The EU Supreme Court rules that UEFA and FIFA’s ban on the Premier League is unlawful

In a major boost to the Premier League project, Europe’s top court ruled on Thursday that UEFA “abuses its dominant position” in its control of European football.

The Premier League and its backers, A22 Sports, argued that UEFA’s ban on potential competition – a concept launched in April 2021 – and threatened penalties for participating clubs was an illegal monopoly under European competition law.

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Thursday’s ruling by the European Court of Justice [ECJ] It found that FIFA and UEFA rules requiring new football competitions to undergo their prior approval, and preventing players from participating in those competitions, were “unlawful”.

“There is no framework of FIFA and UEFA rules that guarantees them to be transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate,” the court said.

“Similarly, the rules giving FIFA and UEFA exclusive control over the commercial exploitation of rights relating to these competitions have the effect of restricting competition, given their importance to EU media, consumers and television viewers.”

The court considered that organizing football competitions is an economic activity and “therefore, the rules of competition must be adhered to and freedom of movement must be respected.”

The court explained that its ruling “does not necessarily mean approval of a competition such as the Premier League project,” saying that it ruled on the rules of FIFA and UEFA in general, and not on any specific project.

However, the decision represents a major boost for the Premier League project, which seeks to replace the Champions League.

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“We have won the right to compete,” said Bernd Reichart, CEO of A22 Sports. “UEFA’s monopoly on football is over. Football is free. Now clubs will not be subjected to threats and sanctions. They are free to decide their future.”

UEFA issued a statement on Thursday saying it had already updated its rules following the attempt to launch the Premier League.

“This ruling does not mean support or endorsement of the so-called Premier League,” UEFA said. “It highlights a pre-existing deficiency within UEFA’s prior authorization framework, a technical aspect that was already recognized and addressed in June 2022,” he added.

He added: “UEFA is confident in the strength of its new rules, and specifically that they comply with all relevant European laws and regulations.”

An initial 12 clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga, and AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus in Serie A – have signed on as members of the committee. The breakaway Super League is scheduled to start on April 18, 2021, in a move that has stunned the football world.

The project, led by Real Madrid’s Florentino Pérez and Juventus’ Andrea Agnelli, arose out of frustration with UEFA’s dominant role as Champions League organizer and dissatisfaction with the competition’s format and revenue model.

Loud opposition from football’s governing bodies, fans and politicians – particularly in England – quickly led to nine of those clubs announcing their withdrawal from the project, with only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus remaining as general backers.

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“As of today, the clubs will become masters of their future,” Perez said on Thursday. “Our right to propose and push for European competitions that modernize our sport and attract fans around the world has been recognised.

“Real Madrid will continue to act in the interests of football. We will continue to defend a modern project, fully compatible with national competitions, open to all, based on sporting merit, with effective financial fair play.

“No one said that ending the monopoly after all these decades would be easy… From today, the present and future of European football are finally in the hands of the clubs, the players and the fans. Our destiny belongs to us.” “

Barcelona issued a statement on Thursday expressing its “satisfaction” with the court’s ruling, saying it “paves the way for a new football competition at the elite level in Europe.”

The case reached the European Court of Justice after the Premier League filed a lawsuit with a Spanish court in 2021, seeking protection to pre-empt potential UEFA sanctions.

The judge in Madrid issued a preliminary injunction, before referring the case to the court in Luxembourg for a ruling.

Since October 2022, A22 Sports – led by Reichardt – has been looking to relaunch and rebrand the Premier League, proposing a more open and meritorious format.

“For the fans: we will be broadcasting all Premier League matches for free,” Reichardt said on Thursday. “For clubs: club income and football solidarity payments are guaranteed.”

La Liga and its president Javier Tebas have been vocal critics of the project, arguing that competition would harm and undermine the national leagues.

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“The ruling confirms what we have always said: anyone can organize competitions outside the scope of UEFA and FIFA, and this cannot be banned, and no one has doubted that. The legal question is the status of these competitions within the UEFA and FIFA ecosystem,” Tebas said. He added. : “In 2022, UEFA has established a procedure to authorize new competitions, which the Premier League or any other competition can benefit from.”

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