By Andrew Warshaw
August 2 – Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid, the three rebel European Super League clubs who have refused to abandon the project, are celebrating winning what they claim is a potentially crucial legal battle with UEFA.
A court in Madrid has ruled that UEFA’s sanctions against the founding 12 clubs of the proposed breakaway league must be scrapped though the case ultimately rests with European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
The 12 clubs officially launched the league in April but it collapsed within 72 hours after nine withdrew amid fan protest, opposition from UEFA, FIFA and domestic leagues, politicians and even the British Royal Family.
Those nine clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan – were collectively handed a combined payment of €15 million for what UEFA called a “gesture of goodwill”, as well as pledging they would accept a fine of €100 million if they seek again to play in an unauthorised competition.
But a court in Spain has now ruled all those penalties must be removed and that UEFA cannot force participants to dissolve the Super League.
“We are pleased that going forward we will no longer be subject to ongoing UEFA’s threats,” the three clubs said in a statement.
“Our aim is to keep developing the Super League project in a constructive and cooperative manner, always counting on all football stakeholders: Fans, players, coaches, clubs, leagues, and national and international associations.”
The three clubs were even more scathing towards UEFA than in the past.
“We have the duty to address the very serious issues facing football,” they said. “UEFA has established itself as the sole regulator, exclusive operator, and unique owner of rights of European football competitions.
“This monopolistic position, in conflict of interest, is damaging football and its competitive balance. As shown by ample evidence, financial controls are inadequate, and they have been improperly enforced. Clubs participating in European competitions have the right to govern their own competitions.”
In a statement the court said that it backed the clubs, dismissed UEFA’s appeal and “confirms its warning to UEFA that failure to comply with its ruling shall result in fines and potential criminal liability”
“The case will be assessed by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which shall review UEFA’s monopolistic position over European football.”
The battle is far from over, however. UEFA have made no comment on the latest ruling, clearly hoping that the ECJ rules in its favour.
The Super League organisers have long argued it would boost revenue for top clubs and allow them to distribute more money to the rest of the game.
However, the rest of the football have countered that it would simply increase the power and wealth of the elite clubs and that its closed structure would be disastrous for the game.
La Liga president Javier Tebas, a fierce opponent of the Super League and member of UEFA’s executive committee, was quick to dismiss the Madrid court’s decision.
“I have read the (joint) statement, not the court order,” Tebas said. “First of all, it’s the same judge as always, so he was always going to rule in a similar fashion.
“If this particular judge has already made his views on the issue clear, he is not going to change his mind. If he was going to change his line, it would be a bit of a joke, wouldn’t it – speaking of jokes, I think there’s a lot of them going on in that court.”
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