The Revival of the European Super League


In a groundbreaking legal development, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently declared that UEFA and FIFA had breached European Union law by attempting to prevent the creation of the European Super League (ESL). This verdict has reignited debates about the proposed ESL, which initially made headlines in 2021 when 12 prominent football clubs announced their intention to form a breakaway league. The bid was supported by A22 Sports, a group that lobbied the new Super League proposal and was built by the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and other supporting clubs. In this blog, we will delve into the implications of the ECJ ruling, the revived ESL proposals, and the reactions from key stakeholders in the football world.

ECJ Ruling Challenges UEFA and FIFA’s Authority

The ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered a substantial blow to the established football authorities, UEFA and FIFA, and fundamentally questioned their authority in the governance of the sport. The court’s verdict was a resounding condemnation of what it perceived as an abuse of power by these governing bodies, as it found them guilty of leveraging their dominant position within the footballing world. Their tactics included the ominous threat of imposing sanctions and exclusion from prestigious competitions on both clubs and players involved in the European Super League (ESL).

Moreover, the ECJ went even further in its assessment, declaring certain regulations put forth by UEFA and FIFA, such as the requirement for prior approval for „interclub football projects,“ to be in violation of the law. This decision underscored the court’s commitment to preserving fair competition and equal opportunities within the footballing landscape. In addition to this, the court deemed the exclusive control exercised by these organisations over the negotiation of commercial rights for various competitions as a significant restraint on trade, further highlighting their overreach in the world of football.

The repercussions of this groundbreaking legal verdict were far-reaching, triggering a wave of renewed interest and discussion surrounding the European Super League. The ruling acted as a catalyst, leading to the emergence of revamped proposals from its ardent supporters and reigniting debates on the future structure and governance of the sport at both the domestic and international levels. The landscape of football was undeniably altered by the ECJ’s decision, setting the stage for potentially transformative changes in the years to come.

Revamped ESL Proposals and the A22 Group

Following the European Court of Justice’s landmark ruling, the A22 group, a staunch supporter of the European Super League (ESL) project, wasted no time in unveiling an extensive and ambitious set of new proposals aimed at reshaping the future of European football. These forward-looking proposals encompass not only men’s but also women’s European tournaments, signalling a commitment to inclusivity and gender equality within the sport.

Under these innovative proposals, the ESL would adopt a comprehensive league structure that incorporates 64 men’s clubs distributed across three divisions and 32 women’s clubs spanning two divisions. This expansive approach aims to broaden the reach of top-level football, providing opportunities for both established clubs and emerging talent on an unprecedented scale.

One of the notable changes in this revamped ESL structure is the introduction of promotion and relegation mechanisms, a direct response to one of the primary criticisms of the initial ESL proposal. This alteration seeks to address concerns about competition integrity and fairness by ensuring that clubs earn their place in the league through performance rather than being granted permanent membership solely based on their founding status.

Bernd Reichart, the CEO of the A22 group, celebrated the ECJ ruling as a pivotal victory for the ESL and a seismic shift in the footballing landscape. He boldly proclaimed that UEFA’s monopoly is over, suggesting that the traditional football establishment’s grip on the sport was loosening. Reichart’s declaration of football encapsulated the group’s vision of a more open and accessible football ecosystem.

Central to the A22 group’s proposals is the commitment to providing participating clubs with guaranteed revenues, ensuring financial stability in an ever-evolving football market. Solidarity payments are also a key component, aiming to redistribute wealth within the sport and support clubs at all levels. Moreover, the group envisions the creation of a cutting-edge digital streaming platform, which would not only enhance the fan experience but also contribute to the sustainability of the ESL.

The A22 group’s post-ECJ ruling proposals signal a determined and comprehensive effort to redefine the future of European football. By addressing past criticisms, embracing inclusivity, and advocating for financial stability, they aim to usher in a new era in which football truly becomes free and accessible to a wider array of clubs and fans, while simultaneously challenging the traditional football establishment.

UEFA and FIFA React

In response to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling and the resurgence of proposals for the European Super League (ESL), UEFA conveyed its unwavering confidence in the resilience of the regulatory framework it has diligently enforced since the initial introduction of the ESL concept. The governing body affirmed its commitment to adhere to all applicable European laws and regulations while placing its trust in the established football infrastructure to effectively guard against any potential emergence of breakaway leagues.

Aleksander Čeferin, the President of UEFA, used his platform to underscore the organisation’s resolute stance on the matter, pointing out that the proposed ESL, even in its revised form, remained what he deemed „even more closed than the 2021 plan.“ He characterised this approach as „selfish and elitist,“ vehemently asserting that football was not a commodity to be bought and sold. In no uncertain terms, Čeferin reasserted the enduring significance of the UEFA Champions League as a pinnacle of football competition, firmly anchored within the established football order.

Meanwhile, FIFA President Gianni Infantino adopted a more understated tone, downplaying the immediate impact of the ECJ ruling by stating that it „does not change anything, really.“ Both FIFA and UEFA chose to emphasise their steadfast commitment to the existing football ecosystem, signalling their dedication to preserving the integrity and continuity of the sport as it has been traditionally structured.

In summary, the responses from UEFA and FIFA in the aftermath of the ECJ ruling and the resurgence of ESL proposals highlight their resolve to maintain the status quo of football governance and competition. Their assertions reflect a steadfast belief in the efficacy of their established regulations and the enduring value of established competitions, even in the face of challenges from breakaway league initiatives.

Premier League Clubs and Other Reactions

In the wake of the European Super League (ESL) debacle that rocked the footballing world, several prominent Premier League clubs, such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool, have made resounding statements reaffirming their unwavering commitment to UEFA competitions and their dedication to cooperating with the established football governing bodies. This united front among the Premier League giants stands in stark contrast to their initial involvement in the ESL, a move that sparked outrage and intense criticism from fans, players, and the broader football community.

The public shift in the positions of these English clubs serves as a testament to the immense pressure and backlash they faced in the aftermath of their ESL announcement. It underscores the pivotal role that fan protests, player opposition, and global condemnation played in compelling these clubs to reconsider their stance and realign themselves with the traditional footballing structure. This reversal highlights the significance of fan power and the enduring bond between clubs and their supporters.

Beyond the Premier League, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, two prominent German clubs that were initially perceived as potential participants in the ESL, have taken decisive steps to distance themselves from the newly proposed league. This move is indicative of the evolving dynamics within European football, as even clubs with substantial financial resources and global fan bases have recognized the potential long-term consequences of breaking away from established competitions.

Similarly, Inter Milan, one of the original 12 founding clubs of the ESL, has also withdrawn its support for the project. This decision illustrates the fluid nature of football allegiances and the complex factors that influence clubs‘ decisions. It suggests that, even within the ranks of the ESL’s founding clubs, there was a diversity of opinions and priorities, which ultimately led to diverging paths in response to the evolving situation.

The post-ESL landscape in European football is marked by a shifting and dynamic landscape, with Premier League clubs reversing their positions to align with UEFA, German giants distancing themselves from breakaway ventures, and founding ESL clubs reevaluating their support. This ongoing saga reflects the intricate interplay of fan sentiment, financial considerations, and the enduring traditions of the sport, shaping the future of football governance and competition.

The Future of European Football

The recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has not only opened the door but blown wide open the gateway to extensive discussions and deliberations concerning the future of European football governance. The ramifications of this landmark decision, while not yet fully crystalized, have sent shockwaves through the footballing world, challenging the established authority of both UEFA and FIFA and ushering in a new era of intense debate and reevaluation.

At this juncture, the precise and immediate consequences of the ECJ’s ruling remain somewhat veiled in uncertainty. However, what is abundantly clear is that it has fundamentally shaken the foundations of football’s governing bodies, forcing them to confront the issues of monopolistic practices, dominance, and an alleged abuse of power. The ruling serves as a stark reminder that no entity, no matter how entrenched in the footballing landscape, is above the scrutiny of the law.

Notably, the backers of the European Super League (ESL), once seen as a potential disruptor of the status quo, remain undeterred by the legal setback. They have embarked on a determined path to realise their vision, albeit with substantial modifications aimed at addressing the considerable criticisms that accompanied their initial proposal. This indicates that, far from being thwarted, the ESL remains a force to be reckoned with, and its proponents are actively working on reshaping their venture to align more closely with the demands and expectations of the footballing world.

In the midst of this turmoil, the future of European football governance hangs in the balance. The decisions made in the coming months and years will be the result of a complex interplay of interests involving not only the key stakeholders such as fans, clubs, governing bodies, and players but also the intervention of legal authorities. These diverse groups will each play a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of European football, from the rules governing competitions to the distribution of revenues and the very structure of the sport.

Undoubtedly, this is a watershed moment in the history of football governance. The ripple effects of the ECJ ruling are bound to resonate throughout the footballing world for years to come, with the potential to transform the sport at both the domestic and international levels. As the various parties engage in dialogue and negotiation, the future contours of European football governance will gradually emerge, reflecting the evolving dynamics of the game and the aspirations of those who hold it dear.

by Dr. Erkut Sogut & Jamie Khan

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