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

On Monday, a first hearing took place before the Court of Justice of the European Union on the Super League. The lawyers of this semi-closed league project, demolished in the spring of 2021, took the opportunity to attack UEFA, denouncing “anti-economic” practices. The European body responded by criticizing clubs that acted contrary to the “European sports model, based on merit”.

After shaking up 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 federations’ competitions are allowed to participate in competitive tournaments. Participate. The sports world has been suspended for the decision of the Court of Justice of the EU, which confronts the model of major sporting events and championships with competition law in the European bloc. Luxembourg-based jurisdiction has been seized by the Spanish courts, which are responsible for ruling on proceedings brought by UEFA against the clubs behind the Super League, a semi-closed competition designed to the Champions League, the flagship of the European football competition. Confederation. This Monday, during the first of two days of hearings, Super League lawyers denounced the “monopolistic” goals of European football’s governing body.

“We are here to defend the freedoms that make the EU a unique area in the world by proposing to fight against uneconomic practices,” said one of them, Miguel Odriozola Alen. He criticized UEFA, which had prevented “rebellious” clubs from embarking on the adventure of being a “monopoly entity”, which should not be able to “take on regulatory powers in a market in which it competes”. The Super League project, a private tournament launched by 12 major European clubs that should be full members each season, was announced with fanfare in April 2021. But faced with the ire of many supporters and the threat of political action, the matter was shattered within 48 hours.

“butter and butter money”

Today, however, three of the 12 rebel formations (Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Juventus Turin) refuse to deny the project and challenge the threats of UEFA sanctions. For the European body, “a closed competition 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 Switzerland-based organization ensures that it redistributes competition revenues to amateur football and offers clubs from small countries the chance to shine in the Champions League, Europa League or Europa League Conference. “The European Super League would deal a fatal blow to the European sports model,” Donald Slater urged the court’s 15 judges, who are yet to question the two sides on Tuesday. According to this lawyer, UEFA “doesn’t aim to maximize its revenue”, but simply to ensure “through the application of common rules (…) that sport fulfills social functions”, in accordance with the European treaties.

“Existential Threat”

Several European supporter associations on the sidelines of the hearing recalled their “opposition” to the Super League project, “an existential threat to European football”, they said. “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. countries, including France, Spain, England and Germany. Among these principles, supporters cited “sporting merits, promotions and relegations, qualification for Europe through national success (in each national championship, editor’s note) and financial solidarity”.

The challenge goes well beyond the framework of the Super League, and even football. The CJEU also heard on appeal on Monday another dispute between the International Skating Federation (ISU) and two Dutch skaters, who had wanted to suspend it 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 CJEU ruling is not expected before the end of 2022 or even the beginning of 2023.