A possible European Super League moved closer on Thursday after judges ruled that UEFA and FIFA were going against EU law by trying to block such a competition.
The European Court of Justice, the EU's top court in Luxembourg, said UEFA and FIFA's stances "are contrary to competition law and the freedom to provide services."
The ruling could have even further implications than just opening the door for a Super League.
"The rules giving FIFA and UEFA exclusive control over the commercial exploitation of the rights related to those competitions are such as to restrict competition, given their importance for the media, consumers and television viewers in the European Union," it said.
However, the ruling does not mean that a Super League outside of UEFA will be formed. A previous attempt was launched in 2021 by 12 top clubs only to fall apart amid supporter opposition — particularly in England.
The judges said that the ruling does not necessarily mean that the Super League has to be authorized. Analysts also pointed out that a closed Super League is by definition anti-competitive and that sporting merit was still recognized by the judges as legitimate.
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus have continued to support the idea of breaking away from UEFA, despite sanctions from European football's governing body.
"We have won the #RightToCompete. The UEFA-monopoly is over. Football is FREE. Clubs are now free from the threat of sanction AND free to determine their own futures," Bernd Reichart, who runs the A22 sports agency trying to organize a Super League, said on X. Real Madrid retweeted his post.
"For fans: We propose free viewing of all Super League matches. For clubs: Revenues and solidarity spending will be guaranteed."
UEFA reacted to the 2021 Super League plans by revamping the Champions League for next season, with one giant 36-team division.
Now the Super League organizers have a new proposal, with 60 to 80 teams over several divisions after critics said the original idea was too exclusive and did not allow promotion.
Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Milan, Inter, Atletico Madrid and Barca, Real and Juve all announced plans to enter a Super League in April 2021 in a hurriedly arranged deal.
But opposition from fans, leagues and football federations was so quick and vociferous that the idea was quickly dropped.
Clubs like Liverpool were forced to offer huge apologies to fans for even considering the plan and a former Bayern Munich chief executive, whose side had no part in the Super League proposal along with Borussia Dortmund, still does not think a breakaway is possible.
"The English, Germans and French will never join in. Then Real and Barcelona can organize the tournament on their own," Karl-Hainz Rummenigge told Gazzetta dello Sport this week.
UEFA had threatened Super League teams and their players with exclusion from all competitions, including the World Cup and European Championship.
"Nobody in Germany would enter the Super League, that would cause a revolt among the fans," added Rummenigge, who believes Spanish giants Real and Barca are jealous of the money in the English Premier League and therefore want to rival it.
The Premier League broke away from the rest of the English league in 1992 but that was backed by all teams, the FA and fans. It has meant the English top flight has become far richer than European counterparts.
Belgian lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont, who represented Jean-Marc Bosman in 1995 and helped change world football, believes Thursday's decision could lead to another revolution.
The Bosman ruling allowed players to move clubs for free if their contracts had expired. Now UEFA's monopoly on the running of European football is under threat.
"The judgement has the potential to be Bosman to the power of 10," Dupont told Germany's Zeit Online ahead of the ruling on Wednesday.
"This time it's not about regulating the labour market, but about the fundamental conditions under which competitions may take place."
- Super League
- UEFA row