Uefa and Fifa are “abusing a dominant position” and their rules banning clubs joining breakaway competitions like the European Super League are unlawful, the European Court of Justice has said.
It had been claimed by the ESL and its backers, A22, that Uefa and Fifa were breaking competition law by threatening to sanction clubs and players who joined the breakaway league.
A ruling on Thursday from Europe’s highest court found against the governing bodies.
However the court stated: “That does not mean that a competition such as the Super League project must necessarily be approved”.
An initial report released last December by the ECJ said the rules of football’s European and world governing bodies were “compatible with EU competition law”.
However, the verdict will be seen as a blow to the authority of Uefa and Fifa and how they govern the game.
The report said that when new competitions are “potentially entering the market” Fifa and Uefa must ensure their powers are “transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate”.
The report adds: “However, the powers of Fifa and Uefa are not subject to any such criteria. Fifa and Uefa are, therefore, abusing a dominant position.
“Moreover, given their arbitrary nature, their rules on approval, control and sanctions must be held to be unjustified restrictions on the freedom to provide services.
“That does not mean that a competition such as the Super League project must necessarily be approved. The Court does not rule on that specific project in its judgment.”
Responding to the ECJ verdict on X, formerly Twitter, A22 chief executive Bernd Reichart wrote that the ESL “have won the right to exist”.
He added: “Uefa’s monopoly is over. Football is free. Clubs are now free from the threat of sanctions and free to determine their own future.
“For fans: we offer free broadcasting of all Superleague matches. For clubs: Income and solidarity expenses will be guaranteed.”
The ESL saga began in April 2021 when news broke that 12 teams – including English teams Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – had signed up to the breakaway competition.
There was widespread anger and condemnation from fans, other European leagues and even government, leading to the collapse of the plans within 72 hours.
The six Premier League clubs plus Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan were fined by Uefa, but action against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus was halted during the legal process, although Juventus signalled their intention to quit the project in July.
The ESL has not been scrapped completely, however, with Real Madrid and Barcelona remaining interested in pursuing the venture.
In s statement, Spain’s La Liga said European football had “spoken”.
It added: “Today, more than ever, we reiterate that the “Super League” is a selfish and elitist model.
“Anything that is not fully open, with direct access only through the domestic leagues, season by season, is a closed format.”
Analysis from Simon Stone, BBC Sport
This judgement is a massive blow to Uefa and Fifa and their authority to govern the game.
The wording of the ruling from the 15-strong Grand Chamber is damning.
It says their structures mean there is no way of checking whether their operations are ‘transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate’.
It says the rules around commercial rights are anti-competitive.
This does not mean a European Super League is coming. For the English clubs in particular a lot of bad blood was created by the ill-fated launch of the project in 2021. Unpicking that, certainly in the short-term, will not be easy.
However, those who have pushed the project now know they can go away and speak to who they want, when they want, about a vision for European football that suits them, and Uefa and Fifa will have to work with them or risk losing their power.
No-one, including Uefa and Fifa, expected this judgement to be so powerful.
The ramifications will be felt for a long time to come.