A22 Sports Management, the company in charge of promoting the European Super League (ESL) soccer project, has claimed to have won an appeal aimed at preventing punishment from the sport's authorities from being handed out to ESL founder clubs.
On Monday (January 30), the Madrid High Court agreed to reinstate an injunction that it handed down in April 2021 (just after the failed ESL project rose and fell in the space of around four days), which was intended to prevent punitive action from soccer bodies such as Europe’s UEFA against the founding ESL clubs and their players.
The injunction meant that UEFA, as well as international governing body FIFA, were not able to sanction – either financially or through points deductions – Spanish clubs Barcelona and Real Madrid, and Italian giants Juventus, for their founding involvement in the ESL.
The case has since been referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and in December last year that body issued an initial verdict in favor of UEFA – although a complete ruling is not expected until later this year.
However, the three ESL founders always reserved the right to appeal that latter ruling, as took place yesterday.
A22 said the ruling means it “will be able to continue developing its project free of threats.”
In summary, the Madrid High Court said the attempted punitive action by UEFA and FIFA “cannot be justified as a protection of the general interests of European soccer.”
It added that the steps taken by those two bodies equate to “obstacles typical of closed and anachronistic models that are not in line with free competition and the principle of enterprise that prevails in Europe.”
Bernd Reichart, chief executive of A22 (appointed in October), has stated: “We welcome the fact that this court decision allows A22 to freely continue the project of creating a new and exciting European football competition … We will continue our dialogue with soccer stakeholders in a new and more appropriate environment, free from threats and other obstructive steps taken by UEFA and other bodies.”
In terms of reaction from soccer authorities on the other side of the dispute, Spain's top-flight LaLiga has said that while the Madrid High Court’s ruling has been noted, it will await a full verdict from the ECJ.
The ESL, when it originally launched in April 2021, contained nine other teams, in addition to the aforementioned trio: Atletico Madrid from Spain; Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Liverpool from England; and Inter Milan, and AC Milan from Italy.
It was widely rejected by almost all of European soccer’s stakeholders, with a proposed closed-shop format one of the main bones of contention. There would have been no promotion or relegation, and the ESL clubs would not have taken part in the current UEFA pan-continental competitions.
Upon his appointment, Reichart said his team would try to start the project from scratch.
He said in October: “European soccer is losing its leading role in world sports, and clubs are lagging behind in terms of their opportunities.
“The system has become quite unstable. It isn’t self-sustainable anymore. I think the clubs should be able to decide their fate, as they also bear all the risk. Most clubs agree that it can’t go on like that.”
Late last month, meanwhile, UEFA and Football Supporters Europe (FSE), the body representing fans across the continent, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that further firmed up opposition to the ESL.
Among the issues referenced specifically are the continued support by UEFA and FSE for the European soccer pyramid, the roles federations play in running the sport, and “the open system of promotion and relegation within domestic leagues.”