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Super League lawyers charge UEFA and its ‘monopolistic’ UEFA position

A first day of hearing took place this Monday before the Court of Justice of the European Union regarding the Super League. The lawyers for this semi-closed competition project, aborted in the spring of 2021, took the opportunity to attack UEFA, denouncing “anti-economic” practices. The European body responded by criticizing clubs acting in defiance of the “European sporting model, based on merit”.

After having shaken European football last year, the conflict between the short-lived Super League project and UEFA ended up on Monday before European justice, which will have to decide whether the clubs participating in the competitions of the federations can engage in competitive tournaments. The world of sport is suspended from the decision of the Court of Justice of the EU, brought to confront the model of major sports events and championships with competition law in the European bloc. The jurisdiction established in Luxembourg was seized by the Spanish courts, responsible for ruling on the proceedings brought by UEFA against the clubs at the origin of the Super League, a semi-closed competition designed to supplant the Champions League, flagship event of the European Football Confederation. This Monday, during the first of two days of hearing, the lawyers of the Super League denounced the “monopolistic” aims of the governing body of European football.

“We are here in defense of the freedoms which make the EU a unique territory in the world, by proposing to fight against uneconomic practices”, asserted one of them, Miguel Odriozola Alen. He criticized UEFA, which had dissuaded “rebellious” clubs from embarking on the adventure, of being a “monopoly entity”, which should not be able to “assume regulatory powers in a market on which it competes”. The Super League project, a private tournament launched by twelve major European clubs supposed to be full members each season, was announced with fanfare in April 2021. But faced with the fury of many supporters and the threat of political measures, the case had fallen apart in 48 hours.

“Butter and butter money”

Today, three of the twelve rebel formations (Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Juventus Turin) however refuse to deny the project and contest the threats of sanctions from UEFA. For the European body, “a closed league reserved for the richest clubs is incompatible with the European sporting model, based on merit”, namely qualification each season through national championships, argued his lawyer Donald Slater . According to him, the promoters of the aborted project want “butter and butter money” by choosing their competitions à la carte, while being “exempt from the practices of solidarity and merit” implemented by UEFA.

The Swiss-based organization ensures that it redistributes the income generated by competitions to amateur football, and offers clubs from small nations the opportunity to shine in the Champions League, Europa League or Europa League Conference. “The European Super League would deal a fatal blow to the European sporting model”, insisted Donald Slater before the fifteen judges of the Court, who still have to question the two parties on Tuesday. For this lawyer, UEFA “does not seek to maximize its income”, but simply to ensure “by the application of common rules (…) that sport fulfills societal functions”, in accordance with the European treaties.

“Existential Threat”

Several European supporters’ associations recalled on the sidelines of the hearing their “opposition” to the Super League project, “an existential threat to European football”, according to them. “The project is a billionaires’ concept. It is anti-competitive in nature and, if it sees the light of day, it would destroy the key principles on which the European model is based,” fan groups said in a statement. 15 European countries, including France, Spain, England and Germany. Among these principles, the supporters cited “sporting merit, promotions and relegations, qualification for Europe via national success (in each national championship, editor’s note) and financial solidarity”.

The challenge goes far beyond the framework of the Super League, and even football. This Monday, on appeal, the CJEU also considered another dispute between the International Skating Federation (ISU) and two Dutch speed skaters, whom it had wanted to banish for life to prevent them from participating in a South Korean private competition project. This project was nipped in the bud by the reluctance of athletes to take such a risk. For the Super League, the decision of the CJEU is not expected before the end of 2022, or even the beginning of 2023.

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