A ruling which could shape European football for decades to come is set to be announced later this morning.
European Court of Justice judges will confirm their verdict in the European Super League case.
They have been asked to decide whether UEFA and FIFA acted against competition law by blocking the formation of the European Super League in 2021 and then seeking to sanction the clubs involved.
A non-binding decision delivered by the Advocate General in the case last December found rules allowing UEFA to have prior approval of new competitions were compatible with EU law.
The original 2021 Super League proposal was criticised for its ‘closed’ format, with 15 founder clubs set to have been immune from relegation.
A22, a company formed to assist in the creation of that competition, has now drafted revised plans for a multi-division event featuring 60 to 80 teams, which it insists, crucially, will be open to all.
The company will hope that the judgement forces sports federations like UEFA to use non-discriminatory criteria when assessing new entrants to the market, which would open the door for A22 to try again.
“Tomorrow is UEFA Judgment Day,” an A22 post published on X on Wednesday read.
“After almost 70 years as the sole regulator, gatekeeper and dominant commercial operator of the European football market, UEFA’s monopoly may finally end! We are on the threshold of a new, better era for #EuropeanClubFootball.”
There are many obstacles in A22’s path even if the judgement suggests it does have the right to pitch a new competition to UEFA that can operate under UEFA’s auspices, and for UEFA to give that competition full and fair consideration.
These include the will of clubs, existing agreements between the European Club Association and UEFA, and the fact that the existence of a joint venture between ECA and UEFA on commercial matters at the very least challenges A22’s assertions about a monopoly.
In England, the Premier League has just announced a new domestic television rights deal worth £6.7billion. If there is any risk that the competition A22 proposes that could kill or even harm that golden goose, it is difficult to picture any English club supporting it.
Clubs are also set to be forbidden from joining unapproved competitions as a licensing condition to be set by the English game’s new independent regulator, while the Premier League’s Owners’ Charter agreed in 2022 also contains undertakings not to “engage in the creation of new competition formats outside of the Premier League’s rules”.
That is all before considering another important element – the fans.
Supporters in England took to the streets despite coronavirus restrictions when the initial Super League plans became known, and played a key part in its collapse.
The Grand Chamber judgement’s interpretation of EU law will be passed back to a Madrid commercial court to make a decision, after the Spanish jurisdiction made the referral in 2021.
That court also placed an injunction on sanctions UEFA imposed on the nine clubs who joined Super League but who later withdrew. It remains to be seen whether UEFA will press on with those sanctions, and potentially investigate more serious charges against Real and Barcelona.