A Spanish court has ordered FIFA and UEFA to halt their opposition to the controversial European Super League (ESL) breakaway soccer project, ruling that the governing bodies engaged in anti-competitive behavior and abused their dominant position.

In a court statement on Monday (May 27), the Madrid Commercial Court 17 ruled that the soccer organizations violated European Union law by banning clubs from participating in a proposed new competition.

The court stated that “UEFA and FIFA have abused their dominant position […] by attributing to themselves the discretion to prohibit participation in alternative competitions” and “are preventing free competition in the market by imposing unjustified and disproportionate restrictions."

The commercial court also ordered FIFA and UEFA to “cease the anti-competitive conduct”, ”prohibit its future repetition“ and to “remove all effects of the anti-competitive actions […] which have occurred before or during the duration of the proceedings."

A22 Sports Management, the company that was set up to assist with the launch of the ESL, brought the case against the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF), Spanish soccer's top-flight LaLiga, UEFA, and FIFA, who all played a significant role in blocking the ESL.

Bernd Reichart, the A22 chief executive, has said of the ruling: “It's an important step towards a truly competitive and sustainable club football landscape in Europe. For too long UEFA has been allowed to control and dominate club football at a European level.

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“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.

“The era of the monopoly is now definitively over. We look forward to continuing our dialogue with clubs of all sizes to improve club football at the international level to make it more accessible and compelling for fans of all ages.”

The Spanish court’s decision represents another small win for A22 after a similar ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last December stated that FIFA and UEFA acted unlawfully by blocking clubs from joining the ESL.

However, both LaLiga and UEFA have insisted the latest ruling did not explicitly support the creation of the competition and remain confident of staving off the threat of the breakaway competition.

UEFA said in a statement: “The judgment does not give third parties the right to develop competitions without authorization and does not concern any future project or indeed any modified version of an existing project.”

The initial case was brought to the ECJ by the ESL organizers in June 2021 following the collapse of the project after only 48 hours in April before that.

The league had been proposed by 12 elite European clubs – Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid from Spain; Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Liverpool from England; and Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan from Italy.

However, the concept was widely rejected by a vast majority of European soccer’s range of stakeholders, with one of the main bones of contention being the proposed closed-shop format, without promotion or relegation.

Only Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus continued to advocate for the ESL, and those clubs have since been behind the ECJ case.

However, Juventus withdrew from the ESL project in early 2023 after being found guilty of financial rule breaches by the Italian FA.

In February, A22 unveiled new ESL plans for a continent-wide competition featuring 60 to 80 clubs across multiple divisions.

The new plans came almost three years after the collapse of the initial project.

Despite another court win, the ESL faced a legal setback in March – after the EU’s trademark authority prevented it from registering its name as Danish soccer’s top-tier Superliga already owns it.