THE titans of Spanish football are celebrating after a European court ruled against football’s top governing bodies in a dispute over the controversial European Super League (ESL).
In a decision that will come as a blow to English clubs, the Court of Justice of the European Union found that UEFA and FIFA, which oversee European and global football respectively, acted unlawfully and ‘abused their dominant position.
The two football authorities had threatened to sanction players and clubs which joined the proposed ESL, a proposed breakaway league launched by 12 top football clubs in 2021.
It could have seen a club like FC Barcelona being kicked out of the Champions League and European football altogether.
However, it was argued that UEFA and FIFA’s threats were anti-competitive and therefore violated European law, a position that the court eventually sided with in a decision that cannot be appealed.
“There is no framework for the Fifa and Uefa rules ensuring that they are transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate,” the court said.
“Moreover, given their arbitrary nature, their rules on approval, control and sanctions must be held to be unjustified restrictions on the freedom to provide services.”
The ruling promises to upend the status quo in European football and paves the way for new players to launch rival competitions outside the umbrella of UEFA and FIFA.
The ESL, as the leading candidate, was originally conceived as a rival to UEFA’s Champions League, and had the firm backing of Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Juventus and a number of top English clubs.
Traditionally the powerhouses of Europe, both Spanish titans have found themselves unable to compete with state-owned clubs elsewhere in Europe and the financial power of the English Premier League.
The ESL was seen as a solution to this lack of competitiveness.
However, fan outrage and protests at what they saw as a cash grab and a betrayal of the ‘football pyramid’ quickly saw the scheme collapse in a matter of days.
The English clubs pulled out under a fan backlash, leaving just Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus in support – and in UEFA’s line of fire.
Now, the door is open to the ESL once again – a proposal which will feature 64 European clubs divided into three mini-leagues that will play concurrently with the usual national leagues.
“We welcome the ruling of the CJEU with enormous satisfaction,” Real Madrid President Florentino Perez said in a statement.
“European football will never be a monopoly, and from today the clubs will be the masters of their destiny. We see ourselves capable of promoting the competitions that we consider. The Europe of freedoms has triumphed.”
In a speech to Real Madrid members he said, ‘Maybe we should remind UEFA who Real Madrid are’ to tumultuous applause and chants of ‘Kings of Europe, WE are the kings of Europe!’
An online poll of Spanish readers by 20minutos found that 70% supported the ESL, considering it to be ‘a step forward in the world of football.’
- Revealed: The EU’s ‘Mediterranean Corridor’ train will carry passengers from southern Spain to UKRAINE and connect up to 10 countries – but misses out a MAJOR resort loved by Brits
- Airport strikes in Spain latest: Iberia workers delay the start date of their walk out