By Andrew Warshaw
May 14 – In a move that could potentially have seismic consequences, a Spanish court has referred opposition to the ill-fated European Super League by FIFA and UEFA to the European Court of Justice.
Ever since the ESL died on its feet when nine of its 12 founder members withdraw within 72 hours of the competition being announced, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has insisted the project still has legs.
Now we know why.
According to a document seen by AFP, a commercial court in Madrid has sent a preliminary question to the European Court seeking a ruling on whether FIFA and UEFA are claiming a monopoly that could be in breach of EU competition law.
The European Court of Justice is the same body that ruled on the Bosman affair back in the mid-1990s that changed the entire landscape of European football – and is now being asked to decide whether FIFA and UEFA can legally block rival competitions.
The judge at the centre of the inquiry, Manuel Ruiz de Lara, has reportedly asked the CJEU whether the threats of sanctions made by FIFA and UEFA against members of the Super League was legal.
The judge noted that opposition to the closed league hinders “potential market competition” and limits “consumer choice”.
“This is big,” Katarina Pijetlovic, a sports law researcher at the University of Manchester, was quoted as saying on Twitter, explaining that it could pit sporting bodies against private entities seeking to create their own competitions.
This week, UEFA launched disciplinary proceedings against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus – the three ESL founder members still holding out – with the ultimate possible sanction of a ban from existing competitions like the Champions League.
However, in his referral, judge Ruiz asked the European Court whether UEFA and FIFA had broken the rule which prohibits “any abuse by one or more undertakings of a dominant position within the internal market.”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org