ECJ Recants AG’s Stance on UEFA and ESL Dispute

On December 15, 2022, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a press release recanting the stance of Advocate General Athanasios Rantos in the dispute between the European Super League (ESL) and the Union of European Football Association (UEFA). The Advocate General opined that the EU Competition law does not proscribe the FIFA or UEFA from issuing warnings to impose sanctions against clubs that take part in a proposal or venture to create a new football competition. It was clarified that such actions are not violative of the EU Competition law since the same are taken for preserving the associations’ “legitimate objectives”.

The European Super League (ESL), a pan-Europe football competition, was proposed to be formed in April 2021. A total of twenty football clubs were said to participate in the said competition. Amid threats of sanction from the UEFA, the European Super League Company SL filed a case before a Spanish commercial court in Madrid which issued an injunction restraining the UEFA from imposing any sanctions against the league’s clubs or players.

This order of the commercial court was passed in compliance with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). After the injunction was issued, the court referred the matter to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for its advice. The ECJ’s assistance is being sought to decide whether the UEFA used its dominant position to coerce the founding clubs to back out of the league. And also whether the UEFA’s warning to impose sanctions on the three football clubs (Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona, and Juventus FC) that still actively support the league violates the provisions of the TFEU.