Soccer-European parliament opposes 'breakaway leagues', Super League backers hit back

  • Football
  • Wednesday, 24 Nov 2021

FILE PHOTO: Metal figures of football players are seen in front of the words "European Super League" and the UEFA logo in this illustration taken April 20, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

(Reuters) - UEFA has welcomed a European parliament resolution opposing "breakaway competitions", but the backers of the proposed European Super League defended their project, saying the EU needed to ensure "fair and open competition".

Twelve of Europe's leading clubs announced in April that they intended to create a new Super League and break away from UEFA's established Champions League competition.

After a hostile reaction from across the game and from fans and governments alike the move collapsed, with all six English clubs plus Inter Milan, AC Milan and Atletico Madrid withdrawing.

Spanish clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona and Italian team Juventus have continued to push the idea, however, and proceedings have continued in a Madrid court that stopped UEFA from punishing the breakaway clubs.

In May, the court asked the European Court of Justice to establish whether FIFA and UEFA, the world and continental soccer governing bodies, were breaching EU competition law by preventing clubs from creating the new league.

The resolution passed by the European parliament, with 597 votes to 36 and 55 abstentions, called for a "European sports model" with a "strong commitment to integrating the principles of solidarity, sustainability, inclusiveness for all, open competition, sporting merit and fairness".

The non-binding resolution, which will be passed to the European Council and European Commission along with national governments, said the parliament "strongly opposes breakaway competitions that undermine such principles and endanger the stability of the overall sports ecosystem".

Polish MEP Tomasz Frankowski, a former national team player, called on the Commission to appoint a separate coordinator for sports and said the priority should be "to promote the European model of sport and protect it from threats such as a Super League."

But Anas Laghrari and John Hahn of Super League-backing Madrid company A22 Sports Management S.L said their plan did not contravene the values backed by the parliament.

They called for a focus on EU competition law and said UEFA had set itself up as a monopoly operator.

"We believe there is one key issue that has not been incorporated and that is the need for all sport bodies to adhere to the core values and legal framework of the European Union. This is particularly evident with respect to EU competition law where the facts in football are quite clear and very troubling," they said.

"UEFA, the self-established 'governing body' of European football has, in addition to its alleged regulatory role, also established itself as the monopoly operator of cross-border club football competitions. At the same time, UEFA have established themselves (via their own statutes) as the only entity with the ability to approve new entrants into the very market which they dominate."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said his body would work with the EU to "protect" European football.

"The European Parliament's message on behalf of EU citizens is clear: Europe and Europeans fundamentally oppose breakaway projects like the failed European super league that threaten the values of European sport," he said.

"European football is not a market meant to serve only elite interests and financial gains – it is a European success story that serves all of society. We will continue to work with the EU to strengthen and protect the European sports model in European football."

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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