EU top court rules FIFA, UEFA unlawfully blocked Super League plans

The two football governing bodies contravened law by stopping the formation of league, the European Court of Justice says.

Super League Football
Super League words are seen in front of 12 of Europe's top football clubs' logos [File: Dado Ruvic/Reuters]

The European Union’s top court has ruled that UEFA and FIFA broke EU law in blocking the formation of a rival Super League competition.

Thursday’s ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) marks a serious legal setback for UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) and for football’s world governing body, FIFA.

The court found that the two sporting bodies threatening to ban future Super League clubs and players from taking part in their competitions was illegal.

“FIFA and UEFA rules making any new interclub football project subject to their prior approval, such as the Super League, and prohibiting clubs and players from playing in those competitions, are unlawful,” it said.

In early 2021, 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs announced they had signed up to the planned Super League, triggering a furious backlash from fans and a stark warning from UEFA that clubs and players who took part would be barred from competitions like the World Cup.

Chelsea fans protest outside Stamford Bridge stadium in London, against Chelsea's then decision to be included amongst the clubs attempting to form a new European Super League, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. [AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File]
Chelsea fans protest in London against the club’s then decision to be included in a new European Super League [File: Matt Dunham/AP]

Within 48 hours, nine of the 12 rebel clubs – including six from the English Premier League – backed down and the project collapsed, leaving promoters A22 Sports Management to launch a legal challenge through the Spanish courts, which referred the question to the ECJ.

In response to the Super League threat, UEFA launched a major reform of the Champions League starting in 2024, with 36 teams involved instead of 32. The clubs will play in a single league competition, which will replace the current group stage, guaranteeing at least eight matches for each team.

European clubs, leagues reject Super League

Though the Super League organisers welcomed the ECJ’s ruling, major leagues and clubs moved quickly to support the status quo.

Manchester United were one of the first to say they remained committed to playing in competitions run by UEFA, as did German champions Bayern Munich.

“Our position has not changed. We remain fully committed to participation in UEFA competitions, and to positive cooperation with UEFA, the Premier League, and fellow clubs through the ECA on the continued development of the European game,” United said.

Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur were the other five Premier League clubs involved before pulling out.

Bayern Munich said they were committed to UEFA competitions, saying the door for the Super League “remains closed” for the German champions.

“The Bundesliga is the foundation of FC Bayern, just as all national leagues are the foundation of other European football clubs,” Bayern CEO Jan Christian Dreesen said.

“It is therefore our duty and our deep conviction to strengthen them, not to weaken them. We are also committed to the European club competitions under the umbrella of UEFA.”

The European Club Association (ECA), which represents nearly 500 clubs across the continent, said the football world had “moved on from the Super League years ago”.

“Through ECA, clubs today are already at the heart of decision-making in relation to the competitions they participate in,” it said. “Most importantly, football is a social contract, not a legal contract.”

France’s Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) said it “unequivocally supports” competitions organised by UEFA.

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) reiterated its intention to protect the national championships, “for the defence of the broader and more general principle of sporting merit and the respect of international calendars”.

“The FIGC believes that the Super League is not a project compatible with these conditions and will always act in pursuing the general interests of Italian football,” it added.

Source: News Agencies