Thursday’s ruling by the European Court of Justice appears unlikely to lead to any changes to the footballing landscape on the continent in the near future, after leagues, clubs, player representatives and fan groups immediately reiterated their opposition to any proposed Super League.
The ruling by Europe’s top court found that UEFA, European football’s governing body, as well as world body FIFA had been “abusing a dominant position” by submitting any new competitions to their prior approval.
Trying to prohibit clubs and players from taking part in those competitions was “unlawful”, the ECJ said.
Yet the ruling did not endorse the Super League, as it recognised the “specific context of professional football”, with the importance of “sporting merit” and of “ensuring a certain level of equal opportunity”.
That did not stop the promoters of the Super League, a company called A22 Sports Management, quickly revealing its proposal for a 64-team men’s competition, split into three divisions.
It would be “based on sporting merit”, with no permanent members and with clubs remaining committed to their domestic leagues, according to A22’s CEO, Bernd Reichart.
Yet apart from Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid—who were among the initial group of 12 clubs who unsuccessfully tried to start a breakaway league in April 2021 — it is not clear who currently backs this plan.
Instead, almost everyone has come out in support of UEFA as the organiser of elite football in Europe, including those who have been unconvinced about the new format for the Champions League which will be introduced from next year.
UEFA’s flagship competition will feature 36 clubs next season, up from the current 32, with all participants going into a single league in which teams will play eight games, all against different sides, in what is known as the “Swiss system”.
The idea for the new format was unveiled just after the Super League was first launched in April 2021.
It has had its detractors, but there is almost unanimous agreement that the current set-up of European football, under the UEFA umbrella, is more palatable to anything the Super League’s promoters are offering.
The united front was displayed in a virtual press conference hosted by UEFA on Thursday and which featured representatives from the powerful European Club Association (ECA), the European Leagues grouping of more than one thousand clubs in 31 countries, players union FIFPro, and fans representatives at Football Supporters Europe (FSE).
“Real Madrid and Barcelona will not be saving European football and we don’t have to pay the price for their financial mismanagement,” said FSE executive director Ronan Evain.
“It would be for the best of everyone if their promoters would just give up now.”
David Terrier, the president of FIFPro Europe, insisted that “the players have already said they are unanimously against this.”
The initial breakaway in 2021 failed to a large extent because opposition from supporters in England persuaded the six Premier League clubs involved to withdraw.
In any case, the English top flight has no desire to see its top teams become part of a breakaway competition, even if they would theoretically be able to compete in both.
“The Premier League reiterates its commitment to the clear principles of open competition that underpin the success of domestic and international club competitions,” the English top flight said.
‘Based on old facts’
The UK government earlier this year published plans to create an independent football regulator with powers to block clubs from joining breakaway leagues.
Bayern Munich remain against the idea of a Super League, as do Paris Saint-Germain, whose president Nasser al-Khelaifi is also chairman of the ECA.
Even Atletico Madrid — one of the original 12 rebel clubs — have now said they are against it.
All of that support has comforted UEFA, and its president Aleksander Ceferin, in its position, and the body is confident that rules it implemented last year will in any case prevent a breakaway competition from seeing the light of day.
“The ECJ decision is based on old facts,” Ceferin said, convinced that the regulations governing international club competitions which it brought in last year reinforce UEFA’s position.
“We are confident our new rules are fully in line with the ECJ’s judgement.”
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