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    European super league’s future uncertain despite UEFA’s legal setback

    European Super League's Future in Doubt After UEFA's Legal Setback

    In a landmark decision that could reshape European football, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled against UEFA and FIFA, challenging their long-standing control over the sport. This ruling comes in the wake of attempts to establish a breakaway European Super League, which had initially faltered amid widespread backlash.

    The ECJ found that UEFA and FIFA had violated European Union laws by obstructing the formation of the Super League in 2021. Twelve of Europe’s top football clubs, including Manchester United and Bayern Munich, had announced their participation in this league, sparking controversy and debate across the football world.

    UEFA and FIFA’s actions were deemed an abuse of their dominant position, as they had prohibited clubs from joining the proposed “closed” league. The backlash was swift and severe, with fans protesting, widespread condemnation from the football community, and UEFA threatening to bar clubs and players from other competitions like the World Cup. This pressure led to the rapid disintegration of the Super League initiative, with nine of the twelve clubs withdrawing within 48 hours.

    However, the legal challenge initiated by A22 Sports Management, the league’s promoters, through Spanish courts, which was then referred to the ECJ, has now brought the issue back into the spotlight. The ECJ’s ruling is seen as a significant blow to UEFA’s authority, potentially undermining its nearly 70-year monopoly over European football competitions.

    JD Tena, a senior lecturer in sports business and management at the University of Liverpool, interprets the ruling as a clear judgment on UEFA’s abuse of power. He notes that while it’s challenging to predict the future, UEFA’s control over organizing competitions is likely to diminish.

    In response to the ruling and the threat posed by the Super League, UEFA has announced major reforms to its flagship competition, the Champions League. Starting from the 2024-25 season, the tournament will expand to include 36 teams and feature a single league format, guaranteeing more matches for each team.

    Despite the ECJ’s decision, UEFA maintains that it does not endorse the Super League. The organization has emphasized its commitment to the European football pyramid and the broader interests of society.

    The Super League, meanwhile, faces its own set of challenges. Its initial proposal suffered considerable reputational damage, and the financial viability of such a league remains in question. Christina Philippou, an expert in accounting, economics, and finance at the University of Portsmouth, highlights the need for legal and financial justification for the league’s existence. She points out that potential partners will require significant reassurances and will carefully assess the risks involved.

    In an attempt to revive the project, A22 has announced a revised Super League format, introducing promotion and relegation and promising free-to-watch matches. The new structure includes 64 teams across three leagues for men and two leagues of 16 clubs each for women. However, this revamped proposal may not be enough to win over fans and stakeholders.

    Mark Middling, a senior lecturer in accounting at Northumbria University, expresses skepticism about the new format, suggesting it lacks the romanticism of traditional football and may not appeal to fans. Tena, however, believes that the Super League could attract interest, comparing it to other successful closed-format leagues in sports.

    The ECJ’s ruling leaves the final decision on the Super League’s fate to the Spanish courts. Should it proceed, the league will likely face significant financial and commercial challenges, particularly in securing broadcasting rights. Philippou also notes the potential for the women’s competition within the Super League, though this too is fraught with complexities.

    Ultimately, the success of any such league depends on fan acceptance. Football Supporters Europe (FSE) and other fan groups have consistently opposed the Super League, emphasizing the need to protect the traditional structure of the sport. The initial backlash against the Super League has left a lasting impression, and any revival of the project will have to overcome significant resistance from the football community.

    While the ECJ’s ruling against UEFA and FIFA marks a significant moment in European football, the future of the European Super League remains uncertain. Legal, financial, and reputational hurdles loom large, and the court of public opinion may yet prove to be the most formidable obstacle.

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