Football ‘united’ against European Super League, says UEFA’s Aleksander Ceferin

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says “football is united” against any attempts to revive a European Super League.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice said on Thursday that UEFA rules allowing it to grant prior approval to new competitions such as the Super League were contrary to EU law, leading Super League’s backers A22 to declare victory and announce proposals for new men’s and women’s competitions.

Clubs including Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan – founder members of the original Super League back in 2021 – have already pledged their commitment to the existing competitions they play in, while the Premier League released a statement rejecting the Super League concept.

It's really hard to decide if you should be shocked or amused by the show that we have seen

Aleksander Ceferin on A22 presentation

“Whilst there is always room for improvement, football remains united as you see today,” Ceferin said at a press conference which also featured the leaders of the European Club Association, European Leagues, Football Supporters Europe and world players’ union FIFPRO.

“Three or four (of the original 12 Super League clubs in 2021) were the first to give statements today that they will never join. So even the ones who were there (in 2021) are the first ones to be against.”

Ceferin criticised the way the court’s judgement had been communicated to the media and said that when the case began in 2021, UEFA’s authorisation rules were different from how they look today after an update in June 2022.

He said UEFA would fully review whether the 2022 rules were in line with the ECJ’s ruling that stated they must be “transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate”. UEFA insisted the 2022 rules were developed in consultation with the European Commission.

Article 7.4 of UEFA’s 2022 rules state that authorisation of a new competition is conditional on it not adversely affecting the good functioning of UEFA’s existing competitions.

The rules state this condition is necessary “to protect the sporting merit of UEFA competitions, the good functioning of the international calendar as well as the health and safety of players” but would appear to make approval of a rival competition featuring Europe’s top clubs under UEFA auspices impossible.

A22 chief executive Bernd Reichart earlier declared “football is free” after the verdict and said it now gave competition organisers like his company the right to pitch its plans.

He announced details for new men’s and women’s competitions which he said would be “open and meritocratic”. He also said fans would be able to stream live matches for free.

Ceferin mocked the A22 presentation and said: “It’s really hard to decide if you should be shocked or amused by the show that we have seen.

“Since it’s close to Christmas I will choose amusement, I am amused by it.”

He said the new format was “even more closed” than the 2021 version “especially the interesting idea that (domestic) champions would qualify in a Blue League, which is a third-tier competition”.

On A22’s reaction to the verdict, Ceferin added: “I have a feeling that A22, now it’s close to Christmas, saw a big, well-decorated box under the tree.

“They were super-happy (and) started to celebrate. But when you open the box you’ll see that it’s not much inside.”

United said their position had not changed following Thursday’s ruling and said they “remain fully committed to participation in UEFA competitions, and to positive co-operation with UEFA, the Premier League, and fellow clubs through the ECA on the continued development of the European game”.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the chairman of the ECA and president of Paris St Germain, who refused to join the Super League in 2021, said: “The best club competition in the world is the Champions League. The music itself is a brand.

“You have a brand that exists already for years and years. We are, as clubs, proud to be part of it.

“I have received I don’t know how many calls from clubs (since the ruling), and you see their statements. All of us as stakeholders, we’re standing together to protect the ecosystem of football.”

Fans were key to the demise of the 2021 Super League and Football Supporters’ Association chief executive Kevin Miles said on Thursday: “We all want to see the trigger pulled on the walking dead monstrosity that is the European Zombie League.”

The Premier League’s statement was less colourful but no less significant.

“The ruling does not endorse the so-called ‘European Super League’ and the Premier League continues to reject any such concept,” a league statement said.

“Supporters are of vital importance to the game and they have time and again made clear their opposition to a ‘breakaway’ competition that severs the link between domestic and European football.

“The Premier League reiterates its commitment to the clear principles of open competition that underpin the success of domestic and international club competitions.

“Football thrives on the competitiveness created by promotion and relegation, the annual merit-based qualification from domestic leagues and cups to international club competitions and the longstanding rivalries and rituals that come with weekends being reserved for domestic football.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: “With the greatest respect for the European Court of Justice, today’s judgement does not change anything, really.

“Historically, we have been organising the best competitions in the world and this will also be the case in the future.

“We will continue to deliver the world’s most spectacular, competitive and meaningful tournaments and use our revenues to develop football in every corner of the globe through solidarity programmes that ensure the less privileged benefit from those top competitions.”