Luxembourg (Reuters) – UEFA on Monday criticised the breakaway European Super League with its group of elite clubs as a textbook example of a cartel, as the European football body sought to defend its power and lucrative media rights at a hearing at Europe’s top court.
The spat between UEFA, world football body FIFA and the European Super League is closely watched by other sports, as well as clubs and players eyeing money-spinning deals offered by rebel bodies.
The European Super League folded less than 48 hours after it was announced last year, after an outcry by fans, governments and players forced Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid to pull out.
Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus, however, remain holdouts. The Super League then sued UEFA and FIFA at a Spanish court which later sought guidance from the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
The notion of a closed league of rich clubs is “a textbook example of a cartel”, UEFA lawyer Donald Slater told the 15-judge panel at the CJEU.
He said authorising the Super League would have led to the emergence of other closed leagues and the collapse of the existing system of open competitions.
He said UEFA used its share of revenue, which stands at 6.5% and amounts to 190 million euros ($192 million) this year, primarily to promote football in Europe.
UEFA’s conflict of interest springing from its regulatory role and commercial businesses means it will never authorise a competitor, Super League lawyer Miguel Odriozola told the court.
“For many decades, UEFA has ruled with an iron fist and beaten away any club that threatens its monopoly. We have taken upon ourselves to denounce the practices of UEFA,” he said.
The European Commission and all 27 EU countries as well as Iceland and Norway backed UEFA and FIFA. The court will rule next year. The case is C333/21 European Superleague Company.
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(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Mark Potter)