The European Super League, the widely condemned competition between Europe’s largest clubs, fell apart only a matter of days after its announcement. Drawing ire from around the football community and beyond, its short and explosive life had parties for and against the league arming for a massive legal firefight.
But what were the legal precedents on either side of the argument, and what effectively brought down the Super League before a ball was kicked? While it’s still very fresh, with a lot of the discussions not yet public knowledge, we do know some of the threats and legal avenues many were willing to take in order to block the proposed venture
EUFA and FIFA, the European and Global governing bodies of football respectively, both came out in full force against the idea. One of the most public threats made by both organisations was the exclusion of players playing for Super League teams from playing in their international tournaments, namely the Euros and World Cup. Legally, this is a bit of a grey area when it comes to contracts and it’s not been fully examined in practice as to whether or not these bans would be enforceable.
However, should this have happened, it was likely that representatives of the effected players would point to a ruling by the European Commission last year which upheld the rights of ice skaters to take part in a newly formed, unsanctioned competition.
Should the Super League have gotten much further, litigation as almost inevitable, given the astronomical sums of money involved. The clubs involved and the scorned governing bodies could, and probably would have, invoked claims of breaches in competition law. Hypothetically, the Super League clubs could have claimed an abuse of dominant position in relation to the governing bodies for trying to prevent them from playing in their own competitions, as well as internationally and in domestic leagues.
On the other hand, football authorities were likely to argue that the clubs were trying to create what effectively could have acted like a monopoly, closing ranks and creating an unfair environment for other clubs not involved with the Super League.
The matter was swiftly picked up by bodies usually outside football and the outrage was no longer one to be resolved internally within the sport. The matter was immediately taken up in the House of Commons, with the Prime Minister and Culture Minister ensuring that they would explore every governmental avenue to block the move. Many believe this could have even included intervention into the rules of football club ownership in the UK, a hitherto unprecedented level of interference between Parliament and the national sport.
While it’s still not public knowledge exactly what battlegrounds these discussions would have been fought on, with many of the contractual withdrawals still ongoing, this is an unprecedented legal situation and certainly one to keep monitoring.