The ESL (European Super League) is a proposed European football league that has been met with resistance by both FIFA and UEFA. Recently, the EU (European Union) issued an Opinion on the matter stating that the decisions taken by soccer bodies to block the ESL are in line with EU competition laws.
“The FIFA-UEFA rules under which any new competition is subject to prior approval are compatible with EU competition law,” The Advocate General’s Athanasios Rantos at the EU Court of Justice said.
Will the proposed European Super League (ESL) ever see the light of day? This is a question that is dividing opinions throughout the footballing world.
The ESL, or the European Super League, was a proposed breakaway football competition founded in 2021 by 12 European clubs. The league intended to create a more competitive and lucrative alternative to UEFA-sanctioned competitions such as the Champions League and Europa League. However, within 48 hours of launching, the ESL collapsed after facing opposition from UEFA, FIFA, and fan outrage across Europe.
What factors led to the failed launch of the ESL?
There are several possible reasons why this ambitious project ultimately failed. Firstly, UEFA threatened to expel any club participating in the new league from all future UEFA tournaments. This would have had a significant impact on clubs’ revenues as participation in these tournaments is often a key factor for qualification into continental competitions like the Champions League.
Additionally, the world governing body FIFA World Cup warned that it could suspend teams from international matches. This issue could be particularly damaging for top sides who rely on appearances in major tournaments to generate revenue via sponsorship deals and ticket sales.
Fan disapproval was another critical reason for Liga de las Estrellas Europeas (ESL) failure. Supporters were concerned about how breaking away from traditional competitions sanctioned by UEFA, and FIFA would affect their team.
FIFA and UEFA have been charged by the ESL (European Super League) with engaging in anti-competitive behavior that violates EU competition regulations. To determine whether or not this is the case, the Commercial Court referred the matter to the Court of Justice.
“FIFA welcomes the Opinion issued today by Advocate General Rantos of the European Court of Justice in which he confirms the standing and legitimacy of FIFA and UEFA to approve any new football competitions,” FIFA said.
“By the same token, the Advocate General considers that sanctions may be imposed in respect of competitions which do not satisfy the approved authorization criteria. FIFA also welcomes the Advocate General’s recognition of FIFA’s exclusive rights to market international competitions organized by FIFA.
“Finally, FIFA welcomes the recognition by the Advocate General of the special nature of sport, including the pyramid structure, which preserves the nature of sporting merit and open competitions accessible to all, as well as the principles of promotion and relegation, competitive balance, and financial solidarity.”
UEFA has welcomed the EU Opinion on football governance, describing it as “an encouraging step towards preserving the existing dynamic and democratic governance structure of European football pyramid.”
“Football in Europe remains united and steadfastly opposed to the European Super League, or any such breakaway proposals, which would threaten the entire European sports ecosystem,” UEFA added.
La Liga of Spain, the only league participating in the process, backed the EU Opinion by saying “that FIFA and UEFA rules under which any new competition is subject to prior approval are compatible with EU competition law.”
“La Liga, along with other European leagues, will continue to fight for the right of European institutions to legislate and provide legal protection for the current European football model,” La Liga president Javier Tebas said.
The European Club Association (ECA) has welcomed the opinion saying it “proposes a clear rejection of the efforts of a few to undermine the foundations and historical heritage of European football for the many.”
“The Opinion published today by Advocate General Rantos reinforces ECA’s long-standing opposition to the European Super League and any breakaway project,” the ECA added.
The recent judgment by the EU Court of Justice in favor of UEFA’s stance on the new European Super League was a step in the right direction, according to A22 Sports Management. This company was formed specifically to sponsor and assist in creating the ESL.
A22Sports believes that UEFA has a “special responsibility” not to deny new competitions from emerging unduly. Thus, this latest ruling is essential for ensuring that innovation is not stifled within European football.
The court will finally adjudicate the case in 2023, but it seems clear how things are moving at this point.