur in England.

Beyond them, an expanded tournament is currently being considered. The future Super League would be divided into three competitions with 64 teams:

Joan Laporta, the president of FC Barcelona, and Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid. GETTY IMAGES
Joan Laporta, the president of FC Barcelona, and Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid. GETTY IMAGES

The Star League (16 teams in two groups of eight), the Gold League (16 teams in two groups of eight) and the Blue League (four groups of eight teams each). The season would run from September to April, with 14 matchdays in the group stage. 

In the Star League and Gold League categories, the top four teams would progress to a play-off, with the quarter-finals and semi-finals played on a home and away basis, and the final a single match at a neutral venue. 

Although the top two from each group will qualify for the quarter-finals, in the Blue League the playoff system will remain the same. 

The bottom two teams in the Star League will be relegated to the Gold League to make way for the two finalists from the second tier. Similarly, the bottom two teams from the Gold League will be relegated to the Blue League to be replaced by the two finalists from the third tier. 

The Blue League will see 20 of the 32 teams drop out of the competition to make way for a further 20 clubs who will qualify on merit in their respective domestic competitions.