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Spanish court orders FIFA and UEFA to stop anticompetitive conduct in Super League case

A Spanish court ordered FIFA and UEFA to stop anticompetitive conduct in their opposition of the breakaway European Super League (ESL) in a ruling on Monday.

Judge Sofía Gil García ruled that soccer’s world governing body FIFA and its European counterpart UEFA have abused their position of power and are impeding free market competition by granting themselves the discretional power to prohibit participation in alternative competitions and imposing unfair and disproportionate restrictions.

Both organizations have been instructed to “immediately remove all the effects of their anticompetitive actions produced as a result of the filing of this procedure.”

The Spanish court’s judgment echoes the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)’s December 2023 ruling, which stated FIFA and UEFA rules demanding prior approval for establishing a new competition – such as the ESL – and prohibiting clubs and players from playing in them were “unlawful.”

A22, the management company formed to sponsor and assist in the formation of the ESL, welcomed the ruling describing it as an “important step towards a truly competitive and sustainable club football landscape in Europe.”

“UEFA’s statutes and the aggressive actions taken to protect its monopoly have stifled innovation for decades and clubs should not have to fear threats of sanctions simply for having ideas and conversations,” A22 CEO Bernd Reichart said in a statement on Monday.

“The era of the monopoly is now definitively over,” Reichart added.

However, in response to the ruling, UEFA said “the court has not given the green light to, nor has it approved, projects like the Super League.”

A newsagent shows two pages of the main Italian sports newspapers with a headline regarding the Super League reading 'No!' and 'Fermateli!' ('Stop them!). - Laura Lezza/Getty Images
A newsagent shows two pages of the main Italian sports newspapers with a headline regarding the Super League reading 'No!' and 'Fermateli!' ('Stop them!). - Laura Lezza/Getty Images

“In fact, the judge has asserted that the Super League project has long been abandoned and that she cannot be expected to rule on any abstract projects.

“In short, the judgment does not give third parties the right to develop competitions without authorisation and does not concern any future project or indeed any modified version of an existing project,” UEFA said in the statement sent to CNN Sport.

“It will take time to study the judgment before deciding whether any further action is necessary,” added UEFA.

FIFA and UEFA can appeal the ruling to a separate section of the Madrid Provincial Court.

CNN has reached out to FIFA for comment.

The ESL saga began on April 18, 2021, when 12 of Europe’s biggest, most successful and financially powerful clubs announced their intention to break away from the current UEFA club competition format and create a Super League. The idea was to guarantee 15 clubs a place in a 20-team competition every season, regardless of performance on the pitch.

The 20 teams would be made up of the 12 founding members as well as three other permanent unnamed clubs and five others who would qualify every year.

However, after vehement opposition from fans and the wider public – with many saying it was a power grab intended to guarantee the Super League’s founding members status and revenue – the plans were scrapped just 48 hours later, though Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona remained committed to the project.

Fans in Spain protest the ESL. - Fran Santiago/Getty Images
Fans in Spain protest the ESL. - Fran Santiago/Getty Images

CNN has sought comment from Real Madrid and Barça.

The Spanish court’s ruling comes just days before UEFA’s showpiece Champions League final between 14-time winner Real and Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

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