KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- A Madrid commercial court has dealt a significant though still arguable blow to the FIFA/UEFA monopoly of competitive football in the long-running Super League case.

The issue entered the judicial arena after European federation UEFA sought to launch disciplinary action against clubs involved in the ill-conceived and quickly-scrapped original European Super League project in April 2021.

One consequence of the ruling will be to encourage organisations – for example, those representing players and leagues – to take legal action against the governing bodies over such issues as the international calendar.

In the meantime UEFA issued a cautionary welcome to the ruling, noting that ???

Some 12 clubs had signed up originally for the Super League project of which only Real Madrid and Barcelona remain wedded to the concept which challenged UEFA’s claim to be the only organisation legally entitled to run European club competitions.

The other 10 clubs were England’s Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur plus Italy’s Internazionale, Juventus and AC Milan plus Spain’s Atletico Madrid.

The project’s operating company, A22, challenged UEFA’s authority in the Madrid commercial court which decided that the case raised issues within the scope of European Union competition law. Hence the case was referred to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

The ECJ took a dim view of the UEFA stance in a verdict delivered last December 21. This opinion was reverted to Madrid for a definitive judgment which now deems UEFA and FIFA statutes as breaching European competitions law.

An appeal from the governing bodies, which claim already to have amended their statutes since the original Madrid hearing, is almost inevitable.

UEFA, ever since the Super League launch, has reframed its statutes, rules and regulations while A22 has scrapped its original proposal for a 12-club closed competition in favour of a 64-club midweek tournament incorporating some form of promotion and relegation.

On Friday Judge Sofia Gil Garcia issued a 71-page ruling which has now been published.

In the conclusion she stated that various FIFA and UEFA statutes were “incompatible” with European law and that “UEFA and FIFA have abused their dominant position . . . by arrogating to itself the discretion to prohibit participation in alternative competitions.”

Judge Gil Garcia added: “I order FIFA and UEFA to cease the anti-competitive conduct . . . and prohibit their future repetition.” She also ordered FIFA and UEFA to immediately scrap any and all disciplinary proceedings.

The judge made no financial order, ordering both sides to bear their own costs.

UEFA, looking on the bright side, said it was “pleased to note that the judge confirmed the validity of a pre-authorisation system being in place for third party competitions to be approved under UEFA’s authorisation rules and recognised the undoubted benefits of such rules for the football sporting system. 

“The court also confirmed that the current version of UEFA’s authorisation rules (as adopted in June 2022) is not affected by today’s ruling.

“Further, the court has not given the green light to, nor has it approved, projects like the Super League.  In fact, the judge has asserted that the Super League project has long been abandoned and that she cannot be expected to rule on any abstract projects. 

“In short, the judgment does not give third parties the right to develop competitions without authorisation and does not concern any future project or indeed any modified version of an existing project.

“In any case, UEFA will take time to study the judgment before deciding whether any further action is necessary.”

All parties have three weeks in which to appeal.