Despite the allegations in the headlines about today’s decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) regarding UEFA and FIFA, the Court emphasized that this finding does not mean approval of the Super League project.
“The court confirmed that this was never a case about the Super League, but rather about the powers and scope of UEFA,” said Miguel Poiares Maduro, Professor of Law at the European University Institute of Florence.
The court ruled, quite clearly, that UEFA’s practices amounted to an abuse of dominant position.
“There is a clear message that bodies with court, regulatory or quasi-regulatory powers will be scrutinized – and very closely – under EU competition law,” said Pablo Ibáñez Colomo, Jean Monnet chair of competition and regulation at the London School of Economics (LSE), Euronews’ he said:
According to Colomo, this type of strict scrutiny will now apply even when an authority, a sports body or even a group of companies is in a similar position to a regulatory body.
“The court’s message to sports governing bodies was very clear: remember that you are a company and subject to competition law,” according to competition lawyer Viktoria Tsvetanova of the Dentons competition team.
The decision appears to reestablish the supremacy of competition rules, contradicting exemptions from the antitrust framework for European sports bodies discussed in the opinion of the Chief Prosecutor of the European Court of Justice, Athanasios Rantos, on the case in December 2022.
Rantos found that specific “constitutional recognition” applies to sport through Article 165 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which refers to the bloc’s commitment to “developing the European dimension in sport by ensuring fairness and openness in competitions.” and cooperation between institutions responsible for sport”.
Senior researcher Dr. from the Asser Institute for International and European Law. According to Antoine Duval, “His interpretation was brutally and quite frankly rejected by the Court.”
So what does this decision mean in practice?
UEFA needs a change
According to lawyer Tsvetanova, the main meaning of the decision is that sports governing bodies should reconsider their rules, in particular regarding the authorization of events, sanctions against players and clubs, arbitration clauses and exclusive jurisdiction.
Professor Colomo said that other sports organizations have grown on a monopolistic or semi-monopolistic pyramid structure, adding: “There is a narrow reading, which in a sense means that UEFA/FIFA will inevitably have to rethink some of their practices.” Set the rules for everyone in these sports.
However, Europe’s football governing body downplayed the impact of the decision and stressed after the decision that it did not endorse or disapprove the Super League.
According to UEFA, the decision highlights deficiencies that have already been recognized within the body’s mandate and have been remedied in June 2022.
“UEFA is confident that its new rules are robust and, in particular, comply with all relevant European laws and regulations,” the statement said.
“I am concerned about this initial reaction that underestimates the extent of the reforms that they must undertake to meet the requirements of the court,” said Maduro, himself a former FIFA official.
Stating that the court clearly recognizes the importance of sports and a model with a pyramid structure at the top of which the regulatory and licensing powers are given, Maduro said: “What the Court evaluates in an extremely negative way is the current practice of UEFA, which has arbitrary discriminatory aspects.” “They have regulatory and licensing powers because it causes
an open door
Maduro said that another important consequence of the decision was that it opened the door to other organizations that could create alternative models.
“If these alternative models turn out to be better than UEFA, for example in distributing the revenues of competitions, then UEFA cannot arbitrarily dominate its own systems,” he said.
Immediately after the decision, the features of the renewed European Super League project were announced by Bernd Reichman, CEO of sports development company A22.
“There is big news today and that is that football is free. “Far from the monopoly of UEFA, free to pursue the best ideas without fear of sanctions,” he said. He said that the main innovations of the new European Super League offer include promotions and shortages and the possibility of transferring all this. free matches.
However, many football clubs, including Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and AS Roma, made a public statement today and announced that they would never participate in the project, moving away from the project.
Despite the doubts about the Super League, the decision seems to be a turning point in terms of the possibilities of organizing alternative competitions.
“I think the bargaining power has changed to some degree,” Colomo said, emphasizing that the decision could lead to “a natural tendency for some actors within the pyramid to challenge some of the rules.”
For Colomo, this will not be limited to football as it will be an invitation for many to challenge certain practices when they believe an organization is in a comparable position to FIFA or infringes the rights of any regulatory body in general.