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What does the European Super League verdict mean for football?

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Flags with UEFA logo are seen outside of the Union of European Football Associations headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, October 5, 2022. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights  

The European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that European soccer’s governing body UEFA and its global counterpart FIFA breached EU law when they prevented 12 clubs from forming a European Super League (ESL).

WHAT IS THE EUROPEAN SUPER LEAGUE?

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus plus nine other European major clubs announced the breakaway ESL — a closed league — in April 2021.

Sports development company A22 assisted with creating the ESL.

But the move collapsed within 48 hours after an outcry from fans, governments and players forced Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid to pull out.

WHAT WAS ESL’S CASE AGAINST UEFA?

A22 CEO Bernd Reichart said the ESL wanted to break what he described was a monopoly of competitions run by UEFA, which has organised European competitions for nearly 70 years and sees the ESL as a significant threat.

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When the breakaway clubs were threatened with sanctions, the ESL went to court claiming that UEFA and FIFA held a monopoly position which was in breach of the European Union’s Competition and Free Movement Law.

Despite nine clubs pulling out, the three holdouts — Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus — still hoped to get the ESL up and running. However, Juventus opted to pull out earlier this year when the Italian club’s board changed.

Real and Barca took the case to a Spanish court, which subsequently sought guidance from the Luxembourg-based European Court.

WHAT WAS THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE VERDICT?

The Court said UEFA and FIFA contravened EU law by preventing the formation of a Super League and that they abused their dominant position by forbidding clubs to compete in the ESL.

The court said that both regulating and organising sporting competitions was not an infringement of EU competition law and that sports federations can refuse third parties access to the market, but only if the refusal is justified by genuine objectives.

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The court added that at this moment “there is no framework for FIFA and UEFA rules ensuring that they are transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate”.

The court’s ruling said both bodies must “comply with the competition rules and respect the freedoms of movement”, adding that their rules on approval, control and sanctions amounted to unjustified restrictions on the freedom to provide services.

“The Court observes that the organisation of inter-club football competitions and the exploitation of the media rights are, quite evidently, economic activities,” it said.

“They must therefore comply with the competition rules and respect the freedoms of movement.”

However, the court said the judgement did not necessarily mean the ESL project must be approved. That is for the Spanish court to decide.

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In this case, the Court of Justice only interpreted European Union law or the validity of a European Union act, it did not decide the dispute itself.

WHAT DOES THE RULING MEAN FOR FOOTBALL?

The verdict means European clubs can join another continental league — without the threat of sanctions — instead of playing in competitions run solely by UEFA.

Soon after the verdict, A22 released another proposal for new competitions with 64 men’s and 32 women’s teams playing midweek matches in a league system across Europe.

Although the initial Super League project was a closed competition, the new one would see clubs participate based on sporting merit with no permanent members. The clubs would also stay in their respective domestic leagues.

However, there is no guarantee the Premier League clubs will sign up for the new competition.

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Two months after the six English clubs pulled out of the project in 2021, they said they would pay a combined 22 million pounds ($27.78 million) as “a gesture of goodwill”.

They face a 30-point deduction if they attempt a similar move in future while the Premier League also said they would each be fined 25 million pounds if they attempt another breakaway.

-Reuters

 

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Governing Bodies

Tinubu backs Amaju’s FIFA Council re-election bid

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Former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president, Amaju Pinnick has secured the backing of Nigeria’s President,  Bola Tinubu in his bid to get another term in office as one of Africa’s representatives in FIFA Council.

The 37-member FIFA  Council is the main decision making body of the organisation in the intervals of FIFA Congress. 

Pinnick is the third Nigerian to ever sit in the FIFA Council after Oyo Orok Oyo (1980-1988) and Dr. Amos Adamu (2006-2010).

Pinnick was elected into the council on 12 March 2021. He is bidding for re-election in 2025 when the current term lapses.

According to a media release from the State House and signed by Chief Ajuri Ngelale, the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity,

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President Bola Tinubu expresses strong support for Nigeria’s bid for re-election into the FIFA Council

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Governing Bodies

Save Our Soccer, African Sports Journalists plead with Motsepe

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

An SOS has been sent by the International Sports Press – Africa (AIPS -Africa) to the President of Confederation of African Football (CAF), Dr. Patrice Motsepe to save the soul of African soccer.

 The sports writers’ body has written an open letter to Motsepe on the need to do more to save African football.

The letter, written Monday in Dakar, is premised on the recurring scheduling problems that “have made CAF a victim of collateral damage from the “war” between UEFA and FIFA.”

Continuing in the letter signed by AIPS-Africa President, Abdoulaye Thiam, the sports writers’ body noted that UEFA contributed to overloading of the international calendar with the creation of the Nations League, which is played on FIFA dates

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Owing to the congested international calendar, football competitions in Africa have been major victims.

AIPS wrote: …”the stuttering and uncertainties surrounding the programming of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) leave many wondering about the future of our continent’s most prestigious competition, which is struggling to find a place in the international calendar.

“Added to this, the external influences and the overload of the international calendar, modelled on the European interests, increases the scepticism surrounding the survival of CAF’s most lucrative and economically viable tournament.

“As a result, therefore, it is rare, if not impossible, for an African team to find a European team to spar with, except when they share the same group in a World Cup draw every four years.     

“As for FIFA, in addition to the Arab World Cup, it has also created the Club World Cup. Worse still, it decided to stage the latter competition from June 15 to July 13, 2025, a period initially chosen by Morocco to host the AFCON 2025. In fact, Cairo’s dependence on Zurich enabled FIFA’s latest competition to happily shake up the 67-year-old African Cup of Nations.”

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Also affected by the global football calendar are the scheduling of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and African Women’s Champions League.

The journalists recalled that the changing of AFCON tournaments from the even-ending years to the odd  was to avert situations of clashing with World Cup years and to avert exhaustion on players.

The situation is such that scheduling of tournaments in Africa is now determined by compromise reached with UEFA and FIFA.

AIPS averred that “it is important to deconstruct the image of Africa as a prominent stakeholder in the global game with huge voice of 54 member associations and votes being presented as an electoral cattle-tank, to be adequately given their fair share during debates and dialogues with FIFA, by offering constructive solutions with a view to accelerating a reform of the international calendar.

“It is therefore expected from CAF leaders to ensure respect for African Football which is full of great administrators and players alike…Mr. President (Motsepe), you claim to be a disciple of Nelson Mandela and a well respectable man. A man of principles. So do kindly refuse and remain our inspiration than anything else.”  

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Governing Bodies

Breaking! CAF’s axe falls on Eto’o

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Confederation of African Football (CAF) has imposed a fine of $200 thousand on Samuel Eto’o Fils, a former international footballer and President of Fédération Camerounaise de Football (‘’FECAFOOT’’).

  The fine is imposed on the FECAFOOT president for violating the principles of ethics, integrity and sportsmanship as provided in Article 2  paragraph 3 of the CAF Statutes.

He is found to have violated the said article by signing a Brand Ambassador contract with the company 1XBET in exchange for remuneration.

 He however escape sanction in a bigger allegation of match fixing and manipulation.

Eto’o faced charges of alleged manipulation of football matches and violating the principles of ethics and integrity.

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The Disciplinary Board ruled that there was insufficient proof to find him and Valentin Nkwain guilty of match manipulation.

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